Category: Nature walks


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Many years ago when my gardens surrounded the house and I was traveling to Vermont one long weekend a month for an herbal internship with the beloved herbal teacher, Rosemary Gladstar, I learned about the virtues of the amazing healing plant, St Johnswort. We collected and studied its wonders there on Sage Mountain in Vermont, growing in the wild rather than  in the gardens themselves, and for me, it was so exciting to learn of this plant and I was eager when I returned to my own home on the coast of RI to find it and make that wondrous blood- red healing oil for bruises and wounds from the leaves and flowers.

I had never seen it in my area before, but back home I took long walks around my country neighborhood and nearby fields and wild places and along the wooded borders of my own “yarden”  every day for several days, following the exact same route each time as well as other new ones. I could not find it ANYWHERE.

Disappointed after several days of unrewarded searches, I sat on the front steps of my cottage and pondered. And then…and thennnnnn….. the thought came to me to ASK “the Universe” or more specifically, the Faeries/Devas in charge of St. Johnswort to help me out …to lead me to where I might find this bright yellow healing ally to make medicine for good causes. I asked most humbly…and then got up to do the ordinary, non-magical tasks of life, letting that thought and request go as I busied myself with other things.

It was only two days later (no more searching) that while walking down off my back deck into my garden along the back border next to the woods..right THERE!..in full view…was one little cluster of St. Johnswort with yet unopened buds and bright yellow blossoms in full bloom.  One plant only in a spot where daily I entered my garden plot from the rear and which was mowed down. It had not been there previously.

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To say I was stunned is no overstatement, followed by laughter..out loud. Like this is not a new thing for me, these surprises and responses from the natural world and those unseen Beings who take delight in gifting those of us with good hearts alive with humility and respect for Nature’s magic and generosity. Thank you, thank you I said…also out loud…appreciating this gift and the playful humor that accompanied its appearance.

That afternoon and the next day, just as a test, I once again made the rounds of the places I had been searching for a St. Johnswort plant in the first place…. And there were NONE to be found anywhere. Only in that one special spot at the edge on MY garden.

Yes this is another TRUE story. Try it yourself when on a plant search and wildcrafting. This is an indigenous way of communication. Be of good heart and always with the sincerest humility and the Faeries, Devas and Angels will hear you!

Humility ~ having a proper sense of self in a Universe of Wonders ~Sr. Joan Chittister, OBM

    Virtues of St. Johnswort

If one looks closely at the leaves of St. Johnswort you will notice tiny little dots that when rubbed between the fingers release a blood red oil..the flowers do this also. Collecting the flowers and leaves of this herbal ally, covering and steeping them in a good quality olive oil for a couple of weeks will produce a deep blood-red oil that is used on bruises and wounds. The plant taken long-term is also a helper for depression although for this purpose a standardized preparation in pill form from an herbal pharmacy is more effective.  However, making the oil is empowering and magical and really does work for skin irritations and bruised boo-boos! The flowers can also be used as a summer tea..a cup of sunshine!

 

Preparation of St. John's wort oil from fresh St. John's wort fl

St. John’s wort flowers macerating in oil, to prepare a herbal remedy

May you enjoy communicating with the Faeries, Devas and Angels in your own searching!

from  Christine Phoenix Green, the Greening Spirit  2020

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The Greening Spirit

TeaselHead 2015

It’s not just one garden ie the one I planned. There is another kind of garden around me…the one that comes of its own accord, the Wilds Garden, perhaps seeded by the Faeries who take delight in surprising us or bringing us and the land things we didn’t know we needed.

My Wilds Garden has plants that are not usually found in polite garden centers for “landscaping” and  perfectly weedless lawns. They ARE weeds, but weeds who bring special healing for body and for spirit. Weeds like poke, St. Johnswort, milkweed, blackberry brambles, mugwort, plantain and today’s subject…TEASEL.

This year, quite out of nowhere and suddenly, the Teasel Twins appeared on my lawn near the side un-mowed meadow.

Teasel Twins

Tall and stringy, they have been growing into maturity day by day, but not softening one bit in their sharp and spiny personalities, looking like some fierce ancient dragon plant. And in truth, their…

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East Jer Dune ED PIC Dec 2018 (2)

Yesterday, a need to get out in Nature, to the sea, to the shore even though the colors of a snow-less winter so far are mostly of a brown, and black palette.

Apparently, many people had the same idea. At one of our lovely beaches here on the coast of New England, this one a little on the wilder side, looking down at ground level in the parking lot I saw that it was as busy here as the moving traffic in town.

East Mat Parking Lot Pic Dec 2018

But…

Stillness at the top of the dune.

