Gentle Spring // Cleansing

Cherry blossoms

This year’s spring has been a revelation, sweet and slow. The mountains here held winter much longer than usual—we’ve even seen April snows. Crocuses were the first to awaken, scattered across a wild lawn by the lake. It was such a welcome sight, I stopped my car in the middle of the road. The pageant of blooms has been a leisurely unveiling, requiring the patience of a sugarbush pan over a woodstove. Soon after the first amethyst-colored crocuses the daffodil greens arrived, pushing up out of forgotten soil like vines. The Bradford pear down the street flushed out like a white-chested goose and the very first Cherry blossoms blushed— the bosom of spring had begun. Every day I’ve had new eyes for the world. I watch the hyacinths unfurl low to the ground, rich as embroidery on the earth. The tulips pop up with shocks of color, as sensuous as parted lips along the road. The dandelions have already flashed from teeth, to green, to yellow, to puff in less than three weeks. Sometimes I think I can barely keep up! In the woods the ephemerals have come and gone and come again. Bloodroot petals have already disappeared into the duff, the first spring beauties long gone. I sit on my haunches like the trilliums and count the mayapple umbrellas before they unfurl.

Bloodroot risk to bloomRedbud branchesSpring is a many-petaled season. It is beautiful and fickle, exacting and loose. It bequeaths our hearts with so much hope and abundance, and then flits by as quickly as a cardinal at the window. It is a slow pour of both fulfillment and longing, our spring. The pain and the beauty both, gentle.

Daffodils in the rain

Spring is the traditional time of cleansing. After a long, internal winter Spring bursts forth, gracing us with the inherent energy needed to slough off that which has begun to feel stagnant or stuck, relearn how it feels to bloom. Every Spring I teach a class on Spring Cleansing. In the class we meander through all the fresh greens that grow wild in early spring: dandelion, chickweed, cleavers, violet, bittercress, creasy greens, poke… We discuss the mechanics of fasting and explore how to incorporate our herbal allies into our cleanse. I love this class because it encapsulates one of my greatest passions— connecting to the earth in her subtly, in her seasons, in her bounty of medicine changes. This year, however, we began the class much slower, quieter. I had every student sit down in meditation, take time to breathe, and do some gentle stretching to get our energy to begin its flow.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Fasting and strict cleansing rituals have their time and place. They are vital, transformational tools for a detoxification on all levels of being. But sometimes, like the first meandering snow melt stream, the kind of cleansing you most need will be subtle, gentle, incremental and deep.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

When we cleanse, no matter how we cleanse, it is the intention that we bring to our process that initiates transformation. All healing comes from within. Our bodies are constantly working to repair and detoxify, our bright spirits will never cease in their insistency to come through. Why else are we so struck by a newly opened daffodil? We recognize within its sunny disposition our own ever-returning light. Conscious cleansing is simply a way to acknowledge this process, and deepen its process by lending the power of your conscious mind.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

praying dogwood

This Spring I have embarked upon a very gentle cleanse, a slow shedding of layers that fits the subtly of my own shifts perfectly. I’ve shared a few of my favorite allies and practices for cleansing below. Each day might have seemed very small, but at the end of nearly two months of intentionally focusing my energy on healing the changes I’ve witnessed, the blooms in me now open and free, are astounding. Every day I continue to give the gift of myself, my presence and peace of mind, to the world, and I am excited to see just what unfurls from here.

Screen shot 2014-04-24 at 12.12.53 PM

Now matter how you decide to cleanse the most important element is simply honoring where you are, and allowing the space for unforeseen transformation. All winter we witness the bare trees and forget about blooms or leaves. Then, suddenly, there will be buds and we will only wonder what lies inside them. And finally, on a day so gloriously sunny that we will have forgotten all else, they will blossom and we will come to know the world with even newer eyes.


