Lessons from the Garden: Allowing

I love gardening. It’s a passion, a meditation, a place that reconnects me to the Earth over and over again. I find that as I enter the garden, I step into a magical world out of reach of time and space. A dramatic shift takes place in my consciousness as the garden itself speaks to me. Some of my most profound insights are realized while gardening or wild-crafting.

I have a Medicine Wheel Garden that is about 35 feet in diameter. It’s quite a lot of space that I haven’t quite filled yet and perhaps I never will. It’s a work in progress that I believe most gardeners can relate to. “What’s a Medicine Wheel Garden?”, you ask? A Medicine Wheel Garden is a garden arranged within a circle with, at a minimum, stones marking off the four directions, north, east, south, west, plus the direction of center, or “within”, marked off at the center of the circle. Stones are also designated for Grandmother Moon, Grandfather Sun, Mother Earth, and Father Sky. Depending upon how detailed, the Medicine Wheel may include stones around its circumference, each one representing a different quality.

The Medicine Wheel is a sacred space, a tool for spiritual growth, it’s a teaching tool, a healing vortex. Given their sacredness and connection to the Creator, planting medicinal plants within this framework is a natural interpretation of this space. Plants can be arranged by their elemental association, north=earth, east=air, south=fire, west=water, center=spirit or ether, or in a random pattern. Most often I’ve found the plants tell me where they’d like to reside, not the other way around. I may have an idea of where a plant would do best but very often the plants will know better. I’m not entirely certain what is their criteria for placement as it often defies gardening logic as I know it. I’ve seen plants defy their usual requirement for sun, and water and show up in the unlikeliest of places. I’ve placed plants that require 8 hours of sun in the sunniest spot in the garden only to watch them die off and relocate themselves a few seasons later in a completely inappropriate spot. Thriving. Go figure.

I teach Medicine Wheel Gardening. Again, one of my favorite topics to teach. It’s a challenging topic to share in a way because there are so many layers to the Medicine Wheel. It requires a lifetime of learning and openness. Whenever we enter into sacred space in a conscious way, be that for ritual or gardening, everything that happens becomes synchronistic, and if we’re paying attention we can find the lessons. Such as it is for me in the garden. When I teach Medicine Wheel we talk about design and I hand out templates for students to work on their garden design but I always mention to leave room for the unexpected. We may plan the garden in a particular way, full of specific plants that we’d like to thrive in our garden, we give them exactly what they need to grow, the right sun, soil, fertilizer, water, and yet they may still fail to thrive. Why? They just do not want to be in that spot. Oftentimes there is no logical reason.

Likewise, I like to see what “shows up”. I keep room for the unexpected. I never plan so much into the garden that there’s no room for my wild visitors. If I did that I would miss out on a lot. The first year I planted this garden I noticed there were an abundance of Violets (Viola cucullata). Many home owners and gardeners consider these plants a nuisance and will rip them out but their flowers are truly lovely, and tasty and their medicinal benefits are quite impressive (read blog post on Violet here) and I try to eat some of them every day. By the second year the Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) had shown up (read blog post on Goldenrod here) in all her early autumn glory. Another useful medicinal in addition to being a stunner. Followed shortly by Fleabane (Erigeron pullchellus), Lobelia (Lobelia inflata), and one of my very favorites St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum). Had I stuck to the “plan” stubbornly refusing to deviate, I would have missed out on so much beauty, and healing and the native bees would have missed out on important food sources. This attitude of co-creating with nature has allowed me to notice how plants show up year after year and excitedly wait to see who will be a new visitor each season. It’s allowed me to be present to the complex relationship between plants and insects. As the garden and land has been allowed to grow in a more natural way, other beings have been drawn to the area. Wild turkeys, hummingbirds, chipmunks, a couple of skunks, a raccoon, and various other critters have become regulars in our little homestead. It’s been one of my greatest joys to watch this interaction. “Allowing” has given me this opportunity.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great to have a plan, in gardening as well as in life. I admire people that have a vision that they tenaciously stick to through whatever weather and charge fearlessly ahead. But I’ve also seen people trample over the beauty, and sometimes other people, on the way to the “prize”. I’ve seen many people miss out on the journey in pursuit of the end goal. And we’re never really guaranteed that end goal. Many things can happen along the way. We’re also never guaranteed that if we do indeed reach it, that it’s going to fill us up inside. Oftentimes when we trample through goals and ideas we lose sight of ourselves, our needs, and self-care can suffer so much along the way that by the time we do get there we barely recognize ourselves anymore. In life as well as in gardening, it’s often the unexpected twists and turns along the way that make life colorful. “Allowing” is full of flow, gentleness, and grace. “Allowing” acknowledges that there is a Higher Force at work in this Universe and our best selves are realized when we learn to dance with it rather than forcing our will along the way.

