Sunday, September 18, 2011

Into the Forest

This morning I was called into the forest.  I need to collect Solomon seal.  Every year I run out.  People have so many joint problems or joint injuries.  And today was the day to go...

I went out early in the morning, which is my favorite time of day.  We have forgotten that the forest offers a mystical experience - everytime we venture out - if we enter with an open heart and childlike wonder.  The morning was cold, so I wore a hat and handwarmers with my usual hoodie sweatshirt.  As I walked I had a "vision" of a bear walking with me asking questions about my handwarmers.  They are thick, black, made of homespun alpaca.  My hands look a bit like paws with just the tips of my fingers showing.  The bear was curious about my paws, so I showed him I could take them off and put them on.  The logical part of me was considering the fear we have of wild animals, and then I had the image of Edward Hicks' Peaceable Kingdom.  I understood that that was the way. until we created the fear.  The fear is not human.  As a human we are at home in the forest, and in sync with our fellow forest neighbors.  But the force that has impacted our humanity has made the animals wary and not at home in what's left of the forest.

I read, once, that as long as we can go to the trees, we will not lose the plant lore.  They are our elders, and they hold the ancient knowledge, which they release generously.  Even today I was reminded, we are of the trees.  They are our ancestors.

I was looking for Solomon seal, walking the same path, trailing the same stream where I had seen it earlier this season.  I didn't see any today.  The plants do this sometime.  They hide themselves, because it is not time.  I said hello to the Cohosh clan.  I stepped over rocks and met many others, some familiar friends, others I need to know.  I came to the end of the area I wanted to search today and thought,  "OK, they lured me out under false circumstances.  Let's see why we're really here..." 

As I started back, I saw one tiny Solomon seal.  I asked if I could pick it and it said no.  Then the others appeared.  This is common.  I asked another if I could pick it.  Yes.  I laid down on the stream bank, and began to uncover the root.  The plant told me to use my hands, not a metal tool I had in my pocket.  Solomon seal grows for many years.  Each year, the root adds another swelled lump where the stem emerges into the light.  Uncovering a root is like brushing damp soil away from a spinal cord.  I uncovered and gently lifted.  As I did so, I remembered reading an account written by a man who had been attacked and almost devoured by a large cat.  He wrote that as the cat began to take his life, it was like an ecstacy.  I wondered about the ecstacy of death.  I asked the Solomon seal if this was what it was like.  Yes.  But as the attcker, I didn't share in the ecstacy.  I was just pulling a root.  I realize I need to open my heart and develop my awareness and be part of my world.

I was given permission to harvest a second root.  As I uncovered the "spine" I found that it curved more than 90 degrees.  It is for severe twists.  Solomon seal is sweet and smooth.  It is very much like the smooth cartilage that covers the ends of bones.  And it is good for joints.  But Solomon seal reminded me that we need this herb because we have forgotten how to be sweet and smooth.  Instead we are too focused, too intense, we jump from one thing to another, we don't relax and we don't release.  This particular patch of Solomon seal had been through the recent flood.  It was fine, because it was flexible.

I was walking amidst some wood nettle.  I was thinking about my kidneys, and kidneys in general.  Kidneys teach us to separate liquid from solid, and so they give form to our bones.  This ties so closely to the Solomon seal teaching the bones to move smoothly.  And so they are neighbors in the forest.  Same clan...The patch of nettles was in a shady, moist spot.  They inspired me to think about my kidneys, being in a dark and moist place,  I wondered how we bring light to the kidney.  I heard "Calendula" immediately, but I continued thinking about light and kidneys, about light in our bones. 

I was walking back along the creek, and was invited by some blue cohosh to lean aganst the creek bank.  The bank was high and steep, and so to lean was to be in contact with the earth.  I understood that to be womb to womb with the mother is to expose the kidneys to light.

And so I was rewarded.  As I left the woods I passed and harvested coltsfoot leaf and horsetail and some amazing yarrow.  I was called back to harvest some agrimony that had thrived in an abused place.  That will help us understand and survive.

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