63º over the weekend. A friend of mine says “Earth is convulsing.” I say She’s just doing her thing and we just have to sit back and watch. The days were beautiful, bright and sunny, but eeery. We can believe or deny climate change, but what if the “Sixth Mass Extinction” is inevitable? What if we think we have a say in it, but instead we are merely a blip on Earth’s radar.
Today is cloudy and gray, back to our previously scheduled Winter weather. Tree twigs are now looking pink in anticipation for Spring. Some plants may have bloomed early in the past two Spring-like days only to be frozen by the 28º last night. Who knows what to think? When I pause to have compassion for the Establishment, I see us fighting so hard against it that there’s room for understanding. Folks are driven by profit/greed and greed alone. They were raised to believe in scarcity, in not enough, that love is conditional and they do not have free will. Their lives have been dictated to them, they are miserable and so they seek to control our lives to deny us free will. Misery loves company. We dance in our warm and wonderful communities exploring our free will, loving unconditionally.
We can think of packs of animals when it comes to hatred. A new member can be killed or run off if not accepted to the pack. The potential new member has to ingratiate themselves to the leader. Once having gained entry, they are entitled to the support and protection of the pack. Predator does not hate prey. Prey does not hate predator, just participates in the circle of life. So people of color are prey. Predator guards their territory. Predator hunts for survival. They do not hunt for sport like humans do. I watched The Two Killings of Sam Cooke on Netflix yesterday. Imagine the black performers surprise traveling South past the Mason-Dixon Line and running out of places to stay and food to eat. Here is a people who gave their very bodies to develop the country. If anything, we should have preferential treatment because of our sacrifice. Bodies, minds, spirits, children, family. Instead we continue to be discriminated against as if we did something wrong. This predator may be fighting for its survival. In fighting for survival one believes they will be annihilated. And truth be told this predator will be outnumbered in thirty years so perhaps they are right and annihilation is what they’ve been fighting against all along. Perhaps they even delayed it? Are nations tribes? Clans? Perhaps enclaves of tribes/clans. States are not even tribes/clans. The Establishment defends their territory and we are the enemy. We have no territory, ejected even from the Motherland. Set adrift on Earth belonging nowhere, at the whim of any Establishment. Earth is a loving entity. Takes what we give her and offers support, sustenance. Abundant, vital, strong, absorbing our trials and tribulations. Many an hour have I spent outdoors letting go, letting down, returning home refreshed, renewed, peaceful. What a gift to find such peace in a hostile world.
My journey into the wilderness began in 2009 upon leaving Stone Barns to develop my herbal self. I walked the lands of Beacon engaging Mother wanting to find myself “out there.” Immediately, met with wonder and delight of the dark before the dawn, the primordial deep, sunshine over mountain, sunshine on flowing water and a relationship with my Animal Family - Beaver, Fox, Raccoon, Opossum, Skunk, Deer. Never an employee, I would take the odd job to contribute to the household, Marc commuting to Manhattan as a Union Carpenter. I became enamored of the Simple Life and slowly stripped away the trappings of the Establishment and explored just what it means to sustain oneself on the planet. My first Wild Salad was Wild Onion, Dandelion, Chickweed and Violet. Two strong flavors and two mild. I was struck by the tiny portion that satisfied me, my mouth filled with captivating flavors - spicy, bitter, sweet, green. Engagement with Spirit draws a giggle from one’s lips as one is awash with knowing and love.
In 2009, I was forty-two years old. Having never wanting marriage nor children, I found myself with an amazing love, so do I have a child? Surely, the opportunity was swiftly leaving me, but one last ponder couldn’t hurt. There had been a few close calls, but each time met with a resounding “No.”. Thank you rollercoaster and alcohol. Here was the final “no, I do not want children,” and I knew it. Profoundly sorrowful and over the Moon joyful at the same time. I believed motherhood had become optional by 1970 with the Women’s Movement. Interestingly enough, we had reached four billion people on Earth, which some believe is the carrying capacity of the planet so by my late twenties in the mid-nineties, having left the latest boyfriend, I knew I had a legitimate claim to motherhood being optional. So what then, no man, no children? Why spend a life in service of course, to communities, organizations, causes, enough work to fill a lifetime.
