loving in the war years: day five

Posted by on Jul 25, 2016

A day of mothering…


I’ve never been much of a fan of roses. Mostly it’s the smell. Growing up the late 70s meant babysitters and aunts dragged me along to one Avon party or another, and rose candles, perfume, lipstick or nail polish were plastered on me to the delighted coos of the women in the room. Isn’t she adorable? Isn’t she sweet? Meanwhile, I’d see the fingernails that I couldn’t bite or feel the oppressive sweet smell that reminded me of funerals, even at that age.

Rose is a heavy scent. One that stays in the room long after the person wearing it has left. I don’t find the flowers very pretty and the expense of a dozen roses never seemed reasonable or a romantic show of affection.

But when you are a good herbalist, you learn about the plants that are around you. The ones that are plentiful and won’t harm the ecosystem if you remove a handful. Why would you pay the expense, hurt the environment, and possibly take healing resources away from one community, if you have an herb in your own community that will do the same job?

So I decided to work with wild roses, as they are fairly common in my area. To my amazement, it was like they were waiting for me to finally pay them attention. Everywhere I turned, I found myself surrounded by roses, for weeks and weeks. Wild roses in the back of the car after clipping some on a walk. Wild roses in the mail after a friend heard I was interested in them. Wild roses in salves, wild roses in lotion, wild roses in the brandy I had left over from a party. I even noticed for the first time that the massive bush in my neighbors yard was a wild rose bush. I’d always paid attention to the birds rather the branches they sat on.

I don’t know what brought these flowers into my life after I had worked so hard to avoid them. But once they got in, I finally realized why herbalists especially love them.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a hard time taking a deep breath. I’ve been tested for heart attacks, asthma, pneumonia, allergic reactions, I even had a frustrated doctor give me an inhaler and told me if it worked he’d give me a refill. Unstated: now get out and leave me alone.

Needless to say, the tight breathless feeling never went away. It got easier to deal with, it got to the point I hardly noticed it sometimes. But then for some reason it’d be back, and I couldn’t take a deep breath and my chest felt like a vice.

As wild roses spent more time in my life, that weird heavy tight chest seemed to ease a little. I barely noticed at first. But then for unrelated reasons, I started taking a tincture of rose. And almost immediately, within about 30 minutes, the chest thing was gone. And for the first time in as long as I could remember, I could take a long lovely deep quiet breath.

I talked with an elder herbalist about how weird this experience was and what it could possibly mean and they shared with me that rose is a wonderful herb for anxiety and stress, which I knew. What I didn’t know, was that rose is great for moving ‘stuck’ anxiety/stress/emotions. So, for example, that stressor that you were too young to have words for? Like, say, a scary or abusive parent or bullying that you couldn’t tell anybody about? The stress from that very often stays stuck in your body if you don’t have other ways to deal with it. Those of us who have grown up in high-stress environments can carry that ‘stuck’ energy around with us not really knowing that there’s any different way to feel or be. It’s just normal.

The only reason I had any idea that not being able to take a deep breath might not be a good thing was because I had seen heart attacks on TV and worried I might be having one. When the doctors gave the all clear and I didn’t drop dead, I assumed it must be asthma or any of the other explanations doctors gave me. But what was more likely going on was that I was having panic attacks that had no place to go except inward. A typical ‘good girl’ response to stress. Keep swallowing it all down until it’s too big to hold anymore.

Taking the rose has not only cleared up this ‘panic attack’ feeling, but has also helped to release just regular old tension from work days or sitting on the computer too long. It helps me to live more in the moment–when I’m stressed and need to cry or yell or ‘speak’ what I’m feeling into existence, instead of stuffing those feelings, I feel them, and then let them go. It’s ok.

And oddly enough, as I’ve worked more with rose, I’ve grown to enjoy the smell much more. When I smell rose now, I anticipate the wave of relaxation that always comes within minutes, sometimes seconds. Life, where oppressive death used to be.

As I continue my time of Mourning, I take just a few drops of rose tincture daily, as a reminder that to mourn, you need to care for and replenish yourself. And also to gently move whatever hurt, whatever loss, whatever tension I’ve been gripping too tightly along. It’s ok to let go. It’s ok.

It’s ok.

Here is a lovely essay to learn more about rose, if your interested. And this is a great herbalist that I get my rose tincture from.