an anniversary gift of sorts.
one that will play an important part in whatever the garden becomes within and without.
an anniversary gift of sorts.
one that will play an important part in whatever the garden becomes within and without.
I wrote a post with this same title and image that I thought out in advance as an ongoing mid-day activity. It was careful to be: careful, mindful, and neutral-gear neutral. Maybe that was the problem. Or maybe it was just retro merc shadow type stuff or one of those lazy thumbed keystrokes you don't intentionally make.
Gonna take that as a hint and stay in real-life-while-on-the-internet mode which is how I've been for the past couple of days. Just say what's true for me. If the sheer certainty of my voice's willingness to speak at that level is either off-putting or offensive that's a very unfortunate point of unintentional impact on my part.
I've shuttered my creativity blog for reasons I'll be blunt enough to label underbelly bullying of an eye-rollingly tenacious nature. And that's all I'll be saying on the subject barring uniquely extenuating one on one circumstances.
As far as this primary blog space I'm going to get back to where I left off within my planned blog posts somewhere right around the time Covid came along. Somebody I taught to be the kind of person who could facilitate such a thing sat with me yesterday after carefully but firmly suggesting I allow myself to at least make a full and complete list of people central to my life who've died since the beginning of the year. The phrase "pragmatic grasp" was applied and I had to ask for a pen so I could write it on my hand lest I forget.
I taught him very well. And that's all that really needs to be said.
so I said it to him directly there in the moment and his eyes lit up above his mask. And his mouth was already moving to ask well what did I simply want to say to him? And I smiled under my mask. I said I wanted to tell him a story he's tired of hearing but I wanted him to stay with me all the way as if he never heard it before - right up until the end of my trademark rim shot interrogative that's a major part of my storytelling-for-a-purpose shtick. And he shut his eyes and threw his head back and groaned because he knew what was coming.
When this person was three I met him for the first time. His mother was a friend of mine I'd met in the UK and that's where they lived. Until they came here for the first time and I met him as a three year old who marched directly in front of me and pointed just as directly at my third eye with bold certainty.
he said "I know you. I know you from BEFORE."
So I said that but with a lot more embellishment about their home when they first arrived and his mom and also stuff his father said about it all later on in the evening. And he was nodding with his eyes shut trying to push himself past his resistance to yet again hearing this story he's heard way too many times. But never from me. Because let's face it. I have my own son to annoy with comparably off-told stories that prove some or another hippie-dippy point of mine. This other guy's father? Is relentless with this particular tale.
And I saw him make the pivot in his 'memory' of everyone under the sun telling him this story which he doesn't remember because HIS big takeaway of that day was apparently this person arrives with chocolate bars. His eyes shot open and he looked at me. He was nodding his head okay. I never heard YOU tell me this story before about what I said. I was getting this all from his eyes and that's because of masks. And, obvi, people who are willing to wear them. Eye language flourishes when there's nothing else to scan that speaks to collective humanity as we instinctively best recognize through our own and each other's faces.
And I watched his eyes think (another favorite thing of mine to notice about people important to me) and then he said "what is the interrogative?"
"What if," I asked him. " 'Before' was Now?"
A few days back a new lithium battery for my DSLR arrived. Although I have a couple different lenses for it my favorite is the lens that I keep on the camera - a 40mm portrait lens with macro capabilities. We all know why, right? Yeah. Close-up flower portraits. I haven't actually used this camera very much in about a year. And now that I have it back in operation I want to use my favorite lens for a greater range of purpose.
To that end I went outside yesterday morning for a wander with the camera rather than my phone. Although I did take a lot of shots in close range mode I also began to actively prompt myself to start taking the kind of flower pictures I want to continue getting better at isolating with my eye and then stretching the "portrait" aspect of how I can learn to frame larger description highlighting a landscape vignette. Was just beginning to push myself beyond a wheel of perpetual blossom/other organic close-ups when the battery gave out.
I've never disciplined myself to learn how to work this lens for landscape images. But one of the reasons I chose it as what would work best for me is that so many camera buffs said this is a prime lens you can throw on your camera for months at a time - using it equally well for work-related needs and also vacations or group activities, etc. Then when J gifted the dream lens I went gaga for close-ups. Because it's all I've ever really wanted to photograph. Flowers. Thank you. That will be enough.
Here is a close up word detail about the way I've most had trouble assimilating to a so-called new normal. I really couldn't deal with the absence of ongoing tra-la-la visits to the greenhouse and nursery visits. While winnowing my photo files I started crying one night in an authentically brokenhearted way. I'd noticed how many of my spring and early summer photos through the years held spotlighted and peripheral evidence of ongoing visits to a nursery or the farmer's market perennial lady. It was the no-more-doing-of-this thing that felt most unnatural to me. At least once I'd gone through my cycles in earlier spring of getting so wigged-out and emotionally raw without a background of casual drop-in/run-into-each-other level of of socialization I hadn't realized was so central my to sense of inner stability and balance.
this went on for awhile. I had only J to talk to about it and he'd look around at all the seedlings and fail to appreciate my emotional turmoil until it manifested in random cry-fests over unrelated things. He kept telling me this was about that and I should re-institute parts of an order I cancelled when he was first laid off. There were ... tiffs of an ultimately pointless nature related to my reluctance to resurrect the order once he found the right fit of a new design gig. Who knows what tomorrow holds, right? So I made a deal with myself I'd wait for the annual live plant sale at Select Seeds at the end of May and then see.
They had the sale early this year no doubt to stimulate sales among hesitant shoppers. I browsed the sale items listing at 2 in the morning back in very early May. Among several other things I chose two different fuchsias. They're planted in the same pot and I recently put them on a table rather than leaving them to bloom on the deck's floor. This will give the hummingbirds clear visibility of the flowers. It also offers the treasured little birds more protection from Mama.
Such concerns are front and center over last group of days because the wrens who were born under the lid-cap of our propane tank have fledged. They're loud and extremely quick to learn. J's had a front row seat to every step and flutter of their progress since he's working from home and has a window-view desk right in line with their ventures back and forth from the tank.
