Lifestyle / Making Lemonade / Travel

Making Lemonade #12: Lemons as symbolism

Embracing the Omen Days

Cross-posted from SubstackView original post

Hey friends,

It’s almost the end of the year, which means this is the final Making Lemonade for 2023. Starting this Substack was one of my main goals for 2023 (and for 2022, actually), so I’m super happy to have finally made it happen. Thanks for being here and coming along for the ride!

I’ll be honest, my original intention for today was to write something else entirely, but in the end, I decided to mix it up. I’ll share the original essay next week – which is all about freedom, Sylvia Plath’s fig tree, and how happiness and human ingenuity thrive best within limitations.

But for now, here’s something completely different.

Today, we’re going to talk about life, death, the wisdom of nature, the land, Indigenous people, and our ancestors, and the circular experiences of life, the idea of Omens, and being open to signs from the natural world. 

Signs like lemons.

As I write this – on the 26th of December – we’ve just entered into the phase of the year that my Celtic ancestors called the Omen Days. This 12-day period starts on December 26th and goes through until January 6th, with each of the twelve days said to bring omens to correspond with each month in the year to come.

And so, I invite you to be open each day for what signs might be out there for you, and how you might choose to interpret them as omens for the year ahead.

Note, in this instance, the word omen does not mean something negative, it just means a sign of what is to come.

Birds in flight (Swan Valley, Dec 2023)

For example, I took this photo the other day while I was on my bike on the phone to my mum having a really difficult time trying to make conversation (it’s very hard to chat to someone on the phone with fairly advanced dementia – especially when they’re super anxious about everything and keep letting the dog out onto the street).

But anyway, I was really trying to stay patient, and then the birds flew overhead and the sun lit up the trees just right and it felt like a reminder that this time I have with her – even if it is on the other side of the world – is a gift, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.

Signs are out there always, it’s just up to us whether we even notice them, and then how we view them or how they make us feel. Like tarot or oracle cards, I find it’s all about the interpretation as much as the sign, but it’s also just a good excuse to get outside and in tune with nature. 

There’s always such an abundance of wisdom, beauty, and joy out there in the natural world, but sometimes it’s hard to get out there and see it. To switch off our minds and our phones and open up enough to bear witness to the magic of it all.

I know that it sounds ridiculous, but often we have to convince ourselves to get outside and switch off and open up – especially at this time of year when most of us are physically and emotionally exhausted and don’t want to do anything but bask in liminal space (even if we have to work). 

I must admit it’s a little easier to get outside here in Australia, especially with our later sunsets and warmer days, but honestly, I really miss frosty midwinter walks.

Anyway, if you can, try to spare just a few minutes each day to go outside and keep your eyes and your heart open and see what drops in. You never know what you might find or what magic it might spark in you.

To inner journeys and the great unknown

While I haven’t written about it much publicly, I’ve always felt a deep calling to land, spirits, and ancestors in ways that I’ve never really been able to articulate. There’s just always been this deep knowing in me that there is something more to life on the physical plain than what we can see.

Perhaps it was growing up on the Ley lines – the GMT line runs right through my hometown – near ancient forests, or just a feeling. Whatever it is, I’ve always known there’s something more to lifeSomething we can’t see, hold, or exploit for greater gain.

As a child, I grew up in a very atheist household, but I found my spiritual enlightenment through my interactions with nature. I had favourite trees I’d talk to, and I was always running about in said forests, reading fairytales, making potions from flowers and plants, and “casting spells” with my pictures and my words.

Paperbarks are some of my favourite trees here in Australia (Star Swamp, May 2020)

Over the years, I lost track of this part of myself. For much of my teenage years and twenties, I was too busy exploring the outside world to go inwardly searching again. But, as part of the full-circle journey of belonging I’ve been on these last few years, this appreciation for nature and all the things we cannot see has come right around again.

While it looks a little different these days – my favourite trees (and fairytales) are places I retreat to when I feel lost; my potions are pots of tea and home-cooked meals; my spells are photographs that immortalise moments in time and words that imagine a better world where we all live in harmony with nature and each other – it feels just as pure and joyful as when I was a kid. 

Perhaps even more so, actually. But maybe that’s also because it took me the best part of 25 years to get back here.

My grandmother – my mum’s mum, who passed a few years ago – was totally in on the secret. She used to keep an old broomstick by the front door and would joke about flying it through the skies on full moon nights. She also had an incredible garden and would make jams from rosehips and tea from herbs, while telling me about all the healing properties of the plants she grew in her garden.

Even if she wasn’t magic, that garden still felt like magic to me. Over three decades, my grandfather and her had transformed a wild meadow into a natural wonderland, filled with winding pathways, secret flower-filled nooks and crannies, and a big veggie patch that was my grandad’s pride and joy. 

At least it was, until the dementia came for him, like it has for my mum. As it turns out, healing herbs can’t actually heal everything – but at least now I know growing them can be pretty good for broken hearts.

