Monday, June 30, 2008
Sunday, June 29, 2008
*update* from Henriette in the comments ... A Scarlet Pimpernel! Wow! Thanks Henriette!
Lots of little black spots on the underside of the leaves......
Botanical.com has an interesting profile on this plant.
Friday, June 27, 2008
In the woods by my River, the Blue Cohosh has found a private clearing to inhabit. It's somewhere between human and spirit world, I'm convinced, since I've hiked past this very spot countless times, without ever seeing it. And it's not just a few plants, it's a veritable sea of Blue Cohosh. How could I have never seen it? How could I have hiked twice as far just to watch the one Papoose plant I found a few years ago?
As I think back to the birth of my own two children, I remember distinctly the veil where the mother resides while laboring. I remember the lucid state between human and superhuman, between bawdy realism and sheer sorcery. The place where the curtain of life lifts to reveal the newest masterpiece, but not without agonizing suspense.
I remember the musky mix my mother smuggled towards me in a smallish cup, behind the knit blanket when the nurses left the room. I sucked it in during my few more conscious moments, savoring the sharp and earthy taste, feeling it travel instantly to my blood and stomach, right where it knew it needed to be. It wasted no time getting to work. This is the work of the Cohosh, the midwife, the one who knows labor. In the thick of it, when it all seems dense and crowded and unchanging, Blue Cohosh roots herself deeply in the cool fertile soil in the clearing of the forest. She finds space where there wasn't any, water where you never knew, and dappled shade from the blaring sun.
Blue Cohosh is among our grandmothers who know the secrets of natural childbirth, of shamanic childbirth, and of the true and deep labors of life. She is few on this planet now, struggling to teach her wisdom to the next tradition holders before it's too late. But it takes time. It takes patience, commitment, attention, and a lot of respect. That day I had set out on the trail to recover my daughters black poncho that I had lost the day before. I took the same path exactly. I scoured the trail, checking each spot where I may have bent down or twisted loose the poncho. It was the third day in a row I had taken the trail, and the same one I've taken from my house and back over the last four years since I moved here. I check on the one Blue Cohosh plant each time, watching it change colors, flowering and putting up little dark blue berries. Something about this morning was auspicious. Did the plant recognize me? Welcome me back? Know that I was watching? Perhaps she knew that I'd been watching all this time .... and that I never dared take even a leaf.
You don't pull on Grandmother's hair. You wait for her to offer you a lock.
I touched her soft, paw shaped leaf and thanked her for still growing, despite the vast over harvesting that has taken place. I told her I was listening.
I continued to scour the path and edges for my daughter's poncho. I began to find Blue Cohosh plants here and there, more and more, where I'd never seen them. It's as if they just grew right then and there.
I even found several more pink lady's slipper. But no poncho in sight. I finally just gave up on finding it, and started for home.
In the Northeast, Connecticut in particular, there are a great many rock walls in the forests. These come from the old farmlands, before it became reforested. They are charming to come by, giving a feel for history and for the cycles that both nature and economy undergo. And in this case, it offers a visual distraction from the secret sea of Blue Cohosh I was about to discover. I only saw one plant at first, and again it was if each one grew right before my eyes. Trickery!
I couldn't even believe there were so many. It was a moment to just sit in awe and listen to the stories from this Great Grandmother.
There isn't any wonder why any good novel involving plant lore or midwifery romantically inserts this plant somewhere. It's historically valid and also indicative of the magic it undoubtedly conjures. It's not a casual use herb, illustrated by a few clear factors; the fact that it grows far away from people is a clue that it needs to be handled with care, the fact that even though it's a perennial, it grows only one stem per year, indicating that we need only take a small amount or the plant will not thrive in the future, and the fact that it's not truly abundant - it's not prolific like food plants such as Burdock and Dandelion. It stays in the deeper moist and magical parts of the forest. (Remind you of a certain special body part .... demanding respect?) It's strong medicine.
The Native Americans weren't stranger to Blue Cohosh. They called it Papoose root and Squawroot, of course. They offered it, often in tandem with Black Cohosh and other forest birthing herbs, to the laboring mother who would either sip the root brew or chew on a fresh root. This latter way was my first instinct, as I wriggled free the one plant I felt permitted to take. I snapped off a tiny end of a rootlet and twirled it around in my mouth. It was rooty and bitter, both moist and dry. I read later that this was not a good idea, that it could cause dermatitis or nausea, or some such reaction, none of which occurred for me. The root, which is the part of the plant traditionally used, is said to be most effective when prepared in water (which would explain the chewing method) and is used to hasten uterine contractions by stimulating the muscles linked to the reproductive system. Perhaps its phytoestrogen content is a contributing factor, I'm not sure. I know that if I take a few drops of Blue Cohosh when my Moon is tense and waiting to flow, it creates instant response. The muscles in my lower back and pelvis relax, and my Moon comes on without a glitch. When I have "labored" too long and hard at something - work, a project, or an issue that won't seem to change - Blue Cohosh hastens the birth of new life that has been waiting to emerge, both literally and figuratively. Both my children were ushered into the world through a Cohosh laced veil. Grandmother Cohosh tells us not to rush precious things, to be consistent, to pay attention, to be committed to your purpose.