// Violets //

violet flower essence sans textViolets might be my most beloved springtime allies. When I first moved down to these mountains I was in a time of deep transition. I had left a long-term partnership and had just arrived in a town where I, frankly, knew no one and nothing! It felt like the right decision for me, but there were moments where I felt profoundly adrift. That spring it was as if I was seeing violets for the very first time. Suddenly, they were everywhere! They blanketed the half-acre around my house; a moss of purple so thick you forgot the grass even existed. I couldn’t get enough of them. I would pick them by the handful, eating the sweet blooms and heart shaped leaves while lying on my back and staring up at the trees. They were a comfort, a companion; I hoped they would never leave. The next year I made an essence from their blooms and the information that came through was revelatory.

patch of violets white oak

Violets are incredible allies for helping you to feel comfortable and content with yourself. They are flowers of self-acceptance, harbingers of self-care. As a powerful alterative, Violets are potent physical allies for clearing and detoxifying the body. If nothing else you could cleanse solely by munching on a fist-full of violet flowers every day! On a more energetic level, violets help us to do the internal clearing of habits that have kept us feeling stuck or small. Violets consistently encourage me to let go of negative patterns of relating (most especially to myself) and foster a deep desire for self-exploration. They help me make a commitment to be warm and generous to myself, and honoring of the space and time, the stillness that I need to heal.

Processed with VSCOcam

If violets are calling to you simply spend some time sitting with them. Explore their petals and their roots. Nibble on their flowers and heart-shaped leaves, sprinkle their medicine in a spring salad or fresh sandwich. Steep a violet tea and drink this dark amethyst brew for a daily detoxification ritual. Don’t forget about the power of on–the-body medicine. Lay down for a spell in the sunny grass and get a friend to cover you with blooms.


// Clear Quartz //

Screen shot 2014-04-24 at 11.51.25 AM

Known as the “master harmonizer” in Chinese medicine, clear quartz is a powerful cleanser and amplifier. On the physical level clear quartz is thought to increase and regulate the Qi, bringing vitality to all areas of the body. Clear quartz is one of my favorite stones to work with because it is so deeply versatile. Like our own spirits, it can be focused and attuned to any kind of purpose. In traditional Taoist medicine clear quartz was often used to draw energy from other stones, animals, elements or lands. By pointing quartz at a certain celestial body, for example, the stone inherently absorbs some of the energy of that entity and can become an emissary of that medicine wherever it goes.

colorful quartz

Experiment this Spring with programming clear quartz with your favorite medicine places. Take quartz with you when you wade through the rivers and bring this medicine home to make elixirs, grids, and mandalas. If you have a specific intention for healing, hold a clear quartz in your hands and gently ask the quartz to take up the power of this medicine. Speak your intention clearly and imagine that everything you need to heal is infuse directly from you into the stone. Clear quartz will hold this intention for you, reminding you to return to its flow. Let yourself play. there is no end to the manifestation of healing that can take place through quartz. If there is a particular cloud or concert that seems to be calling your name, ask its energy to go into a piece of clear quartz and take this moment in time with you wherever your go. Sleep with quartz until your pillow to get to bring this healing with you into your dreaming. Make healing elixirs by putting your programmed stones in water over night. Drink your elixir water first thing in the morning and witness how you feel.


// Presence + Breathing //

Tulip close

This element of cleansing might seem too simple for some, but if you can master the art of truly being present all healing will happen on its own. This season I’ve simply practiced being present. I take time every day to walk and witness what new leaf has budded out, which bulb has finally bloomed. By connecting into the seasons with presence and gratitude, I give my body and spirit permission to simply cycle naturally. I allow myself to soak up the medicine of a single moment and allow my own inherent healing to bloom. So much imbalance is caused by worry, anxiety, projection and regret. When we take our attention out of what will be or what was, and simply return to what is we relocate the incredible power of our energy into the present moment, where it is available for our healing.

Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset

Whenever I feel an edge of anxiety creep in I simply stop what I’m doing, walk outside if I can, and breathe. Three deep belly breaths are usually enough to bring me back down. If that fails, I’ll trying a few rounds of alternative nostril breathing. On the high-stress days, when my heart continues to race, I put one hand squarely on my chest and speak out loud: “I am here. Now. And it is beautiful.” It is always such a potent reminder. There is no time but the present, so why not begin our healing in this gentle moment of spring?

