The Christmas Charlie Brown movie has been on repeat in this house ever since we put up the tree. Who's your favorite character? I'm sure there's an app or a personality test out there that you can try to see who you'd be. No matter how many times we've watched it, to be honest, for whatever reason, I'm really struggling to feel the *magic* of the season. This is totally strange for me considering I'm usually one of the folks who starts listening to Holiday music at the beginning of November.
But, I just strained and heated some of the spearmint sugar we made as a family a couple of weeks ago. And as I stirred a bit into my dark rich warmed cacao, I think I may have heard the soft sound of a tiny jingle bell in the distance. Sipping my fragrant drink, I am called back to that evening of spontaneous fun. It was one of the last few sunny days just before fall turned to winter and Drew and I were busy putting the garden to bed. I had intended to harvest some rosemary, but the mint plant was screaming at me from the other end of the yard. As I walked over to her, I noticed her wiry, wild stands, reaching in every direction. Chaotic and tangled, her arms bending out in receiving pose as if asking for a blessing, she mirrored my own feelings of the last few weeks. I listened and removed as much of the noise as she would allow. Trimming her back to a smaller version of herself, above the surface, I could almost feel the energy of her larger self expand beneath the earth.
At first I thought to just compost her stalks, as fall isn't the best time for harvesting mint. But the voice of an old teacher who always said the best time to harvest a plant is when you are standing in front of it, lingered in my head. And sure enough, as I grabbed the large bundle in my arms, my lungs filled with her healing aroma and I too felt expanded beneath the surface. She came inside with me and I laid her on a table, bringing with me the remaining signs of fall - spiders, and slugs, old seeds, dried out flowers and dead leaves would make their way into a mandala of acknowledgment on the floor surrounding table. Tending to the business of the day, I was sure she would end up simply bundled as decoration and medicine of a knowing kind to be seen and admired as earthen art over the winter....
But in that odd hour between coming inside and dinner, she called me again to her. My children and my love this time close by, we all gathered as a family to make various medicines together floating about the kitchen in a dance we'd performed many times before. I began separating the stalks into two piles. Deliberately choosing the most green and fragrant of stalks for medicine of the crafty making kind and saving the chartreuse curly heavily flowered stalks for medicine of the gazing and spirit kind. Stripping the leaves from each stalk one by one, being sure not to take the brown or critter-covered ones, I made a pile for each of my girls. I proceeded with my meditative garble as they crafted medicines with their dad. In the end we turned this:
I've been pouring over old pictures and videos of my wee ones the last few days. Though I know we make an intentional practice of living an herb'n lifestyle, it never feels forced or out of the ordinary. We started with the most simple of things and graduated to a new craft when it felt right. Now almost seven years of cultivating this life, it has just become part of our days, as normal as brushing teeth and doing laundry. Sifting through these old memories, my heart softens into joy and my soul whispers something like "My work here is done." For Drew and I, it was something new to be learned and remembered, for the girls it will be second nature.
I think, when I really sit down and think about it, that's what this work is all about for me. Though I may struggle with embracing the spirit of the Holidays, working with the plants, I never fail to embrace the spirit of the season. I'm not a radical, really. And I'm not a hardcore activist. My way is a bit more subtle. Quarter turns of the dial, infiltrating from within. Like the Last Wild Witch knows, the tiny aromatic tendrils of the plants do the work. I just offer up a bowl and say, "Have some soup."
Recipe for Fresh Mint (or any other herb) Sugar
Place several layers of herb, sugar, herb, sugar, etc... into a heat proof mason jar. Let sit in a warm place, sunny window or above fire place for two weeks. If sugar is still hard, boil a pot of water, remove from heat. Place glass with lid slightly ajar into hot water and carefully warm it until sugar is dissolved. Strain and enjoy in a cup of rich dark cacao.
Love and Besos, Latisha