A Simple Walk

Walking in the woods with a dog can have it’s drawbacks, if you are there mostly to listen and attune. Dogs see/sense/smell everything long before we do and they can be a distraction, albeit a lovely one. Other times, they can amaze us with their powerful Sixth Sense, and be sources of wild inspiration. Today I pulled into the lot where I leave my car when Dan and I wander into Faerieland, a common practise – but as soon as he got out every nerve and fiber of his being was just crackling with energy. Silly human, me – I was ambling along feeling just tired and self -focused,eager to embrace the forest’s healing presence – thinking, thinking, thinking. While Dan usually shuffles along a few feet away, sniffing about and thoroughly enjoying the fresh air, today he was  immediately on high alert – RAN out of the car like he’d seen a fox, all his short hair standing up along his back- a sure sign of something afoot – magic? Stoned kids, or deer… all I knew was, something was going on and I perked up a little to take extra note.
I probably walked a few hundred feet before the hawk appeared, swooped down in front of me and sat there a full minute, gazing right into my face. Ok, that’s something to take notice of. I mean this guy was almost close enough to reach up and touch – that just doesn’t happen. I saw he was a Sharp-shinned hawk – and he meant business. Hawks are usually thought of as visionaries, indicating that clear vision is called for – and Ted Andrews reminds us of this –
“The environment in which your hawk is found will tell you much about how its energies are likely to manifest within your life.” Of course, this is true of any encounter!  But today – where are we?  a liminal space, between my mundane life and the depths of the forest, that sometimes dark, sometimes cheery, but always seductive place where everything falls away and a spiderweb can intrigue me for hours, were death is just another entrance and where time has little meaning…the hawk says to me.. what?  Choose? Integrate? Go home and sleep?I never jump to conclusions, but take it in and ruminate a while (the Cow, after all, is my Helper Animal for this challenging year, so I will chew on this a while).
It is a startling and obviously significant event.
Meanwhile, Danny has vanished. So I bid the Hawk adieu (he seemed annoyed) and follow my dog. At once the uneasy stillness of this familiar woodland hits me. It is SILENT, utterly – not a cricket, chickadee or distant automobile, and the silence is all-encompassing and palpably strange. As we go deeper (Danny finally caught up) the stillness grows more intense. Something is speaking, and still don’t know what it was .I’m just honoured to have heard the Voice of Whatever That Actually Was.
And isn’t that ok, really, to be baffled, touched and mystified, to just Ask rather than Know? Isn’t, perhaps, being drawn back to Mystery and Awe the whole point? When a daily jaunt can become a moment of depth and magic, when a common bird can stop you in your tracks, and your regular waking trail transform into a place out of time and space, isn’t wonder and humility the obvious response rather than assumption and immediate “gnosis?” I am thinking about so many things today – where this path takes me next, how to integrate the diverging strands of my life, what needs to be sacrificed and what tended and nurtured. The eerie forest energy, the insistent hawk, the striking canine awareness mirroring my own – all Gateways, not endings. When we look up some meanings on the net or in books and  promptly decide what a thing “meant” we so often get stuck in ego, and in thinking the point is to figure it all out, asap, too.I think that totally misses the point! I think,too –  for what it’s worth – these events and experiences just take us further into the labyrinth, open us to exploration and yes, danger. (but it is equally dangerous to ignore,I believe)  I truly think that all we have to do is pay attention, and carry our questions forward.
Today, quite out of nowhere, I am powerfully reminded of that.


The Tangled Garden – and what emerges

So difficult to believe it’s been 5 or 6 weeks since I posted here. This summer really did get away from me – and my sense of it is, to many others as well. Between the weird weather and my partner’s prolonged absence, I just didn’t have quite the summer I was expecting. Class attendance dropped way off, the walks were cancelled due to weather, mostly, or my intermittent health issues (exhaustion)  – my small but cherished herb garden, despite valiant efforts on my part to get burdock dug and raised beds weeded and mulched, just grew out of hand, to the point where even looking at it left me overwhelmed.
That’s ok. I’m pretty good at switching gears when need be, and there were, as it turned out, some important aspects to focus on in a summer of too much work, and some personal disappointment as well.

