I wrote these essays eleven years ago. I am still on my journey with rose after so many years. Her teachings continue to inspire and deepen year after year.
Part 1 ~ Love and Beauty at your Doorstep
I am looking forward to the blooming of the wild roses this year. Each day making my way down into the yard to “check on them”. We have lived here on this land for just over three years. When we moved here in December of 2004, I remember one of the first things we did was to walk down into the wetland area. My husband was on this trek to “claim” the land he had chosen to steward. I was in search of plants. Who lives here? I saw the thickets of thorny bushes, but I didn’t yet know for sure they were roses.
Around 8 years ago, I discovered a magical place on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington where there are acres and acres of wild roses. I began to travel to this place to harvest the blooms in May/June and then the wild rose hips in October. Year after year I would make this pilgrimage to commune with rose. Wildcrafting wild rose blossoms is bewitching.
It begins like any other wildcrafting task….. asking, listening, thanking, plucking the blooms, sniffing here and there, tasting. But then as I continue, I find myself entering another world. Soon I am mesmerized by this thorny priestess; I am inside the realm of love and beauty. Peace abounds in this space. Loving myself is simple. Wild Rose tells me tales of how to love, who to love and how to teach love. This sacred space that beckons me, welcomes me is difficult to leave. It is soon time for me to stop harvesting so that I may get to the ferry before the last boat. Wild rose is saying pick me, pick me, more and more. I am pulling myself away from her, telling her I will return in fall to harvest her hips. I discover that even after I leave this space between the world, I can still travel there in feelings and sensations.
As spring came ‘round, our first spring here at our farm, I discovered the wild roses…still doubt sets in about whether it could possibly be true that I had chosen to live the rest of my life surrounded by this sorcière couverture. I made plans to travel to the Peninsula to harvest once again my beautiful blossoms. I returned to the spot where the wild roses spoke so loudly to me, seeking that feeling, craving the realm, hungry for it. The wild roses did speak loudly to me then and startled me. “What are you doing here?” they yelled. “You have roses on your land to harvest? You can harvest a few petals here and then you must return to your home and begin your journey there with wild rose.” I was heart broken or might I say that my heart was broken open at that moment. I realized that up until this time, I had to go seeking for love and beauty, I had to leave home to find it. Now I am being called to a simpler and yet more difficult task, to find love and beauty at my door step.
This year, I am restless to discover what wild rose will teach me. Her subtly, fragrant green leaves have already taken me in. Within her wise teachings, there is more difficulty in peeling away layers, in finding more love for myself and there is also laughter and singing to come.
May it be in Beauty.
Part 2 ~ Breathing the Breath of Rose
The wild roses are in full bloom now on our land, enough for all kinds of herbal preparations. We discovered a variety of wild rose buds as we wildcrafted recently. One flower bud being dark fuchsia pink, another more mauve in color. Last fall as we gathered the ripe rose hips, we noticed even more species of rose. Some large and fat, some round, some oval, some ripening quite early and others not quite ripe. The fullness of this diversity is heart warming. Even within the wild rose community, when you look closely you will see many unique and wonderful gifts.
The wild rose, her teachings, her healing properties, her uses are an example of the ancient wise woman tradition of only utilizing a few plants for healing. Once, long ago, there were plants that were known to heal everything, anything. These plants were the companions of wise women and helped guide their healing practices. I enjoy discovering these plants and their shamanic teachings as well as utilizing them in as many ways as possible.
Rose is a spiritual teacher. I mean this in the shamanic sense. She is the one who will lead you to other plants that will nourish and heal you. In order to discover the teachings of wild rose, it is best to begin outside with her, listening.
Here is a shamanic exercise that will facilitate this relationship:
- Take a walk and find a wild rose plant you feel a connection with.
- Sit or stand near rose
- Observe the rose plant, noticing how it comes up out of the ground and how it twists and turns toward the light.
- Find the thorns and observe the thorns.
- Observe the intricate patterns of the leaves, the buds and flowers allowing yourself to detect the aroma.
- As you detect the scent of the rose notice your breath, breathing in and out three times
- Begin to feel yourself take shape as a rose.
- Feel yourself become the rose in all its intricacy, noticing many details
- Bring awareness back to breath again, breathing in the oxygen of this rose, breathing out offering your breath, and now breathe in as rose, breathe out offering oxygen. Do this for seven cycles.
- Listen. Listening is more than hearing. What do you see, hear, smell, feel?
- Now, ask yourself, “Who am I ” Take note.
- When this feels complete, open your eyes and move and stand once again.
- Give thanks to the rose.
- While proceeding with this exercise, do your best not to interpret what you are experiencing. When you are completely done, this is a good time to write and explore fully what this means for you.
- Return to the same rose. Connect again, remembering its details and the interchange. Now take basket in hand and gather rose.
