Like a voice on the wind I’ve heard her name all year in one way or another. First just little bits of noticing here and there. Then a friend gifted me with a start of my own for the garden. A few months later in my HerbCamp, a student mentions meeting another community centered herbalist who tells her about elecampane. The message I most need to hear.
“She is unapologetically herself.”
Each year-ish I pick a plant to take along with me as a partner, an ally. I don’t stick strictly to the year, only moving on when we both feel ready. Since arriving home to Washington I’ve been working heavily with yarrow and comfrey, both taking their turns as leaders. Comfrey bid her farewell and gratitude earlier this summer with a sweet hug of healing when Sage badly burned herself on the lawn mower motor. Yarrow held on a bit longer. Then suddenly, I watched as this tenacious Deva started to gently pull away, only a few weeks ago. And I felt a sort of a soul loss. Without an ally, a chosen plant spirit guiding me, I felt an empty loneliness I couldn’t shake. Yes, I know they are always there. But there was a mourning period to be had as they had let me know it was time to move on.
So I waited and I pouted and I set my emotions free. I started to get sick with all the fall usuals. Only this time, each week I got worse instead of better. I knew I needed to set some things down. I came clean about our current situation, as it felt too heavy to carry without them any longer. My respiratory ailments persisted, and my usual tricks were only easing symptoms, but again I heard:
It is an herb I was familiar with, but had never used much of. Three herb shops later, a pound of the chalky root in hand, I marched home to brew it up. D and I spent the evening playing hours of cards, me drinking pot after pot of this delicious healer. I couldn’t get enough. With every cup, I felt my breath go deeper and deeper.
My breathing all but restored, I felt the energy to go again and the need to escape the confines of what had become this sick-house. With the help of my husband, friends, and insistence of my children, I started to visit the sea again. First a friend without ocean nearby asked for a video. So I found an old one and shared it with her. That reminded me. Another friend and teacher saw orcas on her weekend getaway. Pack medicine received. Finally, we made time to visit the rocky shore and I lost myself there.
We came to the sea on a perfectly warm fall day, but in the afternoon as the sun was making his way back to bed. We played, we climbed, we made nature sculptures. I noticed many of the old trees had been unearthed in the recent winds. Laying crossways over the trails, we had to duck under them to find our way to the shore. The sweet incense of their branches brushing over us as we made our way down. Their roots lay exposed, dripping with rain water, no longer clinging to or reaching for anything. Upturned, jutting out into open air with no earth nearby to sink into, vulnerable.
I didn’t make an intentional offering, I just played like a child. It felt good. The remains of my cough had disappeared and the rattle in my lungs was replaced by clear, expansive breath. I slept for a full 8 hours, for the first time in weeks. When I got home, there was a message from a dear friend who had been harvesting her elecampane. “With plenty to share,” she said.
Elecampane is a sister of both the black-eyed susan – my usual winter blues ally, and the sunflower – my plant totem. The asteraceae are my people. The day’s eyes, the star flowers, wildly abundant and giving, turning toward the sun, often closing their petals in at night, the largest plant family on earth, yet each one “Unapologetically themselves.” It seems fitting at this point, that I only have a picture of her roots. We’ll keep each other company this year, as she has made it clear she is my new ally. And I’ll share pictures as we grow to know one another better.
photo by Jennette Nielsen http://jennettenielsen.com/
I’m beginning to feel so much more alive and whole. The energy is whirring up again, and the encouragement I have received from so many of you is starting to make its way into my heart as motion. I’m beginning to feel myself again. I’ve always loved these sunflower plants, but usually from above. I’m grateful for the opportunity to know them from below.