Processed with VSCOcam


Many blessings on your cleansing journeys this spring! May your days be full of bounty and peace, may every bloom surprise you with its destined unfurl.



Slow Spring

red maple skySpring has crept into these mountains like slow rain. Soft and almost imperceptible, if not for the bright flashes of forsythia and cherry trees, the early Lonicera and pussy willows, the red maples with their tufted rings of tiny crimson blooms. If you Crocuslook, there are crocuses and speedwells flattened to the ground and daffodils opening in scattered groupings by sunny streamsides. It seems every hill is mottled in purple, dead nettle velveting their slopes. We’ve had several frosts arrive unexpectedly, like neighbors you’d almost forgotten about, until they show up on your doorstep demanding something. We’ve had to welcome spring in halts and bursts, fits and starts. Days where the birds sing from sunrise to sunset, nights where all is silent but the creak of ice on warming bark.

The day after the equinox I awoke to snow on the ground and the wind with all its gathered voices rushing through the valley. My neighbors had covered their blooming fig trees with blankets in the hope that their sweet summer bounty could be saved. Sometimes springs happen, sudden and simply welling from within, so tender and easily passed by. Sometimes even spring needs to be protected, loved, nurtured and spoken to softly—keep blooming.Daffodil bannerdaffodil & tulip greenssnowy tree

euphorbiaI’m reminded of a quote from Pablo Neruda, a man who loved the spring in all things, “You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep spring from coming.”

The greens are out and in abundance. Chickweed, day lilly and creasy greens, bittercress. Stinging nettle and cleavers beginning to catch the wind and passing skirts chickweed sceneof early spring worshipers. This weekend I sowed poppies and oats, broadcasting their seed across the tender tilled soil. I have such an admiration for these plants, the ones that grow in the early disorder of spring. The ones that love the occasional chill, the drama and exception of an impetuous thaw. We all could learn how to be better fed by such wild unpredictability.

I’m in the depths of preparing for my upcoming class on Spring Cleansing: Traditional Appalachian Herbs for Detoxification and Transformation. It has been such a pleasure. To study the procession of every new tendril, reading, daydreaming about walking with Tommie Bass in early April, falling in love with the early roots and shoots of spring all over again, thinking about flowers and flowers and unfurling all day long.

Red Maple Blooming
Red Maple Blooming
early spring house
Early Spring Home

I’m looking forward to posting some of the material from my class up on the blog. Sharing some of the subtler passions of this season, it’s slow materialization, sparse openings, fresh medicine— the sweet space given for reflection. What in me is budding and beginning? What in me is shrinking in unexpected snows? How long do I wait before the dare and pomp and pure bravado of blooming forth?

January Stillness

Golden winter woodsThe older I get, the deeper my love for winter grows.  Bemoaned for its long nights, dull days and monotonous cold, January is often everyone’s least favorite month. There are barely any dates of note on the calendar (with the exception of today, Martin Luther King day). Compared to the pomp and celebratory splendor of December, January seems to linger quite languidly, like the motionless shadow of the new year. But that’s exactly why I love it.


January is the ultimate month of recuperation for me. It’s the withdrawal, the silence, the time to rediscover the space of stillness that exists within just waiting to expand. With nowhere to go, nothing to celebrate, and so much time sitting vigil in the darkness…something akin to transcendence breaks though. In these past few weeks I’ve been taking it very easy. Working minimally, spending most evenings by myself, reorganizing the apothecary, and going for long winter walks. Some days my sole intention is simply to listen: to the conversation of the birds, the swish of the trees, the heat as it hisses on– the quieter voice of my own spirit that gets so lost in the whirl of other seasons. Some days I barely speak. I haven’t been so content in a long while. winter shadowsAnise Hyssop in jar winterBooks to ceiling and nestsEvery action in winter, so extreme next to the stillness of the world, seems to mimic some deeper need. I’ve hiked up a familiar ridge just to witness the surprise of how much farther the land continues through the bare winter trees. I’ve also visited the paths of unknown woods, simply to meet something entirely new in the world, to touch a farther corner than ever before and see how it felt. It’s amazing what depths and distance exists within us, the unexpected terrain that remains so totally obscured until we allow a hush, a pause, a peace.

