Spiraling Deeper: Monsoons & Wildflowers
Nature was my first mother.
I memorized the forest floor as I would
my mother’s body. This forest skin
smelled like pine sap and sweet rot, and
it stained my diapers green and
perfumed my hair, which was always
tangled with bits of leaves, small sticks,
– Brenda Peterson, Nature and Other Mothers
Two days ago we were caught in an afternoon storm that came rumbling through the mountains on dark heavy clouds. We were downriver when the rain started, beginning with just a light sprinkle then a pounding symphony that made the river dance and Rhiannon shiver. At first, we clutched our clothes around us and hurried to get home but then we slowed to admire the shifting colors of the cliff face in the changing light and the sparkling droplets on the flowering Silverweed. The young man who was with us remarked on how being soaking wet made him so much more aware of his body and every muscle contained therein. We stopped to gather armfulls of the near-flowering Wild Mint that flourishes in the cliff-side seeps. All around us the the canyon hummed with proliferating life, the Beeweed rampant alongside delicate white Yarrow flowers and a few birds sung through the pouring rain.
I call monsoon season our second spring and this is when the greatest diversity of plant and animal and fungal life express themselves most intensely. Lichen plumps and fruits on the damp rocks while Elk sing and whistle from the riverside. I take my longest walks in these months, searching out otherwise elusive water dependent herbs and the taking in the sparkle and gleam of rain kissed quartz crystals growing from the arroyo walls. Loba and I venture time and time again up the wash searching out wild foods and medicines, and stopping to enjoy the multitude of butterflies that sweep through on mountain winds.
In every season the canyon invites a different kind of intimacy, from the delicate fierceness of ice jutting across the river in January to the harsh beauty of gold grasses and distant smoke in June. In the lushness of this season we lay in the soft grass and press our faces up against fragrant flowers and smooth, sun warmed rock. I feel the weight of the humidity against my skin and smile up at the brooding clouds overhead. They may mean a limitation in our solar power but they also mean the Purslane will thrive, the river swell and the bears eat well this year.
Not long ago, in the deep shade of thick Willows I found a new friend. The soft white flowers reminded me at first of tiny Datura flowers and I cocked my head at the three foot tall plant in wonder. And then I realized! A Coyote Tobacco in bloom, a close relative to the Datura and the many other seductive members of the Nightshade family that make their home here.
I sat down in the wet sand and gazed up into the trumpet shaped flowers, watching the sun filter and change through its velvety folds and breathing in the powerful and strange scent of its medicine. Colorful insects whose names I’ve never learned emerged from wilted blooms and hummed around my head. I leaned back against a Willow and looked out at the world from down low, from the perspective of children and rabbits, creeping plants and coiling snakes.
When I am quiet enough I forget that I ever imagined myself separate from this world of color and magic. I forget I am anything but wind and dirt, dappled light and wings caught by sky. In this intimacy, this primal magic of becoming small I find my own pulse and rhythm. The thrum and dance of the blue dragonfly on the river’s skin teaches me my song, and the clouds moving overhead mirror my own seasons shifting from lost little girl to medicine woman.
In the dirt and rain, we find ourselves. Over and over again, spiraling always deeper.
Categories: Sense of Place, Wild Plants & Traditional Healingways