Upcoming Classes at the Rupert Community Centre

Well, we are two classes in, with much enthusiasm – it’s great fun for me, and there seems to be a need. To that end, I have booked dates through April and am setting up classes. Over the spring and summer I will be looking at two dates per month – one for formal classes and one for “weed walks”. For now, here is what we have set up. NOTE: All classes are on Sundays, for the time being.Each class will be written up in more detail as the date approaches.

January  18- Tree Medicine. We will look at medicinal uses of several local trees – not always understood as “herbal medicine” but all of them are important medicinal plants. We will look at Birches, Pines, Poplars, Alders, Cedar, Willows, Oak and several more common local species, with an eye to identification, folklore, traditional uses and even culinary applications (birch syrup, pine needle cake). We’ll probably need a second Tree session, but this is where we start.

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Paper birch, Betula papyrifera – one of the most easily identified of our local  deciduous trees, offers a range of medicinal uses

February  15 – I thought Kitchen Witchery worked here, as we are all stuck inside a lot of the time, in February, and  with Valentine’s Day, we  have the perfect excuse to make all kinds of intriguing sweets, too. The everyday herbs and spices we rely on in cooking, have a much wider range of medicinal applications than is often understood. Another advantage of doing this class at this time is, we can decide which of these herbs to grow and get those seed started. Many standard “culinary” herbs are real heroes in the  medicinal sense – think of thyme, oregano, sage,  turmeric, cayenne, ginger and garlic – you won’t have to worry about running out of herbs for medicinal uses, as long as your kitchen is well stocked with these and many more.

 8 and 15 – in March we have two dates – one for regular class, and one for a potluck celebration of the Equinox. The class will be one I call “Ten Herbs” in which we focus on the selection of getting to know 10 herbs indepth, as a basis for how we will learn more of them in future. It’s a process of finding an ally, but also understanding what actions we need to work with and what we can grow or find locally. A class I have taught in past, and always find so useful for students. There will be some prep, and some homework as well. But it’s all fun, I promise.
The Potluck is set for Sunday the 22nd, we’ll watch a screening of the herbal film Numen, and just eat, socialize, talk about our gardens and summer herbal plans, celebrate the end of winter and the start of the growing season. Please bring a herb-themed dish, of course!

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Turtlehead, Chelone glabra, grows locally and is a beautiful, underused plant for all kinds of liver disease.

April’s Class will be on the 12th, and the topic is Local Abundance: an Intro to our medicinal wild plants. I cannot wait for this!

May – September will feature one class and one “Weed Walk” as well, where we ID plants and  learn how and when to wildcraft, take plants from their wild environments in such a  way as to ensure we don’t harm the stand or over-harvest, as well as how to “garble” dry and use the harvest. There will likely be a second Tree Medicine class, given the interest in this one and the amount of ground there is to cover, even on an Introductory level.

Some of the summer topics include:

First Aid: getting ready for cuts and bruises, stings and scrapes

Herbs for Dogs and Cats( yes, animals are different)

Actions and formulations; an Introduction

Medicine Making 101 – an Intro to tinctures,elixirs, salves and ointments

Energetics – this is perhaps THE key to successful herbalism,and it’s very easy to learn

Nervines – using herbs in simple or complex formulation for specific nervous system issues

Getting Set up: the Home Apothecary

…and, I am open to suggestions, always.
Have a warm and wonderful Holiday season, whatever you celebrate, and I look forward to a year ahead filled with plants, magic, and medicine.

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Herb Class December 14 – Adaptogens for Stress

Last class at the Rupert Community Centre was a great time! I’m looking forward now to December 14, same time same place ( 1:30 – 4 pm at  the Centre, 24 Shouldice road) and a topic that’s dear to my own heart; Adaptogens, or herbs that help the body adapt to/cope with stress. This is an intriguing area of study for the herbalist and an incredibly helpful one for folks just looking for some natural support with holiday burnout, fatigue, any of the symptoms associated with stress. We’ll touch on historical usage,how stress manifests and how prolonged bouts of it damage the body;  local plants that may have adaptogen action, how to select the right herb for your constitutional type, and using nervine restoratives along with adaptogens, for stressful times and to bring the body into balance. Broader context of treatment will be discussed too; adaptogens should not be used as stimulants to push yourself through endless fatigue, but used as one powerful part of a whole, supportive approach. I’ll be putting up a fuller blog post on this topic over the next few days, for now just a heads-up; hall is booked and I look forward to seeing familiar faces and new ones this time.

