Lesser Celandine

To the small celandine
Pansies, Lilies, Kingcups, Daisies,
Let them live upon their praises;
Long as there’s a sun that sets
Primroses will have their glory;
Long as there are Violets,
They will have a place in story:
There’s a flower that shall be mine,
‘Tis the little Celandine.

-William Wordsworth

Following on from my dream identification of plantain, I shortly after identified lesser celandine intuitively.  I don’t remember ever learning these plant names, I just have this sense sometimes that I just know something without any idea how or why.  Anyway, for me, this means that the lesser celandine has a personal connection with intuition and knowledge.

Lesser celandine is related to buttercups and is known, less beautifully, as pilewort.  It has heart shaped leaves and little yellow petals which close up in bad weather and display as gorgeous stars in good weather.  Appearing with the swallows in spring, they were traditionally a sign that it was time to sow crops.  This was an important part of the year for our ancestors so the arrival of the little golden flowers will have been significant.

These are not plants that are to be eaten.  If you ingest them raw they can be fatal.  This goes for grazing animals as well.  Despite their pleasant demeanour, they can be deadly.  All plants from the buttercup family contain a chemical which turns into a toxin when the plant is wounded.  This toxin can cause itching, rashes and blistering if it comes in contact with skin.  If eaten, it can cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, spasms, paralysis and jaundice.

In addition to harming humans and animals, they are harmful to other plants and are considered invasive species in some parts of the world.  They grow to dominate areas rapidly and have an intensive mat of roots.  This, and it’s early flowering, give it a strign advantage over most plants and it can quickly form a monopoly along the rivers and waterways that it prefers.

Despite all this, lesser celandine has been used medicinally.  As you might guess from it’s alternative name pilewort, it was used to treat haemorrhoids in the past.  It also has antifungal and antibacterial properties, but the plant must be heated or dried to alleviate the effects of the toxin.

The lesser celandine also redeems itself through it’s duty to bees.  As it is one of the first flowers to appear after winter, they are an important source of nectar for insects who are emerging from hibernation.  In particular, they provide vital food for queen bees, without whom we would have no bees and pollination the world over would be fatefully affected.

This role as one of the early flowers of the year has led to it symbolising joy to come.  It is a glimpse of the summer sun and the warmth and harvest that will be reaped.

None of the above should be considered medical advice, do not eat anything unless you’ve done your research.  Plants go by different names in different places and have different properties at different times of year.  Some of the possible uses of this plant have come from folklore and should not be taken as fact.

Woodpigeons

Written on 27th July

The humble woodpigeon… I have been compelled to write this by my two friendly garden woodpigeons.  They perch on my fence and coo and dance about and I see them almost every day.  Then this morning, a juvenile woodpigeon literally crashed into my life, or at least my window.  I was sitting on my bed reading and then bang, crash, bang…  As I write this, the little bird is perched on the window ledge looking a bit stunned and confused.  It keeps peeking into my bedroom and doesn’t seem at all fazed by anything.  I’m assuming it’s in shock but I’m also assuming any attempt to help it right now will only worsen things… I’m fairly certain it’s parents are just the other side of the building so I’m hoping they will conduct the rescue mission.

Woodpigeons seem a very mundane animal to consider.  They are our most common pigeon and are found basically everywhere and have a variety of regional names which reflect this; the woody, cushat, cushy-do, quist, ringdow and ring dove.  But perhaps it’s this abundance that we can learn from.  You can probably recognise a pigeon even if you aren’t at all interested in birds.  And even then you’ll almost certain recognise the call of the woodpigeon.

These birds play the background music to our lives.  They sing away in the chorus, not noticed and not appreciated but important all the same.  Like the earthworm, they are overlooked and their role in the world often goes unremarked upon.  Because of this, when they have a message or a lesson for us, they sometimes need to literally crash into our awareness.  They are calling on us to acknowledge the people, the lives and the things which go unseen.  Whether it’s the train driver that gets you to work, the security guard who always opens the door or the person who collects your bins.  It might be gestures from our friends that we take for granted – that cup of tea your partner makes for you first thing in the morning or the friend who drops you a message every now and then just to let you know they’re thinking of you.  And this goes beyond people and animals and asks that we smile at the little beauties we find in our days.  The way the sun beams dance on the walls.  The flower that is growing with such tenacity through the pavement.

