We stopped for a break on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, near the Native Peoples Museum. The air and ground had mounds of cottonwood fluff…. Seeds drifting, released to the midday winds, falling……..caught in the wild roses below, falling in drifts against resistant structures on the ground…… I carefully plucked up small wads of cotton-engulfed seeds and felt “called” to pick emergent buds of the wild rose. I returned to the opened door on the passenger side of the truck, looking for a napkin to put my collectibles, hands full of Cottonwood and rose…..
I saw an animal emerge from the dappled shadows on the floor of the truck…… a cat, wild, smallish with black encircled gold spots. I stepped back with a gasp, confused, questioning what I was seeing. I shifted my gaze to clear my mind. It was there, real as life itself. I shifted my gaze again, and the image faded into the dappled shadows produced by the leaves of the cottonwood trees overhead. I was feeling a bit ill that day, and thought I must have been fevered and was seeing things. I told my friend that I think I was hallucinating, and that I saw a wild animal, a cat of some sort, in the truck……
I have been diving into my memory to scavenge any and all details of that visitation. I went online and looked at pictures of wild cat species from around the globe, and I came upon an exact image of what I saw……. a Margay. It is a small cat that is native to Central and South America, and LIVES IN TREES…..in primarily evergreen and deciduous forests. It is often referred to as a Tree Ocelot, and may spend its entire life in the trees. There is no literature on the Spiritual symbolism for such an animal. Other wild cat species are known to have a connection with both the physical and spiritual world. From the information I have been able to gather, these animals are seen both as a Guide and a fierce Protector. It differs from the Ocelot not only in size (It is smaller), but in agility. It has special ankle joints that are extremely flexible. It is remarkably agile; its ankles can turn up to 180 degrees. It can grasp branches equally well with its fore and hind paws, and it is able to jump up to 12 feet horizontally, and has been observed to hang from branches with only one foot.
Wisdom of this species may Include gifts or guidance offered by the Ocelot: regeneration through solitude; connection with physical and spiritual worlds; ability to be in two places at once; clear vision; and connection to the unseen.
I live in a house that was built in the late 1800’s…around 1868 to be more precise. It was built from wood acquired from the local mill …. good “clear” pine without a single knot to be found. Constructed of real 2×4’s, full size with evident kerf cut using old fashioned saw blades…… A sound piece of construction with an adjacent yard surrounding the premises. The yard is primarily comprised of green grass interspersed with a perimeter of shrub and tree species such as lilac, plum, apple, hawthorn and elm trees.
I do not know how long ago the grass was planted in the yard, perhaps as early as the 1930’s, 1940’s at the latest…. regardless, it was most likely after the plumbing system was put into the house. Earlier photographs of my house and town show bare dirt. All I know, I have attempted to outplant dozens of flowers, shrub and even strawberries over the past 25 years. Notice the word “attempted”, for it is key to describing an ongoing war I have had to battle with…….the grass….
This is no ordinary grass, mind you. This grass is indestructible, kind of like gorse on a golf course. I swear it has the genetics of dragon scales with a rooting density that out competes bacteria in a hot spring. It’s meristems are easily activated and kick it into overdrive when temperatures begins to warm. It is ever encroaching into any unoccupied nook, cranny or corner in the yard and oftentimes completely chokes out emerging resident species, such a my planted wild rose. Gnarly to whack back with a weed eater, I often go “for its throat” with my bare hands, tearing it out from the edges of planting beds, underneath my elderberry and other luscious little sites. I have given up on trying to introduce anything along its borders. It defends its territory so well, that I am tired of putting out anymore effort to restrain or “retrain” it’s indomitable spirit……
I now choose to release it to its own muse….look on it as Friend who will continue to stretch its boundaries. I think I would like to mirror its Strength, Persistent Temerity, and flat out Will to Live as something for me to take to Heart…Namaste.
Now that Spring has sprung up here in northeasten California, I find my emotional state to be as varied as the winds that blow across the emerging pear blossoms. Mind you, we have just survived Winter…an elongated, protracted season that invokes its own specialty of emotional torture. I am growing weary of navigating my emotional state based on what the weather is throwing around outside my front door.
