One of the things I love about this time of year is how the sunrise and sunset (cue the song from Fiddler on the Roof…) aligns so closely to when I wake and go to sleep. This year I decided to build upon that and surrender a bit to the cycle of day/night.
Yes, cats are so the masters of solar alignment in their own magical way. 🙂
One of the first things that I’ve been doing is using no electric lights. When I awake (which is just around sunrise) I open the blinds throughout my apartment. Then they stay open all day long – only being shut for the night when I go to bed (which is technically a little more than a half hour after official sunset.)
The hard part about that is actually the loss of control. We’re so used to using our artificial light for our convenience that we grasp hard to that control over “the light.” When it is cloudy and dark there simply may not be enough light to read and I have to adjust my activities indoors accordingly. The same thing happens during that time from when it is before sunset but it is no longer quite light enough to read and when I actually go to bed.
I’ve begun listening to audio books or dramatic podcasts (I use a voice controlled device for this so I don’t have to deal with computer/electronics lights.) Which is actually kind of nice since its restful for the eyes just listening rather than watching something or reading. Plus, there’s something particularly cozy and comforting about being read to.
One of the nice things is how substantially calming it is to let the light gradually dim into darkness (well, as dark as it gets in the city which is why the blinds are finally shut.) During the wintertime, I still shut off the lights and electronics a few hours before bed and use candles – which is nice but not quite as impactful for me as just the natural setting of the sun.
It is amazing how much it improves the quality of my sleep and my mood and allows me to feel more the real cycle of things that we so disconnect from in the rush of our daily (especially urban) lives.
Let the sunshine in and follow its lead…
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Yes, it’s August and September is peeking around the corner, but, for now, it’s still summer and definitely time to squeeze that extra bit of fun out of life. And, of course, out of your herbal life too!
Some fun things I like to do in the summer time is create things that combine the playfulness of summer treats with the magic of plants. So I thought I share a couple of things that I love doing this time of year.
Make your favorite herbal tea blend and combine it with your most loved sweetener – in my case local honey from the farmers market and put it in dedicated pop molds or ice cube trays will work just dandy and put them in the freezer for the day or overnight.
One handy tip is a bit of acidity helps them set, so if there aren’t berries involved in the tea (which often have just the right amount) then try adding a little fresh lemon or lime juice. This also enhances the flavor in just the right amounts. Berries like Hawthorn, Elder or Schzandra are most awesome here. I also like the light summer feel of Linden or aromatic flowers like Rose or Jasmine. And don’t forget flavor enhancers like Cinnamon and Licorice!
Other than that experiment and enjoy!
It’s so easy to forget that lemonade can be so much more fun than that powdered nonsense sold in stores. If you don’t already, the pleasure of discovering its magic lays ahead of you!
In the same vein as the herbal pops, make your favorite herbal tea blend and add some freshly squeezed lemon juice. Or even better in my view lime juice! And a touch of your favorite sweetener. Throwing in crushed slices of your favorite fresh berries like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or blackberries is magic as well!
Things like Basil, Lavender and Sage are awesome. I have some special affection for Nettle lemonade as well as Red Clover.
Be inspired by the plant bounty all around you.
The Most Important Thing – really!
But the most important thing for true summer herbal fun – is to remember to get out in nature while the weather is so awesome with many new and old plant friends are abundant and dying to meet you!
Remember winter is coming.
Seize the magic while you can!
With apologies to the musical Grease…
Had me a plan…”
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I’ve been finding inspiration in the abundance of medicinal herbs right here on the streets of Boston. As I’ve been appreciating all the marvelous plants and snapping pics on my cell phone, I thought it would be fun to post about it and to make it a sort of test of how generous nature is with her healing offerings even here in the city.
