I won't say every day is like this, but our everyday lives are such that days like yesterday are not only possible, but quite likely. So it's not entirely uncommon for Paul (my husband, co-conspirator and all around good guy) to say things like -
"If you're good, I'll take you to see that dead fox tomorrow."
And for me to respond with a delighted "oooh, yes PLEASE!" at the prospect. Who wouldn't?
Besides, he needed gravel, and I needed mullein, (a lot of mullein); the dead fox just happened to be at the gravel pit on Ebert road, which just happens to be one of the best places to find just about any weedy herb I happen to need a lot of, so the next morning we happily set off on our little adventure.
Gravel pits - the words don't exactly conjure up the prettiest of images now do they? But when a gravel pit is done right, like this one, it's my idea of a playground.
|The view on the way in.|
For one thing, there's the spring. It gushes out of the ground; the company stuck a pipe in and makes sure it's kept clean and accessible for anyone who wants some of that wild, mineral rich water. The spring is wayyy at the bottom of the pit, to get there you drive down a curving gravel road, and the scene is pretty cringeworthy. Raw cliffs. Boulders as big as pick-up trucks. Then alarming huge mounds of former boulders ground into gravel of various sizes, from fist size rock to pebble to grit. I hate it.
|Nooo, don't make me go through there!|
Yet when you get beyond those scary piles the spring appears. It turns into a pretty little stream that rushes and gurgles over rocks and tumbles into a small, man made pond surrounded by lush growth. From there the water gushes again into a natural wetland, and as far as the eye can see, nothing but greenery; willows, alders, then eventually forest and beyond that good old undisturbed Pontiac tree covered hills. If you don't turn around, you could imagine the destruction behind you doesn't exist. This is a smart set up, any yuck produced by the operation of the pit is filtered by that wetland. This is how it's supposed to be done.
|Congratulations to whoever made this pond.|
So Paul went to get his gravel (he has permission from the owner to take a few shovelsful now and then) and I poked around by the stream and pond. It was Sunday, we were alone; the only sound was that of the laughing water. After a while he joined me and we ate our first wild raspberries of the season and I thought about bears and we oooh and aaahed at how gorgeous the air smelled, especially considering how close we were to a scene that, as he put it, "would make a great location for filming the next Mad Max movie".
It was time to go looking for "my" dead fox, so we got back in the car and I expected we'd head back up the winding road but no, he decided to drive us around in the pit itself, first, around those massive (and to my eye about to collapse) mountains of gravel. I am a chicken shit, so I was whining "nooooo, don't make me go through there, noooo, scary, scary scary - HEY WAIT WHAT'S THAT SIGN ABOUT?"
So we stopped the car and looked up, way up.
You just never know when your faith in humanity will be restored, do you? In the midst of all that desolation, a sanctuary for swallows.
Lots and lots of swallows, by the looks of it. In the grander scheme of things, that pit isn't all that big compared to the vast wilderness around it, there are plenty of bugs to eat. Those swallows must be as happy as can be in their new homes.
We headed back up the winding road to an old part of the pit. All along the edges of the road, of course, it was raspberries and blackberries, milkweed and all those other land healing and critter feeding plants that come crowding in first chance they get. It's my favourite kind of land. Don't get me wrong, of course I love a pristine forest, but there's something about those places where nature's coming back, the places in the process of healing. I feel at home in these places - probably because I'm in the process of healing too.
When I first saw the fox, just a few weeks ago, it looked like he was only a couple of days' worth of dead. Kids bring their ATV's up there and he must have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sad, yes, but I knew that pretty soon that fox would be stripped clean by vultures & crows & bugs and, well, I'm not going to apologize for this, I love bones. There's a coyote skull on my desk.
I love bones so much that I am not the least bit creeped out by road kill, in fact I get durned excited by it. I love the efficiency of nature's clean-up crews; I find the fact and the way that death contributes to life quite beautiful. I wish my remains could be left somewhere to be stripped clean by vultures & crows & bugs when I die too.
Sure enough, there he was. The fur in a pile in one place and a little further on, the skeletal remains, mostly scattered, except for this:
See? Bones are beautiful.
You know what else is beautiful and just happens to be good for the bones? Mullein.
Let's go back in time a day or two, to the day before this adventure, when my son, daughter-in-law and the three grandgirls came by for an afternoon visit. (Fun!). My son was showing us his swollen, painful finger - the middle knuckle of the middle finger of his right hand, specifically - which was "messed up" (as he would put it) from the repetitive use of a hammer. He's been building houses for 10 years, that finger gets a lot of stress and it did, indeed, look pretty messed up; swollen and stiff, he couldn't bend it, nor could he straighten it out all the way. He is not a complainer, but he was starting to wonder if the knuckle was slightly dislocated and was considering having it x-rayed. I fetched my little spray bottle of decocted mullein root tincture and handed it to him, telling him to spray it on, rub it in and we'd see what happened. Within 5 minutes he was saying "Holy crap Mum, what's in this stuff??" The swelling had gone down quite a bit, and he could both bend and straighten it again. Of course I sent him home with a good supply ("I want a bucket of this!" he'd said).
Mullein root has a knack for easing things like knuckles or broken toes or in my case a trick sacroiliac joint back into place. It does so remarkably quickly too, bringing down the inflammation and easing the pain while it's at it. Mullein root, white and hard, looks a lot like bone. That's what we call a 'signature', the plant looking like the part of the body it can help.
So that's another reason I was so happy to go to the gravel pit. I needed to replenish my mullein supply, both roots and flowers, and the pit is mullein central.
|Piles of rubble? "Why thank-you!", sez mullein.|
|Acres of mullein? "Why thank-you!" sez I.|
|The writer, in a state of bliss.|
Have I mentioned, lately, how much I love the Pontiac?