Sustain-ability: Putting By

This past weekend a booth at the farmers market had a sale on berries. Six pints for $10. I bought a dozen pints of huge juicy Boysenberries and took them home.

I have a deep love for berries that, looking back, may actually be responsible for me living in the Pacific Northwest. Growing up in Southern New Mexico (spitting distance from the future site of Trump's wall -- lol!) we had copious amounts of corn, chilies, tomatoes, and even strawberries. But other berries (blue, black, ras, boysen, marion) would not grow. And they were always shockingly expensive in the stores, which meant that growing up I rarely had any.

(Back in the day, kids, when not every place had every single thing every month of the year)

So now I live in Northwest, where berries are copious (and in some cases considered invasive species). But however fresh, 12 pints of boysenberries is not going to last very long. So that meant I had some work ahead of me.

I have a love-hate relationship with preserving. On the one hand, nothing gives me more personal, deep satisfaction than looking at a shelf of food that I put up. That I saved -- literally saved from rot -- and turned into something amazing (or at least not poisonous). On the other hand, every single time I set to "putting by" there's a moment, usually in the middle when the kitchen is very hot and steamy, when I'm like "why the hell am I doing this!?" But six months from now, when we are having boysenberry pie on a miserable grey, dark winter day, I will never question why.




Eating well is expensive and difficult and buying in bulk when it's in season and making it last are how you save money and make it easier. When you have more, you save some so that you can access it when you have less.

And it's this aspect of preserving that is a fundamentally magical act. I touched on this in my Magical Eating post and my Routines and Habits post. Because food isn't the only thing you can "put by."

We all have times when we are ahead of the game, feeling great, getting shit done. And then we have times when it's all falling to bits and behind and stressed and feeling like shit. One week the laundry's all done (my canary in the coal mine) and the family's happy and things are humming at the office. Two weeks later and there no clean underwear, the baby's got colic (or the teen's got hormones or the dog's got fleas or the spouse's got an attitude -- whatever) and work is on fire. Boom.

When are you more likely to do magic? The bad weeks, right. Things suck, so you want to fix them. Out come the spells and rituals and offerings. But what if you could simply go to the pantry and grab a jar of magic ready to go? Metaphorically speaking of course. Well, that would be awesome, but you'd have had to put it there first.



Yesterday I had my weekly meeting with a lovely witchy friend of mine. She'd been having a great week and took the opportunity to do a bunch of the sort of magical housekeeping that we should all do from time to time. Cleaning and reconfiguring working and worship spaces, reevaluating symbolism, and so on. And she made a very wise point: The act of doing all this made a huge difference in the energy of her house... even without having done any official work yet.

It reminded me of the comment I made recently about how having a plan is more important than following it. That situations change and plans change, but having a plan in the first place is critical to success.


Anyway, unlike my friend I've had a difficult couple of weeks. And I found myself going to my magical pantry to look for some stuff to help me out. Some of my stockpiles were OK and helped me, but some things were sorely lacking. It's actually a really interesting exercise to examine which is which. And this doesn't just include purely magical stuff. It's all connected. So if my personal stockpiles are low (nutrition, sleep, etc.) that impacts everything else. This kind of systems analysis is valuable and should be ongoing (I know, easier said than done) because the things that are always running behind or not cared for are the things that fall down first when times get rough.

The week ended strong and things have mostly sorted themselves out (or been sorted out). So this weekend and coming week I am making a point to make sure my magical pantry is as well-stocked as my physical one. The household altar has been cared for. I've been taking better care of my body (when stressed I tend to ignore my physical self). I caught up on laundry and sleep. I ate well and moderately. I made some traction on some magical goals and identified some new ones.

It seems like it would be nice if every week was calm and predictable. But this would be neither likely or even healthy. Variation and stress are important, as much for shaking out the weaknesses in our own systems as providing avenues for new opportunities.

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