Ephemeral Encounters

Ephemeral Encounters

 

The steep darkness of a silent, cold Winter can only sustain such strength of contraction for so long. As the wheel of the year turns, the density that has folded in upon itself for months must finally cleave its frozen, shadowed bonds and here, in the Northeastern woodlands, Spring rises from the release of natures iced embrace with an offering of warmth for the hearts and souls of the people.

Once upon a time these awakenings were well marked by magic and ritual as our clans and communities knew that if place and time were to be an instrument for conscious creation, it must be held by the storied, dreaming, dance and play of those that waited and watched as new life teemed upon the surface.

Blue Cohosh, Caulophyllum thalictroides

 

The underground realms of the plants and all the rooted ones know the precise moment to lift up as the savory, melting, sap and snow from above send notice to the sleeping currents and call the shoots to stir and the buds to soften. Their rituals have never stopped and their magic remains intact.

 

Red Trillium, Trillium erectum

 

Hepatica, Hepatica americana

I know this to be true because every Spring I long for something that was lost to my generation and many generations before me. The ancestor people who lived with the Earth and not merely upon it felt Spring as an embodied motion of nature and spirit. I can only imagine that they didn’t just notice the coming of Spring as a side bar to human-centered mundane activities of production and material achievement, but they became it, as well as the newly opened leaves, the pollen-drenched wind, and the water running down from the top of the mountains. It’s more than a longing for, it’s a lifetime and many lifetimes of mythical famine, a hunger, a starvation for the breath of enchantment and the felt sense of belonging to the growing rays of sunlight and the incense of the Spring ephemerals.

I find the sincerest relief, delight, and connection among the flowers and shrubs of the vernal forest. The word ephemeral speaks of the quick life cycle and transitory pattern that come and go quickly.

Painted Trillium, Trillium undulatum

 

It’s a celebration in flowers, a wild Spring festival that explodes in blossoms and color with swift intensity.

White or Large-Flowered Trillium, Trillium grandiflorum

The origins of “ephemeral” are found in the Greek root eph meaning “upon, over or beside” and ephemer meaning “temporary” with the Middle English suffix –al  meaning “relating to, pertaining to, of, like” and was first intended to refer to lifespan.  What is ephemeral relates to what is temporarily upon life and is now used to define anything that is short-lived. My experiences with the Spring ephemerals has led me to a deeper meaning that includes the brief and temporary flowering of these plants but also the impermanence of their beauty and presence as if they are not quite solid or stationary but more essence in motion.

As the seasons turn we do not stay still but dance and whirl as time drops and lifts the breezes. We too shall one day wilt and fall upon the soils. So let’s celebrate!

Hobblebush, Viburnum alnifolium

 

 

Wild Ginger, Asarum canadense

 

Dwarf Ginseng, Panax trifolius

The photos are from my Kuyahoora Valley walks in the Adirondack foothills as well as my hikes in the Central Adirondack region. These are all Spring ephemerals that are also native species and endangered so they are sacred on many levels.

 

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"Today's Tea" Blends

 

"Today's Tea" Blends

From Instagram and Facebook Posts

Tea is probably the most ancient of herbal preparation known to humankind. For all of my years of practice making herbal preparations, I still find the medicine in a cup of tea to be strong and effective in many ways. Just the simple act of making tea can create much needed restorative moments of presence within the fabric of our busy lives.

Tea blending is an art, practice, and skill that anyone can learn. I don't follow any steadfast rules, but instead, use my intuition and foundational knowledge of plant properties, taste, and the overall effect I'm hoping the tea will convey. This means that I basically just go into my pantry where my dried herbs are stored and grab whichever jars I'm in the mood for. Some days there is some central issue I want to address with my tea such as an upset stomach, joint pain, winter blues, or a cold/runny nose/cough. The number of herbs required is also dependent on the day and can range from simply one herb or several. 