It's really the perfect place from a wren's point of view. Sometime I'll do a post about that specifically. But for now just imagine that everything I write here is accompanied by wren song and/or scolding. Imagine it's what we hear at the volume all teenagers play music riding in a car. This goes on from the time the babies wake until they go to sleep. In between they explore their song range and figure out how the various hooks and riffs fit together. This morning I did my morning yoga practice's beginning standing meditation with the sun shining right in my eyes at first. On the peak of the mudroom's roof one of the wren children stood backlit by the sun. This allowed me to see how nearly all of its pinfeathers are gone or reduced to fluffy bits that will most likely be gone by noontime.
The bird sang with great conviction. I can't say it was joyous like our pair of lovebird cardinals. It wasn't loopy or strutting its stuff like the catbirds. It was a song of all the truths this tiny magical bird knew. A song to be sung in a voice that has learned its primary powers of wing and song. I listened and watched the bird sing.
Eventually, with the tiny new wren still singing, I got on with my practice and was all the way to its ending point of corpse poste meditation before I realized the bird wasn't singing anymore. It's kind of like the 7 roosters who live next door. Yeah you heard me right. Going full tilt from 4 a.m. until the hens are in every evening. We don't even hear them anymore, no lie. They have to get super piercing to break the caul of normal decibel acceptance range.
The other day J was in a meeting and I heard him explaining yes, there are multiple roosters and they are very loud but we don't hear them anymore. He had to shut the doors to the rest of the house and the outside world so his meeting could continue effectively.
Now there are also wrens. And not just on our deck and all around the roof and foundation plantings of the house. They are everywhere throughout the propery this year as I've said before. And I keep thinking about them in relation to Celtic legend. How there was a contest to see which bird would be king. The birds would fly as close to the sun as they could. and Wren figured out how to win by tucking into Eagle's feathered ruff until they were quite close to the sun. then Wren emerged and flew free fast to be crowned King. Wren flew directly into the sun's corona before dodging free again. so Wren was quick enough to escape death but the spots on this bird's tail and wings are said to have originated from this particular escapade.
After we lived at the old place for a few years a decaying local nursery business was restored. They began restoring the former display gardens by building a pergola to showcase a mantle of yellow trumpet vines. I wished mightily and many times over those years: that I might someday live in a place with this flowering vine in a previously unknown color. I found it exotic then and now I find it omnipresent. There are runners everywhere in the lower portion of the field and throughout the evolving sanctuary.
I so admire Dee's amazing captures of recently dead life. There's a name for that kind of assemblage but I do not recall what it is. And cannot think clearly. There are five or six wrens going full tilt just beyond the windows of this room. A mother is attempting to instruct on some level and multiple other young wrens have shown up to weigh in on the proceedings.
I do not want to become immune to their vocal presence as you kind of have to with the roosters. I've already posted about how much I delight in bearing witness to the wren fledglings' learning curve and individuation process.
This is a seasonal leafy cave created by the original landscape design's placement of the vine. I put the angel there the day of Vindman's testimony. I was afraid he was going to be assassinated. Thought the angel's style and coloration looked out of place but at the same time she seemed to be where she belonged. This is only the second time I've gone into the leaf enclosed space. The first time I left a certain flower offering for an immeasurably pivotal friend in the throes of active death. And now, also yesterday when I checked to see if there were any remains now that he was gone.
I found no trace. and took it as a message. I'll be doing that for awhile.
Out in the field the Autumn Clematis vine has found its footing after languishing during the drought as well as before. This lovely flowering plant's hardiness asserted itself in the wake of something (the big hare-like rabbit I assume) eating it down to practically nothing not once but twice. Then J nailed one of the left behind lattice forms and I doused liberally with emerald elixir and pear essence. We have watered from time to time as well when ordinarily we would not.
Basket flower with buds. I think this is one of the most seductive flowers especially for a bee. Bumbles are particularly fond if her. Am used to thinking of her from a pollinator's perspective but this year I've also begun to look at the fully opened illuminated crown aspects. They are so obvious to me now but it took almost two decades to look up, as it were, from the fascinating world of how various local pollinators interact with this flower Unclear why it took so long. Mind too stuck on the flower canon and thus Lotus being the open crown blossom of choice. Basket Flowers attract all manner of pollinators especially hummingbirds and butterflies. This particular bloom is about 5 inches in diameter.
Yesterday afternoon J and I went to retrieve the winged cat guardian tribute to Celeste. On the way home we stopped at our friend's farm. He lives on the banks of the river I share in an ongoing way. Said this has been quite a drought season so yield is both lower and delayed. Has been irrigating constantly from the river. I noticed the chickens have a new enclosure and the fields have been rotated in really creative ways. Loved that their garlic was cured still on the stalk. I got so much in anticipation of the tomato influx in the near future.
Mark grows wonderful corn. That's how we got to know him at first. He and J have music in common but now he says everything they knew as standard socialization fare has fallen apart due to the pandemic. It seemed logical and yet still a very shocking moment - the three of us standing in the sun joined in contemplation of what that meant at a personal level. I'll go back for more garlic the next time I do errands in that direction. I've ordered ahead for the fall and we'll get the unturned plots amended with rotted manure but until then I'm grateful to have a local organic source for this essential plant ally.
Leafing through this book a few times a day - stopping to spot read here and there. It is AMAZING. Have decided to set-up a pairing blog for books that are closely related and enhance each other in a useful or balancing way.
Will be pairing this one with Farming While Black.
Took her directly to the field when we got back from our excursion. Yes. She belongs. Later in the afternoon J drove out to the Valley to get take out from our 'special' Indian restaurant where we've been going for years in celebration of holidays and family dates of importance. Our anniversary is the day before T's birthday. So we've always gone to have this meal together on either the 10th or the 11th of March. This year our special dates were eclipsed by Charlie closing things other than restaurants that made all three of us reconsider how comfortable we were doing takeout. And we couldn't decide. None of us knew.
