It’s time to gather some lemon balm. It’s a celebration day and the kids want to serve special water for the occasion – water that is touched by the subtle taste and enchanting smells of the garden, spiked with the pride of harvest. Plus, what kid doesn’t love to make potions? If there’s one task for which they’ll always volunteer, it’s harvesting herbs and flowers. And so we head out to the garden with a basket and a gift for the lemon balm faeries. First we greet the lemon balm and request permission to harvest – it is a living being after all, wouldn’t you want to be warned before someone cut your hair? We take a moment in silence to feel for the answer – sometimes we sense it in the lift of a gentle breeze, sometimes an acorn falls in a resounding “No!”, most often we feel a softening in the heart and a sense of joyful “yes”. I offer a prayer and gift some oil to the soil at the foot of Lemonbalm, for the Earth and for the unseen realms: over the past few years, I have been using St John’s Wort oil from my ancestral mountain lands of Switzerland, as a gesture that came to me through a journey to connect with my ancestors on my paternal line.
I find that giving an offering in exchange for a harvest creates a powerful experience of reciprocity with another wild living being. I also find that is a powerful paradigm-shifter for my children, as they come to know the world as animate and alive, as a living web to engage with, rather than as a resource free for the taking.
Only now do little fingers reach out to snip off the fresh growth and fragrant leaves. We rub a few leaves between our fingers and feel its texture, take in its smell, place its green on our pink tongues, interweaving its sensual presence with our own sensing bodies: our worlds meeting, intimately. Lemon Balm enters our awareness, comes into our body, entangles itself in our psyches, nooks itself in our hearts. I’ll start to hum a song as we pick and the children naturally start to hum along with me. The faeries love a song, after all!
After our harvest is done, we connect to our hearts and see what is there: “Hello heart, how do you feel?” From this place of heart-connection, we thank lemon balm for its gift. Sometimes we speak a word, or place a hand on the ground, or… we open to whatever gesture arises spontaneously from this encounter. And the story continues as we bring our baskets into our home, fill a mason jar with vibrant leaves and precious water from the tap, leave the jar to sit in the sun for a full day and in the moonbeams a full night, and then take into our bodies this water infused with the essence of another living being.
As we share it with our friends and family, as we go out for more again, as we lay out our harvest on racks to dry over summer and store it in jars in the darkness of cupboards, as we mulch the garden bed in fall to keep its roots warm over winter, as we spread compost on the earth around its base in spring to nurture the ground from which it grows, as we make tea with its dried leaves in January when we want a taste of summer, or as we take in its tincture for deep sleep on those restless nights….
Ritual helps us to embody and enact reciprocity with our wild kin. The homecraft of ritual is an act of kinship and connection that can be created by all with a little imagination and a lot of heart.
Give it a go, even if it feels awkward at first, each step creates the pathway back to an enchanted life. There is no one path, each path creates the ways, each heartfelt expression creates the words. Take flight.