Posted by: Jane Valencia | January 24, 2009

Late Winter Dreams

Herbalist Kiva Rose’s latest post on her blog The Medicine Woman’s Roots inspired my own response. If you are interested in herbs and/or Medicine Woman ways, I encourage you to browse her site. It is replete with intelligent, articulate, and beautiful writing, and generous with information and wisdom!
The rhythm of the seasons speaks powerfully to me. On my island home in the Pacific Northwest I would now be anticipating the first new leaves. Indian-plum is the first to leaf in our former forest, and I enjoy the tangy cucumber taste of those new leaves. I delighted in making my own version of the Indian yogurt sauce “raita”, using Indian-plum leaves instead of cucumber (which is desperately out of season most of the year where I lived!). I would still be gratefully harvesting kale from my garden, and a new burst of arugula, which has sown itself. Calendula might even still be blooming sporadically. And I would be eager for first glimpses of my friend California Poppy–but actually poppy is not likely to extend its lacy silver green self for a few more months. Still! I love this velvety and flame petaled, joyful, gracious, heart-of-my-nature herb!

I would consider the Black Cottonwoods in the neighborhood, and remind myself to mark the calendar for checking for those sticky aromatic buds that I use to make a lovely “balm of Gilead” for massaging my husband and soothing sore muscles. I would remind myself to begin checking in mid-Feb., though it would actually be in early March that I gathered them.

Here in my new terrain of the Wallowa valley in N. E. Oregon, I could feel (and do sometimes) pretty ungrounded regarding my plant and tree friends and the rhythm of the seasons. After all, we have a long winter here–with snow and ice and heavy frost!–a season I am in the midst of experiencing for the first time (hey, I’ve never lived in a place that’s had a real snowy winter!) I have a lot to learn and experience here, but I take heart in knowing that Black Cottonwoods are abundant in this part of the valley, and I can expect to find Stinging Nettle in the spring (whenever that arrives!), and Dandelion manages to thrust its toothy-leafed vigorous self through our lawn, despite who knows how many rounds of chemicals the previous owner lavished on this area, and despite the weeks of snow we had earlier. I anticipate the leafing and flowering at some point of the Wild Rose that rambles uncared for at the side of the house, pondering its lessons of vigorous thorns on slender jumbled shoots that this plant reveals to me. The plant has been hacked at in the past, and then let go to grow as it willed. I sit with the plant, wondering best how to support its well-being in the coming months. Right now, I offer it Reiki, song, and my good wishes and curiosity. Who are you, sleeping one?

For some great information about the medicinal properties of two of my friends mentioned above, please read on Kiva Rose’s Medicine Woman Tradition website:

If you are interested in finding out about Populus balsamifera/Populus balsamifera (Black Cottonwood/Balsam Poplar) and how to make Balm of Gilead salve (plus quantities of great practical herbal info for medicine making, cooking, and so much, much more) I cannot recommend more highly membership with Herb Mentor — truly the best $110 or so that I have ever spent!



  1. What a beautiful post! And thank you so much for spreading the word about the Medicine Woman Tradition, much appreciated!!

    Thanks for sharing your love of the green world :)

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