There are many concoctions that you can make with wild rose. Among my favorites are wild rose infused oil and wild rose infused honey. To make the wild rose infused oil, I used to gather just the rose petals and buds. This makes an incredibly fragrant oil. Recently though, I have been experimenting with also using the wild rose leaves in my infused oil. The fragrance is a bit deeper and the healing tremendous. Gather wild roses in your basket. Immediately cut up the petals, buds and leaves, place them in a jar and drizzle olive oil over them just below the top of the jar. Put a lid on this and shake. Label with name, date, and perhaps something you remember from your journey and put it in the dark. Six weeks later, strain it and bless your skin with this precious oil.
Wild Rose infused honey is made just this way. Instead of olive oil, drizzle raw, local honey over the roses. You won’t have to wait six weeks for the honey. In fact, you can make this and use it the next day. But do be patient to let some of it sit for six weeks to increase its potency. This sensual delicacy is extraordinary. Not only is it delicious, you can utilize this honey for deep healing of infections.
Wild rose is anti-bacterial, anti-bacterial, antiseptic, very softening for skin and quite gentle. I have received feedback recently from people using wild rose balm (a combination of wild rose infused oil, wild rose infused honey and bees wax) who have experienced tremendous healing. A woman with auto-immune disease had a terrible rash that would not go away. She put wild rose balm on the affected area and overnight it had began healing. Another woman put some of this balm on an open cut that was very painful and within a few seconds, the pain had subsided. Such a powerful and yet gentle healer.
As I reflect on the many ways that wild rose offers herself to us, I am reminded again of the wise woman. She is strong and compassionate and she is also sensuous and joyous.
May it be in Beauty.
Part 3 ~ Toward Earth
The wild rose is quietly growing now outside my door. All her energy is going into the ripening of the wild rose hips. There is a subtle peace in acknowledging rose’s task of ripening, putting forth energy into her fruit so that she will continue. I like to think I am doing the same, working hard at tasks, expanding and ripening my work in the world. I enjoy noticing that rose is outside, without complaining, growing in heat or cold and continuing.
The medicine of wild rose is something rather awesome. I met a man a few years back at an herbal fair in Eastern Washington. He noticed that I had wild rose tincture for sale. He told me he was one of the researcher of Pacific Yew that discovered the anti-cancer properties in it. He continued to talk and shared that at University of British Columbia, they have been doing laboratory tests on Rosa nutkana and a few other plants. He said that Rosa nutkana aka wild rose tincture kills the cold virus in the laboratory. He shared that the tincture was made with the leaf and flower tips of the wild rose in full bloom. Up until this point, I had been making wild rose tincture with just the flower and flower buds. Well, I couldn’t wait to try this method of making the tincture.
Just a year ago, I had the opportunity to utilize this wild rose tincture when I had a cold. I used 25 drops of tincture about every 3-4 hours. The energy of the tincture is gentle and rather calming. And I was able to recover from my cold within a few days.
This “Pacific Yew Man” I call him because I didn’t get his name said that the reason the wild rose tincture was made with the flowering tips was so that they could positively identify the species of rose they used as Rosa nutkana. He thought wild rose hips tincture would also be effective.
When autumn equinox comes round this year, the wild rose hips will be ready to harvest. I have heard that waiting until the first frost to pick will insure more vitamin C in them. It rains so much here in fall that waiting may mean soggy rose hips. There are numerous herbal preparation to be made with these plump red berries. Collecting the hips and drying them is quite a joyful task. I like to collect the hips in a bag I can sling over my shoulder. Gathering and dropping them in the bag is a peaceful way to spend a fall afternoon.
Once the wild rose hips are dry you can make nourishing herbal infusion with them. Here is how I do it. Put one ounce of rose hips in a quart jar, fill again to the top with boiling water and let this sit overnight; the typical infusion recipe. Doing it this way will allow the Vitamin C in the rose hips to be utilized. But I don’t feel like I get enough of the goodness from the rose hips this way so, after I strain this brew, I take the rose hips and boil them again for a while and thus get a lot more juice out of them. I then mix these two concoctions together. It is a bit of work, but so worth it. This wild rose hips brew is deeply nourishing and sensuously delicious.
Last fall I made rose hips vinegar, rose hips infused oil and rose hips infused honey. The vinegar is rich in Vitamin C and other fine minerals. The rose hips infused honey is the most amazing concoction and can be used medicinally when a cold overtakes you. But don’t wait to get sick to try this delicacy.
The wild rose hips herbal infused oil is really intriguing me right now. It smells wonderful and feels very good and wholesome to touch. I get the sense that it has deep healing within it.
I am remembering that day I returned to the place on the Olympic Peninsula to gather wild rose hips in October. I picked rose berries, one by one, noticing which ones were most vibrant and the varying shapes and sizes. I was entranced this time with the deep medicine of this plant… love and beauty, yes, again came to mind but in the fall season I also sensed a strong pull toward Earth. The wild rose blossoms expressed to me a manifestation of heart, while the ripe, red berries spoke of womb medicine, the deep dark medicine of feminine power.
May it be in beauty.