So last night we celebrated T's 35th birthday and our 36th wedding anniversary. I additionally count as part of the anniversary our previous 5 years living in Boston. We arrived in town on the 10th. When we decided to marry J suggested we do it on that anniversary date. So we are just 9 years away now from a full half century of time together. We could not have conceived of what retrospect might show us about ourselves as we have always been.
The restaurant has a slimmed-down menu to accommodate the times. There was also a sticky note to ask if you had kitchen favorites not on the new menu. They prepared Pudina Ajwain for me and I was very grateful because I love that bread so much. Am eating the leftovers of my meal as I type. The meal here at home was festively low key and a beautiful part of the day's overall vibe and how easily it seemed to be absorbed into my family's etheric skin.
I noticed beyond our collective good humor that we were not as physically distanced. four or three feet rather that six. T is into month four of his treatments. It is indeed unpleasant for him as the doctor described it would be. His own description ahead of the fact as "highly annoying" is still his way to describe what's going on for him no matter how obviously he's suffering quite a bit on any given day.
I am amazed at his strength and pragmatism. J has previously shared that T says he learned how to warrior-through from me. I was surprised. Yesterday he said it to me directly. And I was so grateful that the thing I most thought might cause him to flunk me as being a genuinely good mother turned out to be something he can re-invent in line with his own necessity.
Today I'm collecting Blue Vervain flower heads to make a tincture. Over the past week I've started two half pint jars of Monarda fistulosa flower tincture. I've also made a quart and a little extra of a heal-all oil containing dandelion, calendula, prunella, and red clover flowers - all picked here at home and dried earlier in the season. It also contains comfrey, lemon balm, plantain and violet leaves all picked fresh yesterday. Preparing the herbs and layering them for the warm oil infusion was an extremely satisfying experience. Am giving it a few days for sediment to settle and then I'll turn a large portion of it into winter-skin cream. We've been using some iteration of this recipe all the time this year due to the hand sanitizer drying our hand's skin so much. Especially our palms and fingers.
Posted at 12:57 PM in 2020 growing season, abundance of care, cohesion amidst chaos, feed what feeds you, flower medicine, flower portraits, herbalism, medicine making from scratch, place/keeping, quantum healing, self-sustainability, shift resiliency, viriditas, walk with me | Permalink | Comments (8)
Am 63 years old now. It rained a great deal on my Tuesday birthday as it often does. The ground was in need of massive soaking and it's our combined gift to have it so. Hope you enjoyed some glimpses of my exuberant (and lengthy) morning inspection tour. It began around 7:30 and everything looked sensational. Despite the amount of wind and rather violent rain there were no casualties beyond a few stalks of the Great Fleece Flower. And a daunting amount of windblown debris. We had roughly 3 inches of rain.
(we also on/for my birthday had our first take out pizza since before the winter holidays. T eats takeout roughly half the time from a small constellation of trusted places but this was a major adventure into former normalcy for the two oldsters. We liked it but I wouldn't want to get back in the habit. This is the kind of thing that only truly made sense when J had to drive past the places in order to get home.)
It's an ongoing practice for me to take the first couple of days in July as extra time to rest and reflect. A revolution around the sun has finished and another is beginning. I like to be still and undistracted enough to soak up that liminality here in the green hearted season. More generally I also like to consider the dreamy restful needs of the newly born. What if our birthdays offer us a chance to unfold anew - just as an infant does. Feeling and breathing air with increased understanding and acceptance. Coming to understand form and light. wind and water on the skin.
I thought about that a lot this year. And as the rain poured down and I made a point to think about myself and the past year rather than fictional characters I also thought about how hard it was raining the night T was born and how I hadn't a clue of that until he was taken away, with J, for his second apgar test. And the two midwives said to me enjoy these moments alone. You won't see anything like them for a long time. And they laughed amidst shared looks as women do.
In tonight's early evening I broke a pair of reading glasses. Third pair in a week. A single pair remaining. Jim suggested a CVS run to re-stock. Why not? We'll jump in the truck right now. Both of us suddenly ready - both at the same time - to go out and do this thing. We went to the one with the self-serve checkout that never has more than two or three other people in it. Ever.
We had masks, gloves and a list. In both directions we enjoyed beautiful rides through the woods and fields right on the cusp of twilight. Once in the town with the CVS we made note of people socially distancing in line at the barbecue place. Across the road a group of 7 squeezed maskless around a picnic table all seeming to talk and laugh at once. People have been going around to places of service work to decorate with handmade banners of appreciation. Knew that was a thing but it was nice to see it locally with my own eyes. We came home on a different road that was quite leafy and wild. Then we took a slight but compelling detour before coming home.
A road at the edge of a secondary hill on the next ridge over from our own. We looked at a place there. One year on J's birthday we stopped, spur of the moment, to pick raspberries at a farm a bit further along the road that's since become a lot more high profile and considerably spiffed up around the edges. We gawked like people taking in Manhattan for the first time.
Posted at 02:04 AM in 2020 growing season, cohesion amidst chaos, feed what feeds you, flower medicine, flower portraits, gardening with purpose, herbalism, place/keeping, plant geek eyes, quantum healing, seasonal shifts, self-sustainability, viriditas, visual autobiography | Permalink | Comments (6)
I love this young poplar tree - encouraged and sworn protection by me upon arrival following closing - despite its inappropriate location from a homeowner's point of view. I have lifelong associations with the poplar medicine spirit but this past decade is the first time I've lived with one.
am grateful the landscape remains vibrant and lush. We've been short on rain of late but today's changing that in a deeply appreciated way. On any given day since my last post I've been 'slow' gardening and micro-harvesting healing & restorative herbs. Day to day my activity level (and general internalized reaction/response narrative) unfolds in slow increments. Between one thing and another I'm glad it's happening at all. Extremely grateful as well. To have such a strong and actively healing counter-balance to so much else that's beyond difficult to parse let alone consistently integrate.
