Pa'ar Cave
There is a cave nearby, which is the gate into Mother Earth's womb. I went there to meet her and ask for guidance in my next steps.

I've never been there before, yet when my brother told me about I knew immediately this is what I need to do. In a time of uncertainty and weakness, I find strength in being close to the earth and grounding myself. It is so simple, yet so potently powerful and healing. Just lying on the ground (when it is not muddy...). And the answers to questions just arrive.

Eternal Thistle & Rosehips

A few steps on a path surrounded by dog roses, now balding and revealing grey branches with thorns and bright-red reships against the clear winter skies. Skeletons of a thistle, that remain upright and shapely even after its death. Smoke rising from a bonfire in a tiny patch of sacred forest (only God knows why they thing it's okay).  Fallen leaves and scraps of lichen on the ground. It is like a microcosmos of a forest. So tiny yet so full of life and mystery.

Lichen and Fallen Leaves

Oaks and Smilax vines

And then down a few wooden steps on the trail, with so many Smilax aspera vines decorating the forest with their beautiful heart-shaped leaves, sunlight filtering through the foliage. And the slippery slope of the cave entrance. I stop on a shelf before it and admire its crevices. It looks like a giant and dark birth-canal. Just like I've been seeing in my dreams lately. A passage between worlds. Which worlds it is unclear to me still. But the analogy is staring at me.

I disarm myself from any baggage or devices and cautiously descend into the cave. It is very muddy and slipper there. And walls of the cave are solid rock, but its bottom is in fact a syphon into which the entire valley empties its precipitation and into which water disappears. Will I disappear in there as well, in this soft, mushy, cold, dark mud?

I hold on to the walls of the cave. I try to float over the mud. I am too scared to go deep into the cave as I don't have any flashlight with me, and I can't trust the earth under me to hold my weight. Within this position, legs and arms spread to hold on to the solid, cold and moist walls, I close my eyes. I breathe in the musty smell of cold, dark stone. I am a bulb inside the cold earth. I am waiting for the exactly-right conditions to emerge from this birth canal. To climb through the hard chunks of dirt and into the light. But for now, I am only here and now. I am inside the earth. I AM the earth. Cold, dark, steady, passive, incapable of moving. But fully capable of absorbing everything that is poured onto me or buried within me. Water, water, water comes inside me and the emotions disappear into the reassuring heaviness of earth.

Crocus & Berry: Autumn Hike to Mt Meron

Mt. Meron
On a beautiful Saturday morning, Miss Tea and I set on a little hiking adventure up Mt Merton. It's became one of our most favourite parks, providing not only a great relaxing hike up a beautiful mountain, but also many beautiful lookouts, and year-around greenery that provides shade and the temperatures in this mountain (over 1000m elevation) are always cooler. But the best part is, there are almost always rare wildflowers to find there, different ones in each season. This time I was after the big yellow Sternbergia, or how we call it in Hebrew "Egg-Yolk Flower," a crocus-like flower that is only growing in very specific habitats in Israel, and is one of the protected species that attracts pilgrimage of Flower Viewers. That's the Israeli equivalent of the Japanese Hanami, except there are many seasons like this spread all over the country: crocus, iris, forest peonies, and more.
Red Hawthorne Berries
We started the trail with a bouffet of red hawthorne berries - kind powdery-textured and not as fragrant as the yellow ones, but certainly more photogenic.

Red Hawthorne Berries

Root Staircase
We walked up the picturesque trail among oaks and arbutus trees, some of them twisted to form living sculptures:

Arbuts & Oak Living Scultures
And the arbutus trees bearing the ripest, tastiest, jammy berries imaginable. They are very tannin when unripe; but if you are patient to wait for them o be really soft to the touch (they will feel like a gooey pouch of slightly leathery skin), you're in for a treat. Their inside is almost jelly-like, orange coloured, and I suspect contain a ton of both A and C vitamins. I wish I picked more to make a jam from. But they were so good we ate them as they are.

Arbutus Berries
Cercis silliquastrum is more noticeable in the spring, where its beautiful pink blossoms dot the green mountain with their delicate decoration. Now they provides a touch of citrine and lime fall colours to the mediterranean forest there.

Cercis silliquastrum: Fall Colours in Mt Meron
I was really hoping to find those yellow flowers everywhere, but we had no such luck. Instead, many early autumn crocuses, which were there for almost a couple of months now, so lost their novelty by now but looked special with the changing atmosphere and more greens and berries on the ground.

Fall Colours on Mt Meron
And then came the shocking surprise: a real, living, wild saffron crocus!
I only spotted two or three of them, but the holy triad and aroma of their stamens was unmistakable.

Saffron Crocus & Oak Leaves

In the end, I found only a single Sternbergia off the beaten track, because once we got to the peak of the mountain we were both too tired to walk an extra hour in the trail to where other hikers told us there would be a big colony of them. But I was content with this one, and decided that in a week or two I will go straight to the peak trail (an easy, circular trail that circumvents the peak and is rather flat in comparison to what we walked that day; and only takes an hour).

Sternbergia ("Egg Yolk Flower")
So we climbed back, picked a bunch of yellow hawthorne berries (they taste like very fragrant and juicy "Golden Delicious" apples, but more tart and delicious!). And of course, like all of our hikes, we ended up with an outdoors tea party, at the foothill of Mt Meron.

Tea Party on the foothill of Mt Meron
There are two more perfume related plants in this photo below. Can you identify or guess what they are? Leave a comment and enter to win a sampler trio of my Autumn crocus inspired and saffron-infused perfumes, Song of SongsRazala and Tamya.

Saffron, Rockrose & Moss

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