I found myself today feeling agitated and anxious. Be it the astrological position of the full moon, or the cold, dark, dreary day….I was fighting a losing battle. So I bundled up and took off on a walk to see what I could find of emerging herbs that might prove useful for my flagging Spirit. Lo and behold I spotted the tender early leaves of catnip! Very little in this World proves as satisfying as a hot cup of fresh herb tea to soothe ones soul. Fresh sprigs of catnip simply immersed in a cuppa hot boiling water both delights the eye and warms the heart. Miss Bardswell in “The Herb Garden” wrote of catmint: “Before the use of tea from China, English peasantry were in the habit of brewing Catmint Tea, which they said was quite as pleasant and a good deal more wholesome”. Catmint is known for its benefits as a springtime tonic, among other graces, yet it did little to soften the edges of my agitated state.
Looking through my herb garden, nothing was showing above ground yet. I returned to the house and began to look through my dried stores from last year. Lemon balm…good choice, but so little of it left. As I pushed the jar to one side, my eyes fell upon my remedy…Motherwort Tincture! Ahhh, the Champion of herbs for a woman’s heart! Personally, I grow it in my garden. It is native to England, but certainly not here. I have to watch it carefully because it reproduces in a most prolific manner and will rudely usurp its neighbors.
In the older herbal texts, Motherwort is described as being used for everything female including an antispasmodic, tonic, and nervine, It stimulates blood flow and induces perspiration as well. It is especially valuable in “female weakness and disorders, allaying nervous irritability and inducing quiet and passivity of the entire nervous system”. Whoa, strong plant juju here…. Yet, it has proven its worth as an overall heart tonic and also in “spinal disease”. Hmmm, think it can regrow collapsed disks or remove spinal stenosis? Need to check that out….
Anyway, Culpepper wrote that “there is no better herb to drive melancholy vapours from the heart, to strengthen it, and make the mind cheerful, blithe and merry”. In another herbal it is listed as THE most powerful herb to use against “wykked sperytis”. By and far the best way to take it is in a tincture. So, 20 drops in a half glass of wine should do the trick. But I choose to keep my “wykked sperytis” wits about me……
Dandelion Flower Tea Cake
Makes 2 cakes
4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 – 2 cups dandelion petals
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup honey
2 2/3 cups milk
½ cup of jam Of choice
Mix flour, baking powder, salt and petals in a large bowl. Mix wet ingredients together, add to dry ingredients. Pour into 2 greased and floured cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
Harvesting dandelion petals is a bit tricky. I recommend the following:
Pick flowers on a bright, COOL day, less bugs;
Pick large flowers only because they shrink and wilt quickly;
Split flower heads in half;
Pinch below white area with thumbnail;
Push petals up and pull free gently.
It took about 20 minutes to collect 1.5 cups of petals..
When baking with flower petals, make sure to separate them gently, and coat with flour. I do this by dusting petals with flour BEFORE placing in the bowl…..kind of like coating grated coconut with flour. Use a fork to mix petals into the flour to keep them more evenly distributed….. Mmm mmm, mmm good!
With spring and summer seasons beginning to Rise, I become a totally different beast. I spend hours out of doors sniffing the air, eyes on the ground, rapidly identifying most of the plants that come within view. I admit it, I am a junky…..and have to feed my habit of wildcrafting culinary and medicinal herbs. Botany was my soft spot in academia, and has become a skill I simply adore. I spend hours upon hours simply looking for and harvesting delectable and healing plants.
Honeysuckle flowers are the sweet heralds to the coming of summer. I love their aromatic, sugary scent that fills the air. Last summer I made multiple batches of Honeysuckle Syrup and cough drops and thought you might like the recipe.
Honeysuckle flowers have a variety of medicinal qualities including anti-inflammatory relief for headaches, they reduce fever, are excellent for bronchial spasms and coughs, and protects against viral and bacterial infection. In addition to its medicinal uses, the syrup is mild, and can be used simply as a sweetener in your cup of tea or drizzled over pancakes.
Pick the blossoms in the early morning, preferably before the heat of the day begins. Lay the blossoms out and remove the green sepal end at the base of the flower. Rinse the blossoms gently and place in a small pan. Create an herbal decoction by pouring 2 cups of boiling water over 1 cup of packed honeysuckle blossoms. Let this steep for a minimum of one hour. When cool, place the pot over a low flame and bring to a simmer. Simmer on low for about 30 minutes to reduce the liquid volume to 1 cup. Watch carefully. When completed, strain the decoction and compost the flowers.