To blend an herbal formula, once I've chosen the herbs for the day, I generally don't measure with "actual" measurement devices, although you certainly could and that might be preferrable if you're new at tea blending and want to get a consistent sense of amounts.  I use my fingers and hands to make "a handful of this" and "a pinch of that" which makes it a challenge to repeat the same blend twice but that is not usually my goal. I use more of foundational herbs that are not overpowering in flavor and from which I want the majority of the medicine to be derived, and less of stronger tasting or more potent herbs, for instance, Ginger or Pepper are strong so I'll use less; Nettles has a more subtle flavor and I often want alot of it because it is highly nutritious. Sometimes just a pinch is all that is required. Below are some tea blends from the past few months that I have previously posted on social media. I've converted my "handfuls" to cup measurements and each blend is intended for a 1 quart tea/coffee press.

Basic tea making instructions are to place the herbs in a teapot, tea strainer, or tea press; pour boiling water over; steep for 10-15 minutes; press. The below blends are measure for 1 quart of water. To make one cup just use 1-2 teaspoons of the blend.

The herbs I use are primarily wildcrafted or grown in my garden, but for exotic herbs and spices or if I run out of something essential I do order from reputable sources which I will list at the bottom.

"Today's Tea" Blends

Red Tent Tea

Served at our April Crystal Valley Red Tent

¼  Cup Nettles

¼ Cup Tulsi(Sacred Basil)

1/8 Cup Linden

1/8 Cup pink roses

1/8 Cup Cardamom

1 tsp. Hawthorne Berry Powder

2 tsp. Whole Cloves

 

Winter Blues Tea

½ Cup Tulsi

¼ Cup Lemon Balm

1/8 Cup Goldenrod

1/8 Cup Calendula

2 pinches of Wild Roses

1 pinch of cardamom

 

Snowed In I Thought It Was Spring

½ Cup Tulsi (Sacred Basil)

¼ Cup Wild Rose (for us it's Multiflora Rose)

2 tsp. Reishi powder

2 tsp. Hawthorne Berry powder

½ tsp. Ginger

2 tablespoons of Cocao powder or your favorite Hot Chocolate blend

 

 

Belly Ache Tea

½ Cup Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)

¼ Cup Plantain

1/8 Cup Calendula

1 tsp. Anise Seed

1 tsp. Turmeric Powder

Pinch of Lavender

 

Berry and Lemon Balm Lung Support Tea

¼  Cup Tulsi (Sacred Basil)

¼ Cup Lemon Balm

¼ Cup Mullein Leaves

¼ Cup Goji Berries

1 teaspoon of powdered Turmeric

 

Herbal Tea Supplies and Sources:

New York State

Jeans Greens: Dried herbs, tea strainers, tea presses, supplies

Healing Spirits Herb Farm: dried herbs

Large Suppliers Outside of New York

Mountain Rose Herbs: dried herbs, tea making supplies

Pacific Botanicals: dried herbs

 

 

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Gathering Smoke~Making Incense from the Land

Gathering Smoke~Making Incense from the Land

 

I recently made a new batch of kyphi style incense from ingredients that I gathered all year long in my bioregion. Kyphi is a type of incense, originating in ancient Egypt, that is made with honey, mead, or some other sweet liquid that is usually alcohol based. There are many Kyphi recipes and, the incense I make is simply derived from this general style that I adapted to my local plants and the consistency I prefer. I have posted my Kyphi recipe in the past, but on recently referring to it for my current batch, I realized that I have changed some things. I also didn't think it was "user friendly" enough. When I cook or concoct, I have a habit of not really measuring; a quality that drives my students crazy and I have been sincerely trying to change how I convey my recipes so that anyone can use them. This is one such attempt, however, I truly believe that, once you get the hang of any recipe, there is room for artful intuitiveness and I encourage everyone to find a comfortable balance between proper proportions and how they personally would like the incense to end up.

Many Kyphi recipes require that the dry and wet ingredients are mixed and left to steep and converge for a week or so. I have done this, as well as mixed the dry and wet ingredients both on the same day. Letting the separate mixtures set enables the scents to infuse into each other. I like both methods. I suggest you try both. The recipe below is my own personal choice of ingredients and my individual process. I use plants, resins, honeys, and elixirs in my incense that I've gathered or made all year long. I realize that not everyone is able to do this so, of course, some or all of these ingredients can be purchased, although there is a very special magic that occurs when we use what is locally available. This makes an unstandardized, non-generic, uniquely scented incense that wefts smoke, the sacred, people, and the land.

