Winter is Confusing for Busy People

I don’t know if this post will teach you anything, unless your personality is similar to mine. I am busy ALL. THE. TIME. If I’m not busy doing something that has some sort of worth to me, I feel guilty, as if I am being lazy somehow. I’m sure there is a Flower Essence that would help me deal with this, but for the moment I am just sitting around listlessly trying to decide what is the most worthwhile use of my time.

All my sewing projects are caught up. Most of the things I like to craft, little things to sell at fairs and online, haven’t been selling well lately so I don’t want to bother making more. I can crochet like crazy when I have a specific project I’m working on, but no one buys gloves much anymore and all I have is a scrap blanket left to make. I haven’t felt the drive to paint anything since last year. If I am not actively doing SOMETHING that could either improve my skills somehow or eventually lead to me living a more comfortable life (making money usually, which is why I make things to sell) then my time is being wasted. Of course I do read and I watch TV/Movies, but anytime between the hours of 7am and 5pm, I feel the need to be doing something worthwhile.

Everyone’s definition of “worthwhile” is different, I know. In spring/summer/fall, strolling through the woods and communing with, listening to, and just feeling nature counts as worthwhile to me. But February in Connecticut is not the time to be running barefoot through the trees and trying to talk to flowers. The trees are still asleep, the flowers and herbs hiding underground waiting for warmer days to emerge. Even my favorite oak tree out back barely gives me a sleepy welcome when I touch her, as if I was trying to have a chat with a Snorlax.

Heck, there’s still snow on the ground!

This time of year is unpleasant for me, because even if I start some seeds indoors or clean the chicken coop, these tasks take such a short time that I feel something wanting. It’s as if my mind is suffering from stagnation, as if I had a terrible condition of the heart I need to address that can only be healed by the earth herself. I have been reading farming and foraging books, which improve my knowledge but make me yearn for warmer days, even if that means 50 degrees (Fahrenheit) instead of 30.

There aren’t any plants I can forage with this much snow and Ice still on the ground. I don’t like trimming more branches than I need to use, and right now I have plenty of birch oil and pine tincture to last at least another year. No point in harvesting more than I need.

This is supposed to be a time for inner reflection and improvement. I’ve been writing, which is helpful. But I can only push out a couple of pages a day. I feel restless, I feel the need to DO something. I might start cleaning curtains soon, I’m getting that desperate. Netflix doesn’t help much–the choices are so many that more often than not, I give up and toss in a DVD from my cupboard rather than spend an hour trying to find something new to watch.

I think that the moment the snow has melted, I must go outside and stand barefoot in the mud, if for no other reason than to feel the vibration of the earth humming beneath my toes. That is, if I can find a spot not covered in goose poop…

I believe I will go home today and try to create an incense blend that reminds me of spring. Goldenrod smells absolutely lovely and floral, even when burning. I can grind the last bits of white sage I have left over, and a bit of mugwort to help ground me since I can’t actually touch the ground. Perhaps some Eastern Red Cedar to give me the woodsy scent, and a little white bitch to help it burn more quickly.

I think Cabbage (the goose) is going to start laying for the season soon. Once I see some remnants of grass in the lawn and hold a giant goose egg in my hand, my mood should improve. Once it’s warm enough to say hello to my plants and actually feel them answering back, all things will be right again. Once I hear the birds singing endlessly with their mating calls, I will feel happier than I do in these dark days of confusion, when I can’t decide which of so many directions to go.

I want to say hello to a tree and feel its welcome hug in return. I want to see chicks walking the yard and seedlings sprouting their heads through the soil.

I want to dance around an open fire on a moonlit night to the sound of drums, cool grass beneath my feet and fireflies in the air.

Will you join me?

Incense Crafting: Messy Experimentation

Hopefully you’ve figured out by now that I’m into incense… it’s a pretty big deal for me. I’m not an aromatherapist; I just know how certain scents can make me feel and I want to share that joy with the world around me.

I used to buy stick incense at head shops, and burn them so my house would smell nice. I admit many of the scents were a bit sharp smelling and often caused me to sneeze. I learned recently that it’s because MANY of the commercial stick incenses you can buy are made with chemical scents and oils rather than the actual herb they are supposed to be imitating. I find that burning my own incense made from ACTUAL herbs and not a bunch of fillers or chemical scents is a completely different experience that often brings out emotions I didn’t expect, or makes me feel more grounded and connected to the earth.

I started delving into making my own incense blends a few years ago, but I really got serious about it when I took a course through the Northwest School of Aromatic Medicine. I highly recommend Evan’s courses! While I went into the courses knowing the power of many herbs, those classes helped me dive into a deeper understanding of the herbs I already loved, and discover many more. I also learned some good tricks to boost my crafting skills, and I feel like the herbs themselves are still teaching me every time I work with them.

A loose incense blend, or burning a single plant by itself, is the most intimate form of incense burning one can experience. After lighting a chunk of charcoal and allowing it to burn enough to have formed a thin layer of ash on top, you can begin sprinkling your loose incense on it and inhale the intoxicating aroma of real dried herbs. You have to pay attention to it more closely because the charcoal burns through the herbs fairly quickly, requiring you to sprinkle more onto it to continue creating smoke. This isn’t a bad thing, however, as it makes your mind and senses more aware of the subtleties in the blend. Perhaps a bit more mugwort in this pinch, or that pinch had an abundance of sage. Every scent is different and can evoke a different feeling in your consciousness.

Whenever possible, I work with materials that I have either grown or foraged myself. There are some things that I do have to buy in, such as sandalwood or makko powder, cloves, cinnamon, and my binding powder. But I forage/grow and dry my own sage, white sage, patchouli, mugwort, white pine, cedar, juniper, and many other aromatic plant materials. I often experiment with different scents; more often than not, even the most alluring aromatic plant smells very different when it is slowly burning into ash!

My table becomes a messy work station when I’m crafting

Cone incense and stick incense require the herbs to be ground much more finely in order to stick together properly. A binding agent is added, and then water, and the blend is mixed until it forms a dough.

About to blend this

While I am mixing and kneading this into dough, I project my feelings and intentions into the herbs, asking them as they blend to create those same feelings for the person that ends up burning them. Often, I will have music playing that evokes a certain feeling in me personally, such as relaxation, being soothed, happiness, or excitement. My hope is that the same emotions I am feeling so strongly while I knead get incorporated into the dough, to be expelled later into the person who burns it. For this reason I do not make incense when I’m angry or highly distracted. That means most of my crafting happens when the kids aren’t around.

After adding water and binder

From here, depending on how much time I have, I will either mould this into cones or sticks, or set it back in the bowl and into the refrigerator to allow the herbs to get to know each other a little better for a day or so before I shape them. I have only recently started making dhoop incense, which is basically stick incense without a bamboo skewer inside. Please bear with me if you see me selling incense stick that are less than perfectly straight– I’m an artisan, not an engineer!

If you are interested in seeing more of my process and the things I create, I suggest you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, as I frequently post photos of whatever I am working on.

What kinds of plants do YOU like to burn? Have you ever made incense before?

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