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A Wise Elder

Every August I watch in anticipation for the deep purple berries of the Elder Tree. It’s technically not a tree at all but a tall growing shrub reaching heights of up to 12 feet. My obsession begins early in the summer at the end of June when the effusive flush of the fragrant inflorescence form into panicles of creamy white. Remarkably beautiful are the flowers that I can’t bear to harvest them plus I love the berries too much! These white blossoms have a special magic and medicine all their own, often being made into flavorful concoctions such as Elder Wine or Elder Flower Cordials, or into foods such as Elder Flower Fritters. Their medicinal uses are impressive as well for they are considered diaphoretic and carminative in nature and useful as teas to help resolve colds and flus quickly often reducing their duration by several days. Recent studies also suggest that Elder flowers have anticancer benefits and may help to support eye health.

The berries are a gift from the Earth when I can get to them before the deer and the birds but of course I always make sure to leave enough for my wild friends. Infinitely delicious are the berries, that they have been used in cooking pies and jams for centuries not to mention Elderberry Wine and jelly! Elderberries have impressive antiviral properties that are equal to or greater than modern vaccines without the side effects. Elderberry Syrup can be taken throughout flu and cold season as a highly effective preventative remedy and it’s delicious too! I take the Elderberry Syrup all season as it keeps me from getting ill and I feel great from all the antioxidants contained within. High in anthocyanins, Elderberries are a wonderful tonic for the heart and for supporting healthy eyes as do many of the darker berries such as Bilberry which were used in WWII by British fighter pilots to improve their night vision. Likewise, Elderberries may provide support for those with type 2 diabetes.

The native variety of the Elder is Sambucus canadensis, the bark of which was used by the Mahican tribe as an emetic and laxative. The flowers were used to sweat out a fever, as a blood purifier, and for skin related issues, the berries as a tonic. The Iroquois used the bark to relieve headaches. The naturalized European variety of Elder is Sambucus nigra which is very similar in appearance to the S.canadensis and is used interchangeably.

Much folklore exists around the Wise Elder Tree and in ancient times it was considered bad luck to cut one down but I can’t imagine why anyone would want to. Elder is ruled by the planet Venus and the Element water and in fact, you can often find them growing near a stream. Given Elder’s close association with water, it would seem it’s no accident that dowsing rods were often made of her branches. She has been used for divination, protection, prosperity, and contacting elementals. It is said that by sitting in meditation under this revered herb, you can connect with her Spirit who will answer a question for you.

Although all parts of the plant have been used medicinally, the leaves and stems are generally considered toxic and it is not advised to take these parts internally although historically they were used as a strong laxative and to soothe mucous membranes. The uncooked berries can cause stomach distress and nausea for some people so be sure to either take in a tea or other cooked or processed formulation.

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Goldenrod, fall allergies, and other fairytales

Nothing heralds the coming Autumn for me like the very beautiful and showy yellow flowers of Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis, Solidago spp.). Although, Goldenrod, in all her golden glory, is the scapegoat for fall allergies, it is actually the common Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisifolia) with its inconspicuous green inflorescence also blooming at this time that is usually to blame. Goldenrod has very little pollen and what pollen it does have is very dense and sticky in order to be carried off by insects that visit. Ragweed on the other hand, makes a profusion of pollen that is distributed on the wind. Solidago canadensis is a Native perennial that spreads rapidly through its rhizomes. Often found in dense stands, there are approximately 60 species of Goldenrod in the Northern Hemisphere found in all states except Hawaii, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida. Goldenrod is also found in nearly all of the Canadian provinces. Goldenrod is found in moist meadows, near waterways, and prairies in locations with full or part sun. It ranges in height from 1 to 7 feet with bright flowers arranged in drooping panicles.