Ashdown Forest, where I spent a lot of time running around, playing hide and seek, climbing trees, and complaining about going on yet another dog walk

Just like the seasons and cycles of life, I’ve been really tapping back into this ancient idea of cyclical living in recent years. 

The more time I spend in one place, the more I notice the cycles, and the more I believe in this idea of what goes around, comes around. It feels evident everywhere I look, whether it’s days, seasons, periods of history and empires, climatic events, or even fashion cycles.

On an individual level, I’ve also had a lot of full-circle moments since arriving in Australia, including rediscovering that childhood joy and idea of “green magic” right when I needed it most.

It’s funny now, looking back, but I remember spending my first six months in Australia feeling like it was only a short-term thing and I was soon going to leave again and get back to my “normal life” on the road. 

Once COVID hit, however, and the reality that I was going to be stuck here a while set in, the only thing I really wanted to do was to start gardening. 

Growing things like this spectacular Queen of the Night cactus orchid (epiphyllum oxypetalum) brings me so much joy – even if it only flowers for one night. I missed one the other day and now I’ll have to wait months for the next!! It’s definitely a lesson in patience – and impermanence.

It was interesting because I’d never had that drive before. But, at a time when my life felt like it was spinning wildly out of my control, gardening and working with the earth seemed like a way for me to plant myself and work on growing my own roots. 

In doing so, I realised that over my years of travelling, I’d become too top-heavy. I’d lost all my foundations and felt like a tree that would fall over in a light breeze. 

For years, I’d felt like being a tumbleweed in the wind was the greatest feeling of all, but now I was facing the realisation that in order to grow, you also need to plant yourself and grow your roots. 

At least for a little while.

It was also interesting, how, in the process of growing my own food and flowers in a landscape so alien to the rolling green fields of my youth, I felt this intense desire to tap back into my ancestral lineage. To reconnect with all those who’d come before me, who’d tilled and tended to the land and their minds and bodies in the same way I was now, even on the other side of the world.

However, I also couldn’t plant anything on a new-to-me land without thinking of all the hands who have worked this soil here before me, too.

I genuinely believe that everywhere and everything has stories, and that the land is no exception. Billions of people have lived and died across every corner of the world over the last hundred thousand odd years, and so, even new-to-us land is full of footprints and stories, including those of all the non-human lineages.

And thus, I found myself, on the other side of the world to my ancestors and my motherland, opening up to learn about Indigenous wisdom, land management practices, bush medicine and lore, and all the skills needed to not only survive but to thrive out here for tens of thousands of years. 

And in it, I found the missing link that I’d been missing all those years. That full circle moment.

To get there, it turned out all I needed to do was start connecting back in with the land, and working with it – rather than just using and abusing it or moving on too quickly to build that connection. 

I found I couldn’t live somewhere with a history as rich and impressive as Australia without dedicating time to learn about the incredible people who lived here before me. This Murujuga rock art is part of a vast outdoor art gallery believed to be up to 40,000 years old (Burrup Peninsula, March 2023)

And now, all these lemon omens come to me without even trying. They just land in my mind while I’m on my bike rides or out walking, bringing seeds of wisdom from nature, the land, and all those who’ve come before us. 

Seeds that I can plant and nurture, that will in turn nurture me, giving me all the things I need to grow. Seeds that help me see how we’re all connected, and how we’re all here to grow together. 

Seeds that grow into lemons, which I can then turn into lemonade, like this Substack, which will, hopefully, in time, grow seeds of its own, and send them out into the world and in the hearts and minds of all my readers. 

Thanks for being here. Thanks for growing with me. And thanks for growing this space. It means the world to me.

Here’s hoping 2024 is full of all the things you need to bloom and thrive, too, and that the next few days up until January 6th are full of lessons and wisdom for you to take forward into this next trip around the sun.

All my love, 

Cassie x

A few things to end off the year.

This week I’ve…

  • Enrolled in Beth Kempton’s Winter Writing Sanctuary, a totally free 10-day writing retreat with daily prompts, videos, and exercises designed to get your creativity flowing and your pen moving across the page. This is my third year taking part, and even though I’m in the midst of summer on the other side of the world, I still love them. Sign up here.
    Quick note: I’ve also signed up for her Book Proposal Masterclass, for the second time! There’s an up-to-50% off sale still on right now. I can highly recommend all of the offerings, if you’re interested. Visit the website here.
  • Finished reading my 60th book of the year! The honour of being my 60th book went to Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. It took me a while to finish it (I’m one of those people who always has multiple books on the go at once), but I loved it and felt like I gleaned a lot of really useful information.
  • Listening to Katherine May’s How We Live Now podcast. She’s just moved to combine it with her Substack, The Clearing, but you can also listen to the backlist anywhere you get podcasts.

And… I think that’s it. At least for now. Thanks for being here with me – and for making it all the way to the end. As always, please like, subscribe, comment, and share with your friends. Your support means the absolute world to me!

I love you. Happy New Year! I’ll be thinking of you when I’m popping the lemonade at midnight.

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