I break the dry, brittle pine branches and carefully place them into the fire pit my sons built this morning. Blowing gently on the embers, I soon coax flames back to life. They lick greedily at the fresh fuel and I smile, and then place a few larger sticks next to the flames and around the large cast iron cauldron –a 7 quart dutch oven. I stand up, remove the top from the pot, and fill it with snow from a white 5 gallon pail. A second pail stands next to the snow filled one, only it is half filled with water. This water we would use for washing clothes, dishes, and ourselves.
My husband has just left for work. A few days ago, just before the snow fell, a wandering cowboy appeared in our front yard, the Ranger pup barking furiously at the intruder. It was a neighbor, one of a handful of people who call this mountain home and don’t just vacation occasionally. He introduced himself, bullshitted properly with us for several minutes, and in the end my husband had a job helping one of the other fulltime mountain residents remodel his cabin –and we also had 5 beef steaks from our new cowboy friend.
The children rambled about the yard of our makeshift camp in front of our camper, supply tent, and freshly planted experimental bean patch. I was fire tender and chief snow melter today. The Sun, jealous of the heat cast by my well tended flames, appeared in full force. This witch soon found herself stripping off layers and tying up messy hair beneath a colorful scarf; the mountain boots –courtesy of my husband’s 10 year stint in the military- remained on my feet, despite being insulated. To put it frankly, lava rocks are a bitch and there are far too many coyotes and mountain lions around to lazy about barefoot. Boots on my feet, gun by the door, children within sight, and fire to be tended. This was my morning.
Originally, I had been planning on making an offering to Her. Fire is certainly a good excuse for making offerings, and I had missed the first of my Lady’s feast days as of late (there have been two since we arrived.) The second I attended, dutifully, however, She was not so pleased with the first having been overlooked. I stood, eyeing up the trees about the camp. Despite being in New Mexico, our few acres is heavily wooded. Granted, it’s not heavily wooded by our previous home of Wisconsin’s standards, but there are more trees than open spaces. There are only four types of trees that grow in this section of the mountain, two are sacred to Her. This fact has never escaped me, nor that I’m now living on a mountain, that I have a hunting dog (with more to come,) and that I’m perpetually clad in mid-shin high mountain boots. Surely, She is having a laugh at me, though, I can’t help but wonder how much more I’ll come to, inadvertently, emulate Her. Hazard of being a priestess? These aren’t the type of things that people talk about, so I can only wait, watch, listen, and laugh at myself.
Despite wanting to cut a few sprigs from the Cedar on the East side of camp, I found my feet heading West. A small Pinion called out, and I searched beneath its branches. No amber balls of sap, but the cicadas caught my eye. She spoke clearly. The offering was fine and dandy, whatever, but there was spell work to be done. It’s not too often She demands such, but when She does, I can only listen and follow through. Her hand at work in matters of change is always a blessing. She pulls harder than I, but then again, She is a Deity and I’m just a mom distracted by witchcraft and pretty trees.
I wandered back to my fire, one hand filled with the shed exoskeletons of cicada larva and the bodies of a few adults, my other hand held my herb knife and three sprigs of Cedar. I could feel Her smiling. Everyone loves a good fire.
The boys had done a good job building the pit, the lava rocks held the flames and heat in nicely. The pot was still half full of snow. I added small twigs and once the flames began to climb, I made the requisite initial offering and began the Work She said was necessary. Obviously, I agreed.
Throwing the Bones