Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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In the Heart of Winter

It's late January, and my almond tree is blooming.

What makes that so surprising is that I live in Minnesota.

I've long joked that I'm a Mediterranean trapped in the body of a Northern European. (The quip would actually read more accurately as “...having a perfectly fine time in the body of....”) Civilized people drink tea and wine and cook with olive oil. Barbarians drink coffee and beer and cook with (ugh) butter. Not that there's anything wrong with barbarism, understand. Some of my best friends.... And since I've certainly put away my share of brews down the years, I suppose that by my own definition that would make me semi-barbarous. Fine. See if I care.

Why in the world am I living in Minnesota, one might wonder? Short answer: love. But that's a story for another night. Right now it's late January and my almond tree is blooming. I just can't look at it enough.

I've always wanted to live in a place where I could walk out into the back yard and pick my own lemons, oranges, pomegranates, figs, olives, dates and almonds. (If I believed in reincarnation, I'd say: Canaanite. Since I don't, your guess is as good as mine. Where do these affinities come from?) Last time I got back from the Mediterranean, I realized it wasn't likely any time soon.

So I did the next best thing. Now I do have a lemon (orange, pomegranate, fig, olive, date, almond) tree in the back yard: during the summer, anyway. With first frost on the horizon, I trundle the pots in to our three-season back porch. That's where the trees are right now. My indoor-outdoor orchard. My movable forest.

Winter is long in Minnesota, and Oimelc is its cold heart. We're halfway through and by now even the non-pagans have started to notice the increase of light, but we've got another month of sub-zero coming up and we can realistically expect snow through April. Our March equinoctial gale is generally a blizzard.

And yet: here on the back porch, the almond tree has broken into delicate, fragile bloom, the flowers' faint pink heart-breaking in silhouette against the snow piled in the back yard.

Here in Winter's frozen heart: spring.

Photo: Paul B. Rucker

Boeotian Cloche Goddess reproduction (terracotta): Constance Tippett








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Tagged in: Imbolc Oimelc trees
Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven Tuesday, 20 January 2015

    Is it normal for your almond tree to blossom now? Cuz otherwise, I'd be calling "climate change" on this phenomenon.

    We moved from Northern California to Western Oregon thinking that climate change would only catch up with us (if ever) in a quarter-century. Yet, just eight years in, our winters now seem much more like the ones we left in coastal Mendocino County. (Good thing we liked that climate!)

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Tuesday, 20 January 2015

    It's a little early this year (not that I'm not grateful), but I can usually expect it to be out by Oimelc. When I was in Israel at the beginning of February a decade ago, the almonds were just coming into bloom. I presume it's a matter of light. We're all just children of the Sun.

  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven Tuesday, 20 January 2015

    I think some plants respond to light (which logically doesn't have much, if anything, due to climate change) and others to temperature (which, conversely, has a LOT to do with climate change.) No idea which is which vis-a-vis almonds.

  • Miles Gerhardson
    Miles Gerhardson Tuesday, 20 January 2015

    So interesting to hear that here in Minnesota, where I reside also, that people actually DO grow such plants/trees. Wonderous!

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Wednesday, 21 January 2015

    I hear (how did I not know about this?) that there are hot springs down by Mankato that have created around them a semi-tropical microclimate in Minnesota. This I've got to see!

  • Constance Tippett Chandler
    Constance Tippett Chandler Tuesday, 20 January 2015

    Hey Steven,
    Glad to see you put my little Goddess to use. I think I remember you buying it at PantheaCon a few years ago. I live in Portland Oregon now and I just saw the bulbs sprouting out of the ground yesterday. I'm not sure if that is normal, I've only been her a year. but it was nice.
    Thanks for the little recognition

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Wednesday, 21 January 2015

    True story: when I got back from P-con, I hung the little Bell Goddess on a branch of the almond tree, which was budded out but not blooming yet. The next morning, the branch she hung from was blooming, but none of the others. Hmmm.

    Constance, I love your work (as anyone walking through my house could affirm). The Horned God and Great Mother shortbread molds break my heart every time.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Wednesday, 21 January 2015

    Let me add: in a world of resin repros, Constance speaks the truth of terracotta.

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