Sam felt like she was in the twilight zone as she climbed onto the bus at the end of the lane, the driver recognised her “Not leaving us luv?”
“I’ll be back, just a few things to sort out from the old life.”
“Fair enough. It’s a grand thing you and your aunt getting on like you do. Must be a blessing for you both, there’s some folks round here got no-one much except at Christmas and holiday times. Families aint what they used to be.“
She took a seat and gazed out the window, knowing that the mobile phone she was returning to was the least of it, the creeping in of civilisation was looming. Clary had promised to visit the neighbours more regularly for the time she was away, but she still felt protectively worried.”
The flat was just as she’d left it, but she wasn’t. It felt awkward and distant as she began to gather the energy to begin. One of her mates, Kathryn was coming over to lend a hand, and when she arrived it all seemed less insurmountable.
“ Girl you look different, all that country air, roses in your cheeks and multiple other stereotypes!”
“Thanks, its kind of disjointed being back here.”
“No worries we’ll sort this out in no time, just you watch. I’m all yours director, delegate away!”
Kathryn started on the kitchen while Sam began on the books. There were hints here of how her life had evolved. How much more direct my daily experiences are now, she thought, less theory, more life. I’m virtually a practicing artist, rather than a waitress come sometimes creative type and the natural world is in my back yard these days. What had previously been distant ideas or concepts were part of everyday magic now. Solid....
Then she came upon it. A book her mother had signed, ‘the ancestral tarot’. God she thought, I’d forgotten I even owned this! You’d think she would have poured through anything associated with her parents in her grieving to reignite connection, but the reverse had been true, she avoided reminders like the plague, they triggered too much emotion. She opened it up and saw interpretations and ideas on meanings. She looked up the Green Woman...
“The Green Woman lives in all women, when we create a space to connect to her. The means by which this is done may vary, but she waits patiently for us to gather in our resources and meet the natural world that is her realm. Her voice is whispering on the tides, the phases of the moon and in organic patterns of growth. If you draw this card be ready for listening to plants, talking with them in an energy exchange of green tendencies. Their teachings are part of your heritage, and are a gift from the ancestors who lived in close communion with them. Don’t be surprised if healing is coming your way, supported particularly by medicinal herbs and the green nations.”
Sam was a little gobsmacked. This card had been her journeys beginning, packing the flat was simply a detour and now she knew it to be true. She took to folding boxes and wrapping fragile things in newspaper with an affirmed vigour.
Hanging out with Katherine was genuinely nice. Jovial, and a fragment of familiarity as the boxes gradually filled. Her news was interesting, most of their friends in common were still up to their tricks, someone was dating someone new, work alliances shifted, so and so was out of favour, someone else was having issues. It was a welcome distraction during what could otherwise have been a loaded time. “What do they say, moving is in the top 5 stresses of life?”
“Yeah I guess, but I think I moved a while ago and the logistics are only just catching up.”
“Clary sounds like an amazing woman, you always were an old soul! Sounds like you make quite a team. I’m jealous, you finally got out of the rabbit warren and you weren’t even trying!”
Kathryn flipped slowly through the photo’s Sam had brought of her artwork, “These are really good, there’s a depth and commitment to them Sam. A little tighter than I’m used to seeing from you, but they’re really good. You’ve turned into an illustrator! Seriously though, Sam, nothing’s changed here, but you seem really centred in what you’re doing, and most important happy to be doing it. Gossip aside, the world just keeps turning in the big smoke but you and Clary, you’re doing something important. I wish my life purpose would make an appearance, waiting tables isn’t exactly inspirational, although there’s the romantic image of a struggling student, it’s still just waiting tables! ”
Between the two of them the whole flat was morphed into an installation of boxes in under a week. It felt good to watch it all go into the back of the van and drive off, apart from a few bits and pieces including the ancestral tarot book.
“Well my friend, a job well done, send my love to Clary and expect a visitor before too long!”
Sam waved as the coach pulled out, she’d really done it. She’d removed the only hurdle to finishing the move. God I hope Clary realises what she’s taking on with me, she suddenly doubted herself. Moods, visions, minor insanities and all. Temperamental artist, that’s the stereotype. She sighed, exhaling deeply as the city scape began to fall behind...
Clary found without Sam’s input she took more breaks, her pace slowed. She browsed the library, and pondered more, found herself daydreaming like a schoolgirl in maths class. Well, this particular schoolgirl anyways. Much of her true education had been informal, self directed, simply not covered in classes, except maybe botany, English and some history, she took to her own research.
There hadn’t been herbal information like there is now, easy to access, and volumes in number....
Most related to ‘nature cures’. A sturdy old fashioned approach of ‘what you ate and do maketh the person’. Get some sunlight, walk, do simple exercise, take baths, swim, then look to the herbs. Build vitality. Very sensible on a lot of levels, except that often they had a religious slant. Written by shepherds addressing their flock’s health and well being. That, plus a few too many enemas for her liking.
The other tangent were the Pharmacologists swept up in scientific approaches and the developing shift from a plant based materia medica, to drugs, or drug strength plants. Her common place weedy friends didn’t even cop a mention here, they were looking for strong, noticeable effects, quickly and had a love of the exotic, including latex, resins and as she remembered it animal gland secretion eeeww.
