Yesterday’s night sky lit up from the brightness of February’s full moon. This year’s Snow Moon came on a cold but sunny winter day with streaky clouds painted across the sky like brush strokes.
Before the moon brightened the sky I went on a wooded walk with a friend. While she updated me on her life and learnings over the past few weeks since we last connected I’d gently interrupt once in a while to take note of the signs of new life among the forest.
Perhaps I wasn’t being the most attentive listener as I passed the osoberry in bloom and stopped to notice the stark contrast of the bright pink salmon berry blossoms against a backdrop of bare branches. The interruption was no longer polite when I shrieked in delight the moment I spotted nettles.
Standing four inches tall with tender leaves of green and variegated purple this is the perfect time for plucking then turning the grassy and nutrient dense leaves into pestos, purées and healing teas. I apologized to my friend for the interruptions but anyone who has walked with me in the woods knows that I brake for wild foods.
February’s full moon is also called the Hunger moon, referring to the scarcity of the land and the lack of abundance in both the field and the forest. This starkness is not necessarily something we notice as we wander the produce aisle and find raspberries lining the shelves in February. Here in the Pacific Northwest we’re months away from the sweet tart burst of my favorite berry but the stores can confuse us of the idea of seasonality.
This year I’ve noticed the scarcity more so than years past. Not just in my vegetable crisper when kale, turnips, and leeks are among the few residents but I’ve felt the scarcity in my energy, in the gray days, and in the wild world where the Black capped Chickadees outside my window are finding fewer and fewer hearty winter berries on the branches.
Which is why I’m so utterly delighted by the presence of growth in the woods. To see signs of new life after spending the last couple of months witnessing so much death and decay.
In Jessica Prentice’s book, Full Moon Feast, she beautifully describes the origins of the Hunger moon and finds herself sitting with the lack this time of year brings:
“For many of us, our interest in seasonality is somewhat selective. We want the warmth without the cold; we want the long days without the long nights; we want the abundance without the scarcity; we want the birth and growth without the death and decay. But without the death and decay there is no rebirth. Abundance is a subjective experience, not an objective reality. It is something that we feel, not something that we have.”
She goes on to point out:
“Without the sense of scarcity, there is no sense of abundance, because there is no perspective.”
Abundance can’t be experienced fully without first feeling into the scarcity. I think we all want to live our lives constantly in that state of abundance, fridges full, gardens brimming with life, the forests full of mushrooms. But how quickly what was once deemed as abundance loses its luster and can feel like something that we’re entitled to.
I marvel at the nettles and the first tender blooms of spring because the fields and forests have been so quiet during these winter months. Silently going through the essential process of decay so new life can emerge. Over the next month or so the light will shift as the early buds shine their chartreuse hue painting the world around them in that welcoming spring green. Having sat in my own version of scarcity, watching the necessary process of decay, I know that the abundance spring brings will feel so sweet. But I also know that I’m meant to feel the death and decay and allow it to be a part of my own process.
On this wooded walk I left my foraging basket at home so I am not quite ready to give you a nettle recipe but I have a gift that feels oh so wintery and very appropriate for this Snow Moon month.
My garden, while sparse in the winter, gifts me plenty of rosemary all year long. I’ll take any excuse to open my front door and let the cool air in. Snipping off a branch or two I instinctively run my fingers through the hearty leaves to release their scent; piney and woodsy yet refined. You could actually scent this hot chocolate with pine if you’d prefer but because I use dark chocolate (and a lot of it) I find the pine flavor gets lost.
Here the rosemary distinctively shines through making this simple recipe both comforting and familiar and also new and intriguing.
Rosemary Hot Chocolate
Now the amount of chocolate here may seem excessive to some but my ideal hot chocolate is nearly thick enough to eat with a spoon, in fact, I’ve done that. With a touch of earthy rosemary mingling with the chocolate - well, I’ve found my new favorite way of getting cozy in winter.
3 cups whole milk
1 - 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves (a little goes a long way and we want the rosemary to be subtle not overwhelming)
5 ounces / 140 grams bittersweet chocolate
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup powdered sugar
Add the milk to a saucepan and drop the rosemary leaves in. Slowly bring the milk to a simmer allowing the rosemary to steep the milk.
Turn off the heat and whisk in the chocolate, cocoa powder, and powdered sugar. Add a pinch of salt and taste to make sure everything is to your liking. If the chocolate hasn’t fully melted or you’d like it hotter, rewarm gently over low heat.
Strain the mixture and serve or place in a lidded container and refrigerate for up to one week. It’s really a lovely thing to have in the fridge when the mood strikes.