The Fertile Dark

The wheel of time turns on. Autumn Faded to winter, which here in Portland really means grey skies, rain, and squishy ground, rather than the picture of snowdrifts that the word “winter” evokes in our minds. And now we find ourselves again Holding on to times wheel as she turns us from winter solstice to Imbolc. The halfway point between the longest night and the spring equinox.

Each year I age I feel the wheel more solidly, I feel my place in time and feel it spinning all around me, or maybe it’s me spinning with it. It seems so long ago, the days when I cared not what season we were in, unless it meant that I could be next to the river with the summer sun shining on my skin. Now I pace my days, my work, and my energy in relationship to where we are in the wheel of the year. This time, this gestational time “the in the belly” time,  when traditionally  livestock would be carrying their babes in the belly, feels of such great importance. I too, in my own way am gestating, not a baby, but a whole new life.

Here on our little farmlette, as my momma likes to call it , we too had hopes of young ones being in the belly this winter, but the small goat who was sent for breeding did not receive the seed and so we wait for spring to try again. This time is still fertile, I feel myself putting down a taproot. Learning to be of this land. Not quite a year yet under my belt in my tiny home in the Doug fir trees, yet it’s beginning to feel like my place in the world. And I know my tall standing friends, are growing used to me as well.

Just tonight as I came out of my parents’ house after a nice shower in the hot wate, making my way across the dark yard, my footsteps know the way, I don’t need a light anymore. Out of the darkness came a sound, a large, low hoot of an owl. An owl who must be very grand to see with your eyes indeed because their voice was so resonant, I could feel it in my belly. I stopped and called a greeting. “Hello owl, hello!” and gave a hoot of my own. The owl responded, as they tend to do. I never stop delighting in this fact, that I can converse with an owl. So I stood there for a moment with the wind blowing and a few raindrops coming down around me, and my wet hair streaming down my back, and I sang, just a small song for that owl. Thinking maybe if I try to speak owl, he will think I’m a bit Daft, but if I speak human and offer a song with a certain lilt and cadence perhaps it will be well received. Owl didn’t seem to mind, but hooted again, as I said goodnight.

It’s been a quarter of a year since I was in New Mexico tending to  my beloved  uncle John through his death. Only three moon since then… a quarter of a year more of this pandemic, a quarter of a year more of learning how to be a woman on my own without a husband, a quarter of a year more of living in my little home with my cat under these tall trees. It seems such a short burst of time, and yet also so drawn out. Another sign from the gods that time truly does not exist even though we dance with it.

We’ve been looking at seed catalogs, dreaming about little ones to plant in the ground and raise up and grow come spring and then summer. And I’ve been looking inside the catalogues of my heart wondering what pieces of myself I would like to attend to and grow up into something flourishing and bright as the sun again returns to the land.

I take such comfort in this quiet dark, such comfort in not having to know anything, rather just feeling my way through my life, just like the baby plants feel their roots sinking down through layers of soil and when they hit a pebble they don’t freak out, they just gently go around it and keep on rooting. We humans, we are much like baby plants. And we are also much like tall trees.

Each morning when I say my prayers, I finish by smudging my body, my brow, my heart, my belly, and then drawing the smoke down each leg and grounding my hands to the floor, and through the floor to the earth. I often refer to this as smudging myself in. Smudging myself into my body and into my life, into my commitment to my ancestors and my descendants.  I use Cedar for my smudge bundle right now, Cedar gathered from the land here on which I live. And I send up a prayer every day for Cedar to help me be a little more like them, a little more regal and tall in my stature, a little more rooted deep to the earth, a little more sweet smelling when the rain of life falls on me.

There’s nothing left to do this evening, except for make some tea and pour it in my cup. Give my cat a little bit of a snuggle and settle into bed with my book. I’m grateful to be aware of the pause this time of year. I’m grateful for the silent darkness, this potent present, the pregnant fullness that lives in the dark.  


I have lost my map.
The whole, well structured cartography of my life
slips and shifts before my very eyes.
North now points, gods know where
South spins on some unknown axis,
and I am spun as well.

All I knew to be true now in question,
One thousand planned futures
collapse around me,
the unknown looms like a sneaker wave
not yet seen, but growing.