First – calendula. Everyone who grows herbs knows how cheerful, generous and incredibly useful calendula is.This summer was no exception – my organic seeds from Horizon Herbs sprang up eagerly and grew into 5 very large, very productive plants. Just yesterday I brought about 200 heads in to dry for winter use, and needless to say I have seeds galore. I planted my calendula too close to the borage this year and so I had these two behemoth species competing with each other, and since I use far more calendula than borage, guess who won out. But I left the massive, sprawling borage up as long as I could for the bees. It always cheered up a tedious afternoon to visit that part of the garden and see it alive, just swarming with bees. I didn’t actually make great use of borage, but I will always grow it, for that reason.

In the wild overgrown sprawl that used to be my garden, several things happened  naturally that I, working literally dawn to dusk 7 days a week, could not address, so I just watched.(The old Serenity Prayer in action!) The first few weeks I did some weeding every day, and then around Week Six I pulled a muscle in my chest wall and had to stop, while it healed (what a  week THAT was!) As the summer wore on, with several calamities (sick dogs, beloved cat killed, falling out with two of the people I considered to be my closest friends, Alex’s absence, household issues) there just was really no time to make significant inroads into the garden at all. I’d go out and snip some hyssop, take in some sage, pop the flowerheads from the calendula and that was about all. I am intensely proud of having got through this summer at all, so the overgrown garden has not bothered me as much as I initially felt it would.

Besides,  there came some interesting ideas, from the tangle.

The first important idea, to me anyway, was a kind of mirroring of much that is going on in my inner life. In addition to the clients I see weekly and the four courses I teach online, I also write for both PlantHealer magazine and herbmentor.com, endeavours that take almost a full work-week out of my monthly work-hours. I try to be available for my various facebook groups, and – here’s the World of Crazy now – I am taking four courses related to herbalism, and one that does not, so five in total. What this basically means is, without any hope of getting everything done, I have a wild garden in my head – filled with much of value but disorganized and out of control. This all stems from a fervent desire to be the best at what I do, to deepen my knowledge and expand the ways in which I can help animals (and humans!) to both heal and to learn about plant medicine and the power of nutrition. Those are fine and honorable goals. But just as my garden grew out of control and  some of my most valued plants were choked out, we humans need to focus on keeping things orderly in our own lives, and when that is impossible, when things become crazy, take some time to assess what went wrong, and just breathe with the reality of what IS. The other thing is, we can benefit from a clear focus on what emerges as bright and strong. In the tangle of my mind this summer, several strands emerged as critical to my future serenity, one of which is limitation (powerfully reinforced in the Heavens as I reach my second Saturn return – Saturn, for those not astrologically inclined, rules over limitations, which sounds pretty bad, but as it leads to refinement of purpose, it’s actually very empowering). I’m weeding my personal life ( I hate the term “toxic people’ but there is a place for it, and several of those have had to go)  weeding my commitments (I could have written BOTH my book and thesis with time I’ve given away for free this year) and last but not least, weeding my tangled garden.A slow and painful process, but overdue, and so through the blur of this summer, the broken friendships and the loss of illusionary hopes and yep, the veritable thicket of Cleaver’s, chicory and goosegrass that took over my garden, there emerge some core truths to be nurtured, some  focal points to be focused on,  some tenacious plants to be listened to and cherished.

Calendula,  the great vulnerary healer of  tissues both inside and out, clearer-out of toxins, restorer of good cheer, heads the list.


So, going forward, I have quarts of calendula blossoms in various carriers, I have tincture and several liters of dried flowerheads for both internal and external use as needed. I got the idea from Juliet Blankespoor, of adding  calendula flowers to stocks and soups over the winter, so I always make sure I have plenty dried and ready to go. Calendula soothes the surfaces, reminding us that pain which seems superficial and transient, can in fact open gateways into the core of one’s being, so pay attention to those sore places, be they visible, like a rash on the skin, or hidden, like a hyperpermeable  gut. The toxins need strong barriers to keep them out, the system needs to be kept whole and harmonious. Calendula is one of those herbs that is so wellknown, ubiquitous even, that it can be easy to take for granted. I will say that her presence this summer kept my heart light at the darkest times, and her medicine has moved beyond the application of salve to skin and into that mystical realm where the plant is actually teaching me something about myself, about this moment in time. That what is needed is focus…soothing the rough places where old and new pain has rubbed me raw…and building barriers to keep the good stuff inside whole and healthy, and keep that which means me harm, away. Focus! and of course, good cheer, tenacity, and generosity. We should never let adversity make us small and  mean-spirited, or we grant it a double victory.

