Here we are in the midst of winter. The plant life that flowered so beautifully in the summer has now gone back to the cycle of reciprocity while many others are holding medicine deep in their roots. I like to imagine a secret world underground where dandelions (bundled up in blankets of burdock leaves) hold tea cups with their little root arms while restfully preparing new minerals for spring. Their little heads lay on pillows of milkweed cotton... I could go on about their hollow stems being used as periscopes to peek up above the soil but I’ll let you make up the rest. Our green world is magical and I believe even more so when it's not so green at all. Winter is full of medicine - it’s just offered in a different way.
Many of us look to the colder temperatures to justify our “doing less” when actually we might be doing more than ever. Winter is about depth, not hibernation. I read somewhere there is an Ayurvedic concept that suggests the way we feel in the winter is due to how we treated ourselves all summer long. If this is true I’m going to assume that many of you reading this are participating in a much needed rest from the surface - just like the plant world. The surface world moves fast, buzzing and humming all day. The nights are short when the green world is active, leaving very little time for rest but winter allows us to steep ourselves into a strong cup of self reflection. The latin ‘hibernare’ (meaning "to winter") refers to the protective layers of our coldest season. This is the time to plan, to store energy and to decide what pieces we are bringing into our future. Winter provides us the opportunity to measure our strength. Doing this shows us what is unnecessarily weighing us down. We don’t always recognize this as medicine; but it is. Winter eliminates the buzzing. Green sound barriers disappear, colorful distractions fade, and sweet floral scents aren’t drifting through the air. Winter is crisp and it offers us a chance to finally listen to the voice that we least often hear - our own.
In winter everything is stripped bare and we become very aware of what needs tending to. Remnants of what no longer serves us are easily spotted, like abandoned nests in a leafless deciduous tree. If we don’t take the opportunity to remove these things during our restful months winter will encapsulate them in layers of preservation and we will find them as reminders in our future. This is the majestic power of winter. It provides us space and opportunity to work on ourselves so that we can emerge as a better version of ourselves in springtime.
An ecotone is a transition zone in nature where two communities meet and integrate. This past weekend I had the chance to watch as my two favorite worlds collided, creating their own marshland of natural law. I live in this ecotone of Plant Medicine and the Dharma. This is my natural habitat. The opportunity to invite other people into it was new and unfamiliar. Strangely, as much as I carry this balance of the two with me, expressing it wasn't as easy as it should have been. Reflecting on the weekend, I am aware of so much missed opportunity to share that which is so familiar to me. Also, I am reminded of how much I can learn about my own ecosystem when others are present. This is of course the benefit of sangha and community. This makes me think of synergistic herbs. Synergists are plants that amplify the effects of other herbs. It's along the lines of the 2+2 =5 analogy that we often use to describe whole plant medicine. The whole being greater than the sum of its individual parts. This is reciprocity and interdependence.
Waking up the next day, kicking myself for not highlighting important pieces of the plant/Dharma connection, something dawned on me. I had been fully aware of certain things separately and as individual concepts. Why did I not point out these obvious parallels!? I should have made a greater effort explaining how the Tulsi we drank on Friday and Saturday opens our hearts, and how Sunday's Hawthorn keeps it protected. I should have verbalized the connection to the Dharani's. I missed the chance to point out that the chicory and dandelion coffee in the morning was intentional food for the probiotics we would eat all weekend. I failed to relay that the walking meditation was in a spiral of pre-biotic plants! I missed too many opportunities to tie together the people and plant connections. Then I understood, that even though I already had the information, I needed a synergist to draw the two together. Knowing two facts separately is not the same as knowing them combined. When the two concepts integrate, they become an ecotone of their own. A whole new biome, and a brand new understanding. It seems fitting that the plant ally of the weekend was Goldenrod. Solidago, meaning "to make whole".
Somewhere in the wildest vines
Are twisted words that needn't rhyme
Lost among the bramble leaves
The berries speak in poetry
Sticking thorns into the sides
Left to right the wrongs they hide
If all of nature would unfold
Under story never told
Would the canopy obscure the places
Where saplings leave the smallest traces
Reaching up beyond the weeds
Rooting for the shrubbery
This past weekend I held a class on the medicinal value of culinary herbs, at the beautiful School House Wellness Center in Lockport, NY. We focused on some "new" old ways of doing things in the kitchen. Culinary herbs are so often forgotten and overlooked as being supportive to our health, when really this is huge part of family herbalist history.
One hundred years ago every home would have had an herbalist. Although we didn't call them that. We called them mother, grandmother, or great grandmother. Healing our family through food and gardens was an every day job, a role fulfilled in the home. Through the use of raw honey, vinegar, and a relationship with herbs we can continue this tradition. During this class we discussed the simple tradition of solar infused herbal honey, making syrups, and infused vinegars. Of course, things are much different than they were in the early 1900's and we now have a broad and solid understanding of phyto-chemistry. Honoring traditions and combining them with our science minds allows for an even stronger relationship with the plant world. Through the knowledge of solubility, we are able to cultivate a deeper connection. When we are mindful and respectful of how constituents of plants best respond to extraction, we enter into an agreement with them. This is reciprocity, a reciprocal relationship.
Reciprocal Roots offers weekly classes and events. Check out the Facebook page for upcoming workshops.
You can have Reciprocal Roots classes come to you! If you have the space to host, contact Kristin for available dates.
Wellness Consultations~ Let Kristin help you incorporate supportive herbs into your wellness plan.
Backyard Consultations~ Do you wonder what medicine is growing in your own backyard? Together, we can walk the land and see what’s already being offered.