My own patch, the territory of rain, has shrunk a little – to my own back garden. During the first year, I kept any eye on the birds and wild flowers outside, but my focus narrowed a little, and I paid attention to the herbs – growing, using them in the house, and writing about them. At one a week that ought to have made fifty two, but two of them, the rose and the elder, needed a little more space. So fifty it was. I did also stretch the definition a little. There were some trees in the mix, and a few weeds and wild flowers. And there were no serious medicines; medical herbalism is much more learned than I can stretch to, and I didn’t go beyond the odd cold remedy or hand cream. This was a very home-made project.
With a narrower focus, I hoped to pay attention to the smaller and less glamorous inhabitants of the garden – the insects, the mosses and lichens, the strange creatures I see in the pond. I took my inspiration from Alan Watson Featherstone’s blog for Trees for life, which takes notes of things as small as aphids, in spite of being set in the most picturesque Highland landscape I’ve ever seen, and also from Rima Staines’ Weed Wife post on her blog Into The Hermitage which wandered into some of the territory I’ve worked on in my Huldra-folk poems.
You can find a list of the herbs available to me in this pdf: herb list
and a list of books which I have found useful (pdf) Booklist.
I wanted to reflect on the place herbs have in our culture, the way we use them as archetypes, as symbols of resistance, as a way to reconnect with the earth and with aspects of ourselves and those aspects of our society we have let go astray, as a way of dealing with grief, upheaval and hardship. Work on this project informed almost all the work in my third collection, Haggards.