Morning houseWeaverville graveyard tree

Blue Ridge in Winter

For me, cozy in my house and free to just be, winter is a blissful existence: I make tea. I do yoga. I read. I plan for the future and write down my dreams. Last week I finally took down the bundles of nettles, anise hyssop, and tulsi that have been drying in the apothecary and reorganized my room. This weekend, I bought myself a rose.

Dry Herb processing seatVines in BarnardsvilleBookshelf with candle

Weaverville GraveyardWinter is the time for us to simply witness the frame of our existence. Explore its strength, its spaces, its stark beauty. Begin to walk the rooms of our innerselves and allow new dreams to surface: plans of the elaborate, fantasies, memories, an elopement with the unseen self and the greater mystery of being.

Bottom floor beginnings

Fall Harvest & Deep Colors

Autumn has passed swiftly. In one momentous sweep the mountains around my home turned from yellow, to gold, to amber, to ruby and then finally– with a last groan– to earth and brown. Here in the Blue Ridge we watch steadily for that first bit of color. It seeps down from the top of our hearty navy mountains slow and liquid, as if the sky had poured its technicolor honey straight down onto the tip of their crowns.

I love fall. I love how sublimely the earth shows its individuality. One tree might be totally bare by mid-october, while another is just beginning to let go. We spend so much time plodding through unkept piles of leaves that we get lost in their commonplace and collective familiarities. But I love thinking about each leaf. To our eyes, they are always falling. But to a single leaf, the moment is singular, irreplaceable. There is a surrender in Fall that takes my breath away. It’s almost ecstatic, how the living let go to the cold’s embrace. Some die, some sleep, some pull inwards and prepare for the season of their magnificence. I imagine it must be powerfully peaceful, transcendent.

Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)

Fall is the time for harvesting. Collecting roots and the fruits of your labor, taking stock of all that you have tended and grown over the year and letting go of the rest. Harvesting means more than embracing that which has flourished and nourished you, it also means leaving behind that which no longer serves you. I am simply in love with how this season defines abundance– in Autumn’s shape, abundance is not just the acquisition of what you need to feel full and happy, abundance is a kind of inward expansiveness, a steadiness and contentment that allows you to let go.

Maypops, Passionflower fruit (Passiflora incarnata)

My fall was infused with joyful and conscientious gathering (and partings as well). Wild fruits like autumn olives, maypops (passionflower fruit) and persimmons (which should be collected when soft and mushy, otherwise you risk an astringent mouth straight jacket like you have never experienced before). There are leafy fall medicinals making their return on the other side of spring– stinging nettles, chickweed, and cleavers– as well as some herbs that only appear this once, in the waning of the season’s warmth. Goldenrod, a common roadside adornment, is one of my favorite fall medicine flowers. Known to many as an allergen, Goldenrod actually works to combat the symptoms of allergies, alleviating the sinuses as well as helping to improve kidney function and heal UTIs.

Harvesting Golden Rod

Fall is the best time of the year to dig most roots. From fields and wayland to forests– these are the roots for which we have waited all season. I scrambled under fences to low pastures of Yellow Dock, Dandelion, and Poke. I climbed wooded hillsides to find Wild Yam, Black Cohosh and Appalachian Osha.  I journeyed to the Pigeon river and dug thin and willowy Yellow Roots from their sandy banks and slanted roofs of river stone. I harvested roots from my garden that I’ve been watching grow for years, waiting for them to return heavy and thick. Valerian, Calamus, Burdock, Echinacea, Comfrey, Angelica, and Elecampagne.