(usually the smiling elemental has a far more public location. think the switch up is its own meditation on fostering quiet and purely personal forms of sustainable joy and happiness.)
for daily restoration and psychic nourishment I've been infusing fresh picked red clover and tulsi with one of the remaining dried anise hyssop flowers from last year's harvest. Still being at least two thirds wordless given the way our demented destiny continues to unravel - I cannot adequately describe how much this specific combination is helping me stay both focused and ever so gently de-toxified. The combined phytochemistry is glorious: Red clover cleanses the blood which in turn nourishes the liver. All of which brightens the skin and lowers inflammation. Tulsi soothes and sharpens the mind in equal measure. Plus it's a solidly effective - yet very gentle - digestive tonic. Tulsi's phytochemistry lends strong support for elevating the tone and scope of individual consciousness. Anise hyssop comforts the central nervous system and very gently restores it to balance. Also helps with anxiety and re-settling into gentle rest after waking from a nightmare.
was both charmed and delighted to spy a flower head developing on the most prominent part of the sequestered echinacea. I love that something's happening here that I can't begin to understand but do comprehend it's deeply known between these two species.
(and sometimes I feel a strong connection between the foxglove's energetic imprint and my grandmother Pearl)
a newly developing full-sun area. love how it includes plant stock from my former garden (red bee balm, one of two remaining A. archangelica descendants), volunteers from the original plantings (lamb's ears and blue centaurea). I've also planted joe pye weed, blue vervain and a very showy violet flowered centaurea. One of the three thymes. Plus a datura I meant to plant close to our bedroom window. But horrid flying insects heretofore unknown to me made it clear my intended effect would come to disappointment.
Added neem oil to our health food store order this week in case the succubi return. and because there are bound to be other insect battalions in need of discouragement as summer arrives.
Posted at 01:12 PM in 2020 growing season, abundance of care, cohesion amidst chaos, feed what feeds you, flower medicine, flower portraits, gardening with purpose, herbalism, medicine making from scratch, quantum healing, self-sustainability, shift resiliency, viriditas, visual autobiography | Permalink | Comments (13)
Clearly the biggest news of late is the reappearance of Snappy. My first sighting occurred on this same date last year. Recall my grandmother's Way of driving me to contemplate snapping turtles to help myself drop down into a quieter center of personal gravity. Knew instinctively what I was looking at there on a rock ringing the frog pond and yet hoped to be wrong about the species. Snappy was fairly tiny at this time last year and s/he's still pretty small. Between 5 and 6 inches. In the interim everything about the creature has grown into its cellular etching, natural form, and patterning. Like all turtles this is a very well designed creature. Plus, of course, it bites to devastating degree. J and I were both hoping s/he'd moved on at nature's urging. But. Realistically that was two people hoping there'd be no need to deal with yet another problematic Thing just now. Why on earth would s/he move on when s/he has a pond stuffed to its gills with plump tadpoles. there's a lot to Snappy's story and the amount of time/thought/reluctant turning to heart space I've put into the situation.
Saw Snappy for the first time yesterday when I was on my way out to the firepit to process two essence bowls. one joins my flower & stone roster: aquamarine and celandine. that was planned. Once I'd set down the bowl I looked at the self-resurrecting (deer systematically eat it down to bare earth later in the season when they take to bedding down in that corner of the field) strawberry patch. Collecting flowers in the bowl brought open-crown hyper-realism to my awareness of the individual blooms. I'd never fully noticed the perfect green pentacles formed by the sepals' frame of sparkling white flowers!
Strawberry's flower medicine spirit was an enveloping mantle of good cheer. Simmering just below the walking-around crust of what the day contained. I felt it rise and caught a few breaths to comprehend what the experience was teaching me. Any plant or other form of sentience can do this. Our particular species is probably the slowest learner to be found - but still. I was enveloped by Strawberry's healing signature and the organic nature of its medicine spirit. I have no prior experience with something so spontaneous, complete, and fluid. Strawberry entered my senses and enveloped every part of me with ease and confident optimism.
I was invited to linger within my collection process - to treat this specific experience like a spiritual cleanse and soulful picnic. And so I jumped into a whole other way of being. Instead of monomaniacal focus on The Process and its undeviating Procedure I took off my shoes and socks. Used a set of the filters from the aqua/celandine bowl to saturate the soles of my feet until I felt a tingling gratitude for the nourishment. took the next filter and moved into the urge to swipe it from my forehead to belly. It was the most relaxed and organically meaningful experience of my week so far.
Later in the evening my much anticipated order of Blue Vervain/Verbena hasta arrived via Fed Ex. The plants were in transit for two days and are still un-kinking themselves on the back deck. Had originally planned to get nine then dropped back on both expectations and plans in the wake of T needing the biopsy followed almost immediately by J's layoff. Will plant in two groups of three or three groups of two. Probably the first. Hope for enough seedlings to take hold so I can raise them as the third group I originally envisioned.
Here's a lovely( 4:13 minutes) blue vervain primer from radiant bee loving Deb Soule.
Read through the company's unpacking/further acclimation info. I've only ordered live plants once before - from this same company in the wake of their annual seasonal clearance sale. I remember being impressed and grateful for the careful packaging - as I was this time. But based on the size of the plants I received previously I'd imagined the six above would be roughly half the size and age they are. These are very well established plants. I know where I'm planting them but first they need some days to acclimate and harden off. They're joined on the top deck by the basement seedlings.
The picture above documents my 2020 'nurture babies' having their third day on the deck. It's their first experience with dappled morning sun. Am leaving them outside for progressively longer periods of time. They still need protection from wind and rain in addition to the shock of NE night temps.
