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Well, I started the day with spotting a new bird to add to my life list as I made my oatmeal this morning in the microwave for breakfast (there’s a window on the back porch behind the table the microwave sits on):

This beautiful fellow with the red triangle on the back of his neck is, as far as I can tell, the Northern Flicker. Gorgeous.

Wednesday, around noon, I headed back to the park for my weekly devotions. The day was utterly beautiful out — mild, mid-70s, sunny. As usual, there was nothing remaining of last week’s offerings:

By now, the willow-tree was in full flower, beautiful yellow blossoms and the first small green leaves making a glorious curtain that didn’t really hide the cavern inside, but teasingly allowed access:

Instead of basing my design on threes this time, I chose to make a rough sun design, spreading out a round pattern in sixes.

Barley, dried blueberries, dried apricots, wine, sunflower seed kernels, a banana, and steel-cut oats:

Almost like the sun in glory: apricots and blueberries around a core of barley.

The banana at top:

 

The wine poured out:

Through the veil:

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Well, we were planning to go visit some friends this day, but they called at the last minute (while we were already on the road) and had to call off. So instead, we turned the car back toward Thorn Creek to have a bit of a hike.

Because this was so impromptu, I didn’t have any of my usual things along — a planned offering, my many garbage bags, my camera, my binoculars and guide books, my backpack — nothing. But we stopped along the way to fill up the gas tank and I hurried inside and bought a banana and a bag of sunflower seeds (still in the shell, but roasted, so they wouldn’t sprout) as a hasty offering. There was nothing else really suitable — no honey or maple syrup, no oats, no barley, no other fruit, no wine — so this had to do.

I found a new place at the foot of yet another tree for the small gift I had brought (and at least had the bag the gas station clerk had put them in, to gather garbage with):

 

There were plenty of new plants up, including a few I didn’t already know.  This one, which I looked up when I got home, is Cutleaf toothwort (Cardamine canadensis) — edible and peppery:

This one I still haven’t been able to ID yet:

Then there’s this, which looks an awful lot like privet hedge:

 

And then I found a raccoon skull in stunningly good condition (just three or four missing teeth, not all smashed up):

(I didn’t know it was raccoon originally; I thought it might have been a fox, given the prominent canines. I knew it was too small to be coyote, but I ended up looking it up when I got home.)

Of course, I took it home with me. It felt like the nature spirits had given me a very precious gift.

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And back I went, unable to stay away from the new place.

I chose a new place to leave the offering that day, so I can only assume that the last offering was accepted.  I found a bare spot by another fallen tree and laid things out in the shape of a wave flowing over the land:

 

The goodies I brought: green grapes, a banana, dried blueberries, dried apricots, chopped walnuts, steel-cut oats, sunflower seed kernels, wine:

Before I had even finished laying things out, the hungry had come (in the form of a fly, attracted by the scent of the VERY ripe banana):

Once again, I worked in the number three, the sacred land-sea-sky of the Tuatha de Danann who were worshipped by the hearth culture I followed, the Irish. Here are three apricot halves bracketed by three dried blueberries:

 

Found a few more bones on this trip, and was very pleased to get out on such a gorgeous day, get my exercise, clean up some garbage, leave offerings for the spirits, and feel that they approved of what I was doing.

 

These last few weeks have been hard; the transition from winter to spring is very welcome, but at the same time, I feel frozen with a sort of lethargy. Very little got done toward my spiritual work other than attending my Grove’s Imbolc ritual and this weekly practice for the nature spirits. I suppose I should be happy I didn’t go completely numb inside and quit that too, eh?

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By mid-March, the weather had gone from “early Spring” to “late Spring” and was starting to edge into “early Summer”. 88*F in mid-March?  Near Chicago?  That’s crazy talk!

But of course, so many people still say there’s no such thing as global warming.