In keeping with my obsession with mushrooms and chocolate, chaga and cocoa will be served, and an assortment of herbal teas. There may well be gingerbread.

Semillas de Ginseng (Panax Ginseng)
Panax ginseng, Adaptogen extraordinaire

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Local Heroes

It’s almost time for the first class in my upcoming herbal series here in beautiful Rupert( can’t quite say ‘downtown’) and I am so excited! As indicated in the last entry, I have a lot of ground to cover and many ideas and recipes to share in just two hours. I’ve made, or are making, a number of treats to sample, and a few special blends to take home – hope to see a bunch of locals there! And speaking of locals, although it’s past the season where we can go out looking for plants, many of the herbs we’ll be covering in class do grow closeby – and a number of medicinally important trees, too. (January’s class is Tree Medicine, wherein we explore the medicine and magic of many local species). For the first class, on Cold and Flu prevention and care, let’s have a sneak peek at some of the Local Heroes who will be finding their way into our teas, syrups, chest rubs and more. Have you seen any of these plants growing nearby?

 

1) Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)

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This marvelous plant is everywhere in my area! I consider it one of THE best remedies to start with, that very first day of cold/flu, when you’re just starting to feel the achiness and fatigue. Often found growing in damp spots, ear water, the leaf pattern is distinctive – see above – we’ll be looking at them in the wild next summer, for sure. I use in tincture, mainly, for it’s many actions; Boneset helps relieve aches and pains, has some immunostimulant action, can stimulate a fever if need be ( in hot tea, but it’s difficult to drink so I tend to use elderberry and yarrow instead). Boneset is underused, in the general populace, but it’s an extremely helpful and safe herb, in moderate doses. Well worth getting acquainted with.

 

2) Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

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Everyone knows Yarrow,  but I suspect most people think first of it’s ability to stop bleeding (internally as well as on the skin)… yarrow is a time- honoured  and effective cold and flu treatment as well. Served hot in tea with (or without) elderflower, yarrow helps support the body through fever, stimulating diaphoresis (allowing the body to sweat through dilation of peripheral blood vessels) and fighting inflammation. Abundant locally, yarrow offers a range of other actions you’ll learn about from the classnotes. For now, is this a familiar local face? I’m pretty sure  the answer is yes.

 

3) Elderberry and flower(Sambucus canadensis)

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Oregon Herbalist Rosalee de la Foret states that if she only had one herb to use with a cold or flu, it would be Elder; I heartily agree. Elder has been called  a “medicine chest” all in one plant. Both the flower and berry are incredibly helpful throughout these types of illness, offering diaphoretic support, anti-viral actions and gentle immune support. We’ll look at multiple ways to prepare and take elder – in tea, syrups, tinctures and more exotic methods, too (oxymel, elixir). You’ll fall in love – if you’re not already aware of Elder’s amazing medicinal properties.

 

3) Pine species (Pimus resinosa, strobus, banksiana, nigra and sylvestris) plus a number of other conifers.

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I spend a chunk of every winter seeking and collecting resin, as well as making yummy and nourishing things like Pine cake and various teas with fresh needles. In the class, you’ll learn how to make a warming, healing chest rub with our local pine species – needle and resin – and yes, I am baking the cake as well. Real forest medicine. <3

 

4 ) Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)

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Another very familiar plant, many people know about infusing mullein flowers into olive oil for ear infections. But there’s so much more to this herb than ears!  A classic respiratory herb, Mullein is expectorant, anti-inflammatory, demulcent (soothing!) and vulnerary (helps heal tissue, such as the raw bronchial passages we all get when we’re sick). Especially with a  dry, hacking cough,  mullein is an incredibly useful herb with colds and flu (and other conditions – wait for the class handouts). :)

