There is an intimacy that comes from harvesting your own.
And intimacy of life, of death, of healing.
This feels like a contradiction at first glance, but truly, these three are inextricably interwoven.
The fact that we harvest a life when we pick even a single bloom is evident if you pause to notice, cupping the still warm harvest in your hands. To be present to what we are taking as we reach into a field of flowers or a garden of greens and pick. It changes our hearts… so different than the task of of filling a basket at the grocery store with sterile, plastic-wrapped fruits and blooms.
Whether cucumbers from the garden, flowers from a pot on the porch, or wild food and medicine from the hills beyond your door, we connect deeply with that which we gather.
Because what a thing it is that we are taking! A bloom, a handful of seeds, a life. It takes life to give life, indeed, and I strive never to forget that as I move through my daily food and medicine preparations and consumption.
This weekend, Lupine and I wandered to the neighbor’s to forage one of our most beloved wild things, monarda (Monarda fistulosa). Also called wild bee balm, its fragrance is weaving through our hillsides these days, and the roadsides are alive with bees drunk on nectar and swaths of lavender blooms.
We love bee balm for sore throats, chills, tooth pain, and colds. Truly, I don’t know where we’d be without it. It’s a plant that called me to her years ago, with a summer sore throat. I was soothed, and instantly connected to this July beauty.
Monarda is one of my top three winter remedies (alongside elderberry elixir and elecampane syrup) for cold and flu season, and even this week a bottle was in daily use as a sore throat worked its way through our family. (It’s one of the ten plants I feature in my book, Herbal Adventures.)
But that’s the practical side of monarda. Today I’m musing about energetics.
I’m thinking more deeply about the connections we are so hungry for in our culture. Connection that we can find, just beyond our door.
In a neighbor, a friend, or a field full of wildflowers.
In western culture, we are starving for depth and connection. In a world of soundbites, social media comments, and isolation, we are hungry for intimacy, depth and meaning. And while there is no substitution for the real, warm, human connection, we also need nature.
We need earth medicine. Perhaps now more than ever.
And so everyday I step outside. In town, I look above the buildings to the birds winging overhead, and the tree branches dancing in the wind. And out here, where the wild things grow, I take my basket and set out to see what unfolds.
An I find what I’m seeking–always. It’s just not always what I expected to gather into my arms.
Some days when I return home my basket is empty, but always my heart is full. Other days (like this weekend) we come back with both–a full basket, and a full and peaceful heart. And a deeper intimacy with myself, the plants, and the planet.
Back home, as we processed our monarda harvest, the scent of our home was intoxicating. Our hands smelled of bee balm, our hair smelled of bee balm, our kitchen and hallway and bedrooms were electric with the scent.
The spicy, pungent medicine was already working, spinning its magic throughout our nest.
The lives that we gathered were becoming a part of us.
And I wondered… could this connection be so rich if these herbs arrived via post, packed plastic and paper and cardboard? Perhaps, but for me, stepping out and gathering my own makes me careful to not waste even one bloom.
How fortunate we are to have medicine growing right beyond our door.
The truth, of course, is that you do, too. From the central city to a family farm, shiny downtowns to the endless lawns of the suburbs: the medicine is there, just waiting for you to notice. It might be something you harvest with your hands, or perhaps only with your heart. Keep looking. You’ll find it.
As a teenager I still recall the sunflower that I watched over the course of the summer sprout, grow, and bloom on my daily commute between work and home, springing from a crack in the concrete on an exit ramp in the heart of Milwaukee.
I didn’t need to harvest that bloom to take in it’s magic.
What magic is blooming around you? Can you feel it? Smell it? See it? Take a moment today to find deeper connections, and to feel a few of the cracked pieces of you begin to heal.
Community does that, the plants do that, the earth does that.
They help us feel connection and intimacy. And all of it is free.
How fortunate we all are to share in that healing.