How to Play Hooky from your Life for a Day

Jump into a mental exercise with me for a moment.

Imagine all of your duties and responsibilities for tomorrow suddenly vanished, and you were left with a whole glorious day to yourself, free to do or not do whatever you please. No animals or people you have to care for, no to-do list, no job to go to, no chores to do, no need for any kind of productivity, nothing at all that must be done.

What would I do?

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I would begin by waking up when the sun wakes me up, instead of waiting for some horrible beeping sound to jolt me out of a lovely dream. I’m an early riser naturally, so this might just mean waking up to the hint of the sun at 5:30 or 6am, but doing so by my own choice instead of by an alarm can sometimes make all the difference in starting the day off on the right foot.

Then I would spend some time stretching, showing care for my body and preparing for being active throughout the day. Note that I hardly EVER do this, this is just what I would like to think I would do if I had the time and no obligations to be anywhere or do anything first thing in the morning.

Then I would gather eggs from our beautiful hens, and make myself an amazing breakfast along with some hand-blended Echinacea and Yarrow tea, with some Rose Hip and Ginger Elixir stirred in. Cold weather preventatives, dont’cha know.

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After eating I would pack up a basket with food and supplies for the day, finding a willing friend (or four) to come along, and I would head up into the mountains for a day of harvesting wild herbs. Some of the most valuable medicine for chronic and minor conditions comes from nature. After all, that is where we began making medicines from in the first place, before labs started making synthetic ones! And who can turn down a fun-filled day of hiking?

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Of course, if the day were truly free of duties, I would be sure to drive slow on my way to said hike, and take the leisurely and pretty route through some amazing scenery. I might even stop on the side of the road a few times for no reason at all, just to look around.

I would look for my many herbal friends, this time of year including stinging nettle, dandelions, salal, willow, and so many others. I think that spending time with the plants in nature, learning not only to identify them but also to see how they grow, is what turns an aspiring herbal medicine-maker into an accomplished and confident herbalist.

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Oh, and cheese—I would be eating lots and lots of delicious goat cheese, havarti, aged cheddar, and so on. And of course some warm homemade bread. Because we’re talking about the perfect day here, right?

All the while, I would be getting in an amazing range of movement, through the exercise of hiking and climbing and reaching and breathing the mountain air, and would be improving my own wellness before I even think about making therapies with the plants! How amazing is that!? Who needs to be a hamster on a treadmill in a stinky gym when you can walk about in the freshness of nature like we were meant to do.

I would probably try to fit in some fishing on this wildcrafting excursion, not because I need to but because I love to fish whether I catch anything or not. Although, I have been known to catch a mean salmon when they’re running.

I would draw my day to a close with a bonfire full of good laughs, good food, good friends, good stars to gaze at, and so many dreams of the future. Dreams of the future are the currency of the inspired, and I refuse to ever stop dreaming about where this life will take me.

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What about you?

If you had a day all to yourself, with zero responsibilities, what exactly would you do and who would you spend it with? I feel this is an amazing mental exercise to help you realize what you actually could be doing with your days, rather than what you feel you should be doing with them.

You’re never going to be on your death bed wishing you’d worked more hours at the office or mopped your floors cleaner or kept your kids dressed as cutely as the neighbors, but you just might regret not going for more walks with the ones you love, not telling someone how you really felt about them, or not spending enough time enjoy the beauty of nature.

Try closing your eyes and taking this mental journey with me. See what you learn about yourself that you didn’t already know. Maybe your deepest desire is to spend your perfect day with a person you wouldn’t expect. Maybe you never get to see them. Maybe you should give them a call. Or maybe your longing is to spend your perfect day right in your own yard, tending to it. And maybe you never do. Maybe you need to step out your own back door.

Let your dreams do the talking.

-M.

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Resources:

Here are some amazing Nettle recipes to get you excited about the harvest season that’s just getting started!

Nettle Pesto Recipe (from my amazing Herbal Mentor, Suzanne Jordan!)

Nourishing Nettle and Root Tea with Lemon

Three herbs you can harvest right now to stock your Herbal First Aid Kit

In my corner of the country, the soggy Pacific Northwest, we’re beginning to see the green little shoots of spring growth from some very exciting plants.

Yes, you read that right, exciting plants.

These plants just might blow your mind with their medicinal power that’s been hiding right underfoot in the forest!

In fact, I am going to be guiding a small herb walk this Saturday to introduce some folks to three fabulous plants which they can use as part of an all-natural first aid kit, so I decided I’d like to write about the plants so that you can learn alongside us.

It doesn’t take much investment, aside from your time, to learn about how to treat your family’s medical needs with herbal options.

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https://green.kingcounty.gov/gonative/Plant.aspx?Act=view&PlantID=33

Salal

Gaultheria Shallon

This perennial bush is native to the Pacific Northwest which has waxy-shiny green leaves that remain on the plant all year long. The berries of the plant are high in antioxidants and can be used to make jellies and jams. But beware, they’re a bit tart!

Of course, February is too early for the berries to be ready for the picking, that must wait till this summer, but we can still benefit from the wonderful leaves! The leaves have historically been used by many native peoples for coughs, colds, wounds, and digestive problems.

A tea can be made with the dehydrated leaves, which have drying properties, supporting health by removing congestion and mucus from the sinuses to through the respiratory system. When you gather the leaves, go in spring and summer and seek out the most vibrant, healthy-looking leaves.

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http://www.ediblewildfood.com/stinging-nettle.aspx

Stinging Nettle

Urtica dioica

This plant is not only medicinal, it is also a food source of many vitamins and is highly nutritious. It is a leafy plant growing in stands connected by an underground network of rhizomes.

I’ve always loved the word rhizome, maybe I’ll name my first son Rhizome…

Anyways.

The plant is famous for the tiny stinging hairs on the underside of the leaves. I for one learned very quickly as a child exactly what it looked like and not to touch it!

It has been used for generations to treat conditions including painful muscles and joints, eczema, arthritis, gout, and anemia. I also personally know herbalist friends who use nettle as part of their regimen in treating their seasonal allergies and hay fever.

When you collect stinging nettle it is important to cover your exposed skin by wearing gloves and long sleeves. The leaves can be dried to make a tea or to use in cooking.

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http://www.methowvalleyherbs.com/2013/11/usnea-herb.html

Usnea

Usnea longissimus

Usnea is a lichen (another cool word!), which is a combination of an algae and a fungus growing together. It grows prolifically in areas which have heavy rainfall, such as the Pacific Northwest.

You can often find the lichen growing on old fallen branches or decaying trees. I’m sure you already realize from looking at the picture that it has been surrounding you on many hikes when you didn’t even know it!

It is a potent anti-microbial and anti-bacterial defender. It can be used for a great many effects on the human system, including for infections, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, sore throat, fungal infections, vaginal infections, sinus infections, colds/flu, mastitis, and boils.

It is very important not to over-harvest usnea because it grows quite slowly, so when harvesting take only as much of it as you will need. It can be prepared as a tincture and a decoction.

I hope you enjoyed your brief education on early spring-time herbs, and that you will go out this week and look for these or other medicinal herbs in your area.

You’ll be amazed to see what you can find growing in your own backyard!

-M.

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Check out these websites for more great information on these plants:

Stinging Nettle on Edible Wild Food

Usnea on Methow Valley Herbs

Usnea on Susun Weed

Salal on Wild Foods and Medicines

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