Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Comfort and Joy

This is my favourite place in the city. On the grounds of the Billings Estate, tucked between a stone shed and a small house, there is a sweet, little medicinal herb garden.
A flagstone path leads visitors through the space.
Many of the plants have markers, which makes for some easy plant ID.

As small a space as it is, there are a lot of plants growing here.
Every time I visit, I stop to read this sign.

I love reading about Lamira Billings' plant wisdom, the respect the nuns had for her, and how she was able to heal when doctors could not. I want to be like her when I grow up!

I often wonder what her life must have been like.

(Ok. And so it is also possible that I imagine the life of her son Braddish- who bears a striking resemblance to a young Gabriel Byrne in my head. And maybe, just maybe, one stormy day as I'm walking through the herb garden on my way home from work, the wind suddenly pick ups, the sky turns a queer sort of colour and through some strange twist of fate and physics and a lightening strike, I am thrust back in time, where 'lo! there stands Braddish himself, gathering Lobelia to make an infusion for his sister who is desperately ill with pleurisy. Whereafter, the most sweeping and dramatic antics ensue, including me helping to save the sister's life, trying to get back to my own time, while realising that this may actually be the best way to deal with a future of increasingly limited resources, and Braddish and I gathering a lot of plants together in the fields and forests around the estate. It all culminates when I arouse too much suspicion from the locals after I slip and say things like, "Ok, look dude. This type of agriculture you've got here is going to be our eventual downfall, especially when oil comes onto the scene in a major way, and tractors get as big as your friggin' house. And don't even get me started on the Haber-Bosch process and what that's gonna do to humanity. So how 'bout you stop tilling the ever loving sh*t out of the soil, and do something really awesome, like grow a food forest?")

But I digress.

I have this herbal remedy for a cough powder copied down. I hope to recreate it one day. I wasn't familiar with some of the common names at first and had to work out what the Latin was for all of them. I learned that 'wakerobin' is Trillium, which I'll have to cultivate myself if I want to use it.

The pics didn't turn out very well, but this stunningly beautiful, yet deadly plant is Monkshood (Aconitum napellus.)

Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)

There's Tansy, true Solomon's Seal and unripe rose hips here.

A Lobelia (with bee)

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Another Lobelia, Cardinal Flower (Lobeila cardinalis)

Silly flights of fancy aside, I'm so grateful to have this little space near my home, and to feel a sense of connection to the history of the people, place and plants around here.

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