Monday, July 2, 2012

Risky Geniuses

My father, boys and I enter the dark hut of a Pilmouth Plantation home and a scene of 17th century domestic life emerges. Draped in heavy woolen clothes, the woman of the house moves back and forth from the glowing hearth to the thick wooden table, making a bread pancake of sorts. The man of the house sits like a king, receiving his court, legs spread, elbow on the arm of a roughly carved oak chair. He is balding and bearded and looks only mildly tolerant of the guests in his home. He does greet us cordially and we begin asking questions they have probably answered a million times.

“What are you cooking?” My seven year old asks hungrily.
“Clotted cream cakes with corn.” The woman of the house answers. He wrinkles his nose indiscreetly.
“What kind of herbs are those?” I ask to distract from his manners.
“Feverfew” she answers.
“You do not have herbs where ye hail from?” the man wonders.
“No, I do… I just don’t know that one.”
“Ahhh, you have a servant then who does.” He muses.
“Then how do you care for ye family?”
I thought I was the one that was supposed to be asking the questions.
“A doctor…sometimes. We don’t get sick much.” I find I am defending myself.
He makes some sort of flappy, throaty noise with his mouth.
“Physics! Bah! Charlatans and Hooligans that bunch they are. A bunch of money grubbers. You know what I mean?” ( or something like that, many of the words he said were no longer in my repertoire of English vocabulary)
“Er, no I don’t really.” I admitted.
“Well physics, we have no use for them, they are charlatans who take your money for a potion you can make yourself. It better to have the knowledge yourself, you see?”
“Oh yes I see, so you all grow all your own herbs and take care of yourselves.”
“Aye, much better that way.” Click. Something in my brain opened up an new pathways for learning and being empowered as a family turned on. Inspiration. I began to wonder.

Another Swedish looking man who entered in during the conversation asked if they had surgeons and the man of the house replied they did, the son of a butcher, and they used herbs to put them selves to sleep before hand. He made my mind’s gears turn, the resolute he had, even so just an actor, that it was much better to know the herbs ourselves. He reminded me of an earthy woman down the road where I grew up in Connecticut that was at my brother’s party. She looked down and announced that the rounded plant growing in clusters all over my childhood Connecticut home property, that I had always thought just a nuisance weed, was a plant called “Greater Plantain”. She bent down and picked this unimportant looking leaf.

“It’s an anti microbial, anti bacterial and anti viral all in one. It’s one of the greatest unknown herbs. Back in the civil war days, the woman would just find this plant, chew it up like this” and she popped the plant in her mouth and chewed it. “This releases the oils.” She explained and then spit it out into her hand. “And then put it right on the wounds. “It would keep them from getting infected and save limbs.”
“Wow” I said appreciatively. “I would love to just pick your brain for an hour an learn about herbs.”
Someone interrupted us at that point, but I was inspired to look up this little plant and found a host of other uses, taken internally it’s also good for diarreaha, irritable bowel syndrome, food poisoning, and it helps balance blood sugar. It even gives the user a natural aversion to tobacco. This came in handy when my girlfriend came to visit and complained of her husband’s dipping habit. She is now armed with the knowledge to give him a tea that will curb that habit!
Later when my son got a stomach bug or food poisoning, and my stomach was churning as well, I made us tea from the Greater Plaintain and within minutes our stomachs were settled and fine.

I am inspired to learn about the plants around me and to be able to care for mild ailments my family has myself...and to pass on this knowledge. We are here today, our European ancestors survived the frigid winters of the east coast as pilgrims because of these plants. Our Asian ancestors before survived for thousands of years because of Chinese herbs and roots. Our ancestors risked their lives to try the herbs and roots and were geniuses to record and pass down the information. Our ancestors were risky geniuses.
The convenience of doctors does not have to dumb down Americans.
The knowledge is there to be had by all and empower us.
Perhaps the way to continue our heritage isn’t in buying knick knacks to hang around the house and pass them down, but to teach our children about the plants that heal us, that were here millions of years before us and will be here millions of years after.

Zen Honeycutt

No comments:

Post a Comment