This morning I got up early. Motivated myself in roughly a tenth of the time that's become my hunkered-down slow poke mode-of-choice. Was determined to get the shallot sets in the ground - plus do some other field-based chores - before the sun lost its cooling slant from the east. Planted ten rows of 5 sets. Have a means to safely and effectively share the overage that thrills me in its simplicity and the organic way the opportunity/connection came together. Once I'd hustled myself out I took my mindful-mode time getting things in the ground. Was deeply appreciative of J's level of care in the removal of thickly matted grass clumps and stones of all shapes. And the careful way he'd mixed in topsoil so all I had to do was add rows of lobster compost and be equally careful mixing everything together. Enjoyed rattling over this year's shallot site so much that I walked through the whole garden in various configurations while rattling. Figuring out where the tramped-down pathways will be once the fence is up.
You are asserting yourself. We welcome you as one.
Same acknowledgement and encouragement as the other day.
My first layer of clearing effort has now reached a point I wasn't sure I'd be able to achieve. Now I need to put muscle into eradicating some of the wild pea vines that are a story unto themselves. My plan is to get as much clear soil as I can - in patches here and there if need be - in order to broadcast amaranth with deliberately placed clusters of sunflowers. A sunflower house is too much fussy work for all the other Things. But I'll raise just as much joy as possible growing bird food for the many different species who live here ringing the field with their songs and activities.
Posted at 04:24 PM in 2020 growing season, abundance of care, alchemical rituals, always choose joy, cohesion amidst chaos, feed what feeds you, field wonderings, flower medicine, gardening with purpose, herbalism, how to make a flower essence, medicine making from scratch, plant geek eyes, quantum healing, self-sustainability, shift resiliency, stand still with me, viriditas, visual autobiography, water Ways | Permalink | Comments (6)
Violet flowers and leaves serve a variety of human needs quite well. They're rich in vitamin C and loaded with salicylic acid. I especially love working with the flowers because it's such a beautifully gentle process and, for me, deeply rooting as well. They figure prominently in a great many of my childhood memories. They're also my original home state's official flower and that pleased me a great deal.
[am including this link for a far more comprehensive overview of Violet's healing and nutritional versatility. Today I'd much rather spend most of my time outside rather than re-inventing any word-based wheels on this or any other subject. Additionally here's a video of some herbalists (including Matt Wood) discussing violet medicine. Plus here's the irrepressable Susun Weed demonstrating how to make violet infused honey ]
The picture above was taken a few years back following a friend's request for "a healing agent of some kind". As someone with very little breast mass she suffered a great deal from what's euphemistically called discomfort associated with mammograms. We spoke of this while sitting by the frog pond. Its northern side has a very large colony of violets. I pointed them out and shared the fact that I sometimes used an oil infusion of these flowers to make a cream I incorporated into breast self-exams. I praised the plant's lymphagogue properties and offered to prepare them in a very light easily absorbed carrier oil. Had automatically assumed that would be grapeseed oil but she'd read an article that spoke of apricot oil's affinity for the thinner skin that aging brings.
I didn't have any but she'd bought some at the health food store in the next town where she'd picked up some sandwiches and fruit salad for our lunch.
"I saw it and bought it just because it felt very important to have it - right now, today." She said as much in the lightly ponderous tone of somebody who follows intuitive cues even when they don't know why. Because she did she was able to gather flowers and make the oil herself right there in my kitchen. She now makes it on the regular for herself and her two younger sisters who share her tender breast situation enough to actively wince at the mere of thought of having The Girls squeezed with imperious finality between the two plexiglass plates.
Together we sat at the table preparing two separate infusion endeavors while talking about a lot of other things we might not have discussed as a continuous stream of femalecentric herbal wisdom. I worked on a white vinegar infusion to be used in sitz baths. We also spoke of flower essences which she considered 'weird and possibly hokum'. I laughed and said something along the lines of wow I've never heard that before - not even once let alone fifty million times. She laughed as well.
And so we spoke of flower essences in some degree of detail. I hadn't been planning any such thing and neither had she. We both laughed a lot more about that fact with a very gentle lilt to it. She asked hesitantly if all the violet flowers we'd worked with might have something to do with our ability to break new ground together. I shared my belief that all flowers have the ability to facilitate formerly 'impossible' conversations whether or not the topic of essence work was included. We're still talking about that back and forth as we both discover more about flowers' capabilities as well as our own shared affinity for growing OUT of who we already are into that which we're actively becoming.
The basket above shows flowers and leaves that I gathered this morning. On this occasion I wanted both for the purpose of co-creating an oil I can turn into a cream that I use in place of Aspercreme. Its roll-on form came into my life about five months ago when my single arthritic knuckle became bothersome enough to eclipse my awareness of all the other knuckles that don't bother me at all. I ate a few flowers as I did my gathering - moving from one colony of violets to the next so I was also moving from the evolving sanctuary garden to the frog pond and out into the field for a total of seven gathering locations.
Surface area is a key factor in making successful herbal remedies. Ongoing wisdom makes clear that the potency and longevity of a remedy is directly relational to the degree of surface area. This is why most remedies are macerated old school with a mortar and pestle or zip-zapped in a blender along with the oil or alcohol carrier. I continue to do a fair amount of both but, when it comes to violets, I simply collect more flowers so I don't have to cut them apart. In keeping with this ally's gentle and sensitive nature I chiffonade the leaves - sometimes cutting the results at perpendicular angles to create more surface areas. Today I let it go with simply creating the ribbons with a serrated blade.
I have a dedicated enamelware double boiler I use for herbal infusions. Unless I've planned ahead enough to have a particular carrier on hand I work with one of those large tins of olive oil you find in the grocery store. During our last week of formerly normal behavior J picked up two of those tins for me. Because I wanted enough to last me until the next violet harvesting season I wound up with roughly twice as much plant matter as I'd normally include. Adding oil enough to cover the botanicals brought the infusion's contents about an inch short of overflowing.
