I have taken a long break from Blog. Well deserved, it was a productive year. I must study the creative process. Perhaps The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron? I’m curious how constant creation affects one’s life. I want to learn to manage the energy.
Ready for 2020? Ready or not, here we go. I am excited and looking forward to it. We may have dark days in the Establishment, but individually, we can develop warm and wonderful community.
As revelry of the holiday season fades away. Visions of the growing season develop. I have my immediate Family of Plants installed at what I will now refer to as Groundwork at Hiddenbrooke. I think I was so traumatized by losing Groundwork in 2017, that I couldn’t think of the name until now. Adding Groundwork tickles me and brings an energy of beginnings again.
My immediate Plant Family comes from indigenous education - Plant Family, Insect Family, Animal Family, Rock Family and I suppose Element Family as well. We are interconnected with the natural world. She is our family. My immediate Plant Family are my Plant Allies that have developed over the course of my herbal journey. One’s Plant Allies are those individual plants that have come to you to teach you about you. One’s individual medicine. One of the challenges with prescription drugs is that they do not treat the individual, they are actually created for a white male. I have used my Plant Family for years now and have shared them with my Human Family of relatives, friends and associates with great results. Over the next year, barring any major happenstances, allow me to introduce their stories within my life. Who knew that blog would produce a journey for me. Hee heeeee..... We will start with the wild. We are prone to “dominion” over the natural world, but endeavoring with the thought of family relationship opens up one’s place within the cosmos, Earth and our selves. Kinder and gentler engagement.
A word about plant language. A small group of white men gather to produce the names of plants. Plants have a common name, a botanical name and a family name. Flowering plants (angiosperms) are categorized into families by their sexuality - male, female or bisexual. Sound familiar? Indigenous people group the plants that grow next to each other as families. Dioecious (female and male), monoecious (bisexual). Dioecious plants have the female part, the carpel and the male part, the stamen on separate plants,. Monoecious plants have the female and male parts on the same plant. The botanical plant names come mainly from Latin, which is a dead language so they won’t change with other languages like Greek also used. Regions have common names which can change. Burdock for instance, is the common name and Arctium comes from the Greek arctos which means bear and lappa from the Celtic which means hand or seize. Burdock is also called Love leaves in England and Wu shih in China and Bardane in France to name a few regional common names. Plants also have lifespans, Annual, flowering in one year, Biennial, flowering in the second year and Perennial, flowering for four or more years. I use each description here along with their origin. There is thought about naming plants by their DNA which would be more accurate it is believed.
Amaranth, Amaranthus retroflexus, Amaranthaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island. Here is a plant whose wild variety is more nutritious that the cultivated variety. I found Amaranth in abundance at Sargent-Downing where, in any given season, like 2019 grows wild. Breaks down like Spinach when cooked so I have been blending Amaranth with Kale for my pots of greens. In the Caribbean, Amaranth is blended with salt, scallion, onion, tomatoes and peppers and often served with salt fish for breakfast. Perhaps I will separate Amaranth and cook her the Caribbean way this season. In 2019 Amaranth grew in Kale bed so I harvested them together for my pots of greens. Amaranth is cultivated today because of her nutritional value. The seeds are very nutritious as well, containing our essential fatty acids (EFAs), protein, lignin and protease inhibitors. Amaranth is also a good source of antioxidants, calcium, carotenes, folic acid, phosphorus, potassium and can prevent cancer.
Aster, Aster sp. Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island. I met Aster at Flora Jones Garden, three different varieties, a late Spring/Summer tiny daisy like variety and two Autumn varieties, one white and the other lavender. The leaves are good for our Wild Salad. The root is used by the indigenous, like the Cree of Alberta who boil the root for eye drops and powder the root for first aid to stop bleeding. The Chippewa are also known to use Aster as food and medicine. The flowers are sweet at the end of the season, tiny, but many coming together create a spray of white or lavender.
Burdock, Arctium minus, A. lappa, Asteraceae, Biennial, Turtle Island, Europe, respectively, covered the slopes in Riverside Park in Manhattan when I worked there. One of our jobs was to remove them. I always thought to myself, “this neighborhood must have some serious digestive issues.” One of the park’s neighbors referred to Burdock as Cocklebur. We are all familiar with coming home with the seed head of Burdock on our clothes after a hike. Burdock’s seed head was the inspiration for Velcro. I was beginning my herbal studies when I worked at Riverside Park and I knew to place Burdock leaves in vinegar to heat up and apply topically to reduce swelling. Little did I know that within a couple of years I would be using them on my husband Marc when he fell on a construction site tearing his ACL and damaging his meniscus. One has not heard sorrow until one has heard their loved one cry in pain through the night. I thought “I must do something” and then I remembered the leaves in vinegar on my counter. Heated them up and applied them and he was good to go. Herbal medicine effectiveness can be quite astonishing. Place a towel between the leaves and skin.
The other use I knew of was Burdock root tincture for digestive issues which I had from years of alcohol and hot wings. The only catch was the dosage was a dropperful an hour for a year. Some herbal medicines are cumulative. Burdock root grows at least a foot down into Earth, about fifteen minutes to dig one up and so digs deep within us to unearth deep seated issues. It wasn’t until the summer of 2006, having moved upstate and so grateful to Spirit that I wanted to show my gratitude. Spirit only wants what’s best for us, so I thought I would give back faithfully and spend the year with Burdock. I gathered the patience to spend that year with Burdock root tincture. We Generation Xers have a thirty minute attention span so it wasn’t going to happen before 2006. I hear millenials’ attention span is seconds!
Our herbal journey is a journey to Spirit and once endeavored, we engage Spirit and the many gifts that await us. A year to the day, I understood my issue and what I was doing to cause it. I was sober for a year after and having found work on a farm, had access to fresh food and water.
Engagement of Spirit that runs through all things is engaging the Void. The Establishment falls away and we face ourselves in the cosmos. Unnerving to be sure, but having an understanding of Spirit can be the ride of one’s life as Spirit’s love envelopes one and lifts one up like any messiah, prophet or guru. Having grown up Catholic, Pentecostal and Southern Baptist and spent years studying many other religions, for me Spirit is and has been coopted by religion to control the masses, but pure engagement of Spirit creates a loving, supportive interplay.
Our Plant Family begins our engagement with Spirit, the love journey that awaits us all should we endeavor. Not for the faint of heart for we will meet ourselves and all that has brought us here. Courage, Faith, Humor are some of the tools to pack for the journey.
A chant I sing in my gardens while I work
I envision my life
As a Spiral journey
Gathering the tools
To take the ride
I travel the path
With love and peace
Finding the joy of life
I wish you joy, love and peace for 2020. We may enter with trepidation, but lift one’s heart to Sun daily and enter each day with joy, love and peace and we will be just fine. Ache!