Solidago sway and sing
of summer’s ending.
Gilded golden on the wing.
Goldenrod Grandmother, where are you now?
It seems like only yesterday the path to your stone cottage was worn from our footsteps. During the day we came for your soothing elderberry syrups and your clover and linden teas. And when the shadows lengthened and curled around behind the evergreens, we would slip along the path for rose petal and hawthorne tinctures to mend the cracks in our broken hearts and agate amulets scripted with sigils to banish our fears.
On that summer day we last saw you, the milkweed pod split and its silky white seed tails scattered across your fingers and floated down the meadow. The blood in your veins quickened to the rhythm of the cicadas and as you set off to gather herbs, you hummed your own heart song to the purple loosestrife, orange jewelweed and the cloudy white flowers of virgin’s bower that climbed through the thickets and sparkled in the green overgrowth.
All morning you gathered tangy wood sorrel and succulent purslane. You dug stubborn burdock root and snipped the brittle stalks of dusty green seeded nettle that you carefully laid in your woven willow basket. And as you worked, the cicadas sang on and the sun rose higher until its honey warmth poured down upon your head and shoulders from above. It was only then that you stood up stiffly and realized that you would need a strong staff to lean on as you traveled home.
You rummaged through the ground for a fallen branch, but there was none to be found, so you picked up your basket and began your journey home. The path was stumbled and steep and your heart beat more quickly. You paused to catch your breath in the soft green filtered shade of the cedars that grew on the edge of the forest. The cedars sighed softly as a light breeze moved through their sweet scented sprays of green. “Our branches are too delicate,” they whispered, “And none are strong enough to support you.”
You continued on, your basket pulling your arm and your feet dragging along the rooted path until the cedars gave way to ragged Scotch pines who creaked and rasped and muttered crossly, “Go your way old crone. The needles on our branches are too sharp and they would poke you as you walk.”
Still struggling, you came upon a dancing family of spruce trees, their branches clasped together in a ring. “Oh no, grandmother,” they laughed. “Our branches have too much sap on them. You would dirty your hands and ruin your skirt.”
And so you laboured on until you came to a fragrant grove of balsam. Their citrus earth scent was like a hymn to the heavens and it lifted your spirits to breathe it deeply, but they too would not give up even one branch. “So sorry healer woman”, they sang in unison, “We have nothing for you. We need all our branches to reach for the sky and to send our prayers to the Goddess herself.”
By then, your heart was filled with such heaviness that you lowered yourself to the ground and your skirts billowed out around you. You watched as the auburn sun floated level in the western horizon and its golden light burnished all it touched. The cedar boughs trembled under its warm kiss, the spruce trees swayed in their sacred circle dance and the Scotch pines sighed and finally settled. The scented song of the balsams flowed into the air and made the Goddess smile. And there, hidden among the grasses, you found an old stem that was strong enough to raise you up and help you carry on.
As dusk fell, you took those final steps home. Your aches and pains evaporated and the wearisome weight of your long years fell away. We heard you singing your heart song to the sturdy stem that helped you on your journey home and your voice floated higher and higher above the trees until your keening drifted far and wide and it was full of love and lightness of being.
Some say you were transformed into a beautiful winged fae and wherever you flew, golden dust poured among the meadow grasses and a new plant began to grow. Its stems are straight, sturdy and strong and its golden yellow blossoms nourish us and lighten our hearts.
Goldenrod Grandmother, where are you now?
Does your heart song still hum in the gilded corbiculae of honeybees who visit the bright and brilliant goldenrod that dances tall among the swaying grasses?
Do you still gather the greenest herbs in the sunniest meadows?
Do you still search for the deepest roots near the clearest running streams?
Do you remember us Goldenrod Grandmother?
We remember you.
This piece is dedicated to my friend Amber Westfall who originally told me this beautiful story based on a folktale. Visit her Wild Garden here: http://www.thewildgarden.ca/
Image used with permission: High Tor Guardian by David Wyatt. Visit his shop here: https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/davidwyatt?ref=l2-shopheader-name