American Indian Council
GRANDMOTHERS SPEAK - EAST
This morning promised to be a wet one; but I could hold off no longer checking on the medicine plants. I had wanted to see what was happening in the woods after such a strange and harsh winter. After a bowl of oatmeal I prepared to set off with basket and digger for my favorite dandelion patch.
All is quiet this morning, I find the weekends a good time to go walking because many people are sleeping in and not up and about. I like to take my walks in peace without the interruption of human conversations.
Rain has fallen during the night so I put on my heavy pants and boots, next I pulled on a hooded sweat shirt and gloves. Bundled to my eyes I prepared too walk the small distance to the woods that surround the land here in Lily Dale.
As I stepped out of the kitchen door the two crows scolded me for not putting out food. I say to them, “if you are so interested in food then come with me and help gather plants”. They cocked their heads and continued to caw at me in an impatient way. Spoiled little beggars that I raised by hand four years ago, their sleek shiny feathers and plump bodies show that they are well fed. All winter I have put out fruit bread and other items for them to eat. Between the squirrels and the other birds it all vanishes in a matter of minutes.
The ground squishes under my feet as I walked off the path that lead into the deeper wooded area behind my house. Here I stop and offered my prayers to the Earth Mother, (Makah) and ask permission of the trees to pass into their sacred space. After my pray and offering of tobacco and corn meal to the Earth Mother I continue my walk. My old bones make a creaking noise and let me know they resent this damp weather. It has been one long cold winter and one can expect this when you’re my age. We old bears tend to creak and grumble when we first wake up from our winter nap.
I walk past the path to the healing stump and continue on to the camping area. Here in the open field there are many medicine plants growing.
My feet soon are cold from the water that soaks the leather hiking boots; I make a note to treat them with bear oil as soon as they dry out again. Like all my mental notes of things to do, that one will probably not get done in the near future.
My mind has a tendency to wonder off on its own these days dipping into some trance like state at times. I call it my half awake vision time and let it do as it wishes. My body is awake but my mind still hangs onto the winter sleep and dream time.
The mind is a wonderful place to be and I feel sad for those who need constant chatter and outside noise to function. Myself I find time alone in complete silence the most productive and peaceful times of my life.
I look forward to this time alone in the woods with only the smell of the damp rich earth awakening to new life. The tiny green shoots of wild onion are just starting to make themselves seen. I will come later to dig some for a wonderful corn soup and perhaps gather some to freeze for the women’s ceremony.
Sprouting plants cover the damp dark earth under the old trees with every color of green you can imagine. Some deep and dark others pale and delicate, individual as people or are we like the plants? Each plant is placed in its own space and has relations around it just as we humans have. One plant is never standing without the support of its relatives, in this way it does not grow lonely.
I look for the new growth to mark it in my memory for later gathering. It is good to gather only a few plants from each area so you’re assured yearly abundance. I see wild ginger pushing up near the twisted roots of these ancient trees. I ask of the trees how many years have you stood in vigilance to the entrance of the forest. I hear in answer the sweet call of birds making their nest on this cold morning. Blue Jays, Crows, Starlings, Robin and sparrow join in the song of morning. It reminds me of a well rehearsed concert sung in a cathedral of trees.
The spring has been long in coming the sap sits deep in the base of the maple tree. The new buds have not even begun to appear on the trees. As in years past like magic, they seem to come when no one notices them and fill the branches with opening leaves. The over night explosion of growth continues at an amazing speed until all the Earth is awake and in full bloom.
In Maine we marked our spring season by the sap rising and plants growing. I wonder about all the people who sugar off the rich sap of the maple as they sit waiting for the first drops to appear in the huge containers. At one time we individually tapped the trees and hung the buckets on the spills. Now the old way is all replaced with plastic tubes that run the sap into a holding tank in the sugaring off house. There was a peace in lifting the buckets full of sap and pouring them into the jugs to be carried back to the sugar shack.
The fist peeps of the frogs would herald the coming of the smelt running. Armed with buckets and nets we sit all night near streams and rivers to dip up the small sweet smelts. I remember cleaning gallons of these tiny fish and frying them after a dip in corn meal and flour. My mind makes a trip back to that peaceful time when my children were small and as a family we enjoyed gathering these simple meals. I can still see the little faces lined up for the first fish as they came out of the hot oil. I passed them out on paper napkins and they were eaten bones and all.
We always served the smelt with the sweet deep green fiddle head ferns we gathered along the streams of Maine. The gathering of a meal in the wilderness is something many people will never have the joy of experiencing. Nothing can compare to early morning pan cakes smothered in fresh maple syrup or flippers, (fried dough), filled with maple syrup and butter.
So on I walk looking and noting the new plants and praying that the medicine plants will all be here to help us this year. Each year I notice some of these plants are harder to find and grow in less abundance.
Finally I find the place were the wild strawberries are just starting to wake up and send out feelers for new roots. Tiny green leaves peek from under the last years grass and promise a goodly amount of these sweet berries.
There will be many strawberries for the making of jam, I am happy to see these little plants and give my thanks to creator for the return of life to the Earth Mother.
With my basket empty, and my heart full, I return to the house. It will be a few more weeks until the dandelions are ready for digging and my mind has stored the information until that time.
Even though I did not gather plants today I gathered memories of the past and the future and these visions are medicines much more powerful than the plants.
Back in my home with hands wrapped around a steaming cup of Scottish tea I share this morning time with you. I pray that you too can enjoy a silent walk in the woods.
Many Blessings of the Spring
Copyright © 2006 by Waynonaha Two Worlds All publication rights reserved.
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