Thursday, 25 February 2016
Well and truly rosed.
I suppose I should be writing this for the garbling blog. But at the garbling blog, I write about the medicine plants without the "woo".
I'm afraid that's just not possible when it comes to roses. They are the ultimate in "woo"; I take their very existence as proof of the Divine and the benevolent nature of Nature.
They are also very practical things to have around.
You can define worship any way you like; in this case I can think of no other word for how I feel on my knees before a rose. Any rose. Even as I've ruthlessly pruned the most viciously armed canes, caterpillar ridden and riddled with every disease known to rose-dom, I do so with a sense of reverence, that I am in the Presence of something superior to myself, to which I am the mere servant.
I adore the tea roses, and one particularly lovely yellow lady graces my garden, near the birdbath. She was an impulse buy from a grocery store, inexpensive yet frivolous of us because tea roses in this climate are often annuals. But she made it through last winter which was long and cold. If she survives this winter of alternating thaws and deep freezes, a deadly combination, it will be a miracle. They're heartbreakers, the tea roses. If she survives I have plans to bring a formality to that area that doesn't come naturally to me but that her courtly presence demands. Paul laid a stone path there, the sort that instantly looks as though it's been there forever and I tucked in a lavender nearby .. and the rose seemed to sigh contentedly with a more suitable companion than the wilder sorts that were there when we plunked her down into a spot hastily carved out of the lawn. Bit by bit she influences me to be more refined, to not entirely reject the better side of man-as-gardener.
For if there is any relationship that speaks to the co-operation between human and nature, it is the breeding of roses. Granted, humans have made some terrible errors there, by breeding out fragrance in favour of long stems and deep coloured blooms that stay forever in half opened bud (poor roses). But people buy them because roses are something of a necessity to the human soul. I won't try to explain that; if you need me to, you're just not a rose person. And if you are a rose person, you're nodding in understanding. Roses speak directly to the heart.
Nor is it sentimentality. Humans have taken advantage of roses' prickly canes and rampant growth habit as fencing against animals. The rosehip has saved many a child from scurvy. There are a thousand uses for roses, I'm sure.
Rose petal tincture saved me from something rather nasty recently (and led me to something entirely delightful, which I'll get to in a minute). I'd whacked my toe, the little one, jamming it towards the foot and slightly dislocating the joint in the process. It was recovered very well indeed thanks to comfrey root tincture compresses, within a day of using those and making sure to (gently) walk around a bit, I felt it shift back into place. Then of course I whacked it again, because, well, that's how it goes with toes.
It's the second whack that will get you in trouble. Trauma is one thing, re-traumatizing an injury is a bitch. This time the swelling was at the tip of the toe and before I realized what was going on, I had all the hallmarks of an ingrown toenail as the swelling enveloped the nail. Hot. Angry. Throbbing. Shit!
Comfrey was inappropriate this time around, we don't use it for deep infections; it heals bone and joint and muscle beautifully, and it also heals flesh quickly too - too quickly sometimes, which can result in infection being sealed in below the surface.
The nail was cutting into the toe. It was so hot it was scaring me. Ain't it remarkable how one's whole body can react to one seemingly small injury? If I'd had any objectivity left I'd have been thinking "oh, how interesting ..". Instead my whole body was reacting with panic. The flesh of the toe just looked and felt wrong, rapidly going beyond simple ingrown toenail and verging on cellulitis.
I knew a fresh plantain poultice would have done the trick but it's the dead of winter, I was out of luck there. I have plantain oil and ointment but we don't put anything oily on something that's infected. I needed something cooling and drawing and I also needed to calm. the. fuck. down. Panic raises the heart rate and blood pressure, and could, in fact, spread that infection.
And lo I had just the thing. Jars and jars of 'the thing', as for a few years running I've had this sentimental (or so I thought) ritual with my roses. Every morning I go out to the bushes (I have many besides the tea rose) and gather the petals of those that are fading. I put them in jars, cover them with vodka and although technically one should strain one's tinctures, with rose I never do. Well gee, was that ever smart of me. For you see a rose petal is just the right size to cover a baby toe - well, my baby toe, anyway. They're curved, too, so it's like they were made for the job at hand.
I covered my toe in tinctured rose petals. What a charming thing to do! Instantly cooling, instantly calming and within half an hour the swelling was going down. I was able to walk on it within a couple of hours (shedding rose petals as I went, equally charming) and by afternoon it was clear the infection was gone, all danger had passed. I kept it up for 48 hours, just to be sure. Now the toe is perfectly normal; still a bit of an ache around the joint of course, but hey, it was dislocated, that's to be expected.
But because I love roses so much, it wasn't just the toe that got the treatment. I took drops of rose tincture under my tongue, I brushed my hair with rosewater, and rinsed my eyes with a saltwater rosewater combo in the eyecup. I was head to foot roses. I was well and truly rosed.
And then something remarkable unfolded.
Like the petals of a flower in the sun, my whole being opened up. The hard shell of a winter's worth of worries broke off, fell away. I looked back at the weeks leading up to the day I first jammed that toe. I tried a little trick I know - pretend you're looking at a dream, and the events of your life are symbols. What was the toe about, then? What did it mean?
You know, it's common to say that our bodies are telling us something, sending us messages. I see it more as them asking us questions. That jarring, painful slamming of the toe asked me - do you know where you are? Where are you going? Where do you stand? Are you where you want to be? Are you balanced?
First it was dislocated - that's something out of place. Then it was infected - something festering inside. Both are probably true but here's the best part - how did I respond? Did I seek outside help and use industrial medicines?
No. I used the stuff of my garden, God's garden, if you will - comfrey the comforter first, and then rose, the beautiful. I responded to my own needs with the loving gifts of the Creator. I may be in need of a tune-up here and there (aren't we all?) but I know where I stand - with Creation. With faith born of experience and experience gained through faith I responded, listened and learned. I learned something about comfrey and rose and I learned something about myself too.
When we reach for industrial medicine, aren't we turning our faces from God? Maybe that seems harsh to someone who doesn't yet have the know-how to use their homegrown plants .. but how do you think I got the know-how? It was through faith. So I would suggest to those who long to dip their toe (ha!) into this world, keep your heart on track. You'll get it. Creation will send you the teachers you need - human and plant, both.