Upon my most recent check-in the brew was morphing into its intended iteration. The flowers are drained of color and their stems are also white and roughly half their original size. The leaves currently look like the canned soup version of leafy greens. I removed the lid and will soon place the top/oil-filled pan on a trivet to cool a bit before I commence straining.
note: I don't personally use violet tincture any more because I've found it's a little rough on my upper digestive tract - yielding heartburn and a stomach ache. If I've time and the weather holds (snow is predicted. sigh...) I'll put up a half pint of white vinegar infusion. It's really nice to have on hand for anyone suffering from hemorrhoids - especially those whose bodies don't respond well to epsom salts. just add a teaspoon or so of the infusion to the sitz bath water and swirl it around to insure it's well integrated.
The year J contracted Lyme (and struggled with ongoing very active symptoms for the better part of two years) I put up a few half pints of the oil as a cold infusion due to the delicacy of the flowers. I thought he'd like it for his joints but instead he used it close to constantly for headaches - which had rarely troubled him previously. Once we were obliged to replace our stove I embraced the warming burner as the best combination of both options.
Also - you did realize I wasn't gonna not mention this other application of the flower medicine - violet flower essence is really awesome for quiet reclusive types who also need to learn how to get up and out and shake their tail feathers from time to time in order to feel truly complete. As an example, Molly Sheehan used to tell a wonderful story about a customer who worked with the essence and 'suddenly' began to attend and participate in poetry slams with cumulatively life changing results.
This morning I mixed together a generous cache of nine-herb healing and restorative tea. Something I've been meaning to get to for about two weeks suddenly became mandatory. I needed a tangible empowering way to attend to my family and myself because we - like so many households in so many places - have been the recipients of a workplace-related Abundance of Caution email. We knew in our minds and guts it was a when rather than if once facts emerged about Boston area contagion.
My husband has three degrees of separation from the situation - at least on paper and in theory. What he described to me of physical reality/exposure proximity was close enough for us to conclude we'd shifted from self-quarantining as a luxury feature of his remote work schedule to diligent citizenry.
Abundance of Care feels like the necessary fulcrum point on which to balance caution and pragmatism. Everything in the recipe I'm sharing was grown or wild-crafted on our property - save the glorious and ever-healing oats. Those are from Avena Botanicals. The blend addresses matters of wellness, systemic purification & protection, and metabolic re-boot at the gentlest possible level.
Over time I've learned to prepare my family's customized recipe in triads of soothing and restorative herbs - to mix based on the most physically stable/inherently strong herb grouping so that the sturdiest herbs are handled the most and fragile flower petals are lightly tossed into the final round of inclusions.
You'll notice a coded parenthetical after the herb's name in the triad listings . That's my measuring system of the classic homefolk "parts" methodology. In this recipe a part is a loosely held handful. Not too precise for those accustomed to exactitude but definitely viable once you get a feel for how it comes together at the end. The proportions of this recipe work very well for the 3 of us. You'll instinctively adjust according to your family's size and needs. You'll also add and subtract specific herbs based on instinct and gathered experience.
oats (3P) lavender buds (2P) sweet fennel seed (2P)
Oats soothe and nourish over-stimulated adrenal glands. They also buffer against expressive anger that gets in the way of collaborative productivity - or knowing when to move on from news ingestion. Oats' healing signature is emollient in nature. That's a wonderful property to slowly drink into you body. Muscle tension will begin to re-tone itself within an hour or two. Oats also provide a modest amount of easily absorbed calcium that helps keep rudimentary bone flexibility.
Lavender has an ancient collaborative and co-creative relationship with our species. The flower's healing properties are profoundly antiseptic - also equally compatible & effective with our digestive system and central/sympathetic nervous system. Lavender's also a reliable source of effective moderate pain relief for anything 4 or lower on the universal pain scale. And a solid ally to cherish for anyone prone to insomnia.
Sweet fennel seed - The robust fifties era flower vase shape of fennel seeds is packed with digestive support and reliable aid/relief as needed for the things about shifting reality that we literally cannot stomach. Fennel is another plant strongly valued for centuries worth of gardening inter-relationship. There's something very grounding about this inclusion that speaks of timeless comfort and renewed life force.
Mix these together thoroughly with loose and loving hands.
Lemon Thyme* (1 generous FULL hand P) Anise Hyssop leaves (1.5P) Tulsi leaves & flowers (2)
*inclusion of ANY thyme should be abandoned for those who are pregnant. In such cases consider substituting with Lemon Balm or research safe substitutions online.
I choose to work primarily with Lemon Thyme almost exclusively because a healthy plant thriving in full sun can provide plenty for both culinary and medicinal uses in a single growing season. In this recipe the herb is absolutely essential to support nourishing a dry throat - especially when accompanied with dry unproductive cough.
Anise Hyssop's healing signature holds strong sedative and digestive properties. The flowers are additionally uplifting to the spirits. The leaves offer support for systemic reboot of the lungs; easing cramping or strained bronchioles with soothing consistency. They're a gentle and effective tummy soother as well.
Tulsi leaves and flowers combine to offer mental and psychic elevation. This medicine spirit nourishes the soul as well as our physical brain. I've found this inclusion seems to promote peaceful (and oftentimes creative problem-solving) dreams at a time when my waking self really needs that kind of respite and recharge.
Slow your roll to mix the new inclusions into the base mix. This is especially important with dried thyme. The tiny leaves are best removed from the stems with minimal crushing. Work slowly and lovingly. Remove the empty thyme stems unless you shred them into small pieces. Put your own intentional/energetic healing mojo into the mixture as it grows and re-blends itself. This is practical curendera magic at its simplest and most effective level.
Kentucky Mint (.5P) Calendula (2-3P) Red Clover* (2/2.5P)
*Red Clover holds substantive blood thinning properties. Do not include for anyone who takes blood thinning drugs, is prone to nosebleeds, or has trouble clotting following a lab draw, scrape, or cut.
Kentucky Mint is my preferred minty tea inclusion because its aftertaste is sweet rather than bitterly astringent. Its proportionally small but memorably powerful inclusion here brightens the general palate of the blend while it also clears and sharpens the mind.
