There is nothing hidden about the changing of the seasons in New England. The constant transition happens all around. Everything out in the open, there to see if you take the time to look.
The fields that line my commute are daily reminders that the land’s harvest is temporary by nature. Backroads are packed with all sorts of medicinal offerings but timing is everything.
Many herbs are most potent when gathered right before they flower. When all the plant’s energy is gathering for the display of its life.
This year, I became aware of the tremendous amount of St. John’s Wart along my morning migration. Collection of Ghost Plant, Plantain, Rose, Wintergreen, Chaga, Yarrow and Mullen where already part of my yearly tincture efforts. There is a short window to locate and harvest these gifts before they pass their prime for extraction or drying.
Most of these interactions result in tinctures that resemble the color of the plant, at time of harvest.
The above Yarrow tincture was dark green by week’s end.
There are two spectacular exceptions: Ghost Plant and St. John’s Wart.
St. John’s Wart is a beautiful yellow flowered plant, it loves gravelly open areas with abundant sun. Often used to help with depression, it has many other applications. The flowers are photosensitive and must be picked before they open or the following magic will not be as strong.
When the plant is mashed and added to alcohol or oil an impressive reaction takes place. At first, it is a pink/orange but this hue darkens.
Within hours it has obtained this incredible shade of blood red.
The chlorophyl lacking Ghost Plant has an even more astounding transformation. Unlike St. John’s Wart; when muddled and added to liquid there is no instant change.
But after about an hour something mysterious (see what I did there?) starts to happen.
By day’s end, the concoction has taken on an incredible midnight purple.
These two fascinating interactions are my photo for “Mystery.”
Not a lot is know about Ghost Plant and (as with all herbs,) each person needs to take responsibility and do their own research with respect to their individual health situations.
I can’t recommend that others treat their bodies the way I treat mine. I like herbs because they are subtle. It also means that when I need to use something more powerful like Tylenol, it works.
I think the process of procuring these types of medicine, out in the sun and air is a preventative treatment as well. Almost the opposite of burning the candle at both ends. Time out in nature exploring, interacting and learning about the many ways the earth can heal, helps to get perspective on what matters most in the world. The ever-changing seasons mean I have to make time for these things while they are happening or I will miss them completely till next year.
Health, happiness and harmony are all around us in undisturbed natural systems. There is more sanity in one square patch of raw dirt, teaming with life, than in all the cities in all the world.
The earth’s systems are self-sustaining. They were bountiful enough to allow us become what we are. Our systems are not self-sustaining, they do not replenish what they extract. Most are not even sustainable. The condition of our world is a sad thing. I do my best not to add to it by taking more than I should from the land.
This year, I only picked a few handfuls of Ghost Plant. Summer was drier than normal and the fungi food web suffered greatly. I never know what the next season’s conditions will bring. I have learned to be aware and seize the opportunities that offer themselves.
Whenever possible, I take time to wander. It is often on the road to nowhere you find powerful medicine.
It can be an unexpected stash of Chaga in a stand of Birch, a glen packed with everything you were looking for that day or a soul lifting vista you never knew existed.
For me, it is good to go out and be quiet. To listen more than I speak. To observe rather than influence it let’s my thoughts untangle themselves.
And if that doesn’t work, hopefully the tinctures do.