Aside: the one on my window ledge has just started moving around so is hopefully coming out of shock.  He still keeps peeking into the room and I’m quietly smiling back, trying to avoid causing more shock!

They are fairly big for British birds and they look bigger than they are as they often fluff up their feathers.  This appearance of being overweight is not helped when they waddle as they walk…  In reality, their feathers weigh more than their skeleton which is amazing!  It takes a lot of effort for the wood pigeon to take flight and they can’t fly through small gaps.  This means that instead of using stealth to escape, they clatter and clamour through the trees, hence another of their names – the clatter dove.  They make a fuss and make sure that you know they are there.  These background birds do try to get our attention and we should do them the honour of listening.

The birds which hop along my fence make me smile and chuckle and I love hearing them coo when I wake up at obscene times of the day and night.  I love that when I was really ill one night, the woodpigeon kept me company.

As with any animal, reproduction is a huge part of life and for the woodpigeon breeding can occur anytime throughout the year but peaks in August.

Courtship displays involve birds flying fairly high before clapping the wings together and gliding down, as well as males strutting and fluffing out their chest feathers. Daddy woodpigeon will bring his mate nesting materials which she then forms into a shallow and flimsy platform like nest.  Whilst this is most likely in a tree, they aren’t fussy and will adapt depending on the environment, nesting inside buildings or on the ground if they need to.

Once the nest is built, the female lays two white shiny eggs.  These are incubated by both parents for about 17 days before they hatch.  They are then fed milk from the other which is formed in her crop and is highly nutritious.  It takes 29-35 days before the babies fledge.  Sadly, especially for my little guy, the majority of young ones die within their first year…

Reactions to woodpigeons are varied.  I love the two I have on my fence, they make me smile.  And I loved the baby who visited me today despite the emotional trauma he put me through!  Some people go out of their way to feed them whilst others see them purely as pests which steal food from bird feeders and cause damage to crops.  It is estimated that they cause at least £3 million worth of damage to agricultural businesses each year in the UK.  Your feelings about them will depend a lot on your own role in life but remember, however you view them, don’t overlook them.  Pay attention to the abundance and don’t take them for granted.

Update: The woodpigeon has finally left my window.  It promptly went and sat in the road for ages and filled me with fear… It did eventually leave and I wish it a happy, long life.

Edited to add: Reading about the passenger pigeon is a helpful illustration of what happens when we take abundance for granted.

Plantain

Plantain came to me in a dream.  Despite not consciously knowing it’s name, when I was asked to identify it in my dream, I was correct.  This plant is also known as ribwort and is not to be confused with the banana like fruit.  There are different kinds of plantain but they all belong to the Plantago family.  Because of this, it’s hard to know which plant different beliefs and practices belong to – many are just referred to as plantain.  In the time these were written, it would likely have been known which type based on local growth.  For the purposes of this post, I’m keeping things general so I really do implore you not to take any of this as advice.

_20170602_141404

This plant has a number of medicinal uses including antiseptic and antibiotic properties.  It is used in healing and treating inflammation.  Used externally it can reduce bleeding and is often used in place of a plaster to close a wound.  It is said the leaves can also reduce the pain of bites and stings.

The leaves are also edible, like most leaves they are best when they are young.  They also provide food and valuable nutrition for grazing animals and wildlife.

Plantain has also been called “waybroad” because of it’s tendencies to grow along the edge of roads and trails and paths.  Because of it’s healing properties, it is a good companion to have on a journey or a pilgrimage.

It is one of the nine anglo-saxon sacred herbs.  The others being chamomile, chervil, crab apple, fennel, mugworth, nettle, sainfoin and watercress.  Within this context, it was referred to as the mother of herbs and was known for it’s ability to pull things out of things, whether that was nutrients from the soil or a splinter from a wound.  Symbolically you might want to consider what lessons you can draw from experiences or what bounty you can gather from the world around you.  Look for the beauty and the gold in your life and pull them out from the mundane once in a while to admire them and cherish them.

