The first fall I lived in Oregon, Heather sold me my first pound of calendula flowers. They were lovely, so bright and sunny, such a contrast to the cloudy days of that first Oregon fall. We’d stopped by Heather’s herbal shop downtown hoping to find something to help ease the dampness in our chests and maybe the dark tension in our moods. My boy and I were struggling to adjust to the change in climate on a more physical level while Dad was Homesick and blue. Heather suggested Calendula with oat tops and red clover flowers. She assured me as I coughed over the price, all of them would lighten our bodies and spirits. She was right.
Calendula has been a favorite in our family ever since. She was one of my boy’s first herbal friends. He harvested and dried the family stock for three years when he was still young enough to think it cool to call oneself an herbalist. His calendula vinegar has soothed several intense sunburns. Weepy rashes have been no match for his calendula oil and salve. His calendula tincture was a stock item in our family cold and flu syrups, too. With his fair skin and strawberry blonde hair, I suppose it’s no wonder he’s had such a strong affinity for this sunny, straggly herb. They look alike.
Every spring, I let the early Calendula flowers be. The bees need them more than we. By late July, however, it’s time for harvesting. Now that he’s in double-digits, the boy’s not so keen on harvesting herbs. He’d rather ride bikes, skateboard, or, worse yet, play video games. Every few weeks, I chase him out telling him not to come back until he’s harvested enough to fill the basket I’ve handed him. I dry enough to fill a gallon-sized bag at least. It takes many harvests, each spread out so the plants have time to recover. Amidst procuring herbs for the upcoming rainy season, it’d be easy to forget to keep up the harvesting. But, Calendula blooms late into fall, so even if a month goes by between harvests, I’ve got plenty of time.
Calendula gives me the heads-up on which other herbs I’ll want in my pantry during the upcoming seasons, too. When she’s bloomed voraciously in my garden, I know we’re in for a winter filled with damp, cold conditions and the colds and flus we get will be damp, runny affairs. The years when calendula has bloomed more sparsely have been the ones when the weather’s been drier and sunnier with illnesses that cause different symptoms in the body, like fever and nausea. So far, Calendula has never steered me wrong.
For my man, Calendula partnered with Lemon Balm does the trick whenever Winter Blues take him down. During those first couple of Oregon winters, we lived in a veritable field of lemon balm. The boy and I went out to gather fresh leaves of Lemon Balm for Dad’s calendula tea. Together, they helped ease the pain of Homesickness and make space in my man’s heart for a new home. We’d say a few words of magical blessing when Dad wasn’t looking, then serve him the tea. If even for only the duration of the cup, Calendula tea always cleared his cloudy countenance. Calendula offered my fellas their first taste of real magic.