Last summer, I was hopelessly drawn to the contrasting shades of purple and pink oregano flowers that swayed boldly within a sea of inexhaustible mugwort. Taking care to avoid stepping on a resident garter snake, I blazed my way through the rushy overgrowth to bathe in the sweet, yet pungent aroma of the sensuous world of ancient herbs, bees and butterflies.
It is customary to pluck a green leaf, roll it between my finger and thumb, and seemingly without limit, inhale the bruised remains before taking it into my mouth to chew; leaving an almost peppery memory for a good part of the afternoon.
Along with Our Mother, I celebrate, nurture and harvest a variety of herbs, flowers and berries. The flowering plants provide a sustainable environment for butterflies, bees and hummingbirds as well as many other creatures.
In an effort to support and protect the Monarch butterfly, I maintain an official Monarch Waystation. The Monarch’s existence and ability to carry on successive generations and sustain their wondrous migration are threatened by the loss of habitat in North America. This is due mainly to the destruction of wetlands and other areas favorable for growing milkweed and various nectar producing flowers, the use of toxic herbicides, urban development and roadside mowing. Also, genetically modified plants have replaced plants that once provided a source of nectar. Land use has shifted dramatically to support the growing of soybean and corn, contributing to the loss of former, more balanced agricultural practices. These and other conditions have devastated many vital, fragile eco-systems.
Therefore, as I stood amongst the radiating, flowering mints, I marveled at the industrious bees, butterflies and hummingbirds flitting about; I stopped. The blend of diverse tones of an assortment of bees made perfect harmony with the lowest pitch being produced by the traditional, fuzzy, yellow and black, bumble bee.
Many times as I was about to reach down and snip a few stalks of oregano to add to my own hearty soups and stews, this untainted chorus would act like a strong arm and hold me back. I paused, scrunched down near the ground at eye level with the winged creatures, unable to literally cut the source of their pleasure and sustenance. Although originally intended for culinary and medicinal use; I simply could not deprive them; doing so would be to deny myself.
The butterflies – not only the Monarchs – delighted in all that flowered and cloaked the gentle, thriving hillside. Although they busied themselves on elderberries, cat mint, red and white clover and too many others to mention, they loved the oregano the most. I filled my basked with an abundance of what grew last summer, but I would leave the oregano as it were.
Last night we had a frost. The morning sun tried to work its way through willful clouds. I looked out the window and wondered if it was too late. What remained? I quickly braided my hair, buttoned my red plaid shirt and headed outside with my basket and scissors. The mugwort –flourishing, profoundly green, unaffected by surrounding death – reached my chin. I entered into the reminiscence of summer harmony, where a patch of oregano wearing a veil of faded purple tinged with ivory pink, waited patiently for me.
Journal: Babies Breath