Women's Herbal Gathering starts in...


Plant Mandala

  Photos by Charis Lindrooth, at Broad Wing Farm, Morgantown, PA
Photos by Charis Lindrooth, at Broad Wing Farm, Morgantown, PA

Yesterday, I visited my dear friend Annie, six months pregnant, at her sweet home and business, Broad Wing Farm.  While she buzzed around on a bright orange tractor, unloading a delivery of potting soil, I poked around her gardens.  The week had been hard and heavy for me, and I turned to the medicinal plants growing there for solace. Visiting each one in turn, I focused on texture, color, shape and smell.  I listened and each one carried a different message to me. 

  Calendula officinalis seeds are available from  Fedco Seeds
Calendula officinalis seeds are available from Fedco Seeds

I was drawn to the calendula first, marveling that the bright yellow and neon orange blossoms persisted through the recent frost.  A few years ago Deb Soule, biodynamic gardener and medicinal herbalist in Rockport Maine, started a unique “Grow a Row” initiative. She chose this sunny, resinous, cleansing blossom to honor and offer healing to women who have been mistreated around the world. I picked a blossom and tucked it in my hair.

Serrano pepper was next, its carmen colored pods scattered all around the frost bitten plant. I picked up a handful, sliding my thumb over their smooth, firm surface.  Theoretically, a little hot pepper works as a synergist in a formula, improving the circulation and so delivering the medicine to the periphery of the body. The bright red color both cheered and encouraged me.

  English thyme, perennial in Pennsylvania.
English thyme, perennial in Pennsylvania.

Sage, thyme and rosemary were next.  All three together make a pungent tea to fight off respiratory ailments. I think of sage as an old woman, all-knowing and ready to offer guidance when one feels lost.  It’s dry, leathery leaves almost feel like an ancient being’s skin if I close my eyes. Thyme is fierce and scrappy.  Her bitty leaves pack a punch if you nibble on them, and they impart a lovely distinctive flavor when combined with either savory or sweet foods.  I picture a tiny woman who is not afraid to stand up for herself or others.  

And rosemary? Well, that plant simply fills my heart with joy, the “herb of remembrance.” Indeed, for me the plant embodies the feelings I have for one of the strongest, most inspiring women I know, Rosemary Gladstar. This woman is a powerful force of healing for women in the world.  A celebrity in the world of herbal medicine, she is one of the most down-to-earth, caring, intuitive and magical people I have ever met.

Further down the field I found a long row of Greek mullein, first-year rosettes waiting for their moment of glory. Early next summer they will shoot up, not merely a single spike, but an entire candelabra of flickering yellow blossoms.  These provide an abundance of early nourishment for bees and other pollinators, truly a sight to behold. An oil made from these blossoms can sooth a child’s earache. The rosette of leaves are sage-colored and fuzzy, and generously does not mind if you pluck one.

  Young lavender will bloom next summer.
Young lavender will bloom next summer.

Annie’s lavender row is large and bounteous. The pale silvery leaves do not mind frost in the slightest, and offer its potent floral scent to all who simple rub against it.  This is a mother gentle grandmother.  The one who says little, but knows just what you need to find comfort, a cup of tea, a foot bath, a warm quilt, a hug. One of the most versatile plants, she alleviates headaches, anxious feelings and respiratory congestion. She comforts the heart.

  Note the green hue of this open cotton pod.
Note the green hue of this open cotton pod.

As I circled back to the front garden, my eyes fell on a spectacular plant that I had never seen before.  Giant swollen pods were bursting, even though the plant was quite stricken by the last frost.  When Annie joined me I asked her about it.  “Cotton,” she said, “Just to see what it is.”  She plucked off a pod, split open and offering it’s green fluffy self.  Who knew that cotton grew in different colors? This plant holds a heavy history. I held the thick scratchy pod thinking of the thousands who once picked it by hand, under duress. And of the families split up and lost to each other forever.  And of the women weeping.

Together we made a plant mandala. We gathered parts of each of these plants, adding spontaneous embellishments, parsley, mustard, a huge dried sunflower head.  Like children we let go, playfully and prayerfully we created a circular design, thinking of those who need healing and protection. If you are one of those people, I hope the spirit of our offering reaches you.  I invite you to contribute to the healing – go outside, and create your own healing circle from nature. When all feels lost, turning to nature is profoundly restorative.

On Saturday November 19, Healing Earth Studio will be hosting a free Day of Healing from 11am-2:30pm.  Please feel free to drop in and join in. It might be just the cup of tea you need.

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