Thank you, calendula – and thank you, tangled garden. Even in my frustration with you, I have found peace.


Woodland Wanderings

I try to get out to the forest with Danny at least 5 times a week, for a good 90 minutes offleash for him – and exercise, spirit-time, and foraging/wildcrafting  for me.I try to rotate where we go, so he can have a sense of adventure, and ensure there will be lots of new smells for him to check out. Without a car this past while,we’ve been limited, but fortunately we do  live basically surrounded by forest – it’s still good! Today we went to an area about a 7 minute walk down the road – onto land that’s been part of my family for something like 200 years. We walk past the house my grandmother was born in, and onto a trail she would have taken many times to go from that home to HER grandparent’s farm. Needless to say these woods and fields feel very ancestral and in-spirited to me – and Danny, well, he just loves the whole deal (smells, sounds, excitement, chance to be a dog!) Here are  some images and experiences from this mornings’ wander.

First – the mushrooms.





I am nowhere near as capable with mushroom ID as I am with plants in general – I have some ideas what these are, but without thumbing through the books I’m not going to say for sure. Those more knowledgeable than I, feel free to comment!
These last guys were cradled inside the opening – womblike opening – of a cherished beech I consider a Guardian  tree of the woods she stands in. It’s so lovely to me that the ancient Celts considered her “The Mother of the Woods” – associated Beech with ancient knowledge and tradition..certainly she feeds many wild creatures, including grouse, rabbits, squirrels, deer and porcupines. Impulsively I brought some home – leaf and nut – and then read  that keeping a piece of beech as a talisman brings good fortune to the wearer. I had not known that, but perhaps my instincts were good today; I’ve felt called to this tree over and over, often resting nearby on our walks, and so I’ve taken up the task of learning everything I can about her. The energy I felt while standing beside her in contemplation was certainly maternal. ❤P1310425P1310424

On the tree front, Danny continues to search out and consume young American elm leaves. I am sure this indicates that he has a parasite. Today I photographed him earnestly eating his leaves; they’re pretty dessicated now, but still have the sandpapery feel that is characteristic of this tree. I think I’ll drop off a sample to the vet next week and see if my instincts are correct.P1310417P1310418

I found a lovely patch of Chelidonium majus – Greater Celandine – and couldn’t resist a shot:

Reading a while ago that “fern” is associated with  the Autumn Equinox (Alban Elfed, or Light of the Water) and it gave me pause, as I personally associate the many fern species that grow around here with spring – fiddleheads! and, they are often the first to emerge from under the snow. But looking around today I was struck by how many are still thriving under the forest canopy, still strong and green – perhaps this is why the association? At any rate, they seem to be first to come, last to go – and I find their many varieties both beautiful and fascinating.


My handsome Dan almost camouflaged in the woods – deep in thought, I believe; or perhaps more accurately, in oneness with the wild, and so an absence of thought, but a fullness of being:

and, his Mom – where she is happiest, too…although I don’t think I look it here, I really am!


Leaving the woods and back into the field; this passage is very magical and hard to capture. A large and beautiful Agrimony grows smack in the middle of the entryway – pondering now what that represents.   🙂 You can’t see the Agrimony here, but I’ll be sure to write more on  hr later this year.(A plant I make extensive use of for dogs and people).

Another morning, another song of celebration. Home to hot tea (me) and eggs, chicken and sweet potato (Dan)  – I give thanks for this beautiful world, every rock, leaf, cloud, bird, mammal, reptile and insect – every being – and every day. Sad to see the Light half of the Year depart, but the Dark holds much magic for us all to explore…and much hot chocolate, many warm fires and woolen blankets, and the stars….

Happy Autumn, I hope you get to spend time in your own magical neck of the woods. Don’t forget the cider!

