My Love Affair With Queen Yarrow
For readers who converse with their plants...🌿
My first attempt at a voiceover! Yikes…
Today I've been putting tons of dried Yarrow in jars for future use, and I thought there's no time like the present to chatter on about how much I love this gal.
Yarrow was the first plant who spoke to me. Literally. I heard a voice say the word "Yarrow" and wasn't sure what that meant. I wasn't dreaming or meditating; I just heard it. I wrote it down and then went searching. I didn't know this plant! How could that be? Even though Yarrow can and does live happily in cities, I'd never met her.
It so happened that about a month later, I was heading to the Blue Deer Center in Upstate NY for a program called "Wisdom of the Divine Natural World." It turned out to be a small group of fellow Nature-lovers - I think there were only seven of us. Upon introductions, I immediately asked if they knew Yarrow, and if they did, would they point her out to me if they saw her? It was only May, and so seeing her would be iffy.
The dinner bell rang, and I sat down with the others. A young man from Canada walked up to me and reverently placed a tiny leaf of Yarrow before me. I cried. Later, he took me to where he'd found her (he broke the no harvesting of plants rule at the center), and I sat down with my first plant love.
I genuinely don't know why I was so smitten with her. At that point, I still knew very little about Yarrow. But, even before I could meet her flowers or smell that indescribable scent, she had a piece of my heart.
The class I took was with Eliot Cowan, author of "Plant Spirit Medicine." Eliot believed that we didn't need to ingest the plants. We could experience their healing by being in their presence; even dreaming or shamanic journeying with them could bring healing or their wisdom.
Each day we would spread out and sit with a plant of the same species: Mugwort, Willow, Ash, and Poplar (I remembered that Poplar was one!) We would taste the plant, draw, smell, talk, and listen to it. I think we sat with the plant for an hour. And then, before eating or drinking anything, we headed to the yurt, where Eliot led us on a shamanic journey to meet the spirit of the plant.
The first day, sitting with Mugwort, being the eternally antsy Vata that I am, I distinctly heard her say, "Settle Down!" I knew nothing about her, but I noted that she might have properties to calm our nerves, and indeed she does. :)
That class dramatically opened up my senses to the plant world. And not just to the plant world, but the world of rivers and streams and lakes, stones and all things Nature.
After the week, I didn't want to return to the city, so I scoped out what classes were happening at the Omega Institute, which wasn't too far away. I found a mushroom class with an opening, so I headed there next.
On one of the days in the woods, I was chatting with a guy assisting in the class. I told him my Yarrow love story, and he said, "It's growing all over here. You should take one home with you."
I didn't think that was cool - digging up a plant without asking permission - but on the last day, he found me and handed me a Yarrow plant that he dug up for me! I covertly put her in a plastic bag and tucked her away for the ride home on the bus.
By this time, I'd moved from my apartment in downtown Manhattan across the river to Jersey City into a small building filled with artists. Living there got me making art again. But, the plants were always nudging me for attention.
In NY, I'd lived in a corner apartment with eight massive windows and a fire escape. My apartment was like a jungle, and it helped keep me connected to the natural world. But, in JC, my options were a little limited. I only had north-facing windows and no window ledges. I had to get creative, but the space was limiting.
When I returned from Upstate NY with Miss Yarrow smuggled into my bag, I immediately put her in a clay pot and hauled her up to our rooftop. I felt so guilty, having taken her from the country and plopped her down on an awful rooftop filled with air conditioner/heating units and no other green in sight.
But, being the survivor that Yarrow is, she flourished. She sat out there all winter long, and in the spring, her tiny beautiful feathery leaves would poke through the soil. Soon she outgrew the pot, so I got another pot and separated her roots.
Every summer, I would sit with her and say, "One of these days, we're going to move to the country." In 2020, of all years, that became a reality.
I gave one pot away to a friend and brought the other with me to my new life in New Hampshire. The move took place in November, and I set her down on my little patio. I left her there all winter, and when the ground had thawed a bit in the spring, I pulled off the dead leaves and planted her roots right next to the patio.
A few weeks later, a friend offered to help me dig a space for an herb garden next to the house. It was right where I'd planted the Yarrow roots, but I couldn't remember exactly where I'd put her. So the night before the digging was to take place, I went out there and whispered, "Where are you, Yarrow? I need to see you." The next morning, there she was, several of her sweet lil leaves poking through the soil.
When my friend arrived (not a plant person), I told him the story and asked him to leave that corner of the garden plot alone to avoid disturbing her. I left him for maybe twenty minutes, and when I returned, I saw that he had dug up the entire plot and thrown everything into the wheelbarrow.
Well, I lost my you-know-what. In his defense, as I said, he's not a "plant person." I held back my tears as I frantically searched through the wheelbarrow for the precious plant I'd nurtured so carefully in the city until she could be free again in the country. I only found a few roots with leaves attached, which I carefully replanted in the freshly dug plot.
You would have thought he'd killed one of my children. I know that plant-lovers will understand my reaction.
The next day I took a walk on the land where my little house sits and looked closely at what was popping up around me. Lo and behold, there were tiny feathers of Queen Yarrow growing everywhere! I had to laugh and informed my friend what I had seen.
Well, my country/city/country Yarrow survived! Soon her roots had spread and multiplied tenfold. I gathered some rocks and made a circle of stones in the center of the herb garden. She's the Queen, after all.
And when I cleared a large plot for a vegetable garden out back by the woods, I made an even larger stone circle and transplanted some plants from the herb garden.
You would not believe how this plant has survived and thrived. It blows my mind. Her leaves are HUGE, and I've already had to widen the circle a few times. I'm thinking of next year just letting her have the run of my (sorry state) vegetable garden. At any rate, she is the Queen of both gardens.
I could write another whole post about how many times I've used her for healing this past almost two years. After a nasty fall with glass and gushing blood, I heard, "Yarrow!" and there she was, growing literally in front of my face, which was on the pavement. One cut on my finger looked deep to the bone, but I resisted going for stitches and opted instead for Yarrow. Indeed, I had green-looking stitches for a few weeks, and now you can't even see a scar.
I've left the explanation of all of Yarrow's many amazing healing properties to herbalists Rosalee de la Foret and Rosemary Gladstar in the videos below this post.
Queen Yarrow is also a plant of energetic protection, and I can feel her presence when I walk the land or am in my house, where Yarrow is hanging on my door and sitting on my shelf. I can't bear to compost her stalks - they seem like magic wands to me - so I have them in vases everywhere. In fact, the traditional method in the ancient Chinese oracle, the I Ching, used Yarrow stalks for divination.
This summer, in spite of drought and wicked heat, the Yarrow here has thrived and multiplied. Some would call Yarrow an invasive weed, but it’s these hardy survivor plants that often have the most medicinal qualities.
I’d like to share my Yarrow bounty this year, so I’m going to have a little giveaway. If you live somewhere where you don’t have Yarrow available to harvest (Sorry! US readers only), just leave me a comment either down below, or if you’re on Instagram, you can leave a comment there. There’s no catch, just let me know that you’re interested, and I’ll randomly pick three people to receive a gift of dried Yarrow flowers/leaves.
Much love from,
Queen Yarrow and Me
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