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Calamus Root (Acorus calamus)
Yellow Root (Xanthorhiza simplicissima)
Elecampagne (Inula helenium)

I am in deep awe of elecampagne. The day after I harvested over 5 lbs of root a friend from out-of-town arrived at our doorstep, bemoaning a deep, boggy chest cold that had been lingering for weeks. Hoping to give her at least a little bit of relief, I brewed a big pot of elecampagne tea for breakfast. Everyone exclaimed at its deliciousness! Aromatic, clearing, almost spicy with hints of both sweet and bitter. Walking down to the pasture afterwards our friend began coughing up long stuck muck. When we saw her the next day, she was glowing. “I am completely healed!” she exclaimed. Apparently, after battling this chest cold for almost a month, all of her symptoms completely disappeared. She was breathing easy and her lungs felt unfettered and free. Frankly, I was shocked. I normally think of herbal tea as a pleasure activity with the added benefit of some gentle healing. But this pot of elecampagne tea was powerful medicine. I felt reverent. As the old Latin phrase goes, Enula campana reddit praecordia sans (Elecampagne will the spirits sustain).

Hickory nuts
Freshly de-hulled Black Walnuts
Freshly de-hulled Black Walnuts

Fall is also the season of the nut. Many people are totally unaware of the blissful amount of food that falls from the tress every autumn. When I was growing up I remember thinking of nuts as fun toys or loathsome burrs. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I was introduced to the wonderful world of eating wild nuts. Hickorys, acorns, black walnuts, and chestnuts. All of them require a bit of processing, but they are well worth the effort.

Kitten hoarding acorns

The first step is always to remove the nut from their fleshy hulls, otherwise they’ll rot. Once bare, nuts can be stored in their shells for over a year without going bad. Some nuts require additional processing, like acorns, which must be leached of their tannins (an astringent and bitter compound that will turn your digestive tract into an uncomfortable fist). Some hulls have additional uses. Black walnut hulls make potent medicine for parasitic and fungal infections and an excellent dye. In fact, if you process a good bit of Black Walnuts without washing your hands, you’ll end up with dark brown paws. We saved a good bit of hulls to dye deerskin that had already been softened and smoked. You can also use the dye for any other natural fibers like wool or silk.

Black Walnuts in hulls
Deerskin dyed with Black Walnut

Red amaranth, which grows in wild profusion at the top of our hill, is known for its deep and jewel dark dye. From seed to bloom, I have worshiped this plant for the richness of its color– an almost maroon, ruby-velvet hue. We collected enough to stuff a tall stock pot and brought it to a boil. Using alum as our mordant (a substance that helps to set dyes in fabric) we plunged a hearty load of cashmere and silk into its depths and simmered our brew for over an hour. As with most things wild and handmade, the process was slow and much less flashy than you might expect. But the soft pink dye that was left behind was simple perfection to me.

Hopi Red Amaranth

This past weekend we had what might be the last of our lovely fall days. It was sunny and bright and the colors of the mountain looked as if they had just been born. I spent the whole day sitting on the hill behind our cottage. I watched the gardens with utter appreciation, loving that which I knew was falling asleep underneath the thick duff of leaves as much as I admired what remained– the hardy fennel and tobacco and the flowers they both still bore. Despite the bareness of the trees and the gray web of their forests, stretching in a fog across the ridgeline of our valley, I cannot remember a day when I felt so sublimely alive. Everything, all of it, was just so delightful.

Love and Woodland Wildflowers

Lately, I have been a girl in love. Wildflowers are climbing over moss and besides creeks and in every ditch and gully from here to the highlands. It’s some kind of heaven. I always forget, every year, just how stunnily beuatiful these empheral moments of color can be. These flowers dissipate as quickly as the fog on the ground of a sunny morning. One moment they are there and the next, they are gone. Perhaps that is why they call them spring empherals. And perhaps that is why I love them so.

Wild Iris

Last week I went on my first true wildcrafting trip of the season. A carfull of botany friends and wildliving lovers packed into my car and drove out north to a spot I have heard much about, but had never visited before. Miles and miles on backroads and a forged creek later, we arrived.

Wild Bleeding Hearts

There were wildflowers living in every crease of the landscape. It was thrilling! I walked with one hand out in front me like someone grasping at an apparition, and the other planted firmly on my camera.