It was a beautiful day when I set out with my bag of garbage bags and offerings. I left the house wearing a sweater, but it was tied around my waist by the time I got to the willow tree.  The sky was an almost unearthly blue:

 

As always, there was nothing left of last week’s offerings:


This week’s offerings — steel-cut oats, sunflower seed kernels, turbinado sugar, chopped walnuts, a banana, wine, dried apricots, dried blueberries, and green grapes:

 

The day’s pattern is the spiral, a repeating pattern found in nature (snail shells, coiled fern tips, bird nests, whirlpools, coiled snakes):

 

Details of the core – three apricot halves with a dried blueberry at the center and a blueberry atop each apricot:

Through the veil:

 

With the rise in temperatures came a comensurate rise in the amount of trash I picked up. Six bags today in two hours — more than three times the amount I got during some days this winter.

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We came back after just a few days; the warmer weather made it impossible to resist.

The things I brought for the offering were about the same: honey in the comb, steel-cut oats, dried blueberries, dried apricots, wine, sunflower seed kernels, chopped walnuts.

Again, I went with the triskele pattern, this time at a different spot, not on a hill. As a result, the “arms” of the triskelion turned out much better.

I drew them with steel-cut oats, using a chunk of honey in the comb as the core of the pattern. At the end of each arm, I put a trio of dried blueberries, circled round with sunflower seed kernels.

 

Around the core, I placed apricot halves, bracketed by three small piles of chopped walnuts.

 

And at the far borders, in a circle around the whole, I poured the wine (the dark circle):

 

It was in the mid-60s today, brilliantly sunny. I’d learned that the most interesting parts of the forest aren’t on the path, but are found when you wander off the path for a while, so I did, quite a bit, while my patient husband indulged me.

And that’s when I found the deer skull. It was very old — had been sitting in the grass by the fallen tree for at least a year, I think — and was fairly fragile. I gathered it up carefully and wrapped it in extra plastic bags and took it home with me, murmuring to it all the way. No antlers, or places on the skull for them to attach to, so it was pretty clearly a doe’s skull.  I was too excited to look to see if there were other bones at the site (i.e., from a coyote kill, or natural causes).  Will have to look around next time I go back.

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A week or so later, I went back to Thorn Creek, bringing an offering and garbage bags.  I left the offering first, at the same spot where I left the last one (and where I found the deer bones).

The pattern, laid out (I was trying for a Celtic triskelion, but the tilt of the hill made it a bit lopsided):

The dark circle around the edges is wine. The pattern itself (the bars of the triskele) are made of steel-cut oats. At the center, a chunk of honey in the comb sits atop a pile of sunflower seed kernels, and is bracketed by chunks of bananas (between the arms) and turbinado sugar (atop the arms). The arms branch out and are topped at the end with a half of dried apricot, accented with chopped walnuts:

 

Between the honey in the comb and the chunks of bananas, I placed three dried blueberries at each junction:

 

The park was coming to life with the warmer weather. The multiflora roses (which are something of an aggressive invasive) were putting out leaves:

There were other plants coming up, including trout lilies, trilliums, moss, cutleaf toothwort, hepatica, and several I couldn’t ID.

I found some more deer bones (from the same coyote kill at that spot), and then later on the walk we saw a pair of living deer.  🙂

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Well, Spring is definitely here now.  Grass is growing, trees are sprouting little buds, birds are singing, and people are enjoying the 50+*F weather, leaving much more trash at the park.

Nothing left from last week:

 

The goodies I brought: bananas, green grapes, chopped walnuts, sunflower seed kernels, dried blueberries, dried apricots, honey in the comb, maple syrup, honey butter, steel-cut oats, wine, turbinado sugar, and raisins.

 

Turbinado sugar:

 

Maple syrup:

Wine:

 

 

Honey-butter:

 

I didn’t take as many shots of individual elements, concentrating instead on — as I had at the other park — trying to lay out an elegant pattern with a more artistic flair.

 

 

Close-up to show blueberries, raisins, apricots, sunflower seed kernels, honey in the comb:

 

From above:

 

Through the veil:

 

I tried to bring a wider variety of offerings this time as a nod to the warmer weather and the coming of Spring.  And as I walked around picking up trash that day, I saw the first robin of Spring:

 

It was definitely warmer that day, in the mid-to-high 50s.  (Almost 60*F!)  I enjoyed the day very much.

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