Spending a beautiful morning with my daughter and my 3 year old granddaughter digging calamus root in a simply beautiful field with a brook quietly rambling by and the autumn sun shining on us felt like a bit of a metaphor for what this wonderful plant offers us- a penetrating warmth accompanied by a quiet clarity of surroundings and purpose. It goes to the head as quickly as the warm autumn sun. As my daughter and I were digging up the roots (which are actually tubers), we were inundated with the sweet aroma of the leaves as they were bruised and the strong scent of the root itself. My granddaughter, Willow, happily took it upon herself to wash them off in the brook, (which made my job processing them later in the day substantially easier).
Every season there seems to be one plant that some way or another becomes my own personal “herb of the year”. Sometimes its one that I already know well. I may just find an abundance of it when I am wild-crafting, or it keeps showing up in odd places and lets me know it’s there. One year it was red raspberry leaf. Another year it was mullein…..this year it is calamus.
I have had little experience with calamus – I tried it at an herb class once and truly noticed how it changed my perspective and lifted my brain fog. I didn’t know where or how it grew, I had no other experience with it….until this year. When I was ordering herbs for my new herb farm, I decided to order a few calamus plants so I could get to know it. After they came, I decided across my street in a very wet spot would be the best place for them. When I finally got over there to get the poor plants in, I found an abundance of it growing there! At about the same time, my daughter told me of an amazing plant in the fields where she was grazing some sheep. As she walked through them she could smell the sweet aroma they gave off and she felt that it was a plant she needed. Of course, it was again calamus—hundreds of calamus plants. So, because of the abundance of plants there and because we know the history of this field as being clean and untreated for over 15 years, this is where we harvested on that beautiful fall day.
I am looking forward to getting to know calamus better as winter comes on, learning about its bitter properties (which was abundantly clear when I tried chewing a piece of the dried root), how it works for anxiety, as an antihistamine and a decongestant. But mostly, as with all the plants, I am looking forward to getting to know its spirit and how and why it has come to me now.