Late Bloomers

Such a strange season it has been –  and the weather right now, just post-Equinox, is unusually warm and mild. All week I’ve been finding many beauties still turning their flower-face to the sky, still filling the fields with colour. From my garden and the surrounding forests – a few blossoms who are not ready to sleep.

Orange hawkweed, Hieracium aurantiacum

Multiple medicinal uses, still underused herbally and regarded widely as a “noxious weed”.


Evening primrose, Oenothera biennis; I grew these beauties from seed and use for a wide variety of actions, notably the vulnerary effect on the whole GI tract, gentle nervine restorative ( used over time)  – for someone like myself, who tends to burnout/adrenal exhaustion and has GI  problems(reflux,  gallbladder) Oenothera is pretty much a specific. An ally! And beautiful in the garden right now, too.


There’s a wee, shy mallow flower hiding in the centre of this darling Malva neglecta I have – well everywhere, but this one is right beside the compost. She’s definitely hanging on until frost.


New England Aster – a glorious batch I found today on our walk (who could miss the bright purple against the fall landscape of rust and orange and brown?) Symphyotrichum novae-angliae is a powerful ally for a variety of systems – notably the lungs – and has a broad range of medicinal applications. In working with local asters I have often referred to and been inspired y Michigan herbalist Jim MacDonald’s works, which anyone interested can find here:  http://www.herbcraft.org/aster.html
I have not harvested any this fall – I will, but I hate so much to take them from the bees.


A few cheerful Calendula blossoms beside the Lady’s Mantle, who has the good sense to withdraw into sleep. I always have more Calendula than any other plant, and I always make use of it – tincture, salve, skin washes, more . I love that she stays around to brighten the garden as long as she possibly can.


Constantly frustrated with the lack of Yarrow locally (herbicide free, plentiful and healthy) I grew my own this year! Lesson to me; Alchillea millefolium really does need 18 inches room between babies. I have lots of it now but it’s too close together, so I’ll be thinning it very soon. Here’s a beautiful blossom, and next summer, we’ll get more. 🙂


One beautiful blossoming Catnip plant – I love this herb so much it’s nudged into my Top Ten. Amazingly, this summer(with 7 cats) I grew plenty.


Althea officinalis – my gentle and beautiful ally – offers up a last bloom.

As we welcome the dark half of the year and celebrate with heartier fare, apple cider and the soft, gradual closing down of our urge to be always on the move – it’s a welcome and happy reminder that summer is brief but beautiful, to look into the woods and garden and see these sweet flowers, feeding bees, reaching for the sun – saying goodbye, if only for a while.

Mithrandr watches me photograph the garden. 🙂

Twelve Characteristics of Spiritual Maturity

1. Body awareness – gnosis regarding the fluidity of the material, knowledge of what we can and can’t change,  transcendence of the time trap (physically)

2. Feelings of souldeep pain and sadness for the suffering of all creation, but especially for suffering caused by human failing. Sometimes overwhelming.

3. Episodes of inexplicable bliss despite acute awareness of personal and universal suffering. GRATITUDE.

4. Stability, meaningful work, acceptance, utilization.

5. Deep and easy relationships with people  and ability to walk away from outmoded ones (and the wisdom to tell the difference). Detachment as required.

6. Comfortable, refreshing and regular sleep.

7.    Fewer scattered dreams and far more “big” or lucid dream episodes. recall, and by now, the skill to understand them.

8. Grounded-ness, physical mastery, in increasing levels according to practise; but, you would not have gotten this far without a lot of work, so likely you know how to use rest, exercise, breath and food to adjust your vehicle by now.

9. Decreased “self talk.” You’ll find yourself talking to your Self more often. You’ll suddenly realize you’ve been chattering away with yourself for the past 30 minutes. There is a new level of communication taking place within your being, and you’re experiencing the tip of the iceberg with the self talk. The conversations will increase, and they will become more fluid, more coherent and more insightful. You’re not going crazy, you’re just  moving into the new energy.

