Yesterday, I was in Kingston for the International Writers’ Festival.
Kingston is an antique city perched on living limestone at the north eastern wall of Lake Ontario, a geological gem. The place bears witness to the steady flow of the Lake like a dowager duchess as the waters bead into the breast of the great St. Lawrence River.
A Festival is held there once a year and it is for writers. It would appear, mostly to my cat, Greyling, that I am one!
My consorts were James Raffan, who has just launched ‘Circling the Midnight Sun’ and the other, Trevor Herriot, who has penned ‘The Road is How.’ The Friday night panel was titled ‘The Wild Within and Without.’ We were moderated by Sarah Harmer, song writer and musician. Sarah kept the wilderness under control.
There is a golden thread that binds the three of us together. James did a stint riding the arctic circle and looking at the changes there. He found a nugget, a Sacha man called Mandar who lives in a log cabin with his family and speaks of the three languages of man: one wild, a feral internal voice, one a common tribal language and the third, inter-tribal, where words are exchanged and interchanged.
Trevor took a walk outside of Regina as a form of meditation on nature. He hit upon a rogue idea about women and men. He also mentioned a prescription to sanity by the famous Benedictine monk, Brother David Steindl-Rast, a leader and thinker in Christian – Buddhist interfaith dialogue, “…that to actually walk on earth is a miracle in itself.”
My part of the thread is that we should live with simplicity in our lives. Even a smile decreases the cortisol levels in the bloodstream, which in turn helps the adrenal glands to function more inefficiently and leads to healthier kidneys. A smile is medicine in the making…hang on, I just wrote a book about these things… it is called, ‘The Sweetness of a Simple Life.’ and simplicity is more important than you think.
In any case I had to return home from Kingston early because a medicine was needed in Ottawa. It seems that a native species called Ribes hirtellum could not be found. This Ribes is a gooseberry and is a member of the Saxifragaceae family. It is a northern shrub embedded with spines. But, it does carry a treasure trove of medicine. This medicine is to be found on the leaf stem as branched trichomal hairs, which are distinctly translucent.
This native plant follows calcareous soils. It is a plant that I have taken special care of in the last twenty years because it also feeds native pollinators like bumble bees and keeps them healthy all year. One principal medicine in the trove is Vitamin C with a mixture of minerals together with an unknown biochemical agent. Some of this family has been used to treat pain. In any case Ribes hirtellum is one of four ingredients in an aboriginal treatment for circulatory diseases. A lady of Cree origin needed this immediately and I was honoured to oblige.
In addition, I am happy to announce the safe arrival of my blonde paw-paw, Asimina triloba. I was given a few seeds during the summer. One seed seemed to have a problem so I got a scalpel and carefully removed the tight testa from the cotyledonary material that was choking the seed. It was difficult to do, amounting to a cesarian section of a seed… all is well. This rare, rare, important Canadian native is growing and is healthy.
Earlier on this summer I was given a rare onion called the Healing Onion. It’s name is Urginea maritima. This sea onion hails from the shores of Syria. It is ancient and was held and valued for its medicine in the treatment of cancers and coronary heart disease. Today I can tell you that this lily is beginning to produce a flower stalk with a bloom sequence I have not seen before. The Chaldeans of ancient Babylonia were onto something. Thank you Peter Croal for your desire to protect this germ plasm. I am off into the garden, Again! I must pay attention to the ripening phase of the cucumber tree, Magnolia acuminata. The red is beginning to show itself. The blood red seeds will soon dangle from snow white threads.