It’s not always easy- to leave the comforts of fireside and head out into autumn: wind, drizzle, and all. To feel the weather on our skin without the buffer of walls, roof, and wood stove.
But Lupine and I have begun to make a habit of it: heading outside for nature medicine and movement therapy. (I think some just call it “going for a hike”.)
I’ve needed it lately, my heart heavy with the happenings of the day.
So we head to the top of the goat prairie above our house, cleared only last winter of invading honeysuckle and junipers. It might be our favorite perch, with a view of the valley for miles around.
The farm dog (Grandpa) followed. Though he’s old, he can navigate this hill with more grace than I, and we let him lead the way.
As we headed up the hill, a barred owl in the forest beyond the creek had much to say, and we listened with rapt attention. We felt the thrum in our chests as a flock of sparrows – moving as though with one mind – danced and wove beyond our reach. They’re thinking of autumn, too.
Barely audible, the creek whispered her song to rock and tree. And maybe to us as well.
And I exhaled.
Near the top, I found a cluster of a plant whose identity has eluded me all summer long.
Despite multiple attempts, I failed at keying it out in books or online. I only took photographs however; never picking a sprig to get to know her subtleties.
Finally, last night (the flowers long since faded) I paused again to wonder at this plant. Who are you? I crushed a leaf between my fingers and inhaled her scent. Normally my first instinct when getting to know a new plant, I had missed this simple, often vital step, and missed the trait that would hint to who this plant might be.
With this fragrance still on my fingers, I found her name after just a moment’s search. Narrow leaf mountain mint – Pycnanthemum tenuifolium. It grows in abundance in our prairie and pasture and the scent is reminiscent of bee balm and oregano. Full of the medicinal components that make thyme such a potent ally during times of cough and cold, we decided to taste for our selves.
The kettle boiled, and I filled our cups.
As night fell on the hillside above us, we sat by the fire (the first of the year), our mugs full of fragrant tea of Mountain Mint. Brewed from the sprig that I brought home, it tasted of summer’s end, of monarda, and of thyme.
It tasted of healing, of autumn, and of home.
Back home beside the fire again, this wild tea in my cup, I am changed.
My fingers smell of mountain mint, bee balm, and wormwood; my shoulders have softened; the furrow between my eyes has gone. There’s medicine waiting out there – outside – beneath the cloudy sky.
And each time I hike this ridge I leave a heaviness behind, and bring home magic in its place.