To 1 cup of decoction, add 1 cup of sugar and 1 tsp of lemon juice. Bring to a low boil and cook until it begins to thicken. Pour immediately into hot sterilized jars, put on scalded canning lids and hand tighten. Place jars apart by a couple of inches to cool. Sealed syrup last up to a year when stored in a cool, dry place.
I make cough drops by boiling the decoction and sugar to a hard candy stage. I prepare a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish with confectioners sugar. I spread the sugar evenly in the pan and make small depressions using the bottom of a small glass vial. I then pour the candied decoction into the depressions with a small Pyrex measuring cup. Let cool and wrap each drop in wax paper. Store drops in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid.
The edge of winter is beginning to soften ever so slightly here on the Modoc Plateau. There remains another 10 weeks of unpredictable cool weather up here, but I am able to observe the warming of waters. The ice is transforming into its aqueous phase. Small rivulets of water have appeared on the soil surface.
Spring is being introduced by the coming of Light, more sunlight. Wow. The wonder of sunlight. It is the catalyst which drives the alchemy of the emergence of green life of this season. Deep changes in the soil. The quickening of new life, new tissues being formed. A release from the dark, frozen state to one of release, change, renewal and growth. The soil lets go of its slumber and inertia driven by cold. It is a time of tremendous, miraculous alchemy.
The alchemy of Spring simply happens with our Mother. There is nothing humans need to do to drive this intricate process. It is organic, taking on its own form and juices as it unfolds. I realize that becoming fully human is also an organic process, a pathway laid out and constructed by Gaia Herself. My illusion lies in my monkey brain, the part of me that thinks…. the part of my brain that incessantly chatters and chitters and thinks that it is somehow in control. My monkey brain also tells me whether I am worthy, beautiful, whole or loved. Or the opposite: I am unworthy, ugly, fractured and unloved. The monkey brain is only about 2% of my brainpan. Only 2%. Yet I give it voice and authority as if it is all of me.
The secret to connection, love, trust, and hope live in the soil of my subconscious, the other 98% of my brain function. There lies the moist soil of wholeness and is hardwired to Our Mother. My monkey brain tirelessly throws up pictures on the wall of my third eye, mostly negative, like a movie projector gone rogue. To allow myself to experience and be tranformed by the seasonal pulse of Spring, I have to stop the incessant noise and “fake news” of my monkey brain. I say, “go for the plug” and unplug this projector as often as you can remember to do so. And let Mother transform you effortlessly into a new emergence as a tender new shoot. Namaste..
From silence and deep soil comes
release, change. New growth
sprouts unbidden, unencumbered.
Let go. Cast off your sleep
As your Mother awakens you
like a child in slumber,
and quickens new tissue, new life
into your Being.
Warmth rises freely, organic.
It is a sobering fact that our atmospheric chemical composition has been altered by industrial pollutants. This alteration has resulted in creating atmospheric instability that is highly unpredictable and destructive. I belong to a conservation group called TreeSisters. This organization, along with Rainforest Alliance, the Arbor Day Foundation, National Forest Foundation, Eden Reforestation Project, Trees for the Future, the Greenbelt Project, American Forests, Plant-for-the-Planet, Greening Australia and others are planting trees – millions of them on a yearly basis. Simply planting trees. A global climatic emergency is in the making, one we will see and experience unfold in most of our lifetimes. As an ecologist, I have no doubt about this. Over population coupled with voracious consumption of natural resources has already determined this path. Although planting trees will not stop this change from occurring, it is a mitigating effort to minimize the amplitude of this climatic shift on all living systems.
Our Mother is self regulating. She has layers of intricate processes that go into effect to balance and harmonize Her body. As a species, we are part of Her body and our activities have had a significant effect on other species who are our equals and brothers and sisters in this miraculous place. This is all about Gaia Herself. She will retain what is important for her own Life and evolution. We have been blessed to be part of that process, and are highly successful in progenating our numbers across the globe. Our appetite as a species is HUGE. We have consumed everything in our path, so to speak, and will continue to do so today, tomorrow and in the future. Most of humanity is “not awake” yet. Not conscious of how we continue to feed and gorge ourselves as a single species on Mother’s bounty. Like a child who goes into the pantry and stuffs themselves on the carefully prepared foodstuffs, I personally believe that She will simply “take away our plate” in a manner which says “You have eaten enough, it’s not good for you or your brothers and sisters”.
My word to you is this…. PLANT TREES. Put your money where your mouth is.