A Hawthorn Love Story
I travel the highways and byways of the Snoqualmie, Skykomish and Snohomish rivers for most of my herbal interplay now days. Settling into this triad of rivers and the medicine found here is an ongoing exploration in a layered, well-lived life.
Last spring I had, I thought, finished the hawthorn flower and leaf gathering when, low and behold, a sassy spring charmer flagged me down from the side of the road. Yes, her pink delicate blooms reached right out and grabbed my heart. Has that ever happened to you? It is one of the dangers of practicing plant medicine that few people speak of, I refer to this phenomenon as 55 mile an hour botany.
You know what I mean? Have you been at this long enough to know? Or, maybe you’re just beginning your herb wanderings, so I am going to tell you what others keep to themselves! You finally reach a point in your passionate affair with plants that the oddities and vagaries along the highway leap into consciousness as you speed by. As if possessed, you find yourself screeching to a halt, turning your vehicle around and going back to investigate! It’s an outright danger this way of life imposes on those struck with plant medicine syndrome! Be Aware!
Well, it was just such a time, when she, that young, hybrid wilding, lifted her skirt and yahooed me while I was descending upon the village of Monroe. With all the flirtatious energy of the May, she grabbed this crone’s heart and would not let go. “I’ll be back”, I called as I slowed the car and looked deeply into her limbs. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
Sure enough, the morning brought me into the limbs and sweet scent of the softest, apple-blossomed hawthorn I had yet to see in my valley meanders. Her delicate blooms as soft as a maiden on those tough, sinewy mother limbs anchored to the crone of her short, twisted trunk. “Take me home”, she whispered in a sweet, sensuous voice entwined with her voluptuous scent. “Take me home with you and let us have some May Day fun!
Back in the kitchen, I settled into a deep, listening trance as the pink blooms fell from hand to basket. She giggled, “See that pitcher over there?” she asked? “I want to go in there with some of that cool water in the jug from the spring. Then, I want to go out on the porch and bask in the sun for the rest of the day!”
Well, this was easy enough to do. All those years of study and medicine-making and curing and fixing while expanding an understanding of life and herbs and medicine and spirit; I was enjoying this otherly directed fling with my new-found friend. The evening rolled around and I went out to bring the sprite in. “Get your hands off me!” she curtly directed…"Do you not realize tonight is a full moon in Scorpio? I am now ready to infuse into the arms of the grandmother. Leave me be!” “Okay”, I said. She knew what she wanted, and I was perfectly content to see where this was heading…
Early the next morning, as a warm sun rose over the eastern hedge, I went out to fetch the vessel now sparked with the sun and infused by the light of the moon. Whew! This was shaping up to be some strong medicine indeed! All from a roadside imp with a magnetic personality! “Ready to go in?” I queried. “Yes! I am ready to be strained and bottled,” came her brisk response.
After straining the golden liquid, a small splash of brandy was added to stabilize the brew. Then, we were off to the shop for bottles. There, some very tiny, very cute 2 ounce bottles offered themselves up for the endeavor. “Yes, perfect”, she squealed. “Those are just right!” I began pouring the very soft infusion into the very tiny bottles complete with very happy giggles and snorts. “I’m going to Wisconsin, I’m going to Wisconsin!” Their lilting song flooded the room. All of a sudden I heard a loud rattling from the shelf where the dried herbs are stored.
I went over to see what was causing the ruckus. “Right!” they retorted. "We've been loyal and steadfast all these years and now some sweet young thing throws herself at you from the side of the road and you fall head over heels for her”, harumphed the dried old hawthorn berries gathered last fall. And every fall for the last 20 years from the same trees, in the same hedge up valley. “You’re running off to Wisconsin with that side of the road hybrid?” they howled, "with nary a thought about us?"
“Oh, do I hear jealousy in your tone, dear ones?” I inquired. “You bet your booties you hear jealousy in our tone” exclaimed the old fruitful ones. “Well, what would you like?” I asked. “What would we like?” they grumped. “Yes, what would you like?” I asked again. “Hummm, well”, they mused, “We want acknowledgment, recognition, consideration, you know, respect, for our years of loyal service! And…we want to go to Wisconsin.”
“Okay, what might that look like?” I perused, drawing them out of their cave. “We want 3 dried haw berries in each bottle" came the quick retort. “Then, we’ll be in every bottle! Compleat hawthorn, the entire valley, the best of time and place in each bottle!” “Perfect!" I smiled, as I placed 3 dried haws in each bottle. I capped and placed the Hawthorn Elixir on the shelf with care. They rested, infusing together, the sweet young blooms and the old crone haws bathed in each other’s presence.
A few weeks later, off I went to give a presentation at the annual Bastyr Herb Fair. Off to the Fair went the very tiny bottles of hawthorn elixir, laid in a basket of dried haw flowers. I was giving an herb walk and talk on wild edges, hedges and my long ally hawthorn. At the end of the discourse, one of the very tiny bottles of Haw Elixir leapt into my hand. As the lid was turned “Fisssst!” they squealed as they came fizzing out the top, cascading down the edge of the bottle! “We’re so much more than an elixir now", they chimed together. "We are the Blessed May! We are alive and the Blessed May is alive and Love Potion is born!” With peals of laughter everyone sipped the Love Potion and, you know, at that moment, life sparked with love and everyone smiled!
Yes, we did go to Wisconsin later that summer. No labels found their way onto the very tiny bottles. As they were placed on the marketplace table at the Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference, the life emanating from those tiny, well-filled bottles began to cause a stir. With the flirtatious tenacity of the young sprite and a certain staid presence of the crone, some immeasurable essence leapt from those very tiny bottles into the hearts of women passing by. “What’s in those very tiny bottles with no labels?", they inquired. “Oh those”, I answered. “Hawthorn Love Potion! Would you like a taste?”