 

ragweed-09_05_14-kg-img_5630-edit2Many Native American tribes utilized the Goldenrod plant for a variety of ills including the Iroquois who employed infusions of the roots and flowers for pain. The Potawatomi made a tea from the blossoms to bring down fevers. Other tribes used the plant topically to treat snakebite, and the root for burns. Indeed, Goldenrod is rich with medicinal healing powers and with its astringent qualities can be used to quell fall allergic reactions as well as cold and flu upper respiratory mucus and fevers. Goldenrod can be taken to help tune our immune systems for winter and as nature is so wise, she has arranged that Goldenrod is available for us just in time. Goldenrod is a friend to the urinary system and healing to the kidneys, coming to the aid of those suffering with urinary gravel or stones, and frequent urination. A tea can also be taken to prevent gravel, kidney stones, nephritis, and issues of the prostate. Goldenrod is an effective digestive and possesses anti-inflammatory qualities. As a cleansing herb, it is helpful in the treatment of arthritis. Goldenrod can be used as a tea or tincture and the seeds are an edible trailfood. All Goldenrods are safe to use and many can be used interchangeably.

 

Goldenrod is an important food source for native pollinators in the fall allowing them to store up food for the winter. As with all plants, Goldenrod also performs important functions for the land. As a phytoremediator, Goldenrod helps to stabilize the soil and revegetate disturbed areas. Goldenrod is a friend to both human, insects, animals, and Earth. Leaving areas to remain wild allows this important medicinal and other useful plants to show up. If you have a yard or field, consider leaving at least a part of it free from mowing and pruning, nature will thank you for it!

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Plant Communication

Plant Communication. What does that phrase conjure up for you? Scientists gathered around in rooms full of plants hooked up to polygraph machines to measure the minutest of fluctuations? Your quirky Aunt Tilly who speaks to her houseplants? Or a weathered medicine woman performing mysterious rituals with strange brews made from powerful plant medicines? Plant Communication can involve all or none of these things and you’ll find that it can be as varied as the people doing it.

 

To help describe plant communication or plant consciousness let’s travel back to a time when humans were in awe of the natural world and acutely aware of their dependence upon her. Their senses weren’t dulled by daily sitting in front of a computer screen, TV, cell phone, or e-reader. The natural world was their constant home, their survival, and they were in touch with the tiniest of fluctuations in that environment. Native American, and other cultures living close to the Earth, recognized (and still do) that all of nature has a “spirit”, a consciousness, a personality even. This consciousness of nature was recognized in all beings, the stone people, the animals, the insects, the elements such as sky and fire as well as plants. These beings were understood as being equal to humans. No greater, no lesser but equal. A part of a whole organism that worked in harmony with each other. Each being had its own lesson to teach, its own “voice” or song, its own vibration, and each being was honored and treated with respect. It was understood that we as humans can interact with these beings of nature. Of course most often plants don’t speak in the way that humans do but have a language of their own. Many modern humans have forgotten this language and stopped communicating with nature but the connection is not completely lost. It is the language of the wind, the water, the falling leaves in autumn, the opening of the flower, the falling of the rain, the rays of the Sun as they touch the Earth. To those that have not lost this ability, nature is continuously engaged in communication. It speaks to a part of our spirits even though our minds don’t usually comprehend the message. It is the language of the Heart. For others it is possible to learn to hear these messages, to open to these communications, and truly it is time that humanity did listen, for nature has much to teach. Lessons of cooperation, of how to get along with one another, and even answers to many of the current challenges we face such as climate change and energy shortages. Nature is the greatest builder and innovator ever to exist and we would do well to listen to this wise teacher.

 

tree-native-plant-garden-nybg-06_08_13-kg-img_1261As we spend more time in nature and most especially consciously in nature, we can tune into these plant energies and know things that science is just beginning to catch up with. This type of knowledge is a “knowing” that surpasses the mind and penetrates into the Heart and Spirit. When I was a child I spent much time in the woods and fields of my childhood home and the backyard of my grandmother’s house both of which were home to a few most beloved Maple Trees. I climbed those trees from the time I was a small child right up to my teenage years. In the spring and summer lazy afternoons were spent reading, daydreaming, and simply be-ing in the trees. Autumn, raking leaves into enormous piles to jump in. I always loved the different point of view of being up high and examining the tree bark and leaves up close. Trees were never inert things but were my friends and companions. I had a sense that the trees held me and not coincidentally they had broken several careless falls that could have been disasters. In those quiet moments with the trees I had a sense or a knowing of their presence. Within that presence, that energy, there was a communication. The trees spoke to me. I felt no need to share these conversations, but accepted them and they became part of the secret knowledge I carried inside of myself. I knew that once you were introduced to one tree that all the trees would know you. Most especially the trees of that particular species. Today, science speaks of the underground network of mycorrhizal fungi that helps the trees to communicate with one another even so much as warning of predators and sharing needed resources. I think soon they will discover that this network extends much further than previously thought and many other things they currently believe is not possible.