 

5) Elecampane (Inula helenium)

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Another of my very favorite herbs, I have looked in vain for this one growing locally – I know there has to be some! Elecampane goes into every cold and flu preparation I make, specifically when there is a productive cough, catarrh in the lungs. Expectorant, antimicrobial, anti-tussive, all round amazing. Until I find some, La Foret always has some in stock. :)

 

6) Mallow species (Athea officinalis, Malva neglecta and sylvestris)

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This gentle little plant and her showier cousin Althea officinalis are wonderfully soothing for rough, raw, painful throat and lungs. I make cold infusion of the dried roots, and love to simmer the roots in honey, too, for the kind of supportive, healing help that herbs can bring. Mallows are also anti-inflammatory – they don’t just coat the surface, they cool down the heat.
Indispensable.

7) Wild cherry (Prunus serotina)

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Another one that many will recognize as a standard ingredient in cough syrups;  Black or wild black cherry is a fantastic remedy for easing the misery of irritating cough, the kind that just won’t let you sleep. The dried bark is used in  syrup or tincture to help give relief, in combination with other relaxing or sedating nervines that allow badly needed rest throughout illness. Both serotina and her cousin Chokecherry, Prunus virginia, are easily located locally.

 

8) Usnea (Usnea barbata)

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Usnea, (or more correctly Usneas, because there are literally hundreds of species)  is everywhere, a beautiful lichen found growing on many of our local trees. Usnea is a powerful antimicrobial herb, with actions that fight both some types of bacteria and many viral infections as well. Another staple to use with chest colds and flu, and not as wellknown as it should be. We’ll be talking much more deeply about all these herbs, this is just a mini- taste of what’s to come.

 

We’ll also be looking at

Echinacea

Cinnamon

Ginger

Hyssop

Thyme

Horehound

Garlic

Osha

Monarda

Licorice

Elm spp.

Horehound

Astragalus

Reishi and other mushrooms

Honeysuckle

Sage

Alder spp.

Cedar

 

How to select, prepare and dose for optimal support, and faster recovery time. I’m not sure how we will cover it all in two hours, but I aim to try.

For  any more information on the class, please give me a call, 819-459-1049, or drop an email at catlane@thepossiblecanine.com. I’ll be delighted to help.

Introducing – Herbal Classes in Rupert

After some procrastination, I have booked the hall, made the poster and we are set to go. Sunday, November 23 kicks off the series of monthly classes at the Rupert Community Centre – Sunday afternoons, 2 – 4 pm. And what more appropriate topic to start with, than Herbs for Colds and Flu? As the season approaches, many people are thinking about prevention, which is always the best place to start. We’ll look at both herbs and nutrients to help the body adapt to stress, build a strong immune system and help prevent the development of illness. But even with everything in place, flu and colds cannot always be avoided – and many of us would rather treat symptoms gently than resort to medications that mask symptoms but  do nothing to accelerate healing. In this class, we will cover various strategies for managing cold and flu symptoms, and how to tailor what you choose to use according to symptoms. (Example; that dry, non-productive scratchy cough needs a different set of herbs than does the cold damp variety.)

 

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Beautiful Marshmallow roots, Althea officinalis –  dried and used for soothing mucilage, part of a formula for sore throats and hot, scratchy cough.

We’ll talk about the specific actions of individual herbs, how to prepare them (tea, infusion/decoction, tincture, elixir, pastilles, honeys and oxymels,syrups,  steams to relieve sinus congestion, and salve for aching muscles and sore inflamed lungs.)

We’ll look at the difference between immune stimulation – the ever popular echinacea is not the only herb that can do this! and when to use a more balancing, modulating approach – hint: at the onset of a fever, during a fever and in recovery all can be considered stages that require specific strategies. Some herbs should not be given at all during fevers – and some folks should not have immune stimulants at all.