Despite being considered sacred, it does have a reputation as an abundant weed.  Native Americans apparently called it Whiteman’s Foot as it sprang up everywhere following the arrival and invasion from the Europeans.

This speaks highly to it’s ability to thrive, reproduce and survive.  As the white man invaded, so did the plantain.  Plantain is an excellent grower!  They are found in most of Britain, with the exception of highly acidic grassland.  Despite this, they do not exclude or prevent other plants from thriving as some dominant plants can.  This contrasts harshly with how man approached America.  Where the plant moved in alongside, man went to conquer.

Plantain is tailored for survival.  As we’ve seen, they thrive in most conditions, their seeds contain a watery substance which helps them grow in dry soil and if conditions aren’t right, the seed can survive a long time waiting months or years until it is ready to grow.  This puts me in mind of a quote I’ve used before in other posts:

There is a perfect time for everything. If the tulip surfaces in the heart of winter, the bitter winds won’t give her a chance.
– Rebecca Campbell

Living well and growing strong can mean knowing when it is time to rest and time to act.  We all thrive in different circumstances and getting to know ourselves means we can use this to our advantage.  Instead of battling against the frosts of winter, use that time to nourish yourself and prepare for your wonderful blooming come spring sun.

One of my earliest memories of plantain, although I didn’t know it’s name then, is of sitting in the playground in primary school pulling apart the leaves.  If you’ve never done this it can be quite satisfying.  What I didn’t know then is that you can also use it as a lie detector!  If you pick a leaf, and count the number of ribs, it’ll tell you how many lies you’ve told that day.  I believe the leaves can also be used in love divination which might be more appealing to most people – knowing how many lies you’ve told seems a bit useless and I can’t see how you’re going to get someone else to do it to show you how many lies they’ve told!

None of the above should be considered medical advice, do not eat anything unless you’ve done your research.  Plants go by different names in different places and have different properties at different times of year.  Some of the possible uses of this plant have come from folklore and should not be taken as fact.

Sage

Sage:

  • wise, especially as a result of great experience
  • a plant whose greyish-green leaves are used as a herb to give flavour to some foods

Wisdom is obviously an important part of this plant’s character!  In particular, wisdom that comes with age and experience and doing and reflecting.  It is the knowledge that is amassed over a long, filled life.

It is said that “the desire of sage is to render man immortal”; this plant knows the secrets of life and death and the deep knowings of the world.  Sage invites respect from us and reminds us how to move through the world respectfully.

It’s name comes from salvere, to be in good health, to cure, to save.  And indeed, the kind of wisdom aquired through long life can save.  Sage is known to be a humble kitchen herb, but it also has valuable medicinal properties.

Historically, it has been used to help snakebites, to increase fertility, as a diuretic, as a local anesthetic.  It was one of a number of herbs said to ward off plague and was also used for a number of mental health conditions.  Like Rosemary, it was said to clear the mind, to enhance memory and to aid wisdom.

I believe that sage contains estrogen or a similar chemical and this then sheds light on why it has been used since ancient times for fertility, for menopause and for other menstrual problems.  I think I read somewhere that it was also used to try and get rid of unwanted pregnancies as it can stimulate early contractions.

From a more symbolic perspective, it is said to release blockages in the throat chakra which are hindering expression and communication.  It helps with processing and experiencing emotions, feeling them and letting them move on.

Ritually, sage has been used for a very long time to ward off evil and today, sage smudges continue to be a popular way of cleansing ones home or self.  It is used to purify, to mark the start of ceremony and as part of initiations.  The wisdom of this herb makes life transitions, the times of initiation (into adulthood, into parenthood etc), easier.  It is a reminder to listen to those who have gone before you and to learn from them.

Sage is associated with Sagittarius and Jupiter.  Sagittarius ends with the winter solstice, another time of transition and initiation into the new year.  This is a time of darkness and reflection and introspection.  Sage can help us with these experiences, shedding light on our thoughts and feelings and helping us to heal emotional wounds.  Sage takes the experiences and lessons from the year that has gone and turns them into wisdom for the year that lies ahead.

None of the above should be considered medical advice, do not eat anything unless you’ve done your research.  Plants go by different names in different places and have different properties at different times of year.  Some of the possible uses of this plant have come from folklore and should not be taken as fact.