 

This communication extended to plants as well. Many family photos show me as a young child engrossed in intently gazing at a plant or flower. I often had potted plants on my window and my dad and I grew enormous gardens from the time I was small. As an adult I found that I could often engage with a plant and know what its name was or what its uses were. This is a type of knowledge that must be experienced to be fully understood. Spending much of my life wandering throughout the natural world, getting lost in backwoods, obscure trails, and forgotten fields, has taught me more about our environment than any other resource. Spending days consciously focused on this energy I was able to feel the unconditional love that radiates from all of nature. That is a mind blowing experience. So palpable is the energy it is undeniable and defies mere words.

 

To me plant consciousness and plant communication are nearly one in the same. Once we become aware of how plants communicate, then we become aware when communication is happening. Plants communicate physically via hormones and reach out to humans via scent. Energetically they communicate through conscious energy which can be received as a knowing, a vision, or a dream. Likewise, we can open communication with plants and all of nature. We do this by moving out of the ego and into our heart space. Spending meditative, quiet time in nature will make us more receptive to their messages. One of the most important elements I find to plant communication is an open heart and a receptive mind. Once we believe we know everything about a particular topic or when our ego is engaged to the extent that we feel we “know it all” then we become unteachable. In the study of Zen Buddhism the idea is to practice having a “beginner’s mind”. A beginner’s mind is open and receptive, an empty cup. We’re not coming to the work with a cup that is already full but one that is empty and thirsting for knowledge and most especially experience. From that place of being, there are many techniques we can learn to help to open this channel and facilitate communication and healing. If you’d like to learn more about Plant Communication, sign up for the Green Girl email list to learn about upcoming classes and be sure to view the the Calendar on this website.

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PLANTAIN: A BACKGROUND TREASURE

plantain-kg-06_09_14-img_4490-edit1-814x1024If people knew that the cures for many of their ills were growing right in their own backyards, I’d like to think they would put down the glyphosate, the lawn mower, the “weed wacker”, and let it grow!

 

Plantain is one of those backyard jewels that everyone should befriend so vast are its healing medicines and uses as a food source. The Plantain I’m speaking of here is not the fruit that resembles a banana but rather the green plant found growing profusely in waste places, most suburban yards, and even in abandoned city lots.  Plantain, maligned as a “common weed”, is often the target of broad spectrum and selective herbicides designed to eradicate it from the “perfect lawn”. The non-native Plantain was originally brought to this continent by early colonists as it followed them wherever they went. So intertwined were their paths that a common name for Plantain was Englishman’s Foot.

 

Many varieties of Plantains exist throughout the world. In the Northeast alone we can easily find several varieties most of which are used interchangeably. The two most common Plantains in our area are Plantago major or Broad Leaf Plantain, and Plantago lanceolata or Narrow Leaf Plantain. Broad Leaf Plantain can reach heights of 6 to 18 inches while Narrow Leaf Plantain’s height can range between 10 and 23 inches. Both plants have low growing basal leaves with parallel veins that form grooves along the leaf surface. From the center stalk an inconspicuous flower is produced followed by edible seeds. All Plantains are edible and can be eaten either raw or cooked. The younger leaves and seeds are preferred for eating as the leaves can toughen with age. As with most wild plants, Plantain’s nutritional profile is impressive with notable amounts of Iron, Calcium, Vitamins A, C, and K making it a nice addition to summer salads.

 

Planplantain-salve-img_2180-edit3-website-1024x973tain shines as a highly valued medicinal. Historically it has been used as a folk cancer remedy and is still used today in Latin America for this purpose. Its demulcent properties are soothing to the entire intestinal tract and are used to heal ulcers, indigestion, and IBS. The common constipation remedy psyllium comes from another species of Plantain, Plantago psyllium. Plantain is soothing, in fact, to all mucous membranes including throats, and lungs making it effective during colds and sore throats.

