Alabama Wildflowers





Being the product of the fields, the valleys, the “hollers”, the woods, the brooks, the hay, the bees, the earth..I hear echoes of my ancestors throughout my dreams, throughout my speech, within my philosophies. 
The flowers that grow at the bottom of the Appalachian mountain trail are indeed believed to be the most fragrant, the most colorful, the wildest. Much like the people who walk among them, mostly the women.
Alabama is the end of the Appalachian Mountains, so when you meet someone from that part of the world know that they are built of a different stock. At the end of a magnificent mountain range is like being at the end of a very strong sentence, there is an exclamation point that punctuates the importance of the statement. Where I grew up is that punctuation mark. 
The Cumberland Plateau is the mountain range of the Appalachian Mountains that shaded my childhood. The rock is quartzite and as old as time. The mountains gave us a protective veil from the real world, an endless abundance of herbs, flowers, trees, earth and a beautiful setting to wake up to. I didn’t think I was blessed at the time, I grew up there in the 70’s, way before teenage angst was acknowledged and was celebrated and never tolerated in this southern part of the world. Having bonfires and peanuts in our Cokes was something I truly thought no one else tried but “us”. 

Not much penetrated the thick, humid, scented air but the smell of cornbread and fresh hay and worm dirt. Dark skies and bright stars lit our nights.
Little did I know that all that time when I had dreams of someday seeing the world away from that valley, that the wildflower essence was settling into my veins and building the strong stem inside me that would keep my spine straight through all kinds of storms.
Little also did I know that I was being initiated into the Appalachian mountain healing and folk medicine simply by osmosis and I watched the strong, wise women of my life cure simple and not so simple illnesses with herbs, flowers, berries and phases of the moon.
My grandmother, Margaret Annie Ruth “Nanny”, used catnip to fight croup and tobacco for ear infections and elderberry syrup for a cough. This was a normal treatment for us growing up and I can count on one hand how many times I visited a real physician as a child. If Nanny could not fix it then a “real” doctor was required. And I repeat, I almost never visited a real doctor. It’s not that we were cut off from modern medicine, we had total access to it, we just didn’t see the need.
My grandmother’s apron always contained safety pins, a tissue, an ink pen, a potholder and love. If she could not “bake” you better, “love” you better or “herb” you better you could not be fixed. 
Now, this practice had been passed down from Celt and Irish ancestors and while it often called Appalachian witchcraft, those who practiced it were almost always very religious and gave “God all the glory” for their gifts.
They were forced to be very pragmatic and self reliant and there was a connection between body, mind, spirit, the goodness of nature and prayer. There was no name for it really, it was just common sense rooted in the Bible, Mother Nature and a simple caring for others around us. 
When I read some of the more natural remedies on some of today’s websites I am taken back to a time when a small, strong, freckled woman with red hair seem to know it all, she seemed to love bigger than the Appalachian mountains and she grew strong crops and healthy grandchildren. How lucky can one be to have been given this gift of love and magic from women stronger than the steel that was produced nearby?
We didn’t call it magic, but my memories are magic. My knowledge is magic and the love that I feel for my own children and grandchildren is magic. This stems from the seeds planted long ago in fragrant dirt and tended by maternal love. Don’t talk to me about strong women…we cornered the market on that long ago. 
We are our own sacred space filled with caring, kudzu, magnolia and the Lord’s Prayer and we are rich with family and honor and ancient recipes and patience. 
Never underestimate a southern woman because somewhere in her family tree is a woman who knew Granny Magic and chances are she is still watching over her.

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