Bronze Fennel bowl from '06 just prior to straining. Notice the water is filmy with a layer of flower pollen. This illustrates why I advise triple straining prior to adding this liquid to its brandy stabilizer. Any trace of pollen or other organic matter will hasten spoilage - sometimes within a matter of just a few months.
I left out an important detail in part one of this mini-series:
after you've filled the bowl with flowers and adjusted the water level set it in a place where you know it will get four hours of uninterrupted sunlight. If you're taking your best guess - make time to check your hunch every 45 minutes to an hour and adjust the bowl's placement if necessary. If you need to do this keep the bowl in sunlight as you move it if you possibly can. If you can't then just hustle the bowl right along to its next resting spot. Explain you're new at this. Flowers are endlessly compassionate and capable of adjustments we can barely fathom. Add to which you're doing this for you and those in your circle - not to mass produce the most assiduously pristine essence in order to keep the product radiant and maximize each drop of every mother stock. So far as I know there are no free-range flower essence police who make surprise inspections in the average person's dooryard.
do your best and let nature intelligence do the rest!
AND NOW IT'S THREE HOURS LATER
Harvesting & Stabilizing Mother Stocks
I advise beginning to organize yourself at the hour 3 mark especially if you've never done this before. The more organically you connect to the flower medicine spirit(s) involved, solar energy in a lesser-explored dimension, or the simple beauty of dropping out of NOW in order to go deeper into timelessness - the more spaced out you are in the linear sense. This is true, objectively, even though you're also quite likely feeling as grounded as you ever have. You may have powered through your time of doing whatever you've been doing with electrified focus and heightened consideration. Even if you perceive nothing at all happening you will still embody your own elastic potential to be both totally present and totally cosmic right at the same time. That's why you need some lead time to keep your body and brain in strong linear balance with your heightened experiential awareness.
Ground & Stabilize - specifically by eating something. Innumerable energetic healers and flower alchemists advise choosing solid nutrient dense food that is literally OF the ground. During parts of the summer when weather forecasts suggest I'll be preparing multiple essences for a few days running - I prepare a platter of chilled steamed carrots dressed very simply with tarragon, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. These are easy to grab as finger food right before I head out the door with my collection materials. If I've allotted more than 15 minutes to eat something I'll heat up and mash part of a yam with some freshly grated ginger root.
important: don't have any honey, fruit, or fruit juice!! This will lead to your central and sympathetic nervous system vibrating extra fast due to the higher frequency range it's accessing via your part in the alchemy process. Super-quick response time is wonderful to watch in a hummingbird but not so kind to your jacked-up neurology.
I advise assembling everything you'll need on an easy to carry tray or within a small cardboard box. I usually do this about halfway into the fusing process just in case I misjudged available supplies and have to make creative adjustments. Once you've assembled the material supplies listed in Part 1:
Prepare a label for the container that will hold the stabilized mother stock. Include the name of the flower. Indicate it's a mother stock and when you've prepared it. I also include solar and lunar astrological information:
Attach your label(s) to the jar. I use standard issue Avery labels which often resist strong adherence to the glass jar so I also use washi tape to keep the label in place without being time-consuming to remove when need be.
After you label your mother stock jar add your stabilizer of choice. I like a 30-60 ratio : stabilizer to mother stock. For my smaller bowls that works out to roughly a finger's worth of stabilizer in the bottom of a half-pint canning jar. Large bowls need two fingers. My six inch bowls settle nicely with one and a half.
Some people bring a jar of their chosen stabilizer into the field with them. That way they aren't ball parking. They can see exactly how much mother stock liquid is in the first straining bottle and add a precise proportional amount of stabilizer to the mother stock bottle.
I don't do this simply because it would be one more physical object for me to keep track of, potentially drop multiple times, and just generally serve to lessen the buzz of co-creative thrall I feel when I prep as much as I possibly can in advance.
Note: If you get outside and find a bowl's evaporation rate is greater than expected - pour the surplus brandy into the ground or distribute it among other mother stock bottles-in-waiting.
Your bowl's remaining liquid will be strained 3 times. That's why you have 3 containers and 3 sets of double layered coffee filters per essence. The same funnel will be used for all three strainings.
This part of the process will be a different kind of mindful work from what you experienced in the preparation phase. You're excited and involved in something you couldn't have done by yourself. And on the other extreme - the more you've done this and progressively learned how to self-calibrate the more you're also testing your edges each and every time just as you would with yoga, lucid dreaming, or any other mind-body-earth-cosmos activity. Your consciousness is expanding and WANTS to grow farther and farther. This ephemeral imperative is under-storied with internalized experiences that quite often defy words or even inner categories you can recognize.
practical insight: If they've been well-strained and are lovingly maintained mother stocks that are stabilized with unflavored oak barrel aged brandy can last for years. Vinegar and red shiso stabilized mother stocks will need replacing on a very regular basis.