 

Plantain is probably most well-known for its anodyne properties that will quickly take the pain completely out of any manner of bee or wasp sting, even the sharp discomfort from a Stinging Nettle encounter! Children especially delight at making a field or “spit poultice”, made from chewing up a leaf and then placing the gooey mass on an insect bite or burn. Plantain is excellent at drawing out poisons from bee stings and will even help to avoid a reaction. So effective at extracting substances that it can be employed to draw out splinters.  Its antimicrobial and skin rejuvenating properties make it an effective first aid salve for burns, bee stings, nettle stings, spider bites, and minor cuts and scrapes. I make sure I always have a Plantain Salve on hand for first aid situations. You can purchase Plantain Salve here and be sure to check out the Baked Plantain Recipe below. This is one of my favorite Plantain Recipes that I share in my wildfoods cooking class – enjoy!

Happy Herbing!
Karine aka “the Green Girl”

 

Baked Plantain
Fresh large plantain leaves (washed and dried)
1 cup whole wheat flour (or other flour)
1 1/2 cup water
1 egg
2 tbsp. wheat germ
2 tbsp. spiked salt (or a variety of spices of your choosing)

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Combine the flour, water, egg, wheat germ and spices into a bowl and mix well.
  3. Dip leaves into the batter and place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Be sure to not to overlap for best results.
  4. Bake 5 -10 minutes if the leaves used are very large. If the plantain leaves are smaller then start watching them at about the 3-4 minute mark to ensure they do not burn. Serve warm or once cooled!
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Wild About Wormwood

I’m a plant nerd for sure. I get wild about plants. Last week I was out plant shopping. For medicinal herbs, this is a rarity. Other than the occasional flirtation with a hybridized Chocolate or Pineapple Mint, all of my medicinal herb plants and seeds are purchased online. Sometimes I get lucky and find a rare gem in some forgotten corner of the Hudson valley and I get giddy. No, I mean I literally get giddy. So yeah, last week I was giddy. What was the object of my enchantment you ask? “None other than the winsome wormwood!” she says as Harry Potter fans everywhere perk up their ears. If Wormwood has not been mentioned in the popular tomes, she certainly should be. As full of magic, mystery, and medicine as any controversial herb and with a dazzling past to match! I have your attention now, yes?

 

Artemisia absinthium. Yes, that Artemisia. The “green fairy”, the once outlawed absinthe said to have driven scores of Parisians insane, rumored to cause tuberculosis, epilepsy, and even blamed for Van Gogh’s insanity. Not to ruin a good scandal but Wormwood’s bad boy reputation is completely overblown. The thujone in Wormwood that gives it its hallucinogenic properties, is also a neurotoxin in high doses, causing seizures and eventually death. The thujone is most high in the concentrated Wormwood oil. Thujone levels in Wormwood oil are around 40% and even small amounts of the oil can cause irreversible damage. Thujone levels in Absinthe were a mere .003% not likely to cause a problem. What is more than likely to blame for their debaucherously driven behavior would be Absinthe’s 70-80% alcohol content as Wormwood is only one of a number of herbs concocted in the famous potion. Although Absinthe originated in Switzerland in the late 18th century, it grew in popularity initially with French soldiers in the 1840’s who had been given the drink to cure malaria for which Wormwood is a traditional remedy. Making its way to America, Absinthe found a permanent home in New Orleans where it is still a featured spirit today at such notable establishments as The Old Absinthe House. Prior to that time, Wormwood had been used medicinally as far back as Egyptian times and is named in the Ebers Papyrus, an ancient medical text that is over 3,500 years old. At around the same time, China was also using Wormwood infused medicinal wines. Wormwood is said to have been a favored herb of Artemis who gifted it to Chiron, “Healer of the Gods”, whereby Wormwood became one of his most important healing herbs.