She read them all, absorbing what she could from each.
Anthropological texts gave her some insights into indigenous patterns of plant use, but not many were written by women, and therefore about women’s stories.
Her mind had been a swirling mixture of these, combined with the study of folklore, where the wise women hid, during those maths classes....
There she’d just done it again....
‘Come on old girl some focus here’, she chided herself, but then, she also knew the value of the slow times. It might seem not much was going on, yet often connections were made by a casual attitude of seeking, and in rest her mind flowed freely between wonderings. So in the end she went with it...
She’d had a friend, later, seeking alternatives as she was, who was involved with the Theosophical Society, established by the controversial psychic and medium Helena Blavatsky and her husband. Radicals in their time, they had done much for folkloric traditions and spirituality. Investigating claims, and gathering first hand ‘evidence’ and testimonials. They published works that otherwise might not have seen the light of day. Trying to build models of alternate realities in this, and the afterlife, they had been a little rigid for Clary, but then they were, in her mind, trying to define the undefinable. Never an easy task...
Amazing how any group of people could be shown the same plant and see different things. The botanist described the physical structure, the scientist dissected and analysed it, the pharmacist saw ingredients, the cook potential food or flavouring, the artist beauty to be framed, the poet inspiration, the child wonder, the herbalist a blend. ‘One would hope’, she noted to herself.
It’s like the metaphor of walking along a pebbly beach to select only one stone, everyone picks up their selection for different reasons...
Or like a tarot deck, divination tool, each person pulling a card that feels special to them....
Any kind of collecting and gathering had its own process that she loved, be it books, old things, greens for a salad, cuttings, or flowers.
Two people could go to pick a bunch of flowers and come back, each with a slightly different bunch, seduced by their own particular tastes reflected back by mother nature. ‘They truly are the wonders, and advertisers, of the plant world’ she thought, attracting bee, butterfly, bird and human alike with their displays. ‘Could have been a florist quite easily, spent my days surrounded by blooms. This time of year i do! Ha!’ She said the ha out loud and gave herself a small fright.
Between her mental meanders she thought of Sam, hoping this was the right move. It had all come out in such a flurry. ‘Are you happy with our work here?’ she questioned the walls of her home, ‘what quiet plans have you for us eh?’ It was comforting to ask someone, although the feedback was silent, she trusted this place to watch over them. The very land beneath the building, that came to the surface at the edge of the verandah in a burst of life. This place, its ghosts, appeared to want the two of them here for its wild edged plots. ‘Thank goddess...’
Sam hopped off the bus with a bounce in her step, now this felt like coming home. She checked the mailbox but only found dry official looking letters, bills probably, booorrriing! She hummed to herself as she strolled up the dirt road, noticing plantains along the edges where a semblance of grass survived, good ol plantain she thought, undismayed by mowers and compacting traffic. Hmmm mmmm hmmm....
Clary was waiting, twitchy and nervous till she saw the familiar gait round the path corner and my god, was she humming! Terrible habit, but for today Ill forgive it. She waved and got a reply. “I’ll just pop the kettle on then!” she shouted, “No need to shout! Its quiet enough round these parts to hear you a mile off!” Sam beamed. That was apart from the bird noises and squeaking trees where branches touched and shared a barky conversation. “Sam? You’re humming!” “Yep”....
It wasn’t as if she’d never been away, going back to the flat had clarified all this for her. She gazed around at the gardens and ramshackle cottage, softer on her eyes than the cities square lines even down to the slightly sagging rooftop inundated with vines. Although it is all a bit messy she judged, yippee! Creative chaos!
Clary had a fine spread laid out, chickweed pesto featuring with cheeses, fresh tomatoes, a salad, some boiled eggs, curried and sourdough bread. Sam dug in and the conversation lost out to her belly for a time, till hunger was sated. Clary waited for a pause, “so how was the bigsmoke?” she asked tentatively, “Big, and smokey..it was good to see Katherine, but I’m glad to be back where the foods good.” Clary exhaled and smiled. “Well I haven’t got much work done, been in a bit of a dream state really.”
“Researching I think they call it, being an official term, of course.”
“The comfreys been going ballistic, I think it’s time for a harvest. Some to dry for us and some to brew up somewhere faaar away for liquid manure. She’s been demanding some attention but the wordings not right yet. Much maligned as she is in my opinion, I still want to leave the final decision on who, how and in what ways to use her up to the individual reader. Mind you it always is, in the end.”
“You’ve never been a dictator, just lay the information out about the differences between Symphytum officinale and uplandica x, the leaf and the root. Personally I can see a lovely pencil drawing of those leaves, with their cell like structures. Talk about doctrine of signatures, no wonder she’s such a regenerative wound healer and has the nickname ‘boneknit’.”
“So good that some puncture wounds need a bit of something antibacterial added to her salve, so comfrey doesn’t close any infection in when she heals the skin over!”
“Mr Henry Doubleday and co are still doing ok, several generations of uplandica x comfrey eaters later eh and look at you on your comfrey leaf infusions.”
“Aaah Sam you are a woman after my own heart! Welcome home....”
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