Because of the lighting and the grey storm sky and the seasonal dying of the beach grass, the whole horizontal dunescape was an eerie yellow…

I am not sure why I respond so intensely to this season of letting go, finding beauty in its stark silence and the experience of quiet solitude. Maybe it’s because I believe in Mystery.

Christine, The Greening Spirit

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Our family loves to roam about in land trust forests, parks and old estates that are open to the public, all with beautiful cultivated gardens and managed wild borders.  Most of these sanctuaries are home to magnificent ancient trees that magically draw us to come close and under their extended branches in order connect with the green-ness of their heartbeat and history.

 

Mel Gardens Oct 2017 Five

 

Our picture albums are filled with pictures of us near or under these awesome leviathons of the land and always we come back home to our civilized homes of four walls, a little, if not a lot, wilder in spirit and healed of whatever personal challenges we may have been wrestling with or life puzzles we are trying to solve.

 

I am so grateful for those lovers of gardens and trees who with their blessed bounty of financial means and properties, generously invested time and love into these places and made them open and available like sanctuary parks to visitors coming in out of the stressful fray of supposed “civilized” life composed of consumerism, political and social disarray, incessant media noise and speeded-up everything.

 

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We find Peace near or under these old wise Beings and we feel their pulse and slow and steady life force calming and blessing us. We know the science of our mutual intimacy in the exchanges of breathe between us.. they breathing out oxygen for our intake and we breathing out carbon dioxide for theirs. Our lives depend on each other. Knowing the science of this bondedness does not overshadow the poetry of our relationship.

 

     (photo credit: Bill Bragger  (my daughter L and grandaughter G/Pacific Northwest)

 

Ancient trees just beg for little boys to climb them. Though old, they have not forgotten what it was to be a seedling or even an acorn.  They have LONG memories….

 

 

(Noni says “no THIS tree is toooo big to climb!” )

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The Japanese say that “forest bathing” ….a walk in the woods…. is good for our health both physically and spiritually. I agree…no matter what season…being with the trees, especially the ancient ones is the best medicine!

 

 

Until you find YOUR favorite old tree, at least DO take a walk in the woods…

(My daughter and grandsons on our Christmas woodswalk..a tradition)

 

If not near a woodland, take a walk around town. You just might find what magnificence you are looking for there….

 

  Rhode Island

 

Wishing the magnificence of Old Trees upon us all. Please protect them wherever they should be threatened or endangered.

photo credits: all pictures except otherwise noted by Christine Phoenix Green

From Christine, the greening spirit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snowface David PICA WINTER WHITE (2)

Doesn’t it seem like Winter is endless this year? Cold, dark, windy, FOREVERRrrrrr!

I think Old Man Winter has fallen asleep in the woods and I hope he has not forgotten in his dreams that Spring is waiting impatiently to bring color back onto Earth’s canvas.

There has not been a lot of snow, but this HAS been a grey Winter in many of our spirits these days, with the intense flu season and especially the political upheavals, disarray and FROZEN icy heartless souls in power at the top in our government  right now who are stealing the lushness that belongs to all of us.

If we who believe in Spring don’t lose hope that all will dark, cold and seemingly life-less forever, if there are enough of us to soon, if not already, stir the soil, clang the pots and bells, sing songs and recount stories of our most colorful and generous dreams, then surely the green-ness, the “veriditas”, the flowers of freedom, as well as the Earth, will return in Spring.

Old Man Winter actually does know this.

As the Celtic poet Priest John O’Donohue has said:

If and when  you are in a bleak time, remember this: The secret work of winter…is..Spring”

May it be so (as it always has been….)

From Christine, the Greening Spirit

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There are days and seasons when the world is grey. Days when the natural winter of the earth as well as the winter of our situations and spirits have almost drained us of energy and color.

And yet… hiding away from it is not the answer. Grey is a time offering its own virtues… releasing the judgemental nature of black and white, softening the edges of the ego, gently demanding patience until color begins to return to both our environment and our lives.

What always helps me in the grey times is to get out and meet it on its own terms, fully accepting and learning from it by a WALK in nature.

On this one particular day when I’d had enough of staying inside in inclement weather, I went out…bundled up of course…after the rain that was melting snow. There was mist and fog both ascending and descending, and lots of puddles.

As always, my camera was with me though I did not think I would see anything of worth or beauty in such seemingly bland landscape. But you know, it also pays to be awake to possible surprises, even in the grey times, and experience has taught me that we are never disappointed.

And there they were….everywhere. Puddle Trees!  Watery Reflections …or maybe invitations/magical portals to another dimension beneath ours if one could dive in to see what all this grey-ness was really about.

It is a worthy practice to once in a while look at things from another perspective. In the tarot there is a Major Arcana card called “The Hanging Man” depicting a man swinging upside down from the limb of a tree. He is not in trouble…just seeing things from an upside down perspective to consider things or situations in a new way.