Pedicularis & Bee
Pedicularis & Bee

There was one flower is particular, however, for which I searched. For a year I have been waiting to meet Pedicularis again. I cannot tell you how steadily I watched the slow progression from slate to blue to green with a sole heartug of wonder….”when will Pedicularis peek up once more?” This wild-haired flower is an important and profound medicine. There are people close to me who use this medicine daily for chronic muscular pain. For some, this flower can be a literal saving grace. A nervine, hypnotic, antispasmodic, and amourant, Pedicularis is one of the best skeletal muscle relaxants on the planet. Eat a leaf while you’re hiking and you will most liking feel as chilled out as this bee. This robust flower bursts from the ground in such an inconspicuous pomp and whorl. Once you spot it, however, it will draw you in hypnotized, humble, and spinning.

Sleepy in Heaven
This might be you in a bed of Pedicularis
Wild iris
Wild Iris

If you want to learn more about this incredible flower, please visit herbalist extraordinaire 7Song’s seriously wonderful monograph. He’s included pretty much everything you could ever want to know about Pedicularis. Awesome.

Below are two more beautiful spring medicines. Wood anemone (the shy and mesmerizing white flower on the left) is used for panic and anxiety attacks, migraines, and to help ease out of “bad trips.” Wild Geranium root (on the right) is an extremely astringent medicine that can be especially useful for those with IBD, Celiacs, ulcers, and diarrhea, as it helps to tighten the digestive tract.

Wood anemone
Wood Anemone
Wild Geranium

What more can I say. Is there anything more exquisite than spring flowers? They are born and live as eternally as fawns, wide eyed and full of purpose for just a few foaling weeks. I would happily settle for such an existence. Wouldn’t you?

Solomons Seal
Patch of Violets
Foam flower and violets

Flurry of Spring

Spring has rolled in as furious and quick as a midsummer storm. It seems every tree is rushing into bloom. The perrenials are stretching up like lazy giants and wild edibles abound. It’s been shocking and soothing and something quite like madness all at the same time. (I turned my back for a minute and the grass has already grown so high as to be unmanageable!)

Dogwoods in bloom

This early spring has conjured up a blinding flurry of activity. The garden is siren calling me day-in day-out to start digging. We have plans to double the size of our garden beds, adding in borders of flowers, wings of herbs to surround the exisiting vegetable garden and excavating terraces of wild herbal perrenials up on the hill. Maybe you’d like to check out the “before” in anticipation of a mid-summer “after”:

The Hill: Dreamscape for a Terraced Wonderland of Herbs
Palm reader and blossoms in PA

Honestly, I almost feel as though I can’t keep up! I’ve been so busy with planting and planning, I’ve barely gotten out with my camera to capture the sheer emphemeral loveliness of this season. Just when you settle into the famailar site of one flower or unfurling, the whole scene changes before your eyes. Such is the way of Spring I guess. Yesterday, I took a couple photos around the house of some of my favorite returning medicinals. Some of these beauties have been planted in my garden, while others will always grow wild on their own. Sweet heaven.

calamus arisen
Holy comfrey! They’re huge!

On top of all the gardening, growing, and dreaming, I have made a resolute decision to change my life. I’m determined to start up my own business. In light of this resolve, I left my old, very stable, job for a more flexible part-time position as a plant caretaker. It was a big decision, and not just because my income was going to be cut in half. It’s never easy to give up a sure-thing, no matter how unfufilled you feel. But, sometimes you really have to leap out into the unknown, let the future swirl uncharted, allow fate to sweep you up into her windy beginnings. When it feels right, go with it. Spring is all about the deep reward of foolishness. Every living thing is throwing itself into life with abandon. So I did too. This spring, allow yourself to bloom, change, begin again. You never know what you might find– those old promises of love and passion, opportunity, or just the ability to feel free.  I, for one, am chasing it all.