Here are the rules I set for myself:
- The plants I cover can only be within three blocks of my house
- They can’t be in parks, gardens, etc. they have to be wild city plants. Side walk spaces, median strips, vacant lots or off abandoned sections of yards near the street are fine – as long as it is clear no one is tried to plant them
- They have to be in more than one location in that area. If there is just one plant it doesn’t count or if it can only be found in one place it doesn’t count. And there has to be enough that you could harvest for yourself if needed – not for making medicine to distribute to others.
- And only finding these by casually looking in my normal walks to and fro. No extensive searches or going up streets and locations I usually don’t. I want to find what is offered, not what I can hunt down to exploit.
The notion is you’re home, you need something quick and within five minutes you can find what you need for yourself. And in particular, I’m doing this focused on being in a city, not a suburb or the country, etc. – that’s what I’d call an Herbalhood.
Be warned there are a lot of pictures here. And because of the volume, I’ll only mention a tiny bit at best about what each is good for otherwise this would be a mammoth out of control post. 🙂
In alphabetical order by common name, here we go…
In this case I found two whole different abandoned lots filled with them. Burdock is traditionally used for cleansing toxins from the system and considered good for the liver. Hmm, that area has lots of liquor stores and really greasy, fast food restaurants.
Hey it’s all over. Soothing and good for various skin conditions as well as being a nutritive plant. Pretty much everyone living in the city needs that.
Detoxifying and cleansing – with special affection for the kidneys and liver. It’s everywhere we are, because everywhere we live we need it.
4) Greater Celandine
And it is everywhere as well. Traditionally a cure all – with affinities for the lungs and gall bladder. Sap is used for warts. But it is strong plant best used with knowledge and care.
5) Ground Ivy
Another one that is everywhere. Often used with ailments and weaknesses of the ear, nose, throat and digestive system. Hmm, all the things city air and life hurts the most.
Don’t even need to point out how common this one is. In traditional Chinese medicine it is used for cancer, inflammation and high cholesterol. And here is considered as a treatment for Lyme disease.
To be truthful, this particular mugwort isn’t around anymore (not that mugwort isn’t plentiful locally enough to count.) I chose to use this picture because it illustrates the ability of the plants to appear as needed. This one was in a corner of door of an abandoned garage and grew to eight feet tall. It was the first specific plant I dreamed. I saw it in a dream and knew I had to make a tea from its leaves. I did so that night and had a very influential dream on my life path (I may share that another time.) Mugwort is traditionally a digestive and for elimination of worms.
Not as abundant as some of the others but I found four plants in different locations so I count it. Used historically for coughs and congestion. And externally as a wound healer.
Another one that is everywhere we are. And outside herbal community not given the love it should. One of the most nutritional and nourishing plants around. Better than most of the one’s we buy in the stores to put on our tables. It’s detoxifying and helps with skin conditions.
Another one in abundance. Where Europeans walk it follows so goes the lore of Native Americans (earning it the name White Man’s Footprint.) Great for drawing out toxins from wounds and easing itching – mosquito and other bug bites.
11) Red Clover
Another fairly common one. Often used for skin conditions and as an expectorant. Plus it helps rebuild the soil.
I found three of these which surprised me, so I decided to count them. There are several different species of reishis which all have the similar immune building uses.
13) Shepherd’s Purse
This year we have an embarrassment of riches with Shepherd’s Purse. Not just clumps of plants every 10 – 15 feet, but only stands like this every block or so it seems – particularly in the area of my neighborhood near where there had been several shootings and assaults this spring. It’s good for bleeding – coincidence?
Another that is pretty common. Used for coughs and congestion and in treating breast and stomach cancers.
I found one stand in with a bunch a knotweed, plus about a half dozen assorted individual plants in different locations. So present and easy to find. The root is a handy laxative. Hey no one eating take out fast food in the city ever needs that, right? 😉
And two honorable mentions that aren’t used medicinally so much now but used to be.
16) Garlic Mustard
It’s every where and particularly abundant this year it seems. It is not only yummy to eat. But it traditionally was used externally for ulcers.
17) Winter Cress
Another mustard that is making a strong showing in my Herbalhood. I found about eight of these about. Old scurvy treatment amongst other things.