 

Back to my obsession. I fall in love with plants for a variety of reasons. Sometimes simply because they exist. I could  lose hours in Wormwood’s foliage so irresistible is her silver, feathery leaf. The form so similar to other Artemisia’s, certainly one of my favorite plant genus. For all her power as a medicinal, and an enchantment, Wormwood’s leaf formation divulges a certain softness. Perhaps this she bestows along with her protection on those who appreciate and love her. Her history as a protective herb is a long and varied one but her capacity as a healer is most impressive. One of the most bitter of plants, Wormwood has been utilized as a digestive bitter and a tonic for all ailments of the stomach and digestion. Her effect on the liver is notable as she is said to cure jaundice, hepatitis, and mythologically as an antidote for Hemlock poisoning. Like her sister, Mugwort, she is a diaphoretic and will help to bring down a nasty fever. As another of Artemis’s herbs, she has a history as a women’s herb and considered an emmenagogue. She is a competent pain reliever and will bring much needed rest. Most impressive are her abilities as an anti-parasitic. So much so that she is often found to be more effective than modern antimalarial drugs. Such as it is with plants. They can go where pharmaceuticals can’t. Such is their magic. I don’t find magic and medicine to be in opposition to one another. In fact, I don’t believe you can have true healing without magic and wonder and Wormwood brings that in abundance.

 

As with all powerful healers, caution must be taken. It is recommended to take Wormwood only under the care of a competent Herbalist. This herb should not be taken by pregnant women or in large doses but certainly invite her into your garden to bless you with her beautiful healing graces.

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A Father’s Day Tribute

I owe a lot to my parents. They both were a very integral part of the person I grew and continue to grow into, each in their own ways. Even though neither one of them are alive today, their presence is with me always. I often think of the gifts they gave me, the lessons they taught.

 

As usual this Father’s Day has me thinking about my dad, who he was as a person, and who he was as a father. It’s easy for people to think they know someone and that that person has been important in their life but when that person is your parent it’s a very different relationship. A parent is often with us since birth until they walk on. Up to that point, that’s your entire life. It’s a unique relationship in that as we change and grow, so do our perceptions and how we see everything including our parents. Of course a child’s perspective can be skewed and yet in many ways children know those individuals called “parents” better than anyone. Sometimes a child’s unflinching honesty can be painful to hear but like I said, children in many ways know the real deal with no sugar coating. They see the good. They see the bad and every thing in-between. And likewise, few beings can push a parent’s buttons more than a child except perhaps a spouse and I certainly was no exception in the “button pushing” arena.

 

When my father passed, and even since his passing, many people contacted me in one way or another. Each of them had a different story of my dad and who he was for them. Yet none of them really saw the whole person. Honestly at times it annoyed me and sometimes still does. People see a tiny sliver of a person or they spend a few months or years with someone and think they know everything about that person. Most often they’re just seeing who that person was at that moment. That particular moment or time in their life. And more than likely, they see who that person wanted them to see. I believe when you can look at the totality of who a person is without embellishing or romanticizing, then you can say you truly know and love them.

 

I’d like to think I had a pretty good view of my dad and who he was at different points in his life. Although I wasn’t incarnate prior to the 26 years of his life before I was born, in a very real way I knew him then too. In a person’s DNA is truly everything about them well beyond eye and hair color. Their likes and dislikes, their hopes and dreams, and every experience they’ve ever had, all coded into serpent-like genetic blueprints. So for the record, I think I know him better than anyone.

 

No one needs to say how important the father-daughter relationship is. Fathers play a crucial part of a women’s self esteem, how she sees herself, if she knows that her presence, that she matters in this universe, and how she puts herself out in the world. My dad certainly wasn’t an easy man by any stretch of the imagination. Much of the way he lived flew in the face of convention. A trait that his many admirers so loved about him but as a daughter it frequently had its challenges. I’ve often said that I earned the right to be my father’s daughter. Such was the incongruity of my dad’s parenting that I knew how to read a race sheet at 5, I’d not only been exposed to the Tao but it was a part of my regular reading, and I could play a pretty decent game of chess much to my father’s chagrin. Such were the contradictions that was Haviland, my dad. Still, some of the conventional attributes of family life that gives a child a certain stability and a sense of security were oftentimes absent.