Everyone finds their own way with this part of it but let me spare you one particular intuitively based heartbreak: I began my alchemy adventures stabilizing everything with Grand Marnier. I thought it would be a lovely experience for the flowers' vibrations and also human recipients of the essences. Each and every one of those mother stocks spoiled in record time. In a few unwelcome cases - in just a matter of weeks!
As you head outside make sure you bring with you:
*a hat to protect both your crown chakra and your central nervous system - especially if you weren't wearing a hat when you prepared your bowl. Your crown center needs protection because it's open and actively receiving light-filled energetic information of a very powerful wattage. The sheer quantum mechanics can be too much for your subtle bodies' electrical circuitry in many of the same ways that time spent hat-less in full sun may overload your cardio-vascular system.
*Water for yourself to drink as you work unless you're very well hydrated in advance.
If you have the luxury of time prior to collection - plan to sit with your essence bowl for just a little while. Leave your imprint on the landscape which is leaving its imprint within your collection bottle. be as one with all. center in that oneness.
when you're ready to break that perceptual flow
sit on the ground or a low stool with back facing a north or east orientation from the bowl. This insures your shadow won't fall on it during the straining process. I pick it up in both hands unless it's very small. Hold it up towards the sun and say Thank You before beginning the straining process. This is what feels right to me although prior to moving here I didn't have the privacy to always feel comfortable doing it. Do what feels right to YOU within the process of disconnecting the bowl from the path of the sun's light
Work slowly and carefully. Place a pair of coffee filters in the funnel and slowly pour the bowl liquid into the funnel. Try to get as much of the liquid into the funnel and fully strained into the first designated container before tipping-in the flowers and remaining liquid. Let all of the plant matter strain for a moment. As you watch the remaining drips of liquid fall in the glass shift your eyes to the general landscape. Notice tiny sparkling ways you may feel a part of it more completely.
Once I feel confident most of the liquid has strained into the container I gently place the first set of filters into the emptied bowl. I then strain the liquid two more times. At the point of the third straining I'm moving liquid into my labeled mother stock.
I hold the bottle up towards the sun and say a second thanks. Then I shake the bottle with a vigorous yet respectful motion for a count of 77. Once I'm back in the house and better grounded I will continue to shake the bottle for another ten reps of 77 shakes - plus 7 additional shakes. This means the mother stock has been blended and called into activation by YOU with a total of 777 shakes.
This is the point, out in the field, where people want it to be a joke or something they can bargain past. Some protest with a lot of conviction and swear they could never. Nonetheless. It's how I learned, it's what I swear by, and it's also why I think hypersensitive alchemists pick up a bottle of Sparkling Lotus essences, widen their eyes and exclaim WOW. It's exquisite numerology and is worth the repetitive motion unless your shoulder/something else is damaged in ways that would prohibit it.
that said ...
If the mere idea is just too much of too much for you - consider using a rule of thumb I've been seeing online within newer alchemist's tip sheets. Shake the bottle until it begins to feel heavier and more substantial. Put the mother stock in a safe and special place out of direct light. Make sure the bottle isn't making direct contact with other bottles and won't be handled vicariously. I usually wait about 72 hours before preparing a greatly diluted stock bottle from the mother stock. So I'll cover those instructions in a separate post sometime next week.
a crucial part of this entire process is the final action of reciprocity. Return the flowers from the bowl to the base of the plant(s) where you collected them. Take all the coffee filters and squeeze their remaining liquid directly onto the plant. I sing at this point. Usually in spontaneous sustained tones but once in a memorable highlight of deviation I was returning California Poppy flowers to their patch at SL2 when I suddenly heard myself chanting we're going going / back to Cali Cali.
That was a very fun day and now I chant at length to each season's Cali Pops as they love to be called. I have re-worded a lot of the GBTC verse lyrics so they apply and actually want to come out of my mouth. Flower medicine spirits and attendant nature devas are inherently very playful. When they get a bead on who you are they may entice you to come out of yourself and be joyous with them in all sorts of unexpected ways.
*I love to take what remains of the wet coffee filters and wipe them on the back of my neck, pulse points, the palms of my hands, or soles of my feet. Then I like to go back to the house and paint with watercolor for an hour or so. To record my initial impressions of flower wisdom and personal insight in this form without words. They come later. First comes drippy and ever-eloquent color in its most flower-like form.
*Because you've spent a chunk of time actively or passively moving energy in a way that involves several forms of Other intelligence and multiple vibrational frequencies you may ping pong between feeling like you're mainlining coffee to feeling like you could remain motionless forever. Both extremes will temper themselves within a few hours of grounded activity.
pro-tip: sometimes your physical reaction will depend on the specific flower medicine and its strongest range of influence on the human form.
*I've observed at a strictly anecdotal level that those of us with muscular pain often hurt a lot more prior to sleeping. After that there's often a blessed dip in pain level that lasts for a number of days. Sometimes far longer for those with a diligent yoga/body-working routine.
*Keep a small jotter notebook or a few folded scraps of paper and a writing/drawing implement close at hand. You may have sudden flashes that you want to record before they flash right out of your memory's reach.