Ta-da! And that is almost a dozen and half without trying hard. If I had looked harder or loosened my rules, I could have easily increased that number. Heck, if I included trees alone that would have done it (I left off trees because in the city they are planted by choice rather than being provided by nature like these.)
And somehow, thinking about the neighborhood/Herbalhood, I feel myself channeling Mr. Rogers (who was so the Jimmy Page of children’s television!) and with apologies to Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood I give you…
Mad Crow’s Herbalhood
It’s a beautiful day in this Herbalhood,
A beautiful day for a herbalist,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
It’s a herbally day in this beautywood,
A herbally day for a beauty,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
I have always wanted to have a herb just like you,
I’ve always wanted to live in a Herbalhood with you.
So let’s make the most of this beautiful day,
Since we’re together, we might as well say,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my herbal?
Won’t you please,
Won’t you please,
Please won’t you be my herbal?
Ah, brings tears to my eyes.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 5 so far )
It is Earth Day today and the Earth more than deserves it. Sadly it is too easy to fall into divisions on how to think of the day. I see many folks seemingly fall into one of two camps – either a brief celebration soon to be forgotten like the many Hallmark style holidays that litter our calendars and trash the day after or a time twinged with feelings of guilt and anger.
I like to look it at as a time to start working on repairing and strengthening our relationship with the earth and nature. Because when we do that – we change the ways we are, the way we behave and our actions in the world. Then the two camps above aren’t so important anymore.
Appreciate and Connect
You can connect with Nature with a capital N in the wild, parks, etc.:
And those places are magical and important. When you can go, then go. But it becomes too easy to see the magic of the earth as reserved to special places.
Everywhere is a special place. Celebrate and appreciate them all. Even in the heart of the city you can see magic.
The wonder of mushrooms after a spring rain:
Stop and appreciate them.
Or an indomitable lone mullein poking forth between the street and the sidewalk:
Relish those every bit as much as a distant pristine forest; for nature is all around us.
Nourish and Give Back
Find particular plants, either in the wild or the urban jungle – and connect with them by learning about them and nourishing them. Pick a plant you see regularly and if you don’t know it, then learn about it. Stop and talk to it and spend time with it. Nourish it by bringing a little water or fertilizer – or simply your presence and attention.
Watch the animals in your area and learn about them. See them, the plants and the people as part of the same environment and connected.
You can help things grow in new places like I have extra medicinal herbal seeds from my garden planning that I’ll “seed” around in appropriate areas (all local plants and not invasive exotics!)
Look for groups like this great one in Boston – Boston Tree Party which organizes events to plant fruit trees in public accessible places increasing the nature in the city and providing free abundant foods for folks.
There are bigger groups that not only do advocacy but also protect, nourish and preserve the environment. I’m fond of these:
There are tons of wonderful books on natural history, learning to ID plants, animals, etc. – almost all of worth exploring. But here are some more philosophical ones that I’d like to share.
My Name is Chellis and I’m in Recovery from Western Civilizationby Chellis Glendinning – A very influential book for me that talks about how damaged psychologically we have become by being so disconnected from nature. And how valuable it is to connect to nature and spend time in nature.
Thinking Like a Mountain: Towards a Council of All Beings by John Seed and World as Lover, World as Self: Courage for Global Justice and Ecological Renewal by Joanna Macy – both of these are great books for learning to see our connections to nature and importance of that oneness and actions to recognize it.
Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor by Leonardo Boff – a little more obscure but interesting book connecting Latin American Liberation theology, advocacy for the poor and environment.
Lastly, just go and spend time standing barefoot on the earth. There’s something powerful about connecting your skin to the skin of the earth that is lost in daily life. Try it every day if you can.
Love you Mother Earth! Thank You! THANK YOU!
P.S. Check out the awesome collection of Earth Day Posts that the ever awesome Lucinda at Whispering Earth assembled for her Earth Day Blog Party!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 16 so far )