 

Nonetheless, my father always had an acute sense of what was crucial and on that he never missed the mark. Even so far as being able to instill in me things he never got growing up. An unshaking self-reliance, a great fondness of books and learning, an insatiable creativity, an ability to see through the bullshit of life and sometimes people, and an undying love, appreciation, and awe for the Earth and all her beings, are just a few of those gifts that I treasure. Suffice it to say there were times his attention wasn’t as centered on home as I certainly would have liked, and yet I still managed to squirrel away a lifetime full of memories. My dad and I often hiked together. Those are truly some of my fondest memories. I’ve yet to meet anyone as skilled as he was in that area. My dad knew of the plants, the medicinal ones and the edible ones, the trees, and of how the animals moved. He knew how to move silently in the woods without being detected or leaving any trace of his presence. In the woods a stillness would often come over him and a sense that he was finally at peace with himself. Something that I would find early on within myself as well. Many times he would convey a teaching with few or no words. Not many people, if any, have the skill to do that. He had an uncanny ability with plants and we often had incredible gardens. He transferred his love of them easily to me and that passion guides my life today. He was a very hard worker although I believe his creative mind was not designed for the grind of modern life. Later in his earth walk he took up the brush again and his paintings were incredible. Mainly scenes of nature, expressive passionate works, and a few of me that I treasure.

 

My father was many things in his life. A father, a husband, a son, a brother, an uncle, a painter, a landscaper, a leader, a trickster. He had an incredible faith in my abilities and instilled in me the belief that I could do anything. Bringing home an A on a report card I often heard “Why wasn’t it an A plus?”. I understood my father’s meaning in that he thought I was just the brightest being ever although it at times aggravated me. Now it makes me smile and although I often push myself too much, through his urging I’ve had the courage to pursue what’s in my heart and to not settle for what doesn’t make me happy and isn’t who I am.

 

Stepping on my spiritual path so early in my young adulthood afforded me the opportunity of much reflection on my life and everything within it. Without such introspection I don’t know if I would see with the clarity that I do today. I understand my father now more than I ever did and yet, as long as I live I’ll continue to learn about him and through that, about myself. One of my most poignant memories of my dad is him teaching me to swim on a lake we went to, often. After showing me how, he would put keep his arms under me to hold me up in the water, and then he would say “Now swim.” After a while, I would always “But daddy your arms aren’t there anymore” and he’d say “I’ve got you, I’ve got you. See you’re doing it, you’re swimming.” Even though he’s no longer on the physical plane, I still often hear him saying “I’ve got you, I’ve got you, don’t worry you’re doing it on your own…”

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An Herb to Know: Meadowsweet

I love to introduce people to plants they may have never seen before and to share some things about the “common” plants they may not know.  To do that opens up an entirely new world and way of seeing the Green Nations. Opening our eyes, expanding our perspective is invigorating to the Spirit.  Our world is one of such beauty but we can be so caught up in our daily grooves that we miss so much.

With that in mind allow me to introduce you to Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) some of you may have Filipendula_ulmaria_-_angervaksalready made her acquaintance but for those of you who haven’t this is one of the many plants we learn about in the Sacred Heart of Herbalism 8 month herbal intensive and one of my favorites.  There are two species of Filipendula that we find in our area Filipendula ulmaria and Filipendula rubra also known as “Queen of the Prairie” such a lovely name! The F.rubra is a native species that today is used primarily as a garden ornamental but was used extensively by Native tribes for all issues of the heart and as a “love medicine”.  Native Americans also worked with this plant to utilize its astringent properties, quelling generalized diarrhea as a well as dysentery and as a vulnerary.

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) has been naturalized in the East and is known to herbalists for its salicin constituent although its levels are much lower (.5%) than the willow species (11%).  Meadowsweet is used as a pain reliever just as you would aspirin for headaches for example but with few side effects than the synthesized compound.  It’s also useful for colds and flus.  Meadowsweet’s anti-inflammatory properties are excellent and a salve, this delightfully fragrant plant can help with achy and arthritic joints….what a wonderful plant to know!  These are just a few of the wonders that are Meadowsweet…

Caution should still be taken not to overuse just as you would with aspirin. Those individuals that should not take aspirin should not take Meadowsweet.

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Yarrow: A Warrior’s Herb

WheYarrow 08_15_15 kg IMG_8170 edit3never I teach about the healing power of medicinal plants I like to share a bit of their history. Learning about the history of an herb, how it traveled to different parts  of the world, how it was used by different groups of people, and the various ways its usage may have changed over the centuries can teach us a lot about a particular plant. When herbalism fell out of common use in this country in favor of the “better living through chemistry” philosophy, much valuable information was lost. As we learn the old ways of herbalism once again, we regain tremendous insight into the herb’s character and important uses.