How do I step forward when there is no ground?
Beneath my feet is only shift and play,
no solid earth to hold me.
where do I step when I cannot see?
only darkness, fog and shadow.

Perhaps stepping is not the issue at hand
As a wise man says –
“The times are urgent, we must slowdown.”

Maybe I plant my feet here
like the roots of a mighty tree
maybe my roots will, in good time
hold the earth solid,
and me along with her.

My roots snaking and growing once again
to create a new cartography of my life.

In darkness I was born
and will be born again.
now I wait,
spreading roots, spreading roots.

10 thoughts on “The Fertile Dark

  1. Ken Iverson says:

    Loving your words…the catalogue of your heart…indeed, what do we each hope to grow this time around? “The unknown looms like a sneaker wave, not yet seen, but growing.” – Beautiful insight as well as a brilliant image. I think of a giant swell that swept around Kauai during a fierce storm. It seemed small when a long ways away, sort of like the first inkling there is change ahead.


    • mariannalouise says:

      Thank you, that swell around the island is the perfect image. I wonder if it’s in our blood, this love if waves and nautical metaphors… I often picture my life as a small sailboat held in gods hands with the breath of spirit blowing me in the right, but not always easy, direction.


  2. Shay DeGrandis says:

    I am grateful for the grace of your words and images as they trace your vulnerabilities and impart a deep wisdom upon the world, your language as root tendrils spiraling across the continent. I adore this poem, she has a way about her, familiar, nurturing and I am glad for her being born. I think of our lives, too, as the cartography of the coastline, always shifting, unable to be mapped or planned with the tide-pulls of the moon. My heart swells, peaks, collapses, and returns to the expansive ocean with gratitude to your edges.


  3. mariannalouise says:

    My eyes fill with tears as I read your comment, dear Shay. How blessed to have one such as you to receive my words and sing back to me their depth and meaning, you are a true anam cara and I am beyond grateful to share this life with you.


  4. Kit Lorraine Stuber says:

    I agree with Shay – what a deeply impacting piece of writing with the thread of fullness woven through. You always convey gratitude for life, I feel, which is radically hopeful. We each hope to be able to create a map for our lives; often, this is mere illusion. I think it’s just a part of the human experience to plan and try to predict future outcomes but, whether mapped or not, can we ever truly do this? More important may be simply flowing with the grace of nature which you do so skillfully. Thank you for the example. In this way, you suggest a map, a guide, for others to follow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mariannalouise says:

      Thank you so much for this generous reply Christine. It’s strange how even though in some ways my outlook on life can be dark at times, I do hold to this thread of true blooming hope and joy for life. Thank you for seeing that and reminding me 💗💗💗


  5. allicarolina says:

    Ohhhh beautiful. I was just thinking recently I wondered if you had written during this season of darkness as it felt it had been a while- proof we are only “dancing with time”…
    And then this dropped in my inbox. Surprise! a first bloom teasing me out of the dark!
    I’ve missed your reflections. This one greets me beautifully. Thank you. Happy gestating.


  6. mariannalouise says:

    Your comments truly warm my heart! Time is such a strange slippery it is, days unfold and then looking back it has been weeks and months.. I am sending you a blessing of healing and rest dear one.


  7. Nathan says:

    Sister, reading your words is a sweet and intentional walk across the land… the sounds, the smells, and the sensations. I know the connections well. Truly, how much time does it take for us to connect to the greater whole? Days? Minutes? The time it takes to read or even receive the inspiration for our words? A millisecond, really… and it begs the question as to the connection we have in the moment or for those who read and think of us later, or before, or while. Connection spans time and space but also rolls out with the seasons. Thank you once again. You are in my thoughts over here in this winter land that truly does look like the snowy winter one would expect.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. mariannalouise says:

    A millisecond indeed, a breath, a gasp of beauty?! we are so close to being in perfect contact at every blessed minute, if only we remember and claim this magic. You are in my thoughts often as well, as we navigate the joys and sorrows of parenting and loss… It looks like we may get some real white freezing stuff here this weekend… I would welcome it. I love you, dear brother of my heart.


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