Outside the adobe walls the sound carried on the breeze through the darkness along the cliff face. A woman’s voice chattering then clicking of tongue. The foxes called to each other under the stars and full moon and answered in primal song as we peered through the night trying to catch sight of the animals.
We hiked past their dens of sleeping kits the morning before unbeknownst to us.
We were away for a long weekend with dear friends. The first morning my young friend joined me on a meandering hike to see what plants we might wild craft the following day. We climbed steep limestone paths and cliff faces to see swallows darting to and fro from the homes they were making in the rocks.
Along rough paths of prickly pear and cholla cactus we carefully stepped quietly. We breathed in the fresh desert mountain air and watched the clouds wisp by. Down long cliffs we watched everything in miniature form as we climbed ever higher along the enchanted landscape. Ancient juniper and aromatic sagebrush met us. Young rabbit brush and wild flowers set among snake holes, and birds sang around us.
The next day I put on my belt. It holds my medicine bag, a pouch for tobacco to offer the plant spirits, and scissors. I placed an empty bag over my shoulder and my young friend and his mother joined me on the hot dusty road. The air reached nineties and Father sun beat down in dry heat that warmed my bones and caught our breath. The panoramas reached beyond imagination and a hawk flew overhead. Turkey vultures swooped to and fro and dozens of swallows swirled up high.
We climbed steep ravines in search for oak. We use it in place of witch hazel for its marvelous astringency and vein care. We did not find it but we found yucca and juniper berries, cedar and sage for ceremony, and rabbit brush. We walked along cliffs of alternating violet, aquamarine, and rich red hues of soil and awed at the majesty of creation.
Down to the roaring Arkansas river we followed boulders down to its side to clip willow. Hiding along the rocks near the water’s edge the horsetail reeds stood up proudly donning their capped heads. They will heal bones and be a source of silica in our remedies.
Sprinkles of tobacco and prayers create balance and appease the plant spirits. These plants contain the wildness of the land and will create powerful medicines for spirit and body.
I whisper thank you over and over again as the fronds of young willow respond by moving and the ancient river powers by.