10. Feelings of connectedness at the same time, you are detached. No loneliness. Increased  need for solitude but not to rest and escape, but rather, to WORK.
loneliness, even when in the company of others. You may feel alone and removed from others. You may feel the desire to “flee” groups and crowds. As Shaumbra, you are walking a sacred and lonely path. As much as the feelings of loneliness cause you anxiety, it is difficult to relate to others at this time. The feelings of loneliness are also associated with the fact that your Guides have departed. They have been with you on all of your journeys in all of your lifetimes. It was time for them to back away so you could fill your space with your own divinity. This too shall pass. The void within will be filled with the love and energy of your own Christ/Buddha/Gaia consciousness.

11. Intensified passion – but with equanimity, not the scattered pattern of the neophyte. Focused, committed, action directed by love. Now that you know what “love” really is.

12. A deep longing to  stay here and help. And the strength, wisdom, courage and love to endure it as long as it takes.

Forest this Morning

Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.
~William Butler Yeats, “The Land of Heart’s Desire,” 1894

The severe heat and then follow-up rain have both been major deterrents for our usual summery forest and field hikes, both close to home and further afield. This has affected harvesting, of course (although tomorrow we head again to Eddie’s place, a vast and magical forested area half an hour north of here, where I plan to make much medicine in the months ahead). Locally, things have started to close in a little bit; the farmer nearby me persists in spraying maniacally all summer long, so the back field, with it’s celebration of Solomon’ s Seal, agrimony, balmony, garlic mustard, blue cohosh, maidenhair, self heal and many more, is impossible even to walk in, much less harvest. The field I loved so well, by Johnston Lake, is now filled with sheep.  And my beloved woodland by Mahon Lake, while still open for our occasional walks, is often home to  ATV yahoos, screaming children, and guys with hostile dogs running loose. Of course, I lost access to the forest behind the community centre when the chap with 11 unsocialized dogs moved in across from it. It feels, sometimes, like I’m being gently (or not so gently) encouraged to accelerate my search for wilder land, further out.

Be that as it may. My work continues, in the places I can get to, and my garden, and online – and soon, with office space in the village. I know I’ll get to the land I  seek, one day, not too far to enjoy many good years there.

And here, today,  some pictures from our walks..down Moncrieff, towards Mahon Lake – and into the forest.

Painted Lady on red clover

Goldenrod, two spp – almost ready for harvest

beautiful but poisonous (to us) Virginia Creeper berries

Ancient cedar in the entrance to my Temple..a Guardian spirit  of the Old Ways..

Magical Aralia racemosa – Spikenard – ‘herb of the student.’ Spikenard increases mental clarity, helping to more quickly learn from experiences and to remember details when studying
hhhmm, better go back and ask for a little..

Here be faeries…the realm of the Maidenhair!

He hears, sees, smells, much  more then I’ll ever know.
My sweetheart.
So, a lovely morning..found at last, some alder…came home renewed and refreshed and at peace.

Tomorrow, we return, with muffins for the fae..and a bouquet for the Spirits of the cedar and the pine.

Breaking into Blossom

There are moments – hours, and if I’m lucky, whole days where life feels like this, in the Hills in the Spring….that is to say, BEAUTIFUL. Every year it amazes me exactly the same way as in years past; one day we have endless acres of snow, then there’s some wild runoff and crazy steaming energy from the ground, it’s impossible to walk anywhere –  then it’s brown and drab for about a week, and then…  Paradise is upon us. Every day a new bird – Mourning doves, grackles,  robins, phoebes, goldfinches, orioles,  rose breasted grosbeaks, many sparrows and warblers, the meadowlark, mockingbird, great blue heron and more. A riot of colour at the feeders, and song on the air.  The Harrier in his ghostly grey-white phase soars lazily over the back field, hunting, watching, riding the breeze. At dusk, a variety of owls call softly across the open fields, and sounds arise from the willow-lined stream that even after 22 years in this area, I can’t identify.

The air itself is new and happy.

Every day; new shoots in the forest, buds opening everywhere, my perennials leap from the ground in a miracle of beauty; dandelions  explode on the grass, baby plants unfurl from their small starter homes to astonish me every time with the range of  uniqueness and longing for the earth. This is also a busy busy time; gardening chores, pulling up some plants (teasel) and moving others (mullein, she will grow where she pleases, and never anywhere convenient)  gathering dandelions and tender nettles for tinctures, vinegars and tea. There never seem to be enough time, even if I had nothing at all else to do, there’s never enough time. The trick – I am learning! Is to select the few key things that I really cannot miss doing, and do them. I can’t do all of it, so I need to be strategic. Here, then, are a few of my spring-things for this Turn of the Wheel. It varies, according to many factors,  but this is the song of my time right now, this Quickening, this glorious Spring of 2012.


Like probably every other herbalist on the planet, I’m gathering flowers, leaves and roots for tincture, vinegar, oil and to use in many varied and delicious recipes. The flowers are macerated in almond oil for a few weeks, wrapped in a napkin and set on a sunny window, for massage oil- also to combine with goldenrod, poplar, willow for a deeply healing muscle salve. Leaves soak in unpasteurized apple cider vinegar ( use only vinegars stored in glass) and then strained, mixed with olive oil for dressings, added to steamed veggies, or taken in a glass of water daily as a nourishing and restorative sprig tonic. Tinctures of leaf, leaf and spring root and root alone brew into medicine that will relieve edema, tonify digestion and liver, and add  a range of nourishing minerals to the body. They’re not here for long so I tend to make medicine quite vigorously right now. 🙂 And don’t forget to chop the leaves finely into your dog’s food – they need spring tonics too, and old ones can really benefti from the digestive tonic and liver support. More on “d’lion” as Susun Weed says, to follow. We all know this plant – we all have our own tales to share.

Birch elixir and oil – I found a downed tree just a couple of weeks ago and made birch twig elixir –  as the leaves come out, it’s time for an oil and straight tincture. So many uses, I will do a full entry in the weeks ahead.

Young Nettles: Tincture, and three of us here are on it (allergies!) but also  wonderful in pesto, soups, stews and more.

Teasel Root: Some of my Facebook friends will be tired of hearing me moan about this process – digging, washing, chopping and tincturing. Well – it’s worth it! Powerful medicine for so many issues, a specific for Lyme disease,and with all the ticks I fear more dogs (and humans) will be infected.

Willow oil (and besoms, wands and runes) – salicin is present in all our willow species, and the connotations with the Moon, the Night, the dark feminine is omnipresent.

Mugwort: I use the young plant in vinegar.(I just ate a few bitter young leaves, too). Make a dream pillow for prophetic nighttime oracles, and tincture some in vinegar for a whole host of healing uses. (Did you know I was going to say – more to follow?)

Motherwort and Comfrey are high on the harvest list too, but I will wait until they both flower to take leaves for medicine.

Forest beauty – here’s what I found on my most recent walk.

Violets, everywhere, all description, beautiful, healing and such a harbinger of Spring. This first one is Viola pubescens, edible, medicinal and soo pretty. Other varieties abound.

Asarum canadense – Wild ginger – a full monograph to follow.

Caulophyllum thalictroides – Blue Cohosh.

My beautiful home…forest and field, village and beyond.

The forest opens herself every day more and more deeply. Spring sings in the North – a wild, ancient, healing and beautiful song. We are so blessed to walk upon Gaia and  learn Her song. Mitakuye Oyasin!

Engagement, or stepping out of Avalon

This afternoon I sit in an old and well past- it’s- day bamboo chair; once deep green and comfy, now weakened and  faded from years of rain. I remember this chair when we first brought it home, back at the household we lovingly (and sometimes, not so lovingly) referred to as The Swamp; back in the days before I had Internet, and thought people who did were weirdos with no life. (Famous last words). I remember how many years I spent outside, often in a tent to shield me from the surreal swarms of insects (it really was a house sitting by a swamp) reading Peterson Field Guides and studying my Tarot and astrology texts…taking for granted that my chair would always be there, and my time away from “the world” a gift and a burden to both revel in and bear.

Today I think I may have sat in that chair for one of the last times. Clearly, it is not going to hold up much longer. Like an overused muscle, it’s grown stretched and  weak and  fragile, and it will likely not last the summer. I sat in it anyway, occasionally conscious of the risk, it would not be a comfortable thing to fall through – no, not a nice experience at all.

