Autumn Equinox

Persephone's Hive

A view of Hope's Garden, a naturalized garden filled with wildflowers that was once mowed lawn and former wetland where many trees were dying. In the distance, the former location of my hives behind my beekeeping gardening studio.

A view of Hope's Garden, a naturalized garden filled with wildflowers that was once mowed lawn and former wetland where many trees were dying. In the distance, the former location of my hives behind my beekeeping gardening studio.

My new hive of honeybees arrived in the middle of the night during the new moon in Libra. It had been a disappointing summer for me with my bees. The one hive that had remained from last year, after my stronger hive disappeared completely one day, had survived an unusually warm and wet winter. I was thrilled when I saw in the spring that they were still alive and active. However, as the warmer weather arrived and I opened the hive, I saw that it was all full of mold and that most of the bees had eventually died leaving only a a small group of loyal bees surrounding their Queen. I almost didn't see her as I opened the hive, but there she was having fallen to the ground. I named her Milagro, Spanish for miracle.

I carefully placed the enduring Queen in a new hive box with the remaining bees. The box had to be located right where the other one had been because otherwise the bees would not find the hive. I knew that I had made a mistake in placing this hive behind my studio shed given all the wetness in the hive and the loss of so many bees. Despite being elevated and insulated from the wet land where there was an underground spring, the dampness had permeated all parts of the hive. I had to find a new location but I couldn't move this hive to a sunnier area on my property. I had to leave that up to them.

I decided to place an empty hive box in a sunny area right in the center of a six-sided mandala garden I had originally created when we first moved to the property. Interestingly the six sides correspond to the shape of the honeycomb, something I wasn't really thinking about when I originally created it. Little did I know at the time that this garden would eventually surround one of my bee hives. Much to my surprise, my bees did eventually swarm to this empty box. I even saw the magic of that day as all the bees swarmed round and round the gardens above their new home. It was an incredible moment. A few days later, I saw a new Queen outside the hive box, something she only does when she mates. I knew the old Queen had died. It was both sad to know the Queen that had survived beyond all odds had passed shortly after taking one last flight of freedom (she remains almost her entire life inside the hive laying eggs) to arrive in her new home and yet it was also exciting to know a new one had been born.

Sadly, this new Queen and her bees only stayed a few weeks before they swarmed once again. It was that kind of year. It seemed the bees were searching for something. What it was, I may never know, but it seemed to reflect the uncertainty within my own life and the swirling of activities around the world, whether they were natural disasters or human caused activities.  Somehow I sensed that they were telling me a phase of my own life was coming to an end. The next few days I felt the terrible silence in my gardens. It became very noticeable as there seemed to be no bees of any kind anywhere on my property, not even bumblebees. I began to question whether some aerial spraying had been done somewhere. The fear began to set in as I began to feel that all these years of creating a wildlife sanctuary had been for nothing and that possibly something awful was happening in my area to make all the bees disappear.. 

My fear prompted a conversation with one of my shamanic teachers who suggested I communicate with the Spirit of the Land to determine what was going on. As a result I journeyed and did a subsequent offering to the land of fruits and granola to honor the Insect Kingdom. Almost immediately the next day a new swarm made her home in my empty box once again and the same day, a friend told me that he had also caught a swarm for me. The arrival of these new bees coincided with major flooding in our area of a nearby creek. My joy was to be short-lived, however, when a few days later this new swarm disappeared also and eventually my friend's swarm did too. That's when I began to give careful consideration to whether I would continue beekeeping at all. Nevertheless, I could not ignore how quickly the Insect Kingdom had responded to my communication and offering. Our co-creative relationship had been profoundly renewed.

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Eventually bumblebees and other wild bees returned but I still missed having a hive of my own but I saw how quickly I could move into fear and think the worst. I knew in my heart that despite what I might see around me, I needed to maintain my focus and trust all the work that I had done. My land had become a sanctuary for all lifeforms, a haven where wild bees could nectar endlessly and even wasps were respected. Despite what I might see temporarily, I needed to have faith in the natural world around me.

Some time had passed when my friend told me his nephew had caught another swarm for me, but I had mixed emotions. It was very late in the summer and the bees would not have much time to build their hive and store their honey. He mentioned that his nephew could continue feeding the bees and keep them over winter. Somehow this idea didn't sit right with me. I felt that either they should remain with his nephew or I should have them. It was shortly before the Autumn Equinox that I decided this new swarm should be here. After all, I had loads of late blooming flowers on my property that would help them and also some empty frames that still had honey on them. I would do my best to strengthen them and take the chance.

After the bees arrived one night, I stood before the hive as they fanned themselves from the heat of the trip. Several bees flew onto my clothes as I held the flashlight. They were sensing me and their new home, but then I became a bit nervous. One bee eventually found her way inside my sweatshirt sleeve and stung me. The sting, however, never produced a reaction in me, as though our energies were already aligned. I found their energy to be very gentle yet strong and somehow I sensed this new Queen and hive were already in resonance with me. I felt hopeful once more that they had arrived for a reason.

I named this new hive after the goddess of the underworld, Persephone. These bees had arrived late in the year and in the dark of night. They would spend much of their time inside the darkness of their hive before they experienced their first spring on my land. Persephone is the daughter of Demeter who was fated to spend part of her life in the underworld but in the spring she brings forth the flowering of the meadows. The archetype of this goddess is one I resonate with and somehow I felt these new bees represented the energy of rebirth on my land and in my life.

