Yesterday I had a basically perfect day in the garden: I got up early to weed the bed that has been covered over with chickweed, that I was waiting until the last frost was past to uncover, then it rained for a week. It was supposed to rain more so I wanted to just get in an hour or two of weeding before the rains came.
The morning was foggy and beautiful, and I took my coffee out to the garden, and the moist weeds rolled up like a carpet, revealing the rudbeckia, cilantro, and mint shoots below. I harvested baskets of mint, relieving crowding in the strawberries, and was rewarded with my first strawberry harvest. I kept working through late morning, when, instead of a downpour, the sun broke through the clouds and a perfect late May mountain morning was born. In addition to the mint and strawberry haul, I also harvested an armful of fennel fronds, also to give space and light to the strawberry bed, and went into the kitchen and whipped up a batch of incredibly delicious pesto.
Fennel is one of the many plants that was growing at this house when we moved here 7 years ago, planted by our predecessors, and that many houses on our West Asheville street seem to have. Like the redundant prickly pear cactuses, lambs ear, and sedum seen all up and down our street, the fennel is evidence of many years of neighbors lovingly sharing seeds and root cuttings throughout the decades. I usually let the fennel go to seed, and it spreads like wildfire. I tend to weed out tons of fennel babies in the spring, but leave several for their beautiful leaves and flowers and sweet, fragrant seeds.
Pesto, while typically made with fresh basil, can be made with so many wild or cultivated herbs and greens: nettles, chickweed, violet leaf, mustard leaf, and lamb’s quarter, to name a few, and the recipe is less of a recipe and more of a method:
In a food processor, blend into a coarse meal:
1 small handful of nuts (I used mixed nuts, but you can use pine nuts, walnuts, or any nuts you have on hand)
1 clove of garlic
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 giant fistfuls of greens, washed, and rough chopped (I trimmed the more tender fronds from the more woody stalks)
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste (I used about a teaspoon of coarse sea salt)
Blend well into a paste. Add more of any of each of the ingredients to your taste. I made two big batches, froze one, and put the other on hot pasta with artichoke hearts, fresh basil and tomatoes. It was AMAZING.
And now, about the fascism. I’m just working some things out here. Since I left my full-time nonprofit admin job a few months ago and started grad school for my Masters in Social Work, and since our family has been observing stay-at-home protocols to do our part to reduce the spread of COVID-19, I have been posting these Kitchen Witch dispatches as recipes combined with a corresponding astrological or seasonal ritual. It has been a beautiful way for me to connect with food, cooking, writing, and ritual in a way that feels unencumbered from commerce or professional ambition, just a medium of creative expression and connection with the world. So, I had planned to talk about the Gemini New Moon or the upcoming eclipses along with this seasonal recipe. But all I can really think about is the conspiracy theories that I see gripping the minds of many people that are in proximity to me, and the genuine worry for the future that this incites in me. So I’m writing about that, because #idowhatiwant.
I have long known and been oriented to the wave of conspiracy theories of the “alt-right” and neo-nazis, and hopefully at this point nobody needs to be told about the dangers of the rise of white nationalism around the globe, fueled by youtube algorithms, and social media misinformation campaigns (hi, remember the 2016 elections?). But I am now seeing an alarming number of “healers” and “progressives” and “spiritual” people posting some of these same theories, but remixed and rebranded with a new-age flavor. So here’s what I want to say about this, as a witch, and as a person who follows a spiritual discipline with ritual at the center (I can’t believe I even have to say this but):
If your spirituality allows you to dehumanize groups of people it is a belief system rooted in oppression, full stop.
If your spirituality values “nature coming into balance” over the lives of human beings, your belief system is rooted in eco-fascism, “a theoretical political model which … would require individuals to sacrifice their own interests to the ‘organic whole of nature’.”
If your spirituality allows you to believe that old people, people with disabilities, and people with compromised immune systems should die to “cull the herd” then your belief system is rooted in Social Darwinism, an outdated and discredited theory used to justify colonialism, slavery, and racism.
If your spirituality allows you to discredit the disproportionate risk and suffering of Black and Brown people, incarcerated people, immigrants, essential workers, and elders, and further if your spirituality doesn’t compel you to respond to this injustice, it’s not spirituality, it’s supremacy.
As a person who places spirituality and ritual at the center of my life, I feel obligated to respond to this alarming trend I am seeing, and I encourage you to do the same. Please stop sharing unvetted youtube videos. Please stop spreading anti-mask propaganda. Please challenge your friends when they do so. This is not a harmless difference of opinion, this is a continuation of the foothold that fascism has gained in this country and it’s wildly dangerous.
As an alternative to eco-fascist responses to the pandemic, check out this incredibly life-affirming resource from the Center for Cultural Power: “No Going Back: A COVID-19 Cultural Strategy Activation Guide for Artists and Activists”. It’s a beautiful document full of gorgeous art that recognizes our shared humanity and “the power of art and culture to uplift, disrupt and build community.” I find hope in these images and pages. Where do you find hope? How do you hold the line?
Wishing you love and hope in turbulent times,
Art by Cece Carpio: