I awoke early this first day of Autumn, 4 am to be more precise. I found myself welcoming this fog-filled morning on my front porch with a cuppa coffee in hand. It was cold … the first real cold morning I have felt since Spring. I greeted the morning stars, in particular, Orion. Soon that constellation will be dominating our night skies as we circle through the winter months. Orion is an old friend, one who has heard many of my heartfelt discourses in the early morn or late night hours….
The morning found me organizing the herbs I have been gathering over the summer months. Actually, my Hawthorn Tincture is created over a period of 4 months. I collect the flowers and the first emerging leaves in early June. I place them in a jar to tincture in alcohol until September when the berries ripen on the tree. I then add the crushed berries to the mixture and let it age another 4 weeks. Hawthorn is a heart ally, oxygenating and balancing the Heart as it ages.
Each year I tend to my own personal first-aid herbal cabinet in preparation for potential illnesses we might experience with the changing of seasons. I grow some of the herbs in my gardens, others I gather in the wild landscape. Most of my herbal preparations are safe to use for coughs, fevers, viral infections, anxiety, insomnia, salves for burns and rashes. I really didn’t think I had foraged very much this year, but when stripping leaves from dried twigs and filling jars with their aromatic gifts, I realized that I had prepared exactly what I needed. The scent and oil from stripping catnip leaves left me feeling quite euphoric….
I prepare a basic apothecary to dip into for medicinal teas and compresses. Many herbs are common weedy species and easy to grow in the garden or forage in the wild. My herb cabinet consists of 24 key herbs: Alfalfa (nourishing); Dandelion Root (diuretic); Catnip, Lemon balm, California poppy, and Hops (sedatives and nervines); Red Clover (tonic for blood and liver); Plantain (coughs, bronchitis, diarrhea, dysentery); Mullein (coughs, bronchitis); California mugwort (promotes vomiting); Mormon Tea or Ephedra (bronchitis, sinusitis); Yarrow flowers (common cold, hay fever, stomach discomfort, induces sweating); Feverfew (fever, arthritis, tinnitus, vomiting); Peppermint and Spearmint (used to treat so many ailments); German Chamomile (antispasmodic, sedative) and of course, dried Rose petals (cardiac tonic, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-parasitic). They also have a delicate flavor when infused for tea…
My basic preparations: Goldenseal Tincture (antibacterial, antiviral); Hawthorn tincture (heart health); Black cottonwood salve (inflammation, arthritis pain); Chickweed and Plantain salve (bug bites, rashes, skin irritations); Lemon balm and Feverfew salve (for joint and muscle pain); and Elderberry with Chokecherry syrup (coughs, bronchitis).
For those of you who are relatively new to preparing and storing wild herbs, make sure to store them in airtight containers in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Label them clearly, making sure to post the year of collection. Herbs lose their potency over time … I try to replace their contents every year. All in all, a handy home apothecary to use for mild ailments.
Thank you Sara Steffey McQueen for you gift of the goldenseal root from your woods. It made an EXCELLENT tincture!
All Blessings to my friends in both the northern and southern latitudes….Namaste.
For any and all who have Irish roots….. just finished this little diddy. It is constructed from 16 layers of different kinds of paper.
Altar Bowl titled “Éire”. It’s name is taken from a LANDSAT photo of Ireland placed in the center bottom of the bowl. The dark purple/blue outer layer symbolizes the oceans surrounding the island, while the colors of the interior represent the green of the Island with her cities and landforms. Ibis feathers with vintage button and Swarovski crystal.
Not fishing? Then FORAGE! … Hawthorn berries for heart tincture, apples and crabapple from an ancient orchard, Hops for sleep, Choke cherries for wine, Mullein for coughs, Alfalfa for Vitamin K, and Amaranth for the birds…. a great afternoon!
I went to visit a very old orchard today, the same one I visited last Spring. These ancient fruit trees have not been tended to or even watered during summer for over 50 years. Their bark is split and portions of the trees are even dead… but the bucks snooze in the deep grass under their shade to escape the summer heat and to hide. I disturbed a 6-point buck when I wandered in to find some fruit. Look what I found!
Surreal day …. smoke from local wildland fires covered the sun. Glad we had a reprieve from such smothering smoke this summer. We had many bright days and starry nights to enjoy. Now comes the fire….fish were not biting today.
As early as the 1700’s, feverfew was used widely in Europe for headaches, as well as for tooth and stomach pains. Feverfew was also used for joint inflammation, especially in the early stages of arthritis. Feverfew was described as “surpassing anything previously used against headaches and as “the aspirin of the 18th century” back in the day….. It is well known to lower fevers and dilate blood vessels to induce sweating. That’s why I keep some in my cupboards for winter illnesses.
Feverfew is used today for the treatment of migraines and accompanying symptoms. It has been known to relieve cramps, relax nerves, and induce a soothing effect on the nervous system. In women’s health it is appreciated for its menstruation-promoting effects and is also used to regulate labor pains to ease the birthing process.
This fragrant herb has similar medicinal abilities like aspirin, and its’ anti-inflammatory properties can help ease the pain of sore muscles, joint pain, and/or arthritis. One of the best ways to use Feverfew for joints and muscles is in a homemade herbal salve in combination with other inflammation herbs. I make mine using feverfew with plantain (Plantago major or P. lanceolata) or lemon balm.
To make feverfew infused oil for salve, mix together four ounces of fresh chopped leaves with one pint of olive or vegetable oil. You can heat this over a medium heat but do not boil (this is probably best done in a double pot if you have one) for one hour. Let the mixture cool and strain, squeezing out as much of the oil as you can. This can be applied to inflamed areas. It can also be turned into a salve by adding between one and one and a half ounces of grated beeswax to warmed oil which should be stirred to blend thoroughly.
To use in tinctures or as a tea, all parts of the leaves or flowering tops can be used either fresh or dried. Fresh young leaves can be added to salads, but sparingly. A dosage of no more than 3 to 5 leaves a day is recommended for treating pain and headaches.
Feverfew has a cumulative effect so it works best when taken in small does over longer periods, especially in treating migraines. A decoction or infusion of the leaves can be used as a wash for skin lesions and sores.
To make a tincture, fill a pint sized canning jar with fresh or dried feverfew. Cover the plant material with vodka to cover. Put on a lid, shake gently and place in a cool, dark place for 6 to 8 weeks. Shake the jar gently each week. Strain through cheesecloth squeezing the material gently. Place tincture into a new jar. Take 20 drops twice daily for effective treatment.
I found myself in a very dangerous situation the past few days, created from my own ignorance and deep willingness to help. Last week, I attended a close friend who died. I simply wanted to be a support person for him and his wife and sat near or next to him during his transition. Emotionally and spiritually, I opened myself wide to be available for whatever was needed. It never occurred to me that it would have been better to have entered the situation shielded.
I need to explain something here…. I’m a woman who is familiar with the “current” of dying and have assisted other friends in their transformation. I have first-hand knowledge of the process, having experienced two near-death episodes of my own (NDE), and a spontaneous shared-death experience (SDE) with my grandmother. In each of these circumstances, I saw and felt my physical body attached to this world through a “silver cord” which is comprised of hundreds of fine thread-like energy filaments attached to “nadi” centers in the body. In death, one travels along these filaments and cord until distance itself causes them to disengage from ones physical form.
I am not, and never have been, a student of yoga. I simply know what I saw and experienced during my NDE’s. The only explanation I have found which describes these energy filaments comes from yoga theory. Nadis carry prana, or life force energy. In the physical body, the nadis are considered channels that carry the frequency and nature of air, water, nutrients, blood and other bodily fluids. They energetically work with and are similar to the arteries, veins, capillaries, , nerves, and lymph canals of the body. In the ethereal body (or subtle and causal body), they work a bit differently. The nadis are channels for so called cosmic, vital, seminal, mental, and intellectual energies and vibrations. Different yoga texts agree that the number of nadis contained in the human body are in the tens of thousands.
So much for the lesson on nadis….. now back to the process of the death experience.
After my friend died, I experienced a strange disconnect with my own body. I felt like I was dying myself, or that my own death would come soon. I felt cold….my feet, hands and core were icy to touch. I laid in my bed fully clothed, with a fleece jacket on and under a heavy sleeping bag. That is all I wanted, to lay under my heavy sleeping bag. I cared little about what was going on around me. I could not get centered and even felt tendrils of energy filaments floating freely in front of my chest….kind of like the tentacles of a jellyfish in ocean waters. This went on for a period of 5 days.
A friend called yesterday and invited me out to sit and visit on Ash Creek for a while. I told her what I was experiencing. She recommended that I create a grounding necklace for myself and then take off my shoes to ground with the earth. I did as she recommended, looking for anything that would help me feel better….. and it worked.
There was a deep lesson for me to learn in this experience. My own ethereal body or aura “knows” the transition of death, and I got “caught” in the currents and eddies of my friends dying process. I had to “call” my own prana or life force back to myself, using the grounding of the earth both directly and in her “stoned frequencies” of rocks and gems. I know that it is not yet my time to leave. I simply got pulled into my friends transformation through my love for him….
I will continue to walk barefoot on the earth and the necklace will remain around my neck for a while. I really do believe that rocks and stones have metaphysical properties that can assist in balancing our auric field. The semiprecious stones I used to assist me to “ground” include:
Red Jasper – A Supreme Nurturer.
Labradorite – Stone of the Northern Lights.
Snowflake Obsidian – Protection stone. Forms a Shield.
Sardonyx – Stone of Protection and Strength.
Agate – Stone of Inner Stability.
Smoky Quartz – Stone of Power and Grounding.
Hematite – Protection stone, Grounding.
Garnet – Stone of Health.
Mexican Fire Agate- Stone of Spiritual Perfection
Black Jade – Power of Stillness.
Yet another strange tale to tell…..
My friend, Russell, died early this morning before dawn. I have had the privilege to sit by his side for the past few days, keeping his wife company as we Stood Watch over his transformation. She had brought him from the city last Sunday so he could die at home. He had been hospitalized in a major city off and on since last May. About six months ago, they had decided to move from our rural community to be closer to the medical care he needed. In doing so, they left behind their small, integral group of friends and community they had grown with over the past 16 years.
Russell was dying…. And he asked his wife to move them back to their cabin home where he could pass on in peace. Heeding his wishes, she and his daughter had him transported by ambulance to their cabin this past Sunday. Only 4 days ago. When I learned that they had arrived, I took my place with others who came to Support, Hold and Witness his passing with his wife.
It is always an Honor to have the opportunity to tell a loved one goodbye before they die. To Speak words which lay unspoken in the Heart, to offer thanks for their presence and friendship in our lives. I met my friend and his wife in church when they first arrived. He was of “American Indian” ancestry, a title he preferred to be identified with over “Native American”. He was a Medicine Man in his own right, offering ceremonies for Blessing of people and places. He told me a few years ago that he no longer “felt the presence of” his Medicine in his hands….it was gone, and with it went his Song and ability to drum for periods of time. He had asked me to create a new drum, a shield, for him last year and I happily obliged.
Yesterday, it was obvious that he would be “putting down his robe” soon. A group of us, seven in all, had gathered to Watch and wish him Godspeed for his journey. We gathered on the veranda outside of his room in the evening, a little before sunset. We sat in a semi-circle facing north. We had a magnificent view of our valley which ends at the base of Fox Mountain, a sacred place for me. Light evening thundershowers were passing overhead, it was a beautiful sight to behold.
