Winters here are rough.

 

The photo shows one of the last tiny harvests before the cold locks me indoors for too many days.

 

In the jar is lemon balm—wee clippings from the very top of the plant, since the lower leaves are already weathered beyond use. Likewise, the jar holds a mere five inches of nettle leaves and nettle seeds from the top of a stalk.

 

The harvest also includes gorgeously dark peppermint and some fuzzy, pale mint. The square-stemmed plant is ready to assault my tongue with glory, if there’s enough mint in the jar to storm my tastebuds. If not, a more gentle mint taste will sweeten and enliven the tea blend. 

 

One proud yet coy Echinacea Angustifolia blossom tops the tea ingredients. I suspect the flower, unlike the obviously powerful benefits of the echinacea root, will grant me a gentler, more esoteric, but no less needed boost.

 

The idea that my harvesting forays in bright green days will soon be replaced by dark days and wall-bound wonderings leaves me frightened and weary. I know too well that cabin fever is a true madness, and that SAD (seasonal affective disorder) can strike the most hearty soul with heart-rendering depression.

 

Herbs and vegetables harvested moments before I consume them feed my body and spirit starlight. I fear its lack for a whole, long winter will be horrible and seriously hurt me. I cannot imagine anything to pick up the slack. 

 

But if I only grieve the end of summer and harvest, and do not also celebrate them, I do these frail herbs and all my Gods’ gifts a disservice. I also emotionally hurt myself by dwelling on grief more than I need.

 

So I move past fear by relishing that I was able to pick that echinacea blossom. I grin without even meaning to. You see, the echinacea patch had almost died out. It was so beaten that I thought it was past saving. However, I managed to rescue it over the past few summers. This year, it was large enough that I could afford to harvest a few of its flowers for tea instead of needing to let them go to seed to maintain the patch. 

 

Before I pour boiling water over my fresh garden herbs, I pray that I find gratitude for the small things in life, and that I recognize the large gifts so I can be grateful for them too.

 

I show my prayer is sincere, with an act of gratitude: I take a moment to note the pleasure held in the jar. I smile without knowing I was about to do so.

 
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I snap a photo in thanks for the garlic I harvested. Planted over a decade ago, it languished until this summer. Even now, the bulbs are tiny. The photo shows the largest and does not indicate how small they are. Hidden in the back of the bundle are the majority of the bulbs, most as tiny as a single clove. Tiny blessings. This winter, I’ll have garlic from my garden, not just produce that sat neglected on store shelves for months. 

 

With my disabilities, I never could’ve managed to get the garlic from the ground until this year. Now, when the Allium sativum is finally worthy, my body is up to the task. My health has kept continuing to improve. Goddess, thank you. A few gentle tugs, and a garlic bulb lifts from the ground.

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I’ll also have hot peppers, both frozen and dried, part of a friend’s crop. A few peppers are Trinidad Scorpion. I say the name out loud, rolling it around on my tongue, smiling once again, this time at the absurdity of such a title, and looking forward to the heat I imagine a pepper so named must produce. Perhaps I’ll eat it on my birthday, Scorpio that I am. 

 

I remind myself of snow sparkling with sunlight when I walk through winter woods. I can already feel how the sparkles bless me with health. 

 

I reassure myself that my Goddess takes care of me all year, so anything lacking in the long winter is no need for resigning myself to many awful months.

 

Instead of closing to the idea of my needs being met in winter, I meditate on what I’ll need then. The answer I receive is “Blueberry jam.” 

 

It doesn’t make logical sense, but my gut recognizes truth. Or, at least, I suspect the answer is truth. And there is some anecdotal proof:

 

In childhood, I craved blueberries. Covered with cream, they were an extra special treat, which is saying something, considering the amazing food Mom prepared on a regular basis. When Mrs. Sweeney, who took care of me when Mom was at work, took me on a special trip to Martha’s Vineyard for a weekend (or maybe it was a week), she served blueberry jam on breakfast toast. Insatiable beyond reason once introduced to that jam, I craved piles of it on my toast, desperate to eat Mrs. Sweeney’s whole jar. I was ashamed of myself, as if I were a small fiend wanting more than their fair share. I continue to consume blueberries frozen, fresh, and in jams, as much as I can. They are magic for me.

 

I decide to, in coming months, continue to meditate on winter needs, continue to open to my needs being met all year. 

 

The water comes to a boil. As soon as it is poured into the blue glass jar, bathing the herbs in heat, I make another intentional act of gratitude: I inhale the sweet lemon scent of rising steam.