For those who are interested in using local plants and want to be prepared for the upcoming gathering season, I have made a list of what I collect and store through the season. Each year is a bit different based on what's abundant and what I happen to find during my regular herb harvesting walks. I have put the approximate flowering time for here in Central New York State, but it's different each year and in each place.


Flowers; gathered, dried, and stored

  • Hawthorne~May, I use the leaves too
  • Wild Roses(I use Rosa multiflora)~June
  • Mugwort(Artemisia vulgaris)~leaves and flowers, mid to late summer
  • Wild Cherry Blossoms~May

You can use any flower you'd like here; Lavender, Chamomile, other local scented blossoms

Roots;dug, washed, chopped, and stored

  • Elecampane (Inula helenium)~ Dug in the Spring
  • Angelica (Angelica atropurpurea L.)~Dug in the Spring. This is our local, native Angelica. Also know as purplestem Angelica.

I use both of these roots because of scent as well as their medicinal and sacred uses. Angelica is well known for it's use for protection and as a clearing/purifying plant, and Elecampane is a lung remedy that smells musky, resinous, and earthy. 

Barks;scraped and dried

  • Yellow or Black Birch~Spring or Fall, Winter if I'm in a pinch

Conifer needles~ I gather these any time of year and use them fresh or dried

  • Pine and Balsam are my favorites

  • Cedar

Resinous buds; gathered,dried, and stored

  • Poplar~April-May

Tree Resins;Gathered any time of year but I prefer winter because they're not as soft and sticky as in summer

  • I usually use Pine resin but any conifer resin will work. Please note that tree resin is not the same as sap. The resin occurs where the tree has been injured and is an effort for the tree to heal itself much like our bodies develop a scab or scar tissue. Please be careful to only gather the excess and loose resin so as not to further injure the tree.

 

 

 

Berries; can be used fresh, frozen and thawed, or dried

  • Hawthorne Berries~late August-early September
  • Elderberry-September
  • Rosehips-September-December

Honey/Mead/Elixir

  • I usually make a Wild Rose honey or elixir during the summer. Sometimes I'll also add some cordial that I've made. This time I used Hawthorne Berry cordial and Elecampane Root honey. In the past I've used locally made mead.

     

My Incense Recipe

Tools:

  • 2 metal mixing bowls
  • baking sheet
  • coffee grinder
  • spoon and fork
  • parchment paper if desired for ease when removing incense from baking sheet

I suggest dedicating some tools to incense making because the resins can be really hard to scrub off. I have spoon, fork, a couple of bowls, and resin grinder. The resin grinder is just a coffee grinder. You can use the same grinder for flowers, buds, leaves, and barks as long as it's all going into the incense. I have two grinders, one for resin and one for leaves and flowers because I make teas and other products that I don't necessarily want to taste like Pine resin.

Step I

Mix Dry Ingredients(all ground in coffee grinder)

  • 1/4 Cup of Resins~Pine, Spruce, Poplar bud
  • 1/2 Cup of leaves and flowers
  • 1/4 Cup of roots and barks

Set aside. At this time you can place this all in a glass jar to "mingle" for a week or just set aside to be mixed with the wet ingredients.

Step II

Mix Wet Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of dried berries ground to a powder or fresh (or frozen and thawed) and mashed
  • 3/4-1 cup of mead, wine, honey, or herbal elixir or any combination of such

These can be put in a glass jar to "mingle" if desired. Otherwise proceed to the next step. If you decide to wait, go to Step III after about a week

Step III

Mix Dry and Wet Ingredients

  • This is where I start ad libbing. You should end up with a consistency that you can shape. I think of it as the same consistency as meatballs. It should hold together. If it doesn't, I'll add something so that it will. If it's too wet, add more dried ingredients, if it's too dry add more honey or mead.

 

Step IV

  • Spread onto a baking sheet so that it forms a layer about 1/2" thick. 
  • Place in a place where it can dry. I put it above my woodstove but any warm, dry place will do.
  • Leave for about a week or until dried and hardened. Then it should break easily into chunks.
  • Burn either by using a charcoal incense burner or simply lighting it!

    

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