I read through a list of Things to Do, sitting in that chair, Danny on a blanket by my side.  Classes to  catch up on – papers to mark, potions to make. DUSTING. Making dogfood. Visit Dakota.  I write “find replacement for chair” on the list. Some part of me does not want to let it go.

I watched a  Red Admiral butterfly flit around  Daniel, land on his side and explore his warm, sun-kissed  fur without him so much as waking up.

Watched a trio of ravens  sort out some sort of dispute – way waay up in the skies above. It ended with them all heading off in different directions. It felt significant.

Jotted some stuff about the Birch family and notes for my journal…read through Chapter Two of the Earth Path, for my forums discussion. I could live like this forever – reading, gardening, making lists, watching birds.

It crosses my mind, I am not engaged as I should be. It crosses my mind, I’m really in my own Isle of Apples here,  blogging and working … watching butterflies…

It  further crosses my mind that it might be I am hiding out, avoiding  the world; still,  there is much that can be done right here, in this shimmering  plot of beauty and peace in a busy, crazy, hurting world.

Is my distancing from the world turning me into a faded version of my former self, like my sturdy old chair reduced to a shadow of its former self?

I don’t think so, although some aspects I can spend more time on. I’ve been working very hard, and so disillusioned with humanity I am happier here in my crystal isle. But, still without blowing my own horn I think I’ve developed in many ways, too. The still small voice can only be heard in silence…I don’t know that I would ever have been able to address deep personal issues if surrounded by the distractions of citylife. I might just have run from it all as it happened – the deaths, changes, disappointments and outright disillusionments that characterize pretty much everyone’s life, mine no exception. Instead, I’ve engaged it all – as it happened, and in some cases, ongoing.  The process of some pain is lengthy, the changes will be beneficial or not according to how you handle it. I deeply believe that my solitary life enabled me to engage with pain, loss, even evil in such a way as to stand stronger now in my fifties than ever before. And, I might well have been crushed with the weight of some of it. But, here I sit, in authentic gratitude but still prickly with longing and burning for knowledge. That’s a good place to be in midlife. I am not interested in a lot of change to the way I live.

Engagement is always a hot topic…should we, seekers and contemplatives and Greenmen and Wisewomen all – embrace the cloistered life, live and learn and heal -building in ourselves the mediating power to bring from  Above (or within, or  wherever you feel Heaven to be)  all that we can to help relieve the  suffering of this world? Or should we be actively, socially engaged – daily out there, facing and challenging and working with the bloody mess that it is, to bring change, comfort, and hope?

I think there’s room for both, and sometimes, creatures like myself who do better when alone, might well have our capacity to contribute destroyed by a forced engagement with “the world” ..similarly, those who thrive on contact might go a little crazy if left to an endless cycle of seasons and forests and long, quiet nights. We do what we can. …we do as we must.

I watched the butterfly float away… to my amazement a black squirrel popped his head over a patch of nettle not four feet away, winked at me, and disappeared again. Daniel stayed sleeping.  The world went on.

I have decided, though – one thing for certain. However slowly, I do need to re-engage a little bit. I’m planning some Herb Walks this summer, local and free (except for donations to the cat rescue, I will always accept that). Maybe followed by potluck and conversation, maybe a regular group that meets to share discussion, wildcrafting, potions. I also intend to start even one day a  month, a free clinic in Wakefield or Ottawa, for those who need help with their  animal companions but cannot pay. It will mean I spend a day or two every month in the company of people other than Alex. It will mean I have to dust myself off at least a  little bit, go into town, the village, step away from this desk, garden and forest. I admit to some trepidation, but excitement as well. Seeing people and dogs “in real life” is a long awaited privilege for me.  I think a couple of trips to the National Gallery this summer are in order, too. Maybe some wine.

And while I’m at it – I’ll buy a new chair.

