Every week I try to visit the Creek at different points along its course and at different times of the day. We visit each other, me and the flowing waters, feeding everything around — the waters recognize me and give me back my belonging and presence. This is an intoxicated and fragile ecosystem, heavily pressured by human presence, where the banks are almost inaccessible because of all the surrounding construction. But while it has water, the Creek continues to flow through the steep stones, along the already torn path, stubbornly flowing and offering Life. I admire the Creek’s resilience and strength in nurturing all the surrounding diversity, despite all the neglect, littering, usurping, and forgetting of its wisdom and presence. Despite all the dirt, rubble, and debris dumped on her body.
I walk its frail banks and listen to the voices of the flow moving through the rocks, along with the small and large birds that live there, as do the insects and plants. The trees, shrubs, and flowers spontaneously grow on its banks — invasive ones drain and extract the water, while native others contribute symbiotically with their presence. The Creek teaches me daily that Life is nourished in the sung silence of the little things.
While standing there today, I realized and felt differently about the symbiosis and reciprocity between what grows there and the water flows. Those plants, bushes, and trees are symbiotic with that water, they are her eyes to the sky, the sun, and the clouds. They are her dance in the wind, her ears from the stony, dry ground. The water that feeds the “weeds” thus opens up possibilities and diversity. Of course, according to an animist experience, there are no “weeds,” or pests — weeds just grow spontaneously and are not directly useful to humans living nearby, hence cataloged as “bad.” Of course, in desecrated and extremely fragile ecosystems, some plants do harm, usually brought and spread by humans, becoming threats to the autochthonous web, voraciously consuming it.
In a sovereign ecosystem, that is, capable of regenerating itself in major and minor cycles, there are no weeds, but medicines.
What the waters feed are plants that bring the necessary medicine to the place, natural alignments that provide valuable assistance to the place and its inhabitants. After all, plants and stones are our grandmothers and know what we need.
The Creek’s banks, when there are any, are stony and abandoned terrains, banks full of wild and spontaneous life. In the small wasteland I walked through today, I found the following medicines, veritable treasures of abundance under my feet:
- Lythrum salicaria — From the Greek lythrôn, “blood mixed with powder,” used to treat wounds and staunch blood. Also used for the treatment of chronic diarrhea. It is antibacterial, used in gargling and eye washes. It is also used to relieve menstrual disorders.
- Convolvulus arvensis — is used as a purgative and laxative. It is a hypotensive and stimulates coronary circulation. It exerts an antispasmodic effect on muscles.
- Carduus pycnocephalus — Diuretic, excitant of bile secretion, protects or helps protect the liver and mellifluous. Used against diabetes and diseases of the liver and gallbladder (jaundice).
- Cichorium intybus — analgesic properties and antioxidant action, preventing premature aging and helps in the detoxification of the liver. It is consumed raw in salads and used in liver and gallbladder disorders, lack of appetite, gastroenteritis, verminosis, dyspepsia, and diabetes.
- Scolvmus hispanicus — Diuretic properties in patients with renal insufficiency. Also known for their antiperspirant properties.
- Plantago lagopus — Antibacterial, antibiotic, soothing, ophthalmic, febrifuge, expectorant, cicatrizant, anti-tussive, and draining properties.
- Hirschfeldia incana — Soporific properties.
- Malva sylvestris — Aids in treating coughs with phlegm, sore throats or canker sores. Ability to speed wound healing, protects against infection, reduces inflammation, slows aging, improves respiratory health, optimizes digestive functions, improves sleep, and treats headaches. Mallow has anti-inflammatory, laxative, healing, soothing, digestive, and expelling properties. It is also used to treat wounds, sores, and insect bites. In addition, the plant has laxative, emollient, anti-inflammatory, moisturizing, expectorant, and soothing action.
- Rubus ulmifolius — The fruits (the blackberries) are very appreciated, serving as a base for astringent syrups. The leaves can be used as a face lotion or in gargling for mouth ailments.
- Ash (Fraxinus angustifolia) — The properties of ash include its diuretic, laxative, depurative, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, healing analgesic, and rejuvenating action. Dioscorides (1st century), writes about the properties of ash juice in curing viper bites. In ancient times the wood was used for agricultural implements. Wood used in carpentry and construction. Quality firewood. Fraxinus derives from the Greek frassein, meaning separation — a tree often used to separate and demarcate spaces. The ash is also a popular species in Scandinavian and Germanic mythology. The cosmic tree for these peoples — Yggdasril — was an ash tree: the branches extended across the earth, the trunk ascended to paradise, and the roots merged into the heart of the earth. The Druids, Celtic priests, invoked the ash tree in times of drought and asked for rain, not just rain, for the ash tree brought gentle rain.
I want to note that the medicines listed here are being viewed according to their interaction with the human perspective, however, despite my ignorance, I do not intend to violate their dignity and sovereignty, for their presence has subtle and potent entanglements with all the other species present. In this simple list, I don’t even realize the medicine that each one of them brings to the other species, to the soil, air, or water, or even to other plants and animals.
These interweavings I am not aware of, but which lead me to question how in such a fragile and weakened water ecosystem, what is born, grows, and dies here, does so in deep symbiosis and multi-species medicine, in ephemeral, weak, and potent stories and songs from the Life-Death-Life spectrum. Melodies that sustain Life, even in the midst of the stony, dry ground. Fractal unfoldings of diversity and multiplicity of Water.