Here you can see clearly the 'caps'. These are characteristic of Blue Cohosh, as each year's stalk that grows, leaves its cap upon the rhizome when it dies back for the winter. This rhizome would be at least seven years old.As I hold this wise plant in my muddy fingers, I can feel its vibration, its even rhythm. It smells like autumn air wrapped in a stream washed afghan. It's the discerning glance of an elder, revealing to a youngster whether they are behaving or not. It makes me think of the Grandmother in her lodge, praying for the next seven generations. Being born, myself, on 7-7-75, I consider this my karmic number. I am linked somehow with the rule of the seven generations, or as this experience might suggest, perhaps I am the seventh - now responsible for the next. And so, reverently, I prepare my first ever Blue Cohosh root tincture - with lower alcohol content as to make an effective preparation. It's almost been six weeks .... she awaits her own transformation.
She displayed herself beautifully at my kitchen window for many days, before retiring to the compost. Stubborn old lady!!The gifts of this forest beauty are many. But she needs respect and protection the same as our elders and out dying traditions do. She has many stories to tell us if we listen.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Oh what is a bee Mother to do .... I feel totally taken by surprise. Unprepared!
I suppose all I can do now is wait, and see how they clean up the hive and proliferate. If the colony gets good and strong fast, there might be a honey flow. The super combs are already drawn out from last year so they shouldn't be too far behind, other than the massive drop in employees. But I have no extraction equipment! Help! Where's that 'friend' when you need them?
Oh to hear that scented hum again ...... better than any Italian Aria.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
When the day is perfect and the blossoms are plenty, I remind myself of the preciousness of the moment. In the blink of an eye they will be withered and gone, making way for the winter's hips. Since I am not working right now, I have to be a resourceful herbalist. I have Rose tinctures from previous harvests, so I am not too bothered by not having alcohol.
I am leading our Monthly Maiden Circle tomorrow night, so I gathered some for a cool tea for the ladies. I also still had some apple cider vinegar left, so I made a Sunburn Vinegar with Roses, Peppermint, and Lemon Balm, reminded to me by Kiva's recent Rose post.
Not being able to resist the urge to eat the roses, I made a decadent snack. I happened to have bought whole milk vanilla yogurt, so it was new with all the thick cream on top. I spooned just that into my bowl, and adorned it with bananas, shaved dark chocolate, and rose petals. Talk about heart food.
I have to admit I've been smitten with Rose for some years. As a teen I didn't like it at all, probably because I had smelled too many bad rose perfumes. You really have to be around real roses to get the full effect. When we moved here, I was in love with the fact that several rosebushes were already established. I had become familiar with the sensual, heart healing, aphrodisiac and balancing properties through my studies in aromatherapy. In fact, if I think back further, I remember my Mom's Rosy Glow Face cream that she made when apprenticing with Rosemary Gladstar, back in '93 I think. To this day I adore her Rosy Glow cream. I followed in her footsteps, studying not just how to make a rose cream to die for (or live for!) but all about her incredible multi-talented healing properties. How she is revered in Ayurveda for deeply balancing the blood and uterus, how in Europe she is revered for her delicate tea, and in Mayan healing will stop a birthing mother from a dangerous hemorrhage. When sadness sets in, she pulls the hormones into a softer space. When anger strikes, she tames with clarity and a steady pulse. When heat fogs, she cools. When hurt scathes and cuts, she cures and settles. Any ailments of the eyes are soothed and relieved, and any baby would be amiss of daily ails with only rose remedies. My summers would now be incomplete without my annual jar of rose petal jam from my Mom, who gathers them from the scented beaches of Cape Cod. The Rose is truly an apothecary unto herself. I once started "A Rose Apothecary"and maybe someday I'll actually finish it. The small Rose Apothecary pictured here is one of my most favorite little old herbals.
