Today is Samhraigh. This is what I know about summer. In the old Celtic world it was a time of passage. And Samhraigh means the passage rite of summer when the sun, moon and earth are in alignment for plenty.
I remember my Celtic cousins walking on lush green pastures filled with the champagne of sweet, fresh air smiling at the clovers flowering at their feet saying to me and teaching me, the child… “We are now (in the experience) of Samhraigh…”
The true meaning of this old Celtic phrase comes from the unique ability of a living earth, talamh, to fatten every creature from grasses, to honey bees, to child in preparation for the hunger of winter.
So come with me on this day of Samhraigh into the medicine garden and from there through the arcade we will also see what is happening to my vegetables. Walk in a line. We are all together in this. First we must go through the northern pergola.
This area has high shade from the huge leaves of the tulip tree. Then there is the side shade of the chocolate vines and the trumpet honeysuckle vine. The damp shaded soil carries the bright yellow flashlights of the endangered northern woodland poppy. A first cousin of this creature cures malaria in Mali. The woodland poppy, too, is an ancient aboriginal medicine used to treat skin cancers. Growing through the poppies are five foot beacons of fragrant martagon lilies.
Take a left. You are now under the boughs of the sacred tree of the First Nations, the Ptelea trifoliata or Wafer Ash. Stop. Smell the orange fragrant blossoms. This tree is a marvel of medicine. At its roots, a collection of rare blue bottle gentians flower. These, too, hold important medicines. Walk down the sand paths. To your right the cedar arcade holds the native fox grape which is in flower. Smell. Then admire the native clematis called the woodbine or leather flower. This holds a treasury of antibiotics.
Pass the raised bed of Mertensia or Virginia bluebells. These have come and gone. They have already fed the pollinators with first class food for flight. Their sweet smell lingers. Next notice the evening primrose, Oenothera. They are small and growing. They will flower at the end of July. The night moths, Luna, will feed on these flowers. Their evening fragrance holds an anti-clotting agent. They heal the circulation.
You are nearing the southern Pergola and stop. The species to your right are called Giant Hyssop, Agastache, they are not shrubs, they are colossal annuals and biennials that grow over five feet. They hold medicine for pollinators and butterflies. And for you, too. The fragrance helps the lungs to function properly, especially if you have had winter colds and flu. To your left are the Monardas, the beebalms or fingerprint species of the virgin woods of North America. They hold valuable medicine and tell the true tale of the tea party!
Watch out for my orange and lime trees in pots and stand on the stone platform to look out at the ocean of vegetables. To your back a particular female poplar grows, Populus balsamifera var. candicans. This mature tree produces a bouquet of prostaglandin aerosols that strengthens the innermost lining of your arteries. (It is the secret helper for your sex life…)
Behind this brave tree a special walnut grows, a black Thomas walnut that plumes a series of anti-cancer compounds into the air. The crop of walnut meats is considerable and is harvested, dried and stored for household use. The nut flesh holds the essential fatty acids that repair major organs and helps to keep the transportation of messages from the brain to the body and back again. The telephone wires are the myelin sheath in the body so all the aging diseases are held at bay, like Parkinsons, Dementia and Alzheimers.
Now, we all look over the extensive vegetable garden with its mats of asparagus, trellis work with rare and heritage aboriginal beans, potato collection, pepper palace and climbing bean castle bearing some of our own crosses. That’s work. That’s real. And satisfying. Recent scientific research has unearthed something very interesting to me. It is something essential in the plant protein of beans. A building block amino acid called cysteine. It is capable of making a polymer called a dimer. This dimer has a sulphur bridge. It is found in extracellular spaces in the body and is a protectant against degenerative diseases like Huntingtons.
So hold my hand. We are all in the presence of Samhraigh together. The fattening is our health that we receive as a gift. Respect it. And give thanks. Don’t forget.