Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "If We Had No Winter"

This poem came out of the February 5, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] eseme and my_partner_doug. It also fills the "Be Here Now" square in my 2-1-19 Platonic card for the Valentines Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] satsuma, [personal profile] ng_moonmoth, [personal profile] kyleri, and [personal profile] edorfaus. It belongs to the series Path of the Paladins Volume 2.


"If We Had No Winter"


The town of Barmbarracks
was known for growing
barley, wheat, rye, and oats.

They turned these into
all kinds of bread and beer.

That drew the attention of
soldiers, and the town had
long held an assortment
of camps belonging to
different religious troops
and mercenary units.

It had survived because
not even the followers of
Gorrein wanted to cut off
the supply of beer.

When Shahana and
Ari came into the town
just before spring equinox,
people pointed and whispered.

"Look, a paladin of Gailah!"
"No, there are two of them."
"Do you suppose they ...
"We could ask them ..."

"What is going on?"
Ari muttered nervously.

"We're attracting attention,"
Shahana said. "It sounds like
they want something from us.
Let's find out what that is."

She turned and faced a miller
who was stacking bags of grain
and gossiping with customers.

"Well met, fellow!" she called.
"I am Shahana and this is Ari.
We are paladins of Gailah.
Have you need of our aid?"

The crowd eddied, pushing
the miller toward them.

He straightened his back
and replied, "Yes, we do.
The equinox is upon us, and
it has been far too long since
we held a Spring Greening."

Shahana felt a flood of relief.
"We can certainly do that.
Gather the elders and
other important people
so we can make plans."

As they continued toward
the market, Ari hissed,
"What did you say that for?
I don't even know what
a Spring Greening is!"

"It's a ritual," Shahana said.
"That one is more popular
the farther south you go."

"All right, as long as you
know what you're doing,
I'll manage," Ari said.

"Don't worry, I'll teach you
what to do," Shahana said.

The two of them moved
through the market collecting
the supplies they needed.

By the time they finished
shopping, a small crowd
of people awaited them
at the end of the market.

"I am Danlar, the mayor,"
said an older man. "We
want to negotiate with you
to perform a Spring Greening.
With the world in a riot, it has
been too long since we could
worship as we should do."

"We will be happy to lead
the ritual," Shahana said.
"Our needs are very humble."

"Perhaps we could interest you
in horses?" offered a woman.
"I am Talenya. I raise them.
I usually sell off my extra stock
in spring to make more room in
the pastures for mares and foals."

"Oh, horses!" Ari exclaimed,
turning to Shahana. "Could we?"

"That would do very well,"
Shahana said. "In the old days,
paladins rode more often than
we walked. I will be grateful
for the speed and comfort."

"We can carry more supplies
that way, too, and not have
to stop in towns so often,"
Ari pointed out. "That's good."

"What facilities does Barmbarracks
have available?" Shahana said.
"What condition are they in?"

"Our manure barns are in
fine shape," Talenya said. "We
can hold the Ritual of Release there."

"The field temple still stands, but
we have not used it much in years,"
said Danlar. "We will have to send
some of the youths to clean it."

"I can help with that," Ari said.
"I haven't done this ritual before,
but cleaning, that I know."

"Oversee," Shahana murmured.
"The town provides the workhands,
the paladins provide the knowledge.
It is a considerable benefit of large rituals
over small ones or personal ceremonies."

"I'll oversee the cleanup," Ari amended,
and the elders all nodded agreement.

"We'll need supplies," Shahana said.
"Someone must gather the food and
organize a feast for the whole town."

"I'm Morothel, the miller," said the man
who had approached them earlier.
"I can take care of the feast."

"Once the field temple is clean, we'll
need decorations," Shahana said.

"If you tell me what to do, I can probably
handle that as well," Ari suggested.
"I used to do some at home."

"We will need ribbons or banners
in the colors of spring, along with
offerings for each of your deities,"
Shahana said. "Gailah may be
presiding, but we won't leave
our allies without attention."

"Sizes?" Talenya asked.
"That varies depending on
who leads, and we haven't
done this in many years."

"For the Goddess of Peace,
someone wishing to lay down
a major dispute should make
an offering the size of a cow
or a horse," Shahana said.

Talenya made a note on
a small slate. "I have none,
but I'll gladly sell a horse
to anyone else who does,
and there's half your fee."

"Good," said Shahana.
"For your local patron,
I recommend something
the size of a sheep or a goat."

"We have two," Danlar said.
"Diawn, God of Plants ...
and, ah, Gorrein, God of War."

"Since Gorrein would be
impolitic on this occasion,
Diawn it is," Talenya declared.
"We'll pour out a barrel of beer,
I remember that's traditional."

"Anyone else the townspeople
wish to honor may receive
offerings equivalent to a hen,"
Shahana said. "Of course,
you can, make offerings in
whatever resources you have."

"We always used to do flowers
for spring festivals," Ari said.
"Flower crowns, flower ropes,
arches made of pussy willows ..."

"A lovely northern tradition,
willow arches," said Shahana.
"I can teach the dances for them."

"I look forward to that," Talenya said.

"I also need a map of your near fields,
so that I can see how they're used,"
Shahana said. "That will affect
some of the ceremonial aspects."

