Despite the pouring rain and cool weather several PLOT volunteers arrived to prepare for the Spring Equinox.
Claudia Brown Bear Woman, who helps facilitate Sweat Lodge at the Cwenen-gitel Aboriginal Centre in Surrey, arrived as things were being set up and gifted us with a sage smudge, then offered up a traditional healing Bear Song in blessing for the land and the people.
Grandma Amy – Manchus S’Kwao – Earthworm Woman, arrived wrapped in a beautiful West Coast style button blanket that she had made. People from the community circled around, filling all the spaces under the tent and overflowing out under umbrellas to help celebrate the first anniversary of the Newton Medicine Wheel.
Grandma Amy and another singer drummer Janeh began the Ceremony with the “Seven Direction Song” by Grandma Harris of North Vancouver. As the ceremony continued Grandma Amy and the Medicine Wheel team shared their words acknowledging the four cardinal directions of the wheel and the four related major elements that make up the fabric of life, Earth, Fire, Water and Air.
Telling stories, drumming and singing Grandma Amy was asked several times if she was too cold and wanting to leave. Each time her response was no, no, no I am good and she would launch into another wonderful life experience or teaching story.
After the Equinox Celebration and abundant feasting, the rain stopped. About half a dozen of the garden volunteers set about working on the garden well into the late afternoon, with shovels flying and wheelbarrows rolling, another set of beds was readied for planting.
Despite the light blanket of snow we went ahead with the First PLOT Sunday Work Party of 2017. The Sun came out and melted the white away revealing some sweet surprises emerging from the soil. Red garlic sprouts, rainbow chard and even a few leeks that braved the winter announced themselves. Smiles, laughter and great sharing for those who showed up. Even the bees came out to say hello!
The afternoon of the Solstice the skies cleared and the air warmed. Families and friends gathered at the Newton Seniors Centre in a beautiful open event room. Floor to ceiling windows looked out onto the snowy trees.
One end of the room held craft tables. On one of the tables two strands of prayer flags, loving stitched together by a member of the PLOT community, waited for folks to add their prayers and kind intentions.
Another table held beautiful origami cranes and other creatures created by a Newton community member. He was generously teaching people to fold their own origami to take home.
Yet another table was piled with adornments for the Christmas Tree, and the Tree was soon made magic with strings of popcorn, rounds of wood sliced from the trunk from another Christmas tree, seed pods and pine cones covered in peanut butter and bird seed for the winter birds, and shining bright red crab apples that emanated pure joy.
When sunset drew near, the community proceeded to the Medicine Wheel for a candlelight lantern ceremony led by our Cree Elder Grandma Amy, Manchus S’Kwao. Earthworm Woman. Her heart and spirit reached out to all gathered and her teachings gave us much to dream on.
With the closing of the circle folks returned to the warmth of the Seniors Centre for feasting, laughter and conversation. The children played, and connections were made with new folks who had ventured out to see what the PLOT was all about!
Lastly the Christmas tree was ceremoniously paraded down the street to the PLOT, held aloft by two dedicated PLOT volunteers, followed by other PLOT’ers, while another helper with the flame alight in his lantern, led the way.
The Tree looked magnificent tied to the Peace Pole in the centre of the Medicine Wheel, with candles lighting the four directions. The Tree was left to stand through the holidays, to remind us of our connection with nature, and in a very small way, by feeding the birds, to give back a little to the whole.
The prayer flags were hung at the east entrance to the Medicine Wheel to whisper their words of peace, wonder and goodwill into the stillness of the snowy winter night and to greet the return of the light.
I wandered down to the PLOT today, and saw our beautiful space iridescent with shining snow…at least 6 inches deep. The Medicine Wheel was visible through the shadows cast by the gentle indent of the circle and spokes blanketed in snow. Delightful foot prints of little ones….perhaps rabbits, mice, squirrels…left their unique trails in the snow, as they no doubt searched for food at the various areas of green grass poking through the whiteness. Purple shadows played against the snowy backdrop…and the picnic tables were delightful with their vibrant colours peeking through at the edges of the the thick mantle of snow that covered all. The air smelled so good! And the magic of the land is still there!
Several “Friends of the PLOT” showed up today to help prepare the PLOT for the coming winter. A mulch of seaweed and leaves was added to the beds to discourage the weeds, and to encourage the earthworms to work their magic.
Vickie Cammack and Al Etmanski, both recipients of the Order of Canada and both supporters of the garden, added their elbow grease to the work party and their lively conversation to the Sunday Picnic.
The spectacular liquidambar leaves that we gathered for mulch, yes, they do look like liquid amber in the fall sunshine, lent a festive feel to a wonderful day.