I’m sharing an excerpt from my nonfiction book, Shenandoah Watercolors, a 2012 Epic eBook finalist. Free in Amazon Kindle from August 19th through the 23rd.
“It is only when we forget all our learning that we begin to know.”
Rain, rain, rain, heavy pewter skies and more rain, days on end. Unusual for high summer in the valley, although sometimes we experience monsoon like spells of weather. But for one long glorious moment this afternoon the billowing tiers of white clouds parted and the sun broke through to reveal blue sky. Wow. It’s still there.
Silky, pink ‘naked ladies’ are abloom in the back garden. Some folks call them Resurrection Lilies. The flowers shoot up from the bare earth long after the robust foliage dies down. Masses of blooms emerged this year and they smell so sweet. Feisty little hummingbirds have discovered the enormous buddleia and all sorts of butterflies flutter over its wine-colored flowers.
I was surprised to find an extremely healthy pokeberry bush thriving among its all-encompassing branches. Actually, I like poke with its deep purple berries, if I don’t think about it being a noxious weed and reseeding everywhere. The juice from these berries was one of the first inks of the New World. They have narcotic properties, as do the roots. Every part of the plant is poisonous except for the tender green shoots that are harvested in the spring.
Even so, the medicinal value of poke was highly valued and used by Indians and colonists alike, but with much care. A little bit of cut up root steeped in several cups of boiling water made a concoction to be sipped sparingly. Poke, more than any other plant, was regarded as having the power to dramatically alter the course of an ailment.
Death is also a dramatic altering and could occur if too much was administered. I suppose the healer then made a mental note to use less next time. If self-medicating, the patient didn’t have to worry about next time. And if some poor soul was on his (or her) way out to begin with, at least they could comfort themselves with the knowledge that they’d tried their best to save them. Sometimes that’s all we can do, and leave the rest to God.
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