Wednesday, May 13, 2015

To Ring A Bell

In our garden, the earliest south-facing peaches, the ones that live next to the beehives, are a ripe riot of velvet and sweet. It seems that this year, the bees managed to pollinate just about every single flower, so the boughs are heavy and a little too crowded with small but glorious fruits. 

Fruit is made to be enjoyed by the tastebuds of animals, just like flowers are made to be enjoyed by the tastebuds of bees and butterflies and other nectar-lovers. Fruit is made to evoke pleasure, to make the tongue curl with sweet giddiness. Plants offer fruits like a great ringing of wedding bells to the palates of birds and foxes, bears and squirrels, mice and coyotes and humans alike. All of us, seduced by that chiming sweetness, help the fruit by carrying its seed off into the world, into new soil. This is an ancient pact, a primordial relationship; the earliest original fruit trees shaped us as much as we then shaped them. 

Their sweetness—the way a handful of fresh blackberries or the first bite of a perfect apricot is almost indecently sensuous, erotic even—knows us, wants us to enjoy it. After all, as Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes tells us, the word erotic in its essence means to be in relationship with. This is the original wild wedding: between body, tongue and the fruit of the land.

Apricots, ripening
The taste of fruit rings bells in our bodies older than our species, as old as tongues and stomachs and mammalian milk. It is sometimes hard for me to believe that our bodies have changed very little in the last 200,000 years of our history as Homo Sapiens. Our bodies were made wedded to the land, in deep relationship with the fruiting of fruits, the blooming of blooms, the coming and going of seasons, the calls of birds, the births of fawns, because all of these things were wired deep into our survival. We carry the same bodies and the same brains as those created in such a context; it is no wonder we find ourselves in trouble these days--globally, culturally, individually, emotionally, spiritually, physically. It is also no wonder that certain things ring bells in us older than words; that sometimes we feel our blood or our hearts stirred far deeper than the knowings of this lifetime. 

Certain plants draw us in when we need them (like this collection of friends from a walk in Point Reyes did me last week, a most excellent tea: nettle, horsetail, california poppy, alder leaf, monkeyflower); our bodies know their medicine, even if we've never even learned their names. Certain places—the marshy edges of bays, with a thick cover of alders—make us feel safe though we've hardly spent any time in them. The experience of examining animal tracks in sand--gray fox, river otter, bobcat, vole--makes us feel almost giddy with excitement, not just with the newness of it all, but with the deep familiarity too. 

It makes me feel comforted, safer somehow in this big strange modern world, to know that these relationships are still available all around us; that even if our minds are clouded or forget, even if we are overly dependent on our light switches and sleek computers, our cars and running water and grocery stores, our bodies still, after all this time, have systems of little bells that ring ring ring when an old connection is made, an old friend encountered (poppy, robin, peach), when the primordial beauty of earthen things is near. 

This, I think, is what Dr. Estés means by the erotic. A relationship with the living world that sets the body's bells ringing with memories both near and very far, memories as new as yesterday and as old as the mammalian placenta, or even older-- the bird's egg, the snake's nest. 

A lady anna's hummingbird has made her nest in the bamboo outside our bathroom window. In it, she's laid two eggs. She sits diligently every day, her fuschia throat a tiny jewel. To watch her, to praise her; this rings an ancient bell, an almost painful bell, in the heart.

The black phoebes have had children, now fledged, who sit on fence posts all throughout the garden, looking somewhat confused and cheeping loudly for food. Two very harried parents dart around after bugs and try to keep their children, who flap very clumsily, out of the sights of the cooper's hawk who makes an appearance every afternoon. They ring bells too.

The garden is alive fruit, with eggs, with tiny babies hidden in spidersilk nests (and, I suspect, nests made with fluffy bits of Hawthorn's wool). Sometimes I sit under the apricot tree (whose fruits are still green), and for a moment get this overwhelming sense of the pulse of life, just in this one big garden. It's a great bell, ringing. How many bird families are being raised around me. How many precious blossoms are now on their way to fruit. How many bees.

Kiwi flowers
"When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world."

-Mary Oliver

And so, in honor of bells and fruiting and the wild marriage of humans and land, I introduce June's full moon Tinderbundle, Bell. When Catherine Sieck (the Marvelous Mistress of all paper cut art) first sent me her extraordinary cut, inspired by a series of conversations we'd had about the theme, I was, as usual, blown away. In reply I sent her these words, which seem to touch on something essential about this bundle, something loose and free:

We are the seed of the fruit, stitched with that sweetness, dangling from the vine, the fruit plucked somehow our own heart and hearth...And these dancing faces--- I see them as masks; I see a great dance of humans masked like the giddy spirits of the earth, honoring the harvest, honoring our own many faces, from maid to mother to crone and all the ones between, lover and jester, fool and fiend, fruiting and dying and fruiting again within us. Dancing round fires, wassailing the orchards in masks that blend the worlds. How there is a pear in the heart. The stars as sacred fruit. The monkeys in our own limbs, our fruiting primordial roots in trees. 

So. June's Full Moon Tinderbundle, Bell, is about what it means to be the bride or bridegroom of the living land. What it means to be part of this feral fecund marriage. What it means to give your heart to the world, and your body too, in honor of the sensuous long days of a fruiting summer, in honor of the bells of joy that live inside every single one of our bodies, that ring in sympathy with the bells of all life, when they are first alight and alive within us. In honor, too, of the dying back that necessarily follows the fruiting, that nourishes the next season, and what new, ringing seeds may root there. 

As such, Catherine and I decided to time this Bundle to arrive in time for the full moon of June (the 2nd), instead of the new moon of May-- since the great Strawberry (or Rose) Moon is, in its silver fullness, its own great Bell.

It will be a chiming invocation of the bells that ring in our bodies; it will be a celebration of fruit, of the tales that exist the world over of children born in the pits of peaches, the cores of pears; it will be a love song and an incantation both.

It will also be the last Tinderbundle. 

Don't fear! There are many more things on the horizon, but this will be the last Tinderbundle in this form and under this particular name. Catherine and I have other projects simmering away, similar but simpler; and I have a few collaborations coming up with some beautiful herbalist women this summer... New fruits are ripening on the trees of the imagination as the seasons shift and sway.

So if you'd like a Tinderbundle this June; if you've been thinking about purchasing one but haven't gotten around to it, now would be the time! This bundle will also include, besides a story/poem and two prints, a silk scarf dyed with loquat leaves, a tin of gardener's hand salve made with herbs from my garden, and a tiny bell....

There are only 20 Bell Tinderbundles left! So hurry along here for yours!


  1. Dear Sylvia,

    Your name is perfect for you.

    Today is my lucky Sunday. My friend Liz Murray sent me this latest blog posting. Love. Immediate love.

    Every word glistens like a perfect pearl of dew.

    Thank you, thank you. I'll return often. Oddly, am working on a peach posting because I harvest over 200 fruits from a 41/2 foot tall peach tree I planted six years ago. The most amazing harvest ever. It is as though the peach is shouting life when the land is crying for water.

    All joys,


    1. Sharon, thank you so deeply for this truly wonderful note. It touched me so deeply. I love your description of the peach shouting life in peaches. Gosh, what splendor. Thank you for visiting and taking the time to share such kind words, my heart is very full. XO

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