 

 One such herb is Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) which I refer to as the “warrior’s herb”. The genus name gives us a little insight into this characteristic, as is often the case with many plants. “Achillea” refers to the Greek Warrior Achilles, the greatest warrior and central character in Homer’s Illiad. Yarrow has a long history of use on the battlefield and Achilles is said to have taken this potent herb into battle with him where it was used to pack wounds and staunch bleeding, both internally and externally. Today Yarrow’s reputation continues as an “herbal bandaid” and his styptic properties are well founded. Although we no longer take the plant into combat, Yarrow excels in the modern “battlefield” of our workplaces. Energetically Yarrow can help to provide energetic protection in contentious situations and working with the flower essence can assist in helping us or other parties move into a better place , either physically or emotionally.

 

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 Yarrow, however, is full of mystery and seeming contradictions as he is not merely an herb of battlefields. Ruled by the planet Venus, Yarrow is strengthening to the organs of Venus, the venous system for one, and can be used to treat varicose veins and enlarged veins such as hemorrhoids. By helping to return venous blood to the heart, he takes the strain off the heart and circulatory system. Those herbs ruled by Venus are often used for women’s ailments and Yarrow shines in this application as well, healing menstrual cramps and balancing both scant and excessive menses. Compresses of Yarrow flowers and leaves can be applied to the abdomen of menopausal women to reduce the discomfort and cramping often associated with this crone time. Such is the power that is Yarrow that he is often employed during cold and flu season. His diaphoretic and astringent properties are helpful with sore throats and fevers.

 

 Yarrow is a hardy perennial that is easy to grow and overwinters successfully even in the coldest of winters. A wonderful and crucial addition to any medicinal herb garden.

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The Healing Virtues of Rose

Ruled by the planet Venus, it’s no surprise that Roses have been connected with love, both romantic and spiritual. The energetic quality of Rose is one of love and self acceptance, passion for life and finding one’s passion. Simply meditating on Rose can bring about a dramatic shift in your spiritual and physical vibration. In my work as a Plant Spirit Healer, I work with the Spirit of Rose on a regular basis as most of us can use a little more self love and acceptance.

 

Connecting with Rose daily can help us to be more patient, accepting and loving with ourselves and those around us. Simply spending time in her energy field in the garden brings about a calmer and more centered demeanor. I add Rose Water or Rose Flower Essence to an atomizer to infuse any room with her pure and loving vibration. Doing this especially at night along with Lavender essential oil, brings about a truly peaceful night’s sleep.

 

There is no doubt that all Roses are incredibly beautiful but their beauty is so much more than skin deep. The non-hybridized varieties, such as Rosa rugosa, Rosa gallica and Rosa centifolia to name a few, are loaded with healing virtues that have a long and rich history of medicinal use. It is estimated that Roses most likely originated in Northern Persia then spread across Mesopotamia to Palestine and onto Greece. The genus name, Rosa, comes from the Greek word “rodon” meaning “red” and many old time herbalists like Nicholas Culpepper believe the red variety of roses are more astringent in nature.

 

Roses are known to be cooling in their energy and are used for a variety of conditions and ailments. They are strengthening to the heart and considered a heart tonic. They have been used to strengthen the stomach both internally and topically as a poultice. Their antiseptic quality is healing to the urinary system and can be a helpful part of healing urinary tract infections and scalding urination. Rose infusion has been used to clear heat from the liver and heal conditions such as jaundice.

 

Rose can be taken as a tea for sore throats and an 8 ounce cup of Rosehip tea contains a generous 541 mg of Vitamin C. Paired together, the petals and hips make a tasty way to stop a cold in its tracks. Rose’s astringent nature gives needed relief to inflamed and bleeding gums and mouth sores. Roses can be used as a wash for tired and sore eyes.

 

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 Roses are considered beautifying and astringent to the skin. To tighten the skin, spray Rose Water on the face after washing or on a hot summer day for cooling relief of overheated and sunburned skin.Topically Rose petals are poulticed on any type of “hot” skin conditions. Roses are also edible and can be used as a lovely decoration on baked goods, created into a gorgeous syrup, included in salads or infused in vinegar to make an elegant base for a salad dressing.

 

When using Roses medicinally or as a culinary addition, be sure to use only the natural varieties grown organically or without pesticides and commercial fertilizers.

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