It’s hard to even remember now what came first, the hurricane called Irene or the freaky winter snowstorm at the end of October. Like most people, herbalists do all the usual things like make sure we have water and candles on hand and extra flashlight batteries, but we are often running around before and after a storm to see what plants or plant parts or branches can be salvaged for medicine or food.
Oh yes, Irene was a late summer storm she gathered steam I was out in the garden gathering sage leaves in the rain, to cook up with butter and into the wild mushrooms my partner harvested earlier in the week...
Photo by Lee Ann Monat
I felt exhilarated, wild and joyous being out in the pelting rain and wind, gathering plants. It felt primal to be out in that wildness of the weather, like all the other animals.
During the day, before Irene struck full force, I walked around our land doing a ritual of gratitude to the Thunder Beings. I wish I could remember now who wrote about it on Facebook so I could thank her here. I learned about it from Bonnie Rogers (http://www.bonniesherbals.com) who shared the post. Essentially you walk the perimeter of your land, spreading corn meal in a circle around it and this helps them to bypass the area. As I walked, giving thanks for all we have, I kept asking the trees how they were, if they would survive or if they wouldn’t.
Some fairly small sumach trees were the only ones who told me they might not make it. At the time I told them that if they fell, I would miss them, and yet I would enjoy the new light and space that would be created where they were growing because they were shading out some wild yam plants and also blocking my path to our compost piles. Well, they were, in fact, the only trees that we lost during Irene. Later, after the trees had been variously pruned or cut down and there was a large pile of them in the yard, I went out with my gathering basket and my give away herbs, and harvested whatever healthy sumach berries I could find that weren’t waterlogged, It was a strange sensation to feel as if I were traveling along the branches and trunks of the trees because they were all lying down. I thanked the trees for their medicine gifts and they assured me they would grow back from the roots. Meanwhile, I’ve enjoyed the easier access to the compost piles as well as delicious kidney strengthening, refreshing sumach berry tea.
And, by the way, many of our neighbors lost power for longer than we did and had far more damage, so all thanks and praises to the Thunder Beings and to simple rituals of reconnection that are available to all of us.
There were many stories after the snowstorm, here’s one:
During the snowstorm we lost the top third or so of the flowing (so-called “weeping”) pine tree in front of our house. Afterward I gathered pine needles and branches for dozens and dozens of students and friends. We made fragrant, lung healing teas, oils, vinegars, glycerine tinctures, syrups and home decorations from all the branches that came down from one small pine tree. We pruned her with love, and with gratitude that she was still standing, and thanked her for the amazing abundance of medicine she had provided for us.