What a joy to see Dupar Meadow light up with the smiling faces of our Wind Gatherers last week. Us instructors have been filled with excitement and anticipation to reconnect as well meet the new children who will make up our special group this year.
We spent the morning getting to know each other a bit then hearing a story from Rachel. Rachel created this story three or four years ago for the first day of Wind Gatherers and is so special it has become a ritual for the start of our year. Each year it changes a bit, as stories tend to do, but when she tells it it infuses the group with inspiration, anticipation, and warm hearts. This year the plants of the Wild Wood took center stage as the Fir tree told huckleberry who told salal who told Cedar, and on and on through the plant world… that the children were back. The ones who sing to plants. The ones to run and laugh and play in the forests and meadows no matter what the weather. The ones who sit by fires and sing together. And right as Rachel said that the plants were waving at us, welcoming us back, the wind puffed a bit and tree limbs and huckleberry branches gave us all a beautiful greeting. It was magical! What a great way to start the year!
We split into small groups to wander, meet huckleberry and get to know each other. Then back in the big group we ended the day playing a big game of run rabbit run.
Thank you for sending your children to the Wind Gatherers. It is such a joy to spend time together each week out in the Wild Wood.
A lovely end-of-summer day welcomed new and re-newed Fire Tenders to Dupar Meadow on our very first Friday of our program year. Perhaps the sun and wind and trees were as glad to experience us on this beautiful land as we were them! At the Nature Museum with Running Horse, Fire Tenders explored obsidian arrowheads and arrows flint knapped and fashioned by Running Horse himself. Kwahn led a lively game of Fox Tails, and Fire Tenders worked with Jacqui to gather wood for our first fire.
Then with smudge, drum, and silent ways, we entered our forest. We shared gratitude and began the magic of getting to know each other! With Running Horse and his bow drill and our intention and song, we kindled our first fire. Running Horse shared a story about how the birds lost their songs. What did they lose that caused this to happen? How did the birds strive to retrieve their songs? And who actually succeeded? What aspect of the story burns on in your Fire Tender’s imagination and heart?
We shared the opportunity to begin creating our culture. What are the agreements we made with one another regarding how we might conduct ourselves as a community? What are some of the mysterious and silly things that we might want to carry on from years past? From here we separated into groups and began our adventures into the land and getting to know it and ourselves better.
Kwahn and Running Horse’s clans embarked on three scout missions, and began the journey of discovering the ways of the Scout. Jacqui and Singing Deer’s groups roamed Fire Tender territory and foraged huckleberries making use of our keen senses. Some of us challenged ourselves with Red Fox balance on narrow fallen branches, and Fox Walking on dry leaves and trying … not … to … make … a … single … sound.
We gathered again to play a rousing, all-community “Capture the Flag,” and completed our day with an exchange of our stories. We are all quite excited and inspired by the Scout missions, and those of us who didn’t pursue those today, are eager to do so soon!
We instructors are looking forward to a year of excitement and discovery with your children as we grow together as Fire Tenders in and with Nature.
With fire season stretching to summer’s end and possibly into early fall, poor air quality can irritate and inflame our bodies in many ways. Luckily, plants abound that can help. Here are some of my favorites for soothing lungs, eyes, and heart during smokey times.
Top on my list is Marshmallow (Althea officinalis) root, flower, and leaf. Marshmallow, the original source of the popular campfire confection, is high in polysaccharides, a mucilage that cools, coats, nourishes, and repairs inflamed mucous membrane tissues. You can purchase Marshmallow root in any health food store that sells herbs in bulk, or you can seek out other Mallow (Malvaceae) family plants that have similar properties. Use Common Mallow (Malva neglecta), which grows as a weed, or use garden flower favorite, Hollyhock (Althea rosea). Keep in mind common sense practices for harvesting: avoid any plants that may have been sprayed with chemicals, are close to roadsides and contaminated areas, or lie underfoot.
Please note: If you are taking medications orally, you may want to take them 1-2 hours before or after drinking Marshmallow, as some professionals feel that the mucilage in Marshmallow may temporarily decrease absorption of the medications.
Other mucilaginous and cooling plants you could use are Violet (Viola spp. — yes, your garden Johnny Jump ups can be fine help!) leaf and flower, and Heal-all (Prunella vulgaris) leaf and flower. Note that the best way to extract the mucilage contained in these plants or in the Mallow family plants listed above is to prepare any of these herbs via cold infusion. That is, let the plant material sit in cool water — flowers and leaves for 2-3 hours, and roots for 4-6 hours or overnight, then strain and drink.
I also turn to my other plant allies for soothing and healing mucous membranes (bronchial and gut). Children who learn about herbs for first aid invariably learn about Plantain (Plantago spp.) and Calendula (Calendula officinalis) — both of which are vulnerary (wound healing), cool inflammation, and offer other healing gifts. As with the mucilaginous plants, both of these plants are superb allies when our lungs are irritated, or when we find ourselves inflamed in other ways (our gut for instance). Use the leaf of Plantain, and the whole flowering head of Calendula. Note that an important medicinal concentration within Calendula is found in the resinous bracts, contained in the green base of the flower. If you only work with the petals, you’re missing out on some potent goodness!
Please note that if you are allergic to any members of the Aster (Asteraceae) family (such as Chamomile, Echinacea, etc.) you may be better off avoiding Calendula.
Lesser known as a wound healer, but also a great ally, is Rose. Rose works a little differently. As an aromatic and astringent (tissue tonifying) plant it cools and calms our inner ecology and mind. If you’re feeling anxious, irritated, or grief-stricken by the assault of the smoke or the destruction caused by fire, include Rose petals (the more aromatic the better) in your beverages. On its own, Rose can be drying, so combine it with one or more of the other herbs mentioned here.
Plantain, Calendula, and Rose can all be prepared as either a cold infusion or as a tea. As a hot medicinal tea, use -1-2 tsps of the dried plant or 1-2 tablespoons fresh per 8 oz cup, and let steep in just-boiled water for 15-20 min. Press the herbs with the back of the spoon to include some final medicinal extraction.
For eye irritation, you can splash cooled Rose, Calendula, and/or Plantain tea in your eyes, or for a calming treat, you can purchase Rose hydrosol. When too much smoke has me down, I like to spray Rose hydrosol in my face — a refreshing mist that soothes both eyes and spirit.
One last herb: if poor air quality for days on end has taken a toll on your lungs, turn to Mullein, a superb tonifier of the respiratory system. To make a nourishing infusion, fill a quart jar a quarter way with Mullein leaf, then fill the jar with just-boiled water, and let sit for 2-3 hours. Important next step: filter the liquid through a coffee filter. This is absolutely essential to do, as Mullein contains tiny hairs that can irritate the throat — not what you want to drink when you’re trying to heal your bronchial passages!
Combine any of the plants listed above into a tea, and feel free to include other plants, such as mint or kitchen spices (ginger, cinnamon, etc) for flavor and their own healing properties.
As wildfires rage, stay cool. Soothe and replenish your body and spirit by turning to our green neighbors, the plants!
Rebecca Altmann, “Wildfire smoke and Our Bodies.”
Juliet Blankespoor, “Calendula, Sunshine Incarnate: an Edible and Medicinal Flower”
Kiva Rose Hardin, “Three Faces Under a Hood: the Many Aspects of Violet..”
This article is for educational purposes only. If you are on medication, are pregnant, or have other health considerations you are advised to check in with your doctor or other healthcare professional regarding use of these or any herbs and their preparations.