Pangolin

Pangolins are apparently the world’s most hunted animal and the most trafficked wild mammal.  This in itself is reason enough for me to want to write this post.  The pangolin had been on my list of animals to write about and then a couple of days ago an article popped up on my twitter feed and reminded me about their plight.

The Telegraph says that “with its armoured shell and peculiar gait, the humble pangolin looks more like an anteater prepped for medieval battle than an animal under threat.”  And this feels like a good description.  There is something naive and comical about the pangolin and they make me smile.

They are similar to the hedgehog and the echidna in how they react to danger but unlike these spiky creatures, the pangolin’s own defences are being used against them.  When threatened, they curl up into a ball and their scales protect them.  This scaly armour is too hard for even a lion to bite through.  But when it comes to human predators, we just use their helpful rolled up position to pick them up.

We exploit their very defences.  We utilise their armour for our own means.  And on the whole we don’t need to attack the pangolin.  Whilst they are sometimes eaten as a necessary source of food, they are considered a delicacy in Asia.  They are also hunted for use in traditional chinese medicine.  Their scales are dried and roasted then used to stimulate lactation, cure cancer, help asthma and more.  The scales sell on the black market for over $3000 a kilo.  In addition to food and medicine, the pangolin is also used in rituals, art and magic and their scales have even been used to make a coat…  This is wanton, wasteful killing.  This is not hunting for survival.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, half of the pangolins which are killed are juveniles.  They are slow breeders who give birth to one pup every one or two years.  This means that over exploitation of the species is significantly more likely to result in extinction.  This is a critical time for the pangolin.

On top of hunting, pangolins are also suffering because deforestation is getting rid of their habitats.  All species of pangolin are considered vulnerable or critical on the list of endangered species.

I’m finding this a tough post to write.  We all know about dolphins in trouble and the threats to elephants but because they are iconic, wellknown species, they get a lot of attention and a lot of work is being done to help them.  I don’t know how long the plight of the pangolin has been known but I do know that a lot of people don’t even know what one is, let alone the trouble they are in.

Their struggle has been made harder because they are a secretive, elusive species, making them hard to study.  They are also solitary creatures, most of which are active at night.

They are equipped with defences, but they are not cut out for the world they find themselves in today.  Whilst they have their armour to protect from wildlife, they are not very ferocious and don’t even have teeth.  If their scales aren’t enough then they have to turn to their tail which has sharp scales.  They also have sharp claws and can emit a nasty smell but if it wasn’t for humans, they wouldn’t need to use these.  The claws are for breaking into ant hills and termite mounds, not fighting humans.  Everything about this creature, screams protection – in addition to their chain mail style suit, they have thick eye lids and ears and noses which can close up to stop ants getting in.  This is an animal which is all about boundaries and personal integrity.

Other aspects to note about this creature include poor vision which means they use their sense of smell to find their food.  They also have a long long tongue which can be longer than the pangolin and is used to collect lots of insects quickly.  This epic muscle is attached near its pelvis, deep in the chest cavity.  It is sticky and powerful with spikes leaning into the stomach.  Presumably this is to keep the ants and termites from escaping or falling out.  Once eaten, the food gets ground up in the pangolin’s tummy by stones and more spines.  This is a bit like a reverse hedgehog really!

These mysterious animals don’t do well in captivity either, humankind really is not aligned with the pangolin’s needs.  In zoos they tend to get ill and die very quickly…  Unfortunately this means that once captured, a pangolin’s prognosis is very poor, even if they don’t get killed for food and medicine…  And if we treated them well, they could continue to serve an important ecological function.  The vast number of insects they eat means they are great for pest control.

To sum it up, the pangolin is vulnerable, precarious and it’s defences are being used against it.  Watch out for similarities in your own life if you are drawn to this creature.  And please, please do not consume pangolin.

I’ve lost my edges…

There is a note in my diary reminding me that I want to write to Oh Comely!, a magazine which inspires hand written, decorative notes not personalityless emails.  The note says I want to respond to something I read and tell them about proprioception.  But the note is possibly a year old now and I have long passed the issue on to a friend.  All my magazines are passed on, turned into collages or left in public spaces for strangers to discover.

proprioceptive: Relating to stimuli that are produced and perceived within an organism, especially those connected with the position and movement of the body.
Example sentences
Origin: Early 20th century: from Latin proprius ‘own’ + receptive.

