when my first child was tiny

when my first child was tiny, as i drove across the bridge i’d picture the semi colliding with the pickup ahead, steeled to danger, hyper-aware that another life was held in my hands. vigilant.

i might’ve stayed paralysed like that, but in seeking health through nutrition and herbal support, a long line of healers, my vision resolved to a clearer, ground state. i needn’t grip the wheel in vigilance. i can hold the responsibilities of my daily life in alertness and care that has some ease and play and resilience.

even when the skies are full of smoke, the wind is fierce, the trees are falling, the pipes are freezing, the rain is relentless, the heat unprecedented, my child is scarily ill, the power is gone, the house is flooding, i am in pain, i can calmly take the action available to me.

it is my herbal allies that keep me so grounded, steady in their old wisdom, bonded with these plants that we have evolved with.

cimicifuga (actea) helps me weather the storms that brew in me, now with equanimity. rhodiola eases the shocks — now i am surprised, i act, i recover, i move on. curcumin limbers my middling body, ready for the challenges of the day. one collection of herbs is fondly known as ‘the free and easy wanderer’. just so. i co-regulate with chaste-tree and root deeply with wild yam. lavender and passion flower return me to sleep.

milk thistle counters my tendency to imbibe a little more of our homemade tipples and wild ferments than one strictly ought to, but even those are frankly medicinal. elderflower liqueur, elderberry-blackberry, currant infusions, wild ciders and meads, they are restorative in demanding times and the revelry makes a party of the darkness. i dance with a little more ease, then, fluent and unlikely to hurt myself. perhaps the adeptness with which alcohol helps me to absorb iron is underestimated too. their vinegar variations brighten me, lifting digestion and clarifying skin, hair, the light in my eyes.

my wild old friend nettle and my self-sowing companion lemon balm are frequent guests for tea. they nourish my blood and my nerves alike. i may experiment with lion’s mane mushroom but i know that reishi is my right hand. i am soothed by arnica montana and calendula and comfrey, when nothing else will do. simple mint, applied to farmer’s back or pruner’s elbow, orchardist’s shoulder or cyclist’s knee, like a massage for an athlete, strong in oils, has helped me through some pain that even arnica could not mend at first.

sometimes i worry that i am dependent, that i would be nothing without these plants, but in the garden and in the wilder corners i feel the truth, that i am alive because life is always feeding me, and i tend the plants in turn, in thanks. what better way to live lightly in heart and mind and with my feet on the earth, than in a steadying reciprocity with herbal companions.


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