While walking in the forest recently with the kids, we found several of Earth’s bountiful treasures: whimsical witch hazel flower and a few lucky buckeye (Aesculus spp.) pictured here. We see the remains of summer’s leftover reishi (Ganoderma spp.) and lingering dried oyster mushrooms, fresh turkey tail (Trimetes versicolor), usnea (Usnea spp.) on branches fallen, a few clinging hawthorn berries and plenty of wild rose hips for syrups and teas (see both fruits pictured below).
These gifts of the forest offer their abundant fruit to us with no expectations in return, so we choose to give a token to express appreciation.
We may leave dried tobacco or herb from an offering pouch, a few strands of hair or a prayer of thanks. A neat winter gift for our bird and forest friends can easily be made using a pine cone or two as a bird feeder. These are gestures in the season of giving. Replanting the yule or holiday tree of cedar, spruce or pine can be a safe place for wildlife while providing cone seeds or evergreen berries as winter food.
Birds also forage on berries such as hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) beautyberry (Callicarpa spp.), Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium), barberry (Berberis vulgaris) and black haw (Viburnum prunifolium). All of these shrubs will soon be ready to plant in your garden or forest in early spring. Some of these shrubs have medicinal properties, such as hawthorn for heart health, barberry or Oregon grape as a digestive bitter and wound healer and black haw with its numerous uses, including support during threatened miscarriages or postpartum hemorrhaging.
I am humbled and ever so grateful to Mother Earth’s generosity even in the coldest season, such unconditional giving shared during the lean times is the ultimate example for us all.
Abundant harvests and gift giving year-round,
Jeannie Dunn, Director