This year the colours seem more vibrant somehow. The large sycamore tree en route to our house is a blaze with a rainbow of colours, I love driving past and admiring how striking it is against the back drop of buildings.
Last weekend, I was invited to take part in a worship at The Sanctuary - a corner of a farm field near Stow in Gloucester. My lovely friend and I spent a day in a beautiful area of the country in the company of a very inspiring 'wise woman' who knows everything 'herby'. She's been using herbs in everyday living for years and runs her workshops to pass on her knowledge- I do love that idea!
We started the day tasting samples of tea made from stewing various freely available herbs; marigolds, rose hips...to name just a few.
Following the tea we were shown around the 'plots'. My knowledge of herbs increases every year just a little. There really are so many plants out there growing wild that can be harvested and eaten or used to help people. I do find it amazing how nature knows best how to keep us well. Allopathic (or modern medicine) is a chemical mix of ingredients that aim to mimic the natural effects of herbs, some still contain herbal derivatives. In years gone by herbs would have been the only way of treating the sick.
So the plots.....the lady who runs this affair with the help of a very enthusiastic team of inspired women, plant and tend many herbs throughout the year which they then harvest and make into tinctures, salves, balms, teas, elixirs etc etc all very interesting!
I've spent hours in the past, collecting, drying, infusing and much more to make concoctions to treat my family when they succumb to everyday ailments. Then either they don't get sick (which is obviously great) or they become sick and in my haste I reach for the nearest thing available (not always my lovingly created herby concoction) to treat them; if I treat them at all!
After being shown around the plots, we were encouraged to do a little harvesting. It wasn't the warmest of mornings so I opted to wield the spade in an attempt to warm up. I drew the short straw and ended up among the nettles trying to decipher the nettles from the elecampage; a root which is used to treat respiratory problems. It was actually easier than I thought to relieve the soil of the roots and I managed to refrain from being attacked by the vicious nettles that were taller than me!
Roots extracted and they needed washing. Cold water is a no no for me these days. As a sufferer of Raynard's disease I'm not a fan of plunging my hands into cold water. The damp alone is enough to shut down the veins to my fingers and it takes quite some time to regain feeling in my little digits.
It was rather lovely to stand back and leave the root washing to someone else who doesn't suffer with the ghastly 'circulation shut down'. It turned out she was a police officer re-training to do Holistic massage. I'm considering this field myself as a means of making ends meet (that's the massage and not being police officer!), so we had much to talk about and I was able to draw on her experience. I do love the company of inspirational people!
Following lunch we were told to make a connection with one of the sanctuary's trees. Yes i know, this is where things do get just a little bit wacky! However, I do actually believe that every living thing has energy and so to be in the company of a large tree that has graced the earth and undoubtedly experienced far more than me was actually rather pleasant and a peaceful affair. I opted for the most enormous oak tree that had an incredible trunk that wound up and than turned at an angle. I was fortunate that there was a bench around the base so I took the opportunity to lie on it and look up at its splendour. If you've never laid under a tree before and looked up and the amazing sight above than give it a go. Trees are incredible!
This one was no exception, it was so healthy and strong and didn't even move just a little in the wind. It stood there like solid rock. We were told that it takes 3-400 years to reach full size and a similar amount of time to die. I could only look on with admiration.
Secondly I took to exploring a hawthorn tree. This one seemed wispy and fragile in comparison yet at the same time had energy. I likened it to the wise woman who had knowledge to impart and thus gave it my respect.
It's funny but about five years ago I discovered a spinney of beech trees on a hill in the park near my home. One of the trees had fallen and had come to rest in the perfect position to enable me to lay on its trunk and gaze up at the splendour of the trees that towered above. It was a very significant place that I loved to visit. Sometimes I would walk the dog up there, other times I would take the children and most often I would visit alone. That fallen tree was the perfect resting place to sit upon and breathe in the fresh country air or to gain the perfect view across the valley. It was also the perfect balance beam and when no one was looking I would dance and cartwheel on that log. One day when the estate was sold. The new owner had that trunk sawn up into large pieces and moved around the field to become horse jumps. That place was never the same after that.
So our day of inspiration from herbs and lovely people continued and was concluded with the sharing of the days harvest bounty. We each got to take home roots, apples, flowers and even a few quince! (I shall give quince cheese a go :-)) Not sure what the plumber thought recently when he came to fix my immersion heater and found my airing cupboard fully of drying roots and marigold petals??!!