 

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Boneset, Eupatorium perfoliatum, grows all around this region, is easily identified, and one of our most important herbs for addressing the aches and pains that accompany the flu

We’ve all heard of echinacea, ginger and garlic, lemon and zinc, for colds and flu – but what about elderberry? Osha and Usnea, Mullein, Wild cherry, Hyssop,Licorice, Horehound, Monarda,  Boneset, Elecampane?  The amazing and abundant Alder tree, whose inner bark has long been a go-to for folk herbalists, for it’s incredible antimicrobial and lymphatic action?  Perhaps you have seen these herbs but aren’t sure how to use them.  Did you know that the resin from our beautiful local conifers can form the basis for the most amazing chest rub?  After this class,you will come away with a greatly  expanded repertoire of options.

 

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Several species of Alder grow locally; we will delve into Tree Medicine in a future class – how and when to harvest, prepare and use local trees from Alder and Birch to all the glorious Conifers.

We’ll sample several of my own recipes, many made from wildcrafted herbs of this region; all time-honoured and prepared with care by yours truly. :)

You’ll go home with recipe cards, classnotes and several samples of tea blends, steam blends,three kinds of Fire Cider, and my favorite concoctions for all kinds of winter blues (reishi/maple syrup truffles, anyone?)

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Elderberries, rosehips, elecampane root, monarda blossoms,  mallow root, cinnamon, licorice, fennel seed, and a little echinacea in one of my favorite coldweather blends.
All in all, a beautiful and nourishing way to spend a Sunday, learning the magic of regional herbs, and  preparing for the season ahead. Cost is sliding scale, 10 – 25$, no supplies needed, but you will want a notebook and pen.

Hope to see you there!

Choosing the Beauty is not repression

So, anyone following my FB timeline knows I am obsessed with deer, and learning somewhat more about them as I feed the locals  a little, hoping to both fatten them up for the coming winter, and also luring them close so they stand a better chance of not being shot. Most of the deer I have here are does, and all but one have fawns, one doe has twins. I love these animals with a depth that words fail to describe; I’m not enough of a poet to avoid sentimentality when I write, but fortunately many others are. Lately I’m reading Richard Nelson’s moving and also challenging classic “Heart and Blood: Living with Deer in America”…and he is able to capture so much of what I feel. I hope to read much more on deer and learn by direct experience, but right now, I am just chewing on this book, reading a passage or two,a few pages at a time, and using those words as guidance, insight, even lectio divina; for a nature  spirit such as myself, it’s often holy writ to me, poetry like Mary Oliver and Gary Snyder, writers like Annie Dillard and Linda Hogan, speak to my heart so powerfully. But last night, just before I slept, I happened on a few pages describing the severe suffering of deer in winter – some of it caused by humans, as in the doe who became entangled in barbed wire fence and hung there, literally helpless, till she died; much more however was nature at work, and the suffering is extreme. It was horrible for Nelson to come upon carcass after carcass, fawns frozen into the lake, barely alive young ones curled desperately against the frozen bodies of adults. It broke his heart to see, and it broke mine to read.  We err whenever we see nature as all benevolent and perfect; tempting as it is to do so, if we truly wish to know Her, we need to know both faces, the light and the dark, the beauty and the anguish.
I slept uneasily, thinking of what lies ahead for my small herd of sweetness.

 

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And I woke up thinking, it’s not a good thing to dwell on the sorrow, either. Choosing the Beauty is not repressive if it is informed by a knowledge of the fuller picture.

So today I will focus on what I love about deer, starting with their beauty.

“Slowly . . . slowly, I lift my binoculars, and she fills up the field of view. Her coat is light reddish tan. I can pick out every long, coarse summer hair on her flank and the remnants of winter fur that haven’t shaken free. I can see the rise and fall of her ribs, the thin white fur and ripe bulge of her belly, the graceful arch of her neck, the angular shape of her hindquarters, the sculpted muscle and sinew of her legs. I can see the shaggy, white fringe of her tail, and the sooty fur on its tip for which the black-tailed deer is named. I can see the pale white markings beneath her chin, the gray fur and translucent skin of her enormous funnel-ears. And when she turns I can see her slender, elongated face, the conspicuous dark patch on her forehead, the twitching of her muzzle, the brightness of her great, shining eyes.