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The Puddle Trees are a little like that.  A sort of fairy tale to ponder with several secret lessons to be revealed in meditation.

I was delighted with my “find”  and had fun meeting the Grey in a new (upside down) way!

From Christine, the Greening Spirit

 

 

Don’t think for a moment that the plants don’t have the ability to communicate with you! Sometimes to share wisdom and sometimes to tell you off when need be! This really happened to me..

The Greening Spirit

Plantspeak

In various herbal conferences I have attended, I was always intrigued when certain teachers and indigenous speakers would make references to hearing the plants sing, or receiving messages from them about how to use them for healing. As far as I knew in my long years of gardening it had never happened to me… at least not yet until one summer when I unexpectedly became a wandering minstrel gypsy with a performing Ecuadorean family of musicians as their co-ordinator, unintentionally (but rather cavalierly) abdicating my role as garden mistress. That was the summer I finally “heard” the plants…only it wasn’t a song…it was an indignant lecture and chiding.

Attentively planting and raising my heirloom vegetable plants from seed in early spring, I looked after each stage of their emergence and growth with great delight. Planting them in the rich prepared soil of the side garden, I looked forward to seeing them begin…

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Garden June Sacred

Being a Taurus Sun Earthkeeper person, I have always had gardens where I live. The cycle of the seasons in a 4-climate region has captivated me since childhood…each turn full of magic, myth and mystery.

Growing up in an inner city in the northeast USA, I was not exposed to posh gardens in the concrete environment even though I lived in an apartment building on Ash Grove Place which still had a genteel air leftover from earlier times when the neighborhood was lined with ash trees before cars. The plants that came through the cracks and between the buildings in ally-ways were the wild things…dandelions, poke, yellow dock, plantains and the flowers of grasses. Of course back then, I didn’t know their names but I was called to them because they were green growing living things tucked in and around the hardness and grey of city asphalt.

There were two “garden” situations however that served our city spirits. One was the chain-link fence bordering the back parking lot behind our apartment building. In spring and summer, the tall fence was covered by the climbing vines of morning glories. The blue flowers were a never-ending delight…the tight spirals of the buds before opening, which we would pick, blowing at their now- tiny opening at the base .. and out they would flare into full flower by the power of our own mini-godlike breath. Picking the full flower itself , we would also suck at the small opening at the base of it, pulled from the vine, to taste a delightful delicate sweetness,  coming to understand what the bees were collecting while visiting its center!

The second garden was for viewing only through the openings in the chain link fence to the back lot of the next-door neighbor. A German immigrant with a thick accent, he was a crabby terrible tempered territorial old man who yelled loudly and threatened any and all kids who might attempt to climb over the fence to receive a ball gone astray in the air, landing in his green sanctuary. But he was an amazing gardener and it was like peering into the Garden of Eden or a guarded oasis in the middle of the hood between buildings. As an adult, I now understand his fierce and protective personality preserving the peace and order of his sacred garden from a pack of potentially disruptive and invasive neighborhood kids….

My own gardens from marriage, parenthood, divorce, partnership and singledom on have varied. My first planting was of Lamb’s Ears (stachys officinalis) which first captivated me in a re-created colonial apothecaries’ garden at Mystic Seaport in Mystic, CT when I was age 21. The gardens that  followed throughout my life started with herbs and their charming and healing mystique, and later, flowers and vegetables. Always always green around me.  

Veggie Garden

( One of my earlier gardens )

Several years ago, serious vision problems with early cataracts began to develop and it became impossible for me to see in sunlight and also to just see clearly at all. For the past three years, that, plus a couple of stressful, attention-stealing life situations blocked the ability to garden. I thought that was okay. But there was a flatness in my spirit as a result…unrecognizable to others…but known to my own self. A loss of some sort of energy and meaning. A loss of “veriditas”.

Now, with much excitement and gratitude, my eyesight has been restored through surgeries,  and with the renewal of vision, I could not let another year go by without tending the “Green”.  Three years of not taking care of the yarden turned it into wildness except for the front. This year, I invested in Grow Boxes, not having the time or energy to tame field and woodland and in planting them and situating them in my yard,  I realized that in not gardening the last three years, I had lost some part of SOUL….my own “Greening Spirit/Veriditas”… by not participating in the cycle of the seasons in person and not tending the plants. But now! My Soul has come back home to both the inner and outer gardens!

Garden rainy

A week or so ago, as I walked through the front border to the road, I stubbed my toe on an exposed corner of a flat rock buried under moss and matted grass. I bent over to scrape away dirt and plant matter to find a garden plaque that my partner David had placed in my new herb garden almost 20 years ago when we moved in. I had at that time also been teaching a nine-month internship in folkloric herbalism, natural foods and earth spirituality, called “The Sacred Garden”.