A “Tribute” to Appalachia

I went to see the Hunger Games last night and was delighted to find some of my favorite places on earth displayed in full color on the big screen. (Warning: minimal spoiler alert)

The entirety of the Hunger Games was shot in North Carolina. In the book, District 12 is located in the beautiful, but socially-grim, coal-rich Appalachia of the future. Luckily for Katniss, the “arena” within which the tributes fight was created to be very similar to these woods. Most of the filming took place in and around Asheville and, as the tourist office would like for you to know, all of the film’s stars stayed and “played” in town also. (woop)  Many of the Arena woodland scenes were shot up in Barnardsville, close to location of my campout a few weeks ago. (Check out my post to see what the area looks like before it’s all leafed out)

oh hey, tulip poplar in the righthand corner

In between the blooming anxiety over Katniss’s survival and near two hours of heart palpitations (all this from someone who actually read the books!) I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful the forest was! When I should have been concentrating on which tribute was creeping up to kill our trusty heroine, I was examining a patch of chickweed directly behind Katniss or the budding rhododendron that she briskly runs past. When Katniss woke up from her tracker jacker-induced slumber with a compress of leaves on both arms, my friend, and fellow plant dork, actually leaned over to me and whispered, “aren’t those bloodroot leaves?” Looks like it to me! (which actually isn’t all that cool, because bloodroot is endangered! Hopefully they didn’t disturb the root)

The Real Deal: Bloodroot leaves

I’m well aware that a botanical fascination was not “the point” of The Hunger Games movie, but it’s definitely one of my more lasting impressions. Sitting in that theater and drinking in the panorama of those breathtaking forests, I felt this incredible heartwelling urge to run, right then and there, to the woods and see what new green had come up since I’d last visited. All at once, I remembered summer and the incredible procession of unfurling– blooms, leaves, flowers and canopies– that is still to come, and I was exhilarated!

Sometimes, you really need to be reminded of just how lucky you are, and of the incredible abundance of the life (and learning) awaiting you. This time, there just so happened to be a multi-million dollar movie poised and ready-to-release at the head of spring to help me remember.

First Camping Trip of the Season

At the beginning of the week I loaded Mr. Forester (my Subaru who also goes by the name “silver fox”) with sleeping bags and long johns and friends and headed to the woods.

The drive itself was beautiful. We passed through Appalachian farmland, admiring the weathered barns sliding drunk from the hillsides and the empty pastures with their solitary tree swings and watchful grazers. This is the time of the year for which the Blue Ridge Mountains are named. With the trees still bare, the gently rounded peaks of these ancient mountains remain cloaked in a dusky blue twilight. We drove straight into their folds.

By the time we hiked up into the woods, it was already mid-afternoon. Unlike time’s normal routine of skittering past your grasp and forever down its rabbit hole, this bright day just seemed to get bigger and bigger. Sometimes, when you really lose yourself in nature, time stretches so thin it almost ceases to exist. We spent long, sun-dappled moments swimming in the cold mountain river, leaping from one boulder of moss to another and exploring the awakening forest.

I got lost for hours laying in a bed of partridge berry. This lovely, creeping evergreen dripped from rock faces, tree roots, and rhododendron shade everywhere. It was profuse. An incredible native medicinal, I leisurely collected handful upon handful as the day drew on. (If you want to know more about this humble and powerful plant, check out Juliet Blankespoor’s awesome post on her blog Castanea).

Partridge Berry- Mitchella repens
black walnut extravaganza

We snacked on black walnuts (gathered this past fall by many friends with black hands!) and ate dried wild apples.

That night we cooked local deer and wild rice (harvested, danced upon, and carried back to Appalachia all the way from Minnesota) over an open fire. We rolled our sleeping bags out on the ground, spent one last moment looking up at the black silhouettes of the trees, and then fell asleep under the stars.

In moments like these, I can’t help but be left in wonder. How charmed life can be.

The Web That Speaks of a Weaver

I found this lovely piece of spider’s lace out on a trail and I carried it in my hands all the way home. Isn’t it incredible? The substance of a whole summer of fluffing out and catching the sun, now crumbled and gone.

Winter has its way with us. The cold and quiet can strip us free of such broad, carefully sewn layers. Maybe this is why I love winter. Isolated inside one’s coat and chimney, you are left with only the fine, bird-wing bones of your life to mull over. Winter is such a precious season of thought, introspection, and examination. But isn’t it lovely, to slow down so much that you expose the delicate lattice of a life built, and rebuilt, and ready to be built again?