Ice Lamp Moon

January 8, 2008

Today’s New Moon is the Ice Lamp Moon in my personal moon calendar.  I named it when I was 13, in reference to the Winter Orchid or Puttyroot (Aplectrum hyemale) that grew in the woods near my house.  The plant has a single leaf that sprouts in September and persists through the winter, dying back in May as the flowerstalk appears.  I made this painting several years ago to celebrate the plant, and it also appears on the Apprentice of Blades in my tarot deck.

Ice Lamp Moon

This morning’s Dark Moon meditation produced two images that work together, which seems appropriate for the month of Janus, the double-faced Roman guardian of beginnings and doorways.  These are 3″ drawings in Yarka Sauce, which are naturally pigmented, kaolin-based drawing chalks from Russia.  Though messy, they are very inexpensive and nice if you want to work with earth pigments (or just earthy colors) and don’t want to grind your own.  The “Sauce” is an assortment of ten colors (white, black, several shades of gray, and an earthy green, yellow, and blue).  The “Sanguine and Sepia” is 20 sticks in four shades of natural red ochre (not true sepia, which is brown and derived from squid ink).  It’s a beautiful and easy way to use red ochre.  The sticks can be used like pastels or powdered and applied with a brush.  They can be smoothed and blended with water to create many layers, though they don’t work well in egg tempera because of the high clay content and the presence of a binder.

New Moon 1
new moon 2

On recent hikes in the Madrean evergreen oak/pine forest in nearby mountains, we have encountered one of the few absolutes among the natural nourishing and limiting factors that determine our local flora.  When most people think of “desert”, they think of intense summer heat and low rainfall.  But in U.S. deserts, another natural element plays an equally important role:  ice.  Many of our drought-tolerant southern Arizona desert plants – cacti, agaves and yuccas, evergreen oaks and pines, thorny shrubs, and others – have relatives in warmer climates in Mexico, or in California where there is more winter rain, or in Texas where there is more summer rain.  Our species are adapted to frost (several nights a year that are below freezing), high temperatures (several days a year that are over 105), and bi-seasonal rainfall (summer monsoons and winter rain and snow).  I’m reminded of this each year when we experience the various extremes.  Below is ice on weathered granite, with tiny leaves of the evergreen oak Quercus toumeyana.

ice with oak leaves

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