Spring is as much a time of pain as of growth. Imagine the egg, the bulb, the bud. All begin contained -- all potential, endless promise. There is no strain, no disturbance by passion or power. But when growth begins, things break. Shells and bud casings, those intact perfections, fall away. What is revealed is unprotected tenderness...
- Patricia Monaghan
I love this quote because it reminds us that the spring season, no matter how much we may long for it, is not always an easy or graceful transition. Like snow storms in March and April, the arrival of spring is often messy and chaotic, often an encapsulation of perplexing extremes.
Being a spring-born creature I often feel this transitional intensely. This year, especially, I do. I feel the tension of the season, as if I want to both hibernate deeply, continuing an inward-looking slumber AND I want to burst into action, into new life, creating movement and change and embrace all the new-sprung possibilities of life. Larken Bunce, a wise and thoughtful herbalist and poetical writer, captures this feeling well. She writes:
There’s early Spring in a nutshell: the dynamic tension between moving ahead into expansive, decisive action and staying wrapped up tight in rest and unknowing, between rest and productivity, solitude and community. You’ve probably noticed that you lean one way or the other, towards wanting Spring to hurry up and arrive in earnest and wishing Winter would stay a bit longer. And since the seasons acquiesce to no one, you might notice that either way you lean, you are not satisfied.
So noticing that I may be dissatisfied with how the energy of the season unfolds - how things seem to start and stop and not move quickly or smoothly enough - I just have to remember to let go of my sense of timing. To trust in the natural unfolding of life's energies, to trust that the arrival of all good things, like the Spring, is only when the time is right.
May your spring season unfold, in all its beauty and mystery, in perfect timing.
Calendula blossoms are like small suns. Especially as they open up in water, their petals extend outwards from the center and uncurl into yellow rays. Likewise, in the depths of winter, calendula flowers are a saving grace with their cheerful faces, with their medicine steeped in hot cups of tea.
Recently I experienced a long-lasting cold that I could not seem to shake. I don’t get sick often, but when I do it tends to be significant – a signal from my body to ease up and simply rest. In these instances I try to curb my activities and slow down. I take elderberry and rosehip tea, drink bone broths and chicken soup, take hot showers, breathe in essential oils, sleep a lot. But this time, calendula spoke to me, quietly and persistently…. So I rummaged through my herb cabinet to locate some summer-dried flower heads and steeped them for a long while in a pot of water on my stove. I drank this dark-hued tea, feeling as if it were liquid sunshine, a brew so strong it was almost bitter. My body seemed happy for it, and indeed my mood, after a few melancholic days, lifted.
Calendula is known as a lymphatic herb, one that helps the lymph from getting stuck or stagnant. This is a useful thing during a long winter, when a bit of sunshine and movement are much needed. Calendula mixes nicely with other herbs, but I would recommend trying it on its own first. Or, you can add some of the flower heads to pots of soup or broth as it simmers along – a traditional way to avoid cold and flu during the winter months.
Calendula is a very prolific grower and blossoms almost continuously through the growing year, one of the reasons for its name, which comes from the fact that in many locales it flowers almost every calendar month. Save the dried seeds in the fall to sow the following spring. In the summertime, harvest newly-opened and vibrant flower heads and notice the sticky resin covering the calyx, where much of its medicinal goodness resides. Dry these flowers on a screen or on brown paper bags for a few days until completely dry, then store in a glass jar out of the sunlight to use throughout the autumn and winter months. It’s like bottling up the energy of the summer sun to use during darker days.