Calendula flower petals should be dried on-the-head and removed just prior to mixing with light deft motions. It seems like their proportion rate is over-scaled until you're actually doing the mixing. This inclusion speaks to substantive arcs of antiseptic and restorative properties that are quite well documented. This is why I've yet to grow "enough" to yield unto the lure of dyeing with it. Thought this might be the year that changed but now I'm just grateful I have a place to grow more for health and wellness purposes!
to turn this classic nine into a magical eleven:
lemon balm (2-3P) soothes and sanitizes with a soft lilt of anti-depressant capability. Anyone with a hyperactive thyroid should embrace Melissa officinalis as a constitutional and very effective ally. This well-tested ally may become crucial for anyone such as myself with recurring Graves or many forms of Hashimoto's.
Pineapple Sage - This tender perennial's leaves and flowers hold strong anti-depressant properties. The herb also helps to lower and regular blood pressure. It's an inclusion in the mixture pictured in the photo lede - I used leaves only because all the flowers that manage to bloom before the first frost are used in tinctures or glycerites.
monarda fistulosa flowers may provide a type of specific relief that could make the difference between gratitude and misery for over-extended lungs that need to un-sieze and stay relaxed enough to re-establish a sustainable breathing rhythm. If I'd harvested more aggressively I would have shredded 2 or even 2.5 P into the blend. But it was my first year of feeling welcomed to take. Was therefore very humble in what I took for this beginning opportunity to work with its medicinal properties. This year there will be bigger colonies and some surprise self-seeded volunteers. I will cut more accordingly - providence willing.
Hope this recipes offers you ideas of what you might mix or grow with a customized version of this blend in mind.
May we travel safely and in healing grace.
freshly picked Monarda fistulosa flowers during last year's High Summer. Feel super grateful to have to hand a quart jar mostly filled with dried stems & leaves if things get bad but we can manage to bypass hospitals and doctors offices.
***Note: post has been amended to included Mo's excellent suggestions in comments. Additions are asterisked***
This is a words-only post aimed at getting it published in the most timely manner. It's inspired by a modest number of requests for suggestions of safe and easy to use herbal options to stress-masking pharmaceuticals or an escalating inner need to meditate or have alone time at inconveniently frequent intervals.
note: nearly all of these plants' healing profiles will be equally helpful for a queasy digestive tract. That will be an added blessing if your belly tends to get involved when you're stressed at ongoing feeling and thinking levels
I've listed these suggestions in order of estimated availability from most well stocked bulk herb aisles/food co-ops. Make sure everything you purchase or gather from gardens/wildcrafting is organically grown or located away from roads or places where the soil is chemically enhanced/depleted or insect/weed repellents are are in use.
Lavender Buds - Lavender's resinous healing properties are extensive. For this post's context the flower's most important gifts relate to calming both mind and emotional over-stimulation. It's also a decent pain reliever - making lavender bud tea or tincture a go-to ally for those who find the current times' pressurized nature is evoking headaches. May be especially effective for those who have never had to deal with chronic or recurring headaches in the past. Helpful also for people who deal with forms of PTSD that are easily triggered and generally begin with a relentless series of interruptive thoughts and/or hair-trigger night terror/waking.
If your mind and nerve-based response system responds well to hydro-therapy - try a lavender bud steam under a soft towel. Mix lavender buds and sea salt to use as a shower scrub. Mound a judicious amount of the mixture in the center of a dry clean washcloth. Gather the edges firmly in one hand and begin your shower with a scrub that detoxifies the skin and settles/brightens our inner landscape's feeling tone. You might also try adding a few drops of lavender essential oil to your bedroom's humidifier water to further encourage less wakefulness.
*Rosemary - to support and amplify your memory storage and retrieval capacity.
Red or Pink rose petals. Rosa gallica (apothecary rose) is preferred if you can find a reliably organic source or grow your own. I'm putting it near the top of the list because this will be an authentically essential ally for anyone whose heart hurts in response to difficult topics/situations they must face head-on RIGHT NOW in order to live responsibly and with a mindfully shifting perspective. Drink this tea in a quiet corner in the company of an unhurried mindframe. Focus on easing your sense of emotional/situational pain by breathing deeply into your inner capacity for resilience and self-reliance. It's there or you wouldn't be attracted to blog posts such as this one.
Catnip - Fresh is lovely for plucking a scant handful of leaves per cup/mug. I'd reserve it for later day unwinding time unless you're having wall-to-wall panic or anxiety eruptions - see below. Just about any relatively comprehensive herbal supply source will include dried catnip leaves.
Lemon Balm - Mellissa officianalis is tied for top place (with Calendula) on my green medicine making must-grow list. You'll want enough to tincture generously/create oil infusions for all sorts of reasons related to the plant's immune-supportive, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial properties. Make note that the plant's sedative properties - which is the most relevant usage focus for this list - are slightly more pronounced when the leaves are dried. Use fresh if you can because Melissa's phytochemical sedative properties are released instantaneously that way - with the plant's resinous scent moving directly to the brain's compatible receptors.
To begin coming back to a sense of restored vitality after a long or difficult illness - Pluck just one or two fresh leaves per mug of infusion. You can also gather two or three sprigs, take your tea leaves from that gathering and use the rest in the simple steam process suggested in the Lavender bud notations.
Milky Oats - Can be tricky to find a reliably organic source but well worth the effort - especially for those who veer closer towards panic than anxiety. A gentle compassionate green friend for anyone who resists making reflex/behavioral upgrades from long established patterns of engaging with anger/defensiveness/control freak cycles before finding the inner resources to communicate more effectively and inclusively. For older women this herb is also a modest but reliable/easily absorbed source of calcium replacement. Helps keeps the bones and joints flexible enough to support ongoing activity. This ability in turns is an effective de-stressing form of muscle nourishment as well.
Anise Hyssop( especially the flower heads) - Hardly ever see the flower heads for sale but that's an excellent reason to grow some of your own. This gently sedating/mind-centering herb is often considered 'best' when it's mixed with other compatible herbs to help blend and smooth the individual herbs' taste and tone. Super easy to grow and self-seeds reliably.