She leans down to graze, nuzzling back and forth amid the starbursts of yellow daisies, the violet blush of laurel, the snowy clusters of bog orchids, the leathery green of Labrador tea, the delicate dancing blades of grass. So exquisite is she–like a rose petal on a sheet of jade–that it takes a supreme act of self-control to keep myself from jumping up and shouting aloud.”
Richard Nelson, Heart and Blood

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And this is true for me as well. No matter how many times I look out the back windows and see one there, often staring hopefully toward the carport door from which I emerge bearing fruit and pellets – no matter how often, I am thrilled in my soul, with a sense of joy and privilege, humility and happiness. It is this love that sustains me when I face the difficult task of learning more and going deeper into the reality of life in the natural world. It is not repression to focus on the Beauty, it’s a tool for rescuing oneself from an abyss of pain. It’s an act of hope, perhaps even radical hope. And so I trundle out in the frosty dawn to toss apples and scatter a little feed, humming to them, reaching to them but not holding on at all. It’s this hope that carries me along and makes me better, whether it is crazy or not. The grace and beauty of the wild is ours to witness and cherish, ours to immerse in as we can, in tiny bites or full commitment, but not ours to own or exploit.  And it’s the harshness of the wild that reinforces gratitude for the technology we have that keeps us warm and offers relief from suffering, reminds us that all is in fact not terrible with “civilized” life. As always, it’s about the balance.

Touch them lightly, for their wildness is who they are. And once tamed, they cannot be untamed. Leave them with their pure nature intact. That is what I tell myself every day. Be grateful for how they have touched your heart, and be respectful of who they truly are.
They are Wildness incarnate.

They are Beauty…and this world needs as much of that as it can get.

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Samhain Eve – and the Morning After

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Today is November 1, the feast of All Hallow’s,  or Samhain in the Irish Gaelic tongue –  the version most popular in modern culture,  via Wicca and neo-Paganism. There are several linguistic variants — Scottish, Welsh, Manx, Breton — but they all mean roughly the same thing — “Summer’s end”. And boy, this bone-chilling morning, there can be little doubt of that. After the balmy, alternately damp and sunny weather of most of October, November is here with a venegeance. The Crone spreads her dusky shawl across the skies…the last of the leaves scatter and fall, leaving a landscape both haunted and forbidding. I went to bed last evening after some annual traditions (leaving food out for the ancestors, meditation on what needs to be cleared away in my life, a bit of chocolate) and woke up to a much more serious energy all around. The Crone has arrived, there is deep chill in the air, and in case we weren’t getting the message – there is snow.

Light and wet snow, albeit, but still. This morning was different, on several levels it was. As Mara Freeman puts it “At the end of October, the doorway to the dark half of the Celtic year swings open”. I went to bed after a day spent walking in the forest,  sipping hot chocolate outside watching birds, and leaving the windows open –  and awoke to the beginning of Winter.

The ancestors were clearly pleased with my offering; I was a bit horrified to realize, come suppertime, that I had no baked goods, had no energy to start on a cornbread, and my offering plate would be just what I had to hand, and a little eccentric at that. But it seemed to have, for the most part, been well -received; everything but the sliced orange was gone in the morning! That’s Balderson’s extra old cheddar, some candied ginger, a bar of excellent dark chocolate, some raw organic almonds, and my very favorite strawberry yogurt. I photographed before and after, but the Vista gods won’t let me share today. C’est la vie, as long as the food was a hit. I spent some time before sleeping, in deep evaluation of things I need to clear from my life, aspects of my patterns that no longer serve me well, and  of course, in communion with my loved ones who have passed from this world, most especially my brother and my aunt.