The lessons from Rose are many. While moving in slow motion through the heavy, thorny boughs, I pondered what Rose wanted me to know. I had one of those unpoetical moments, where a commercial came to mind instead of a profound voice. Mind you, I watch next to no tv, so unfortunately the commercial is also outdated. Remember the saying "don't hate me because I'm beautiful"? Yeah, that one. Rose is trying to tell me something about beauty, I realize. See, I'm that girl. I'm the one who looks stunning on stage, and peculiar in person - kind of like the Seinfeld girlfriend who was hideous at one angle and stunning in the next. It's blessed and cursed me as you probably guessed. I get it from both angles, both men and women, and myself. I get the one's who leave me confused when they jokingly say "you're too pretty. bitch." or "I hate you". Then there are the ones who I'd like to be friends with, but flat out avoid me because they can't be with someone with the potential to steal their spotlight. From the guys, well you pretty much can guess all of that. So without getting dreary here, I'll just say I was very lonely for most of my childhood and adolescence.
Rose seems to understand perfectly. There is a time and a space for beauty, which is basically when it feels like showing up. When it does, it does it unabashedly and with sheer exuberance. It does so with uniqueness - not "perfection". It does so with prolific, unbounded love and generosity. It does so with clear boundaries. It stays as long as it plans, and then leaves.
Why then, should I shy away from my beauty? From feeling beautiful? From feeling beautiful, and generous, and clear, all at once? Rose teaches me to be self centered - not ego centered. Rose reminds me to exist as abundant, romantic, blessed, creative, and feminine. And, of course, not to take everything so seriously.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
I'd get A LOT of work done.
The weather here is ridiculous. Not anything suitable for a nature girl. As I speak the rain pours down, just as it has done 80% of the last two months. In May, it rains anytime any day. In June, it rains during the afternoon and/or evening. Since the rise of global warming, the storms are more frighteningly strong and more often.
I know - it's not Alaska, and it's not Davenport Iowa dealing with a flood.
But it's a ball and chain nonetheless, to the herbalist trying to study plants and trying to merge with the Earth.
I wanted to sleep outside.
I wanted to grow some vegetables.
But between the rain and the short growing season, forget it.
WHY do people live here anyway? I have to ask. Unless they have a low mortgage and a very high income - oh, and love to work overtime - there just doesn't seem to be a life.
I ask my self daily: where do I belong? Where is home? Where will I be living my purpose most fully, blissfully?
As I stated in my last post, I get no clear answers. I LOVE the small but brilliant community I have found here - the people. But we live so far away, with no real closeness or co-existence. No Eco-village or "I can bike to your place" - everything requires a car, or a trucker, or a plane. There is NO getting around the rise of gas. It's not just cars - it's everything. The source of my computer to talk to you right now, the trucks for groceries, the heat and water and toilet and .......... you name it. And because we are so trapped in oil-ville, it has sufficiently - and ironically - rendered us immobile. We can't SAVE enough to change it. Sometimes I really hate this place. It makes me so angry.
What's a green girl to do? Move away? Ignore this land? Ignore her calling? It's not just me you know - I have a family.
And even with a wonderful, loving, close family - I am starving for intimacy and depth. For accountability and reflection, for direction and leadership, for a place who will welcome me into my power without jealousy, critique, or judgement. And without raping my wallet to say I have accomplished something wonderful.
I love this land - for three months of the year. Does that make any sense? To be able to be actively engaged with the land, for 1/4 of the year? The rest stuck inside?
IT IS TIME FOR A CHANGE
In an effort to raise a little money for this year's Women's Herbal Conference, which my Mom and I go to every year, I am posting a few apothecary items for sale. This is an especially vital year, since it will be the first time my 11 year old daughter will be attending with us. Three generations of herbal wisdom!
You'll notice that I am putting up large sizes of extracts, and have paired the skin care. If I sold little $5 dollar things, it just wouldn't be worth my time, or worth your shipping fee. Pay pal will automatically add the shipping costs when you check out.
Also, please note there are only two of each item available. The pay pal buttons are located at the very end of the post, please pardon the annoying space between buttons, it's not a dramatic pause, just an html thing I can't fix :)
Gentle, all purpose herbal salves. Triple Goddess heals with White sage, Elder flowers, and Lavender leaf. Weed Witch heals with Comfrey Leaf, Lavender blossoms, and Mugwort. Set of two salves (one ounce of each come together), for $10 plus s&h
Omnipotent Herbal Extracts, 4oz size. Goldenrod Blossom, Yarrow Blossom and Leaf, Red Rose blossom, or Cleavers fresh flowering tops. Vodka or brandy depending. Each label is simple and handwritten, and each item sold with the understanding that you hold the responsibility for using it wisely and properly. Each: $30.00 plus s&h.
An exquisite herbal facial set, classic Amrita style. A pink and white clay mix for a perfect mask - self mix with avocado, honey, yogurt, or your favorite hydrosol. A rich facial cream whipped with fragrant Goldenrod blossom infused oil, unrefined beeswax, jasmine flower wax, aloe, and hydrosol. Delicious. Duet: $30.00 plus s&h