Shifting With The Seasons & The Teachings of Willow

So we got our first snowfall last Friday. I so wanted everything wrapped up before the first snowfall.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I’ve been feeling the pull of  the change of the seasons leading up to the Equinox. It’s a pull to slow down. It’s a pull to move even further inward. Being an introvert, this tends to be my normal state of being more often than not, but I’ve noticed even less energy to be in situations that seem to deplete my “bank” of extroverted qualities more quickly than usual. And yet there’s just a *few* more things to be done.

I wanted to cut & dry my oatstraw. (Not complete). I wanted to dig up some valerian root for fresh plant tincture medicine (It still can happen). And since I was running out of room (and time) to plant my last orphan rescued Solomon’s Seal tubers, I was going to make it into some joint medicine for my beloved kitty. Her name, sort of coincidentally, is Willow.

And after all that, especially now that I’m “in training”  for Daylight Savings Time, I am going into full-on hibernation mode. (That to-do list didn’t sound like I was slowing down much, did it??) Like I’m talking pj’s as soon as I get home. Having my Netflix list ready to rock. Winter tea blends at the ready. Couch blankets in position, sending me guilt vibes when I resist their temptation. And Willow Cat ready to get her snuggle on at any moment. And once anything outside other than shoveling can happen, I also use this time to get some herbal harvest processing done once the transition to indoor activities is complete. (But happily some of that can be done on said couch!)

Speaking of Willow, let’s talk about some Willow teachings moving into this snowy time of year. Just to clarify– I’m now speaking of Willow the plant. Willow the Shrub-y bush. Do you know Willow?

Many of us with Ukrainian heritage do-we have a relationship with it at least in the sense that we know our Baba’s cut the pussywillows in spring to go into our Easter baskets for blessings. (Who hasn’t resisted the temptation of stroking a cheek with the velvety pussywillow in spring?) I remember when I was young & my Baba still had a steady hand to draw with, she often included pussywillows into her pysanky designs (Ukrainian Easter Eggs). I have a further love relationship with Willow as it’s a beloved material to floral designers. I’ve made many a wreath, crown, & arrangement woven with Willow.

Spring Pussy Willow. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Spring Pussy Willow. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Willow grows everywhere if you know where to look. It loves wet feet & you will almost always find it near a body of water. We have many kinds of willow here in Canada-it’s fun to get to know them. In the cities we often find ornamental weeping willows & the “contorted” or curly willows are beautiful trees in zones a bit fairer than ours. The medicine of Willow is pretty universal-we all know that Willow is a source of Salicin-“nature’s aspirin”, right? It’s legit, old school medicine & humans & willows have had a long relationship.

White Willow: Salix alba. source: Wikipedia.
White Willow: Salix alba. source: Wikipedia.

Willow (the plant) comes to mind because it’s been ON  my mind-calling to me for baskets. Willow lends itself to being woven into something beautiful, functional, & useful like nobodies business. It’s been almost an obsession this past week of me literally feeling the willow canes in my hands & how satisfying & good & right it feels molding it into a beautiful basket. Going down to the river valley to cut Willow (the plant!!) has also been on my to-do list before the show flies, but, well, the snow is flying. So it’s time to get flexible.

Willow teaches us about flexibility, and that there is still so much strength in that flexibility. I’m not talking about the kind of flexibility that is the people pleasing–the be anything, do anything, accommodate anything kind of “flexibility”. That’s more about boundaries & a sense of self.  Willow is Willow & isn’t trying to be Rose because someone wants it to be. And neither should we. But I digress.

Well that’s the thing with the changing of the seasons in a society that doesn’t allow any flexibility in the decreasing daylight, in changing the availability of food (I mean, what change? We can still get fresh berries & asparagus in the middle of winter). We have the ability to just turn on the lights on once the sun goes down. We are still expected to drag ourselves up out of bed hours before the sun rises even thought our bodies rebel at that practice (mine 100% does not like to get up before the sun does!). And we even just ALTER TIME  to suit our productivity better (the dreaded DST I mentioned earlier). We are masters at altering our environment to suit ourselves rather than allowing ourselves to honour it’s needs in a changing environment.

Now I’m not suggesting that we forego electricity because frankly, in the North, that makes for a very long, cold and dark winter (& how would we catch up on all that is awesome on Netflix?) but I would invite you to start thinking about how we can honour our bodies rhythms with the changing seasons, because I promise you it notices a change even while we are still demanding the same things of it regardless of the time of year.

And yet we still run around trying to do everything & be everything–productivity is so completely exalted in our culture that anything that isn’t in alignment with that is suspect-and frankly that’s not very flexible of us. Not all that “Willow”, so to speak.

I’m going to introduce a super hippy-dippy observation here:

One thing we are really, really good at in “modern” society is behaving as though we operate independently of the earth.

I’m going to put this another way: we are really, really good at looking at the Earth, our home and all that sustains us, as something outside of and independent of us that we can mold & manipulate for our own needs. We seldom think of it as a living, self organizing being & see ourselves being in a reciprocal relationship.

The point I’m trying to make is that we each are relationship with one another. We each influence one another. And when we are constantly “plugged in” –that is to our smartphones, getting in our cars, getting home & turning our computers on- we are in a way, checked out from the rhythms that we are part of– and it’s really easy to be under the illusion that the Earth that sustains us–literally the ground we walk on– is totally separate from ourselves.

But it’s not.

And we just carry on with business as usual-sleeping the same, eating the same, working the same schedule, and demanding the same of ourselves regardless of the season.

The Earth moves in cycles, and to think that we are completely independent of those cycles is really a little silly of us. We have all heard how the emergency wards & our first responders are busier than usual around the full moon. We know that accidents increase during the shift of DST in the Spring, and yet we still demand that we conform to that manipulation of time & daylight & change in sleep. We know that with the slow down in winter, we need more rest. We know that our immunity takes a hit with the changing weather & seasons & we have to be mindful of our Vit D levels, our diet, & to keep ourselves warm & protected from the influence of the cold, & watch our sugar intake.

Or do we?

I named my cat Willow because my first teacher taught that the word Willow shared roots & associations with the word Wicca -like Witch-meaning one who could bend & shape circumstance (it certainly seemed like she bent & shaped circumstance to make her way into my home AND my heart–I had nothing to do with it!). We too as humans have become masters of bending & shaping our environment to suit ourselves & it’s not always for the better. How can we learn from the teachings of Willow (the plant AND the cat) & flow with the seasons to ensure we aren’t artificially bending circumstance to our own detriment? How can we embrace being in balance with the rhythms of the seasons?

Stay tuned, because in next week’s blog post, I’ve compiled some commonsense winter strategies for Winter Wellness and shifting our habits to stay in tune with the seasons.

In the meantime, snuggle up, stay warm, & stay flexible!

Green Blessings,


Your YEG Community Herbalist

Assorted Willow & Red Osier Dogwood for basket weaving--I got it harvested, even though the snow was flying!
Assorted Willow & Red Osier Dogwood for basket weaving–it happened, even though the snow was flying!



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