Tulsi/Holy Basil - is both soothing and mind-focusing - tempering adrenaline and blood pressure spikes. Its additional anti-inflammatory properties and ingrained spiritual connections to purifying and re-aligning both crown and third eye chakras are a combined wonder for tense or knotted muscles as well as the brain loops that frequently cause them. Tulsi's easy to grow from seed and a marvelous choice for anyone who keeps bees or lives near someone who does.
*Lemon Verbena - profoundly soothing to the brain and general nervous system.
One thing I'll always love about photography is the way it clarifies how things look when the person seeing hasn't grown so accustomed to the particular view that they forget what seeing them differently used to feel like. Since this week's water meditation is once again focused on the little stream that cuts through the edge of our property - I'm quite used to crossing the bridge in order to literally see things differently. Yet when I edited images for this post I was struck by what a different view that seven or eight foot span, bank to bank, affords. The bank on the far side of the bridge is higher by 3-5 feet. Tree roots and the bridge's placement don't obscure the beautifully clear scope of the water's modest breadth.
On top of the many other things to be done I need to rip out the encroaching periwinkle. It's everywhere here. So is pachysandra. The duo is an environmental pairing from hell and all too common blighted mis-step from mid to late 1970's landscape design. The house (circa 76) and extension (93) can be/has been easily enough retrofitted for today's more mindful geo-footprint but the escaped colonies of this pair that can be found throughout the woods and property lines, as well as running rampant in a liminal range between the dooryards and the field, are a problem we solve a lot more slowly than the plants thrive undeterred.
However. Due to our odd winter the pachysandra colonies in the woods and encroaching the field are in bud. They could flower in under a month - right about the time the bumblebee queens emerge to feed exhaustively or die mid-flight in search of food. It's the only upside I have found so far - the early blooming colony/blankets keeping the bumblebee population on point
I'd come to the water because I'm doing what I can to shed or at least dismantle as much of my own human/media-driven fear factor(s) as possible. There's politics, certainly. But more as a plant reader/herbalist-ish person, I've found It's been disconcerting as well as intellectually interesting to see the way my survivalist/preparedness buttons get pushed by what's in the news - and far more pressingly what is NOT in the news, at least here in the US, concerning coronavirus. I said more on the subject and deleted.
My intentional point is that I always come here and stand on the stream's opposite bank when I'm seeking a perception change. A friend of mine calls this kind of move sympathetic yoga. Same basic premise as sympathetic magic but more about shifting the specifics of muscle memory/psychic elevation than direct energy transmutation. In this case, I released the pent-up energy of a few what-ifs asked in gentle recognition that I and most of the other earth-loving people I know are strong on multiple levels. Self-sustaining in ways that always seem enhanced by a desire to be joyful. To look at what hasn't changed within the resources and wisdom of nature close at hand.
My feet were enjoying a new and vastly improved perspective as well. After noticing how often the posts here feature me fretting over insufficient footwear I thought I ought to change that dynamic while I'm able. Have begun my Year of Proper Shoes with a pair of very thick vibram soled waterproof shoes for walking in our woods, on local trails and while gardening. One pair down, two to go. Will whittle that down to just one if budget demands - I have never had decent hiking boots. And yet. I haven't just sauntered in the woods. I have ... hiked - a moderately fair amount. Just never in proper shoes because - well. Because I've spent so much of my adult/responsible life worrying about getting/staying sick. To a degree where maybe splurging in this way would be a waste and thus irresponsibly self-indulgent.
It's ridiculous - at least in light of today's world. I intend, given the opportunity, to live long and well enough by my own definition that I wear them down to flaps of ragged leather bursting from their seams. Thinking such thoughts I walked all over in the muddy goo with the cat jumping lightly from rocks to tree roots. For awhile after we first entered the woods my eyes misplaced her. In a previous part of her life she was named ghost. Sometimes it seems apt to her form if not her personality.
When I took this picture we were right on the verge of the swampier place that we leave to wild creatures. It abuts a part of the woods and stream's path where I don't go more than once a season. I really like J. to have it as a form of personal space the way the field gardens have become my ramshackle green nation kingdom-come-true.
Mama and I end most of our off-season woods visits via the path by the old well. This is a powerful sacred-feeling place of unknown origin/human history. Many different animals call it Home as do a whole colony of trees. The path pre-existed our arrival - in large part as a game trail that services every larger creature from turkeys to deer and coyote. In the green months none of us use this path or those spidering out from it. We only move along the paths close to the utility buildings and compost bin. Early spring and later autumn offer the rare opportunity for exploration that isn't intrusive. An enormous hare lives back here somewhere. Also woodchucks and innumerable small rodent species. Speaking of the field gardens - I spent a long time prowling around the various cultivated and wild corridors of the beds. I saw in my mind's eye how the garden might be improved by clearing more of the space claimed by goldenrod. I want to enlarge the growing space to the left of the edges in this pic - a long narrow strip of an enlargement beginning just a bit left of the whiskey barrels at both end of the bed. I want this strip to combine calendula, tomatoes and sunflowers. See how that works. Maybe also consider a perpendicular strip where the bench currently sits. Create from it a raised bed for root vegetables. In the past I've used the whiskey barrels but want to give them over to restorative tea herbs exclusively from this point forward.
Formulating these plans yesterday, and mentally embellishing them just now in my mind's eye, I sense a resilience that's very well-known to gardeners. I'm deeply concerned by how early in the year the earth is waking herself but I'm also wondering how to make the smartest and wisest adaptation to this kind of shift. For we humans, sure, but also for everything else that lives here. When I stood in the garden and visualized its enlargement I had a sense of confidence this was a wise use of my brain's time and space.
Providence willing, as they say ...
another happy grace note of our mild winter is the alive and thriving condition of a lemon thyme that was stranded on the lower deck for the winter after our late October cold snap froze it solidly in place. I brought in a few tiny sprigs and a couple precious deep green lemon balm leaves for some fresh green rejuvenative tea.