Oxford English Dictionary

Proprioception is the sense of where your body is.  It is how you know where your arms are when the lights are off.  How you can walk without having to constantly look at your feet.

If you have a huge growth spurt, your proprioception can be temporarily impaired which is why we see clumsy teenagers who don’t seem to fit in their body.  That said, for most people, most of the time proprioception just ticks over in the background.

For people with certain conditions, including EDS, proprioception doesn’t function as well as it should.

I wake in the night, slowly coming back to myself from my dream world.  Before I can rouse myself enough to move, I lay still, figuring out my body.  I may not have an arm right now for all I know.  I’m trying to puzzle out where my left hand is.  I know there is a hand on top of a hand because of the feedback from my splints.  I’m awake enough now to summon up the energy to move that arm which may no longer exist.  How I can move a limb when I don’t know where it is boggles my mind.  It doesn’t take too much movement before I figure out where it is and my arm reattaches itself to my body map.

For me, this is not an unusual night.  My sense of where my body is is not consistent.  Some days I have a better idea than others.  To someone not used to it, waking up “missing” an arm might be scary, for me it’s normal and I can quickly reattach it.  I can’t always put my two fingers together, end to end, without looking.  There are certain muscles that I can’t tense because I can’t find them in my mind to send the messages.

My sense of myself seems to be less when I’m ill, when I’m tired, when I’m hormonal or worried or other states of vulnerability…

Perhaps the hardest to understand and hardest to cope with is when I “lose my edges”.  This mostly happens to my legs.  It is like I am spilling out into the world.  I no longer have skin containing me.  I have no boundaries.  I am the universe and the universe is me.  And I find that terrifying.  When I lose my edges, I kick my legs a lot, I fidget, I bang them against my bed.  I feel out of control and I feel unsafe and unsecure.  It feels like my nervous system is out of control pr non existent.  It is trying so hard to find my body that it is in overdrive.

Returning to the idea of a mental body map, I have lost the structure of my legs.  I know my legs are there and I have a vague sense of where they are but I don’t have any sense of where they end.  My body map, like the rest of me, has gone floppy and nebulous.  I merge and meld with the universe and it is terrifying.

One of the reasons this is so tough for me is that it feels a lot like the physical aspect of a panic attack or an asthma attack – the disconnect from your body that you experience when you aren’t getting enough oxygen.  The very feeling of this is enough to trigger an anxiety attack and it has taken me years to figure out that losing my edges and panic are not the same things, they just feel incredibly similar.

I don’t want this just to be a post trying to explain the sensation, although there is value in that alone.  I want to suggest my own ways of dealing with this in the hope that someone else can benefit.

I don’t have many ways of coping and would love to hear from others, but here we go:

  • There are some ideas on my post about grounding, including telling myself out loud that I am safe
  • A visualisation where I mentally wrap bandages around all my body, bit by bit
  • Blankets wrapped around me
  • Rubbing my limbs with hands, lotion or hairbrushes, anything to re-establish the boundaries
  • Stretching or, when possible, using weight based exercises to help eg arm curls with tins

More about proprioception:

Links

I was totally about to start this as an email.. my brain is truly made of fluff…

I did a round up of random links recently and wanted to do another.  I don’t work and I spend a lot of time online, reading interesting things and often want to share them, so here we go:

Offline, I’m always reading about 50 books at once…

  • Jailbreaking the Goddess by Lasara Firefox Allen, which I am reading slowly and working with my house of helens with it
  • Attatched: The New Science of Adult Attachment by  Rachel Heller and Amir Levine
  • The Smart Girl’s Guide to Polyamory by Dedeker Winston
  • The Elements of Psychosynthesis by Will Parfitt
  • If Women Rose Rooted by Sharon Blackie
  • The Seasons by Nick Groom
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas
  • Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb (which I am reading really slowly because I don’t want to finish the series…)
  • The Mammoth Hunters by Jean M Auel

I’m always interested in what other people are reading so do let me know!