A peaceful Samhain eve here at the Ark. And I have the weekend cleared for more.Delint2

 

 

But of course, there is more, not the more I wished for, either. November 1 marks the beginning of firearm season for deer hunters in this area. And this for me is a deep and complex time, of attachment to the deer I have come to know, fear for their safety, and a struggle to understand that while many hunters are looking for trophies or just enjoy killing, others honour their prey and hunt ethically and with respect, making sure not to maim deer and also using the whole animal. I fear that these latter types are the minority.. but I can respect their ideology, if not comprehend how they can look at these visions of loveliness and pull the trigger. Life feeds on life, I repeat; a good hunter takes a life much more quickly than a pack of wolves will. I get that. However… I fear for the twin fawns who come here all the time, they will not survive winter if their mother is killed. I fear, horribly, for any of these sweet beings to be injured but not killed, to escape in suffering and die a protracted death, as often happens.
This morning, for the first time yet, no deer in the back, on the hill, across the road – no deer(.Just checked again -it is after lunch and guess what – no deer). It is most certainly, today, “as if they know”. And why would we ever doub that they do?

Today; an oversized  truck parked by the entrance to one pathway that goes deep into the forest. Ontario plates. We know what that’s about. They are in peril, all of them – Clarissa and the twins; Saoirse and Sassy, Aine by herself, alone and brave, the new girl I call Stripey, with the feistiest (male) fawn, who stomps and snorts and cavorts at the sight of me. All my sweetlings. No matter how sentimental it sounds, they are.

And the back field lies empty and strange, despite the flurry of blue jays and nuthatches and black caps and the endless carry-on of raven and crow.
I walk to the feeders, to the herb garden, to the Faerie corner,making unnecessary compost visits,  pacing, fretting, trying  to let go, praying not to hear the guns.

The vigil begins….as the summer ends.

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And so today; divination for the year ahead…baking…and incense making, so I can consecrate it on this sacred day. Rest. Animal time. Reading. Today has been a Holy day for me for close to 30 years, and I need the magic.
But the countdown is on, and I will be praying every morning and night, for my lovely, lovely deer to make to through this fortnight ahead; alive, together, and unharmed.
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Herbs from the Dreamtime – trusting the process

So – the day begins with magic.. Here I have ID’d the strange little plant who popped up in my garden beside the other pink and purply ones I put there on purpose (lavender, prunella, lemon thyme).

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This is Stachys officinalis, or Wood Betony. Just like Motherwort, which evaded me for years, I just woke up one day and there she was.

After years of trying to start Betony, or FIND Betony, as opposed to reading about and ordering betony online – this morning I made the ID. Well, I didn’t but some combination of my unconscious, Paul Bergner’s classes and the Spirit who wants the best for us,  did.
A few weeks ago I noticed a straggly little unrecognized plant grow in my raised bed,and- curious creature that I am – I had to let her be. I’ve kept an eye on this plant but aside from IDing that she’s a mint family member, I wasn’t sure which species, nor all that bothered, really. Just keeping an eye.

And then – I had a dream last night. In it, the little plant was larger, brighter and spoke directly to me.

“You need me” she said. There was no mistaking this message.
And then this morning as I tidied the kitchen, I played, quite spontaneously, a tape I have in which herbalist extraordinaire Paul Bergner was talking about messages from dreamtime, from the unconscious, and that we should listen to them(I did know that, but it’s always interesting when something like this arrives as a kind of prompt or reinforcer) . Uh-oh! There is synchronicity in action. Better go look at the little pink plant nestled beside the Self Heal…
and to my amazement, upon some scrutiny – there she is – Wood betony.

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Internet pic

 

Now, I am more – MUCH more academically acquainted with this plant than I know her intimately, as in growing/wildcrafting/medicine making. I may have the species wrong (although I don’t think so, this is a Stachys of some sort and I’m 95% sure officinalis) whatever the case, this plant wants to be heard. I am a very tired, anxious, worn out individual who has yet to find *the* nervine, and has always wanted to know Betony more intimately. I think when things line up like this – garden appearance, – dream – synchronicity – one is a fool not to listen.
Will keep you posted! For now, here’s the little plant beside my selfheal and lavender. There’s coriander, purslane and who knows what else in there too.

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Spending some time out there today. I always suffer when I don’t listen to my garden.
And my dreams.