We were relaxing, some with drinks in our hands, voices low in laughter and conversation when a thick lightning bolt came and slammed into the Mountain directly in front of us. All of us saw it, together. Moments later we are reaching for our phones to notify the local sheriff office to report that open flame was visible from the lightning strike. We all sat and watched as a helicopter appeared to size up the situation, and as fire engines began to pick their way across the landscape to reach the fire. The fire spread to about 20 acres real quickly, glowing bright orange and yellow as darkness fell. I drove home late, watching the fire blaze bright into the early morning hours.
I received a phone call early this morning from his wife, telling me that Russell was gone. I jumped into the shower to quickly wash up, threw on some clothes and drove to their home immediately to be with her and his daughter. While driving there, I heard a small chuckle in my Heart….Russell had said his goodbye in a powerful way…..He left us his bon voyage gift…..”Fire on the Mountain” to those of us who Stood by him to send him off……His Medicine Renewed…
All Blessings my Friend and Love…..Godspeed.
There is a simple place I love to visit…only minutes from my home, but secluded and quiet. I rarely, if ever, see another person there. It is a place of solace, and its quietness offers my soul a haven for peace in a disturbed World. The creek offers food and shelter to the heron, egret, hawk, kingfisher, ducks, ibis, warblers, otter and coyote. It has proved a valuable fishing spot over the past few months. Hate the ticks, but love the waters…
There is a crisp scent of Autumn in the air this early morning. I felt it as I arose from my bed and began to systematically close the windows throughout our large house. It was a couple of hours before dawn, and I wandered through the house quietly removing window screens and pushing the frames shut. The cool breeze which had been rushing into the rooms suddenly sank to the floor like a sigh. “It’s too early”, I thought to myself. “It’s only August for gosh sakes!”
Winter is the longest season where I live. The cold can come in and settle from October and stick around until early June. Although we have had traditional hot days this summer, the gardens have foundered and produced vegetables and plants that are small in stature. “The soils remained cool too long into June”, neighbors say.
Yet, it’s my hands that tell me Autumn is coming. More reliable than squirrels caching pine nuts or the full ripening of berries and fruit on the vine. I am the latest manifestation of all of my Ancestors, the thousands of peoples which lay woven within the warp and weft of my DNA. My Ancestors experienced all of the variations in seasonal change one can find in the historic landscapes on this beloved Planet. Someone in my line, probably many of them, created clothing to protect themselves and their loved ones with the coming of the cold winter months. I think most of my bloodlines came from the northern latitudes where seasonal changes could prove to be life or death. How do I know that? Because my hands engage in projects and activities my conscious mind knows nothing about….
I knit and crochet up a storm in the months of Autumn. I have for many years. I make hats, gloves, scarves, leggings, sweaters, vests and bed socks. Lots of them…. My hands can knit and crochet on their own. I don’t even need to watch what I am doing. I can converse on the phone or with other people, watch a movie or look at a landscape while riding in a car. My hands just simply know what to do and they drive me into a fervor of activity for weeks on end. I am not usually drawn to the craft until early October, but 2 weeks ago I found my hands gathering knitting needles and yarn. I began to knit a project for a head and neck covering, only to drop it into a basket with alarm…. What am I doing? I have so many other mediums to choose from for my creative expressions. Knitting is simply not one of those things I do until the change of season is upon me.
I laughed about it yesterday when shopping, I had brought the project with me for something to do. My friend, who has known my habits for decades, raised an eyebrow at me and said “You’re kidding, right? You are KNITTING?” I told her that it feels strange to me too. My seasonal clock is a bit off this year and something feels amiss. My hands speak, almost as a portent, of an early shift toward colder weather. I trust the intuition of my body….my ancestors are telling me something that might just prove to be true…an unseasonable early Autumn. Hmmmm. We will see if my hands speak truth…..