"We'll want some manure blessed
for spreading," Talenya said.

Ari frowned. "It's safer
to do that in the fall."

"It is if people will be
eating out of that field in
the next growing season,"
Talenya said. "Otherwise
it doesn't matter much."

"We also want a blessing
for the spring harvest, as well
as the new planting," said Morothel.

"You don't till under your cover crops?"
Ari said. "Then why even plant them?"

"Ah, you're from the north," the miller said.
"Here we have two growing seasons,
summer and winter. So we rotate crops
from legumes to grains to covers."

Ari perked up. "What kind of
system are you using?" she said.

"First season, beans or peas to build up
the soil for heavy feeders. Second season,
grain. Third season, cover crop," said Morothel.
"Alfalfa or clover work in summer, but in winter
we use the same grains, just don't harvest them.
The cover can be tilled under, used for grazing,
or if we let the soldiers march through it, they
have to do enough digging to fluff up the earth."

"Well, that's one use for soldiers!" Ari said.

"They are a vital part of our town,
as much as the bread and
the beer," Danlar said.

"Understood," Shahana said.
"As long as they keep the peace
while we are here, the soldiers too
are welcome in our ritual."

"Then that's enough to start,"
Danlar said. He handed her
a ceramic disc marked with
a wheat sheaf. "Go pick an inn.
Give this to the innkeeper to get
a room. After lunch, we can
go out to the field temple."

"Thank you," Shahana said,
tucking the disc in her pouch.

There were three inns around
the market: a fancy one for traders,
one that was mostly a tavern with
a few spare rooms to rent, and
a general inn for travelers.

They took a room at the latter,
where the innkeeper greeted them
with delight and then sent her children
to spread word of the public ritual.

"Thanks to you, we should have
a very busy week here," she said.
"People will come in from the farms
and the neighboring villages too."

For lunch, the innkeeper brought
a salad of fresh greens drizzled
with bacon grease, and a pot
of mushrooms cooked in butter.

In the afternoon, Shahana and Ari
went to look at the field temple.

It stood at the edge of the town,
where a line of trees separated
the houses from the fields.

It was made of bricks in shades
of yellow and reddish-brown, and
pillars raised an arched roof of
curving wooden planks.

Black iron sconces hung from
the pillars, waiting for lamp oil.

In the back, a low building
held a kitchen, and in front
a wide walkway led from
the field temple out into
the actual croplands.

"It's beautiful," Ari said,
and it really was. "It's
good to be here now."

Even with leaves and
other trash all over it,
Shahana could see
how wonderful it was.

As they walked through
the temple, Shahana
talked about what they
could do with the space.

Ari drew reminders
on a borrowed slate.

"It's not in bad shape,"
she said. "Only a few of
the lantern panes have
broken. Everything else
just needs a good sweeping."

The back building also held
wooden statues of the deities,
along with tables and chairs,
although Shahana thought it
would be better for the crowd
to stand. There wouldn't be
room for enough chairs.

"It's a shame the winter
has left it such a mess,"
Talenya said, frowning.

"If we had no winter,
the spring would not be
so pleasant," Shahana said.

"Maybe that's true for more
than just weather and
flowers," Ari said.

"What do you mean?"
Shahana asked.

"Well, look at what
happened with Gorrein,"
Ari said. "The world has
been an utter wreck for years.
Now it's getting better again,
and people appreciate that."

Shahana looked out over
the hustle and bustle, then said,
"Yes, I think you're right."

"We can use that," Ari said.
"People know about winter and
spring. If we describe the changes
in those terms, they'll understand what's
going on with the gods and all."

Shahana smiled at her.
"Wise words, young paladin."

"It's kind of my job," Ari said.

* * *

Notes:

"If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant."
-- Anne Bradstreet

Diawn, God of Plants (introduced in "Hallowing")

Gailah, Goddess of Peace (introduced in "Shine On")

Gorrein, God of War (introduced in "The Shadow of His Passage")

Barley, wheat, rye, and oats are four of the main grains used to make beer. They're also the big four winter cover crops. In the warmer regions of temperate climate, such as Mediterranean or maritime climates, grains may be planted in fall for harvest in spring -- useful if the summer is too dry or too wet for ideal growth.

Crop rotation involves growing different plants in sequence. There are many examples. Often the cycle includes an occasional fallow period when nothing is done to the field; alternatively, it may be sown with a cover crop which is tilled under to provide nutrients.

Manure may be left in pastures, collected and spread raw onto fields, collected and composted, or handled in various other ways. It should be spread on fields in fall if the spring planting will be eaten by humans. It may be spread in early spring for a late spring or summer planting of cover crops that will be eaten by animals or tilled under.

This is a four-bay manure barn. Solid sides contain the material securely, and the roof keeps it from getting saturated with rain. The modern version uses electricity to drive air through the bays, finishing the compost in one to two months without turning. That means you can load all four bays sequentially. The historic version uses a pitchfork to aerate the material. Load fresh manure into one bay, use two bays to flip the working material back and forth, while the fourth bay holds finished compost.

This is the field temple.

Spring wildcrafting includes greens and mushrooms. Enjoy recipes for wild green salad and wild mushrooms with thyme.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, gardening, poem, poetry, reading, spirituality, weblit, writing
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