So in 2011 when land was gifted to me, it was perfectly bittersweet to accept this tremendous gift of Spirit and bid farewell to motherhood for the final time. By some sort of initiation into the wilderness, we were also struck by the recession and lost our home having to move annually for the next two years. A hedonist, a gypsy to the core, I had wondered at one point, “do I want land?.” Did I want the responsibility? Here I was in 2011, gifted three gardens so I had no choice, but to take Spirit’s had and endeavor, lest I be looking a gift horse in the mouth. Spirit is wily, a trickster, a comedian, a benevolent, brilliant entity here for us. Ask and ye shall receive. So, although homeless, I could take my tribulations to Earth and be supported, consoled.
Seven years now in my sunny, humble abode, I can look back fondly now. When one is in survival mode, there is not time for thought, depression, so busy fighting to stay alive, it wasn’t until we landed here that I slipped into depression for a year. Forty-four so much like twenty-four facing mortality, bumbling along. That interim rented house, still the best propagation I ever had. Now forty-five, landed safe, sound, not dead. What do I do now? How do I pick myself up and carry on? Well, the gardens my dear. Gardening is visioning, planning, executing - drop one of those balls and one will be playing catch up for the rest of the season, even I knew that, a mere two years into my lands. So pack up that depression, hope you are whole at the bottom and get on with it. I had cohorts, a Women’s Farming Cooperative, that had begun with five of us now down to two. I did not know what growing would look like for me, but once again thrust into racism, now joined with sexism, we women of color forged our own path. Empowering to say the least. As my partners moved on, I knew I had found my life’s work, my marriage to the land. I had no choice, but to explore this love affair.
My Plant Allies, my Plant Family, have been with me every step of the way. What I couldn’t find wild, I cultivated.
Cattail, Common, Typha latifolia, Narrow leaf, T. augustifolia, Perennial, Turtle Island
Cattail is a later ally and I have yet to find an accessible stand from which I can harvest. Easily a staple food for our indigenous people, Cattails can be eaten year round. The best way to destroy a people is to destroy their resources. The one stand I found was soon overcome with Phragmites. One can imagine every Phragmites stand used to be a Cattail stand. Ahhhhh, those lovely vigorous Asian invasives! Cattail shoots can be harvested early Spring and eaten raw or cooked. Root stalks can be used like potatoes or ground up into flour. The green female flower spike can be eaten like corn on the cob. The clear syrup can be used like cornstarch. The flower head can also be used medicinally for diarrhea. Rootstalk can be made into tea. At the base of each leaf is a sticky substance for cuts and bruises. The sap can be used to numb toothaches. The root starch is good for poison Ivy, burns, boils and stings.
Cedar, Calocedrus decurrens, White Cedar, Chamaecyparis thyroides, Cupressaceae, Tree, Turtle Island
I observe the Solstice/Equinox and other indigenous ceremonies so I have become familiar with the scent of Cedar when we are smudged. I have a gift of bundled Cedar on my altar. The original Groundwork was bordered by Cedar trees. A tea of the twigs can be used for stomach issues or inhaled for a head cold. White Cedar can be used in Sweatlodge for rheumatism, arthritis and other aches and pains. Can also be used to wash or bathe. The tea is diuretic.
Chicory, Cichorium intybus, Asteraceae, Biennial, North Africa, West Asia, Europe.
I will miss Chicory at Flora Jones Garden. Flora Jones was my Wild Edible garden. The garden may have looked unkempt, but it was filled with edible plants. Chicory has a sweet periwinkle colored flower. The roots are roasted and used as a coffee substitute. The brand Cafix can be found in our local grocery store. Flowers can be used as garnish in salads, buds can be pickled. Leaf clusters, known as chicons, can be eaten as a vegetable. Leaves are a source of iron, calcium and copper. Leaves can be used topically to reduce swelling.
The garden dance, magical, joyful, peaceful, life itself. Earth is here for us, heeding our every whim. Engage, be, enjoy. Even when she rages, she is beautiful. The future is uncertain, but one can be sure, that moment in the garden can feel like eternity, with Sun on one’s face, Earth between our fingers, touching our ancestors in the deep Earth, rhythm, pulse. The New Year is afoot and it is time to plan and purchase our seeds to, yes, get on with it.