Garden June Sacred

How synchronistic was its surprise emergence from “under” to welcome my SOUL back home as I became a “gardener” once again.

They are BACK! My garden, My Soul !

Veriditas! from  Christine, the Greening Spirit

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St Johnswort (2)

“When I first moved into the house I live in, there was no Mullein in the yard so I went outside and called it in, singing my need. Within a year, it started to appear.”  ~ Ellen Evert Hopman (Secret Medicines from your Garden: Plants for Healing, Spirituality and Magic)

Herbal book

I was delighted to read this little vignette as I perused her wise and charming book, newly arrived to my herbal library. It reminded me of my own experience of “calling in” a desired plant ally and the on-going surprise and merriment of connecting with the magic communications and interaction between us and the Green Kindred Spirits of field, forest and garden.

I was teaching an herbal/whole-foods/women’s spirituality internship and living in a little house with a wonderful herb garden bordered by small and pretty wooded lots. The herbs in my garden were there by design for culinary and medicinal purposes, raised from seed or purchased at local nurseries: Calendula, mints, angelica, lemon balm, rose, lovage, thymes, basils, elecampane, borage and the like.

There is an “agreement” between  us and those kinds of plants who allow themselves to be semi-tamed and happy living within the borders of a planned garden, but one summer I needed a wild-er companion to make a healing oil, and so I set out to find a stand of St. Johnswort which is not so tame as to be usually found raised in packs of six or eight at the garden center.

The seaside neighborhood  where I lived had many little cottages, groves, wooded or field-like lots with no houses and I walked up and down the bumpy roads hoping to find St. Johnswort getting ready to bloom. I searched carefully and looked intently here and there and then back again, hoping to find this now-desired ally,  but to no avail. There was no St. Johnswort as far as I could tell. Sweet fern waved hello in the breeze, yarrow swayed in the wind, yellow dock’s long curly leaves signaled its presence and I was happy to find them where I had not known they were…but they were not what I was looking for that day….

Coming back home I sat on my front steps and pondered an eventual walk at one of the nearby nature preserves although I was used to finding what I needed in my own garden or in the neighborhood.

I sat and pondered “St. Johhnswort” and in a mischievous and playful mental moment, I called out to it in my mind, asking it to PLEASE show up so I could make the precious blood-red oil for bruises and boo-boos!

I kid you not…and I am not telling “fairy tales” (or maybe I am) but about ten days later I was out in the yard in my garden when something little and yellow caught my eye at the edge of the woods at the property line. I KNEW! I KNEW as soon as I walked over to it…St. Johnswort!!…one little stand of about 3 plants in blooming where there had been none before. And I knew, in my “inner child’s magical heart” that “The faeries” (or the St. Johnswort’s plant deva) had  brought it and installed it there, just for me because I longed for it, sought it dearly and asked!

Of course, I laughed out loud and said thank you, thank you! But just to be sure, I once again roamed the neighborhood and the vacant field and wooded lots through which I had searched previously to see if St Johnswort had been in the area all along and I had missed it.

But NO!…there was no other St. Johnsworts anywhere to be found anywhere else around. Only …and only…in my own garden, over there at the edge of the wooded border.

This is a true story.

*photo credit, St. Johnswort:  Barbara and Peter Theiss (The Family Herbal)

From Christine,  the Greening Spirit

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Eyes See You

The Magic Folk are out there…truly they are all around us when we are on our nature walks. Don’t think for a moment that we are alone even  if we walk solo! There are eyes everywhere and the “eyes see you!”

I often need to tune out from the dominant culture, media, tv, cars, phone and all that is of outer noise so that I can hear what is real from the inside-out ie: dreams and gentle inner visions that are both sanctuary and guide. I tune out by fleeing into nature…the seaside, forests or fields…or beautiful retreat centers that have managed to merge the sacred and the wilds as one. One such center is St. Edmunds  Retreat on Enders Island in Connecticut which is, indeed, a holy place of Sanctuary on an island, surrounded 360 degrees by ocean waters.

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Sitting  alone in deep silence one day on a stone bench facing the sea, I happened to glance down and to the side where the rocks and boulders bordered the path, forming a boundary to the moving waters beyond. I had been feeling that there was someone else nearby, but there was no one.

But suddenly, I was startled to see these eyes looking back at me from the middle of this pile of stone between me and the sea.

Have you thought that rocks and boulders were inert and not “alive”?

Think again and know that always we are known and watched in the realm of nature, dear Human,  and even the rocks can communicate “Eyes see you!”

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I go there often to this specially sanctuary and sit on that stone bench facing the sea when I need refreshment or inspiration. I do this alone. But I never forget to say hello to the one I see who is seeing me.

Enders Aug 8

 

Dad me 2From Christine, the Greening Spirit

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