Several months have passed since Queen Persephone arrived. I have continued learning from these bees particularly about how to let go and just go with the flow. She has taught me about my own inner shadow and how quickly my thoughts can move to fear and worry. Several times this fear would creep up quickly as I became angry about mistakes I had made which occasionally caused the loss of some of my worker bees. Usually this coincided with other things that troubled my mind. I also worried the bees would have enough honey stores built up for the winter and whether they would survive.

So far we have had a very warm autumn and the bees have been out periodically. I have occasionally fed them raw honey and comb that I had left from my other hive. Feeding sugared water, as is commonly done, was not an option for me. The bees have always been grateful for the honey I have given them and as time went on, I realized that I had no control over whether they would survive. It was all up to them. I could only do my best. Those times where I made mistakes were learning lessons for me about the bees and working with my own emotions that surfaced. I know that all is well. Queen Persephone is yet another teacher and grace has fallen upon my land.

 

2017 Copyright Awen Environments/Clarissa Harison.

 

 

The Renewal of Willow

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It's been over 7 years since we first moved to this property in a suburban landscape. The land and I have been through quite a transformation during that time, some challenging and some magical. As this land has restored and renewed itself, I have also confronted severe health issues for the first time in my life. As I struggled with overcoming an autoimmune disorder, I began to come to terms with the origins of it-- the trauma held in the DNA of my family due to war tragedies and now the cells of my body essentially fighting themselves. It was obvious there was a deep connection which has been unraveling for many years.

I could feel that the land could not breathe. I felt it so deep that I had an anxiety attack one day that was so severe, my son called 911 when I could not breathe myself. My brother attributed it to the stress of the move, but as the years went by, I began to realize just how sick the land was. There was a reason for so many trees dying on the property and the stench of the soil that I could smell in the spring when this former wetland was swamped with water. Gradually I began to listen to the land, revitalizing it by creating gardens and planting more trees. I allowed meadows to grow in certain areas and gradually the plants and trees began to absorb all the excess water and transmute the fertilizer and pesticide treatments of neighboring properties. I also came to find out that this property had previously been treated with chemicals something which may have created to a toxic buildup of metals in my body and contributed to my disorder.

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When I first came to this land, it was largely mowed lawn with a small wooded area created by a fallen Willow tree that had once anchored the energies of this land. Willows will continue to grow once fallen, ever renewing themselves, but after the Willow was struck by lightning, the previous owner decided to cut it down completely and burn the stump. So the severed limbs and trunk were piled into a wilder section of the property and the Willow began to decompose and become a haven for wildlife. Moss began to grow, fungi appeared and eventually the bark and wood formed a fertile ground for new life where wildflowers and other life could develop.

As the gardens naturalized, the wildlife returned. The orbweaver spiders appeared, all sorts of wild bees, butterflies and songbirds began to appear. I also immersed myself in beekeeping. Year after year the land began to heal and I began to heal myself. Throughout those years I supported myself trying to integrate my passions of writing, consulting and just enjoying life with continuing to work for other businesses helping owners to become organized or just following their direction. Sometimes the mundane routine was comforting and other times it frustrated me to no end. The fear of totally being on my own as a single parent was daunting and yet the stress of trying to manage everything was wreaking havoc on my body until I couldn't do it anymore and my immune system collapsed. The internal war I had fought much of my life had taken it's toll.

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Being a sun sign of Leo with my Venus in Cancer, I have constantly struggled to integrate these warring aspects within me of fire and water. With my moon in Libra and my love for beauty and balance, it was even more problematic, but as time went on I knew I had the answers within me. My body was screaming to me to let go and pursue my passions, but I had consistently wavered. At least I had been consistent in being inconsistent. That moon in Libra can be very problematic.

Then last fall I began to notice mushrooms on my walks in nearby parks and also on my property that had not been there before. More than likely, most mushrooms on my land had been killed by lawn chemicals, but now over so many years as the land healed and began revitalizing, things that had not been allowed to take hold before, flourished. The stagnant water was being absorbed in a myriad of delightful ways.

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One day I ate my first wild mushroom and that began my love affair with the fungi kingdom, something that had been developing for years but previously only from a distance. Having to overcome the fear of eating wild mushrooms, something that has largely been imposed by our modern society, I felt suddenly empowered. That day became a milestone for a very long journey that lasted 1 1/2 years. Though I rebounded numerous times during that period, I was slowly regaining my health. There were times I thought I would never be free of the pain and fatique, but eventually my strength returned.

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On the Autumn Equinox, a black and white cat caught my attention in the wooded area of my property. She stood next to the largest mushroom I had ever seen on my property, an 8 inch Shaggy Parasol aka Chlorophyllum Rhacodes, a mushroom I had first identified last year and eaten several times enjoying its wild, earthy taste. Initially it had been difficult for me to reconcile eating what I thought was one of the most beautifully designed mushrooms I had ever encountered, but I knew that it was all part of the plan.

I knew these mushrooms from the Willow tree that had slowly been decomposing from the form that once was, had given me a gift on this sacred day-- a piece of her to revitalize my body once more. It was only fitting that I should feast on food of the Goddess, delicious red raspberries and wild mushrooms on the day of equal darkness and light. I knew deep in my heart that eating this wild food from Nature, from the land that was mine, from the land that had healed as I had healed, was the connection I needed toward the complete restoration of my health, as I continue the next step in my journey, this process of connecting more deeply to the Earth and my own heart.

 

2017 Copyright Awen Environments/Clarissa Harison. All photos and content subject to written permission by author.