This is a blog about progress

I have several blogs now – some are active, but require a certain mood, a “professionalism” and the inspiration to rewrite  topics I have written on so many thousands of times I can’t even think about it. Some require quietude and a contemplative mindset and the rarest of commodities for me – solitude. This one requires nothing. This is my plant journey and all I have to do is show up. I don’t have to be the professional with all the answers, I don’t have to be in the right frame of mind, I just have to be. These are the lessons of mallow and white pine, those gentlest of healers and protectors, who came to me very early in my transition  (from armchair herbal wannabe to whatever it is you’d call me now) and said – we are here, we protect,soothe – warm and cool,  bring things to the fore and then help them heal-  and we offer ourselves to you as Allies.

Now some people will find that really out- there. I would have found that really out- there, except the truth is, it blasted open a frozen part of me, shook me to my core with love, and changed forever the way I see the world. First the pine, and then others  – poplar, hawthorn, calendula, maple and rose – then mallow… such an outpouring of wisdom and love, such a breathtaking transformation.. I am four years into this new way of seeing plants and indeed, the world – and it feels like remembrance of  deep, lost knowledge – oh every breath of it does. It feels like a reward for much work that felt for great stretches at a time that it was going nowhere. It feels like love.

Around me I see so many others whose lives are moving into connection with the ancient ways, working with plants as spiritual healers. Often I spend so much time there when I surface and connect with the dis-connected world I feel disoriented and alone. but we are never alone. It seems to me only a logical progression – from mystical empathy with other species, to all mammals, and then to birds and all life — and — the next step is to the plant  world,  our Ancestors, those beings without whom there would be no life at all on earth, as we know it.

So this is my moment in the Cycle, and here I can be, not the professional, not the teacher and Guide, not the Elder with the answers – but just me. Would you like herbal tea, coffee or a beer?

The Moment Before it All Awakens

Or at least, that’s what today felt like walking through the forest behind my home in the Gatineau Hills.
That’s the pattern most of the time; snow melts (eventually) and the drab grey fields appear, the stark trees stand looking hopeless, the ground squishes but does not bring forth. That’s April or some of it anyway. It isn’t our prettiest moment in these parts, although to be honest I can’t imagine anything here being unlovely, just more so or less so.. These days in between snow melt and explosion – days or a couple of weeks at most – are still wonderful in that walking is fantastic of your footwear is good; it’s not cold and it’s not hot and there are no bugs at all, nor hunters, and bears can be avoided, thought it’s true they are waking up. It’s a strange little mini-season, with a core type of energy and some influence of course from the planets and stars..  we fall asleep with the windows open, excited to feel the air at last but by 4 am we’re freezing under the  feather duvet and have to get up to close them.  We go out wearing scarves and mittens but have to take them off before long.And it doesn’t last long.

Slowly – imperceptibly if you’re not paying attention – the seedlings and blossoms and babies appear. we tend to notice birds – robins and veerys and mourning doves and kestrels – and we tend to gripe about the sloppy ground and the unpredictable weather. But this phase is  deceptive. There’s always little buds and  catkins and the very beginnings of green everywhere. I started paying attention a while ago; this year is no different.

It’s the moment right before it all explodes. That’s the usual pattern. Grey, dreary, a little greener, a lot greener and then – it’s Paradise. Today was one of those moments right before, I can expect maybe a week at most, the greenery will be dazzling and the forest exploded with beauty and freshness.

What have I seen so far this year?

Well, in this microclimate of the region, we have a zillion  Trout lilies very early on (Erythronium americanum), incredibly dense in some areas, their mottled leaves and bright yellow flowers nodding in the breeze – edible, but the leaves should be steamed, and start slow, they can have an emetic effect on some folks. I’m not excited about eating them.  I’m going to post a separate entry about  Trout Lily, Birthroot, Wild Ginger and other early plants separately, for now here are some image of the lovely yellow flower, right in my backyard:

And a couple of pics from a late April hike – Danny and me, serenaded by a Mockingbird, whose vocal gymnastics never cease to amaze me.

Birthroot everywhere

A veritable ocean of ramps

Indian Creek is “haunted” they say – I prefer the word “enchanted”

He always waits for me, love of my heart that he is.
This time in front of a bunch of hawthorn trees, I cannot wait for blossoms.

One part Mirkwood and one part The Shire – the magic of the Gatineaus has to be felt- and everyone who comes here feels it. Pictures never convey the enchantment -but this picture captures a little wee bit.