Episode V

Over the past few years, I’ve met many people I probably never would have encountered let alone befriended before the virus hit. Sadie is exactly the sort of crazy nut job I would have avoided back then. She changed my life, after saving it.

It was just Harvey and I, alone and afraid, wandering along old Highway 5, when Sadie found us. I’d lost my husband and children only a few months previous. Winter was coming on. The trees were already changing colors. I was losing heart; I couldn’t see how we’d survive the upcoming winter and wasn’t even sure I wanted to when Harvey spied her. Sadie was, picking bright red berries from a shaggy tree alongside the deserted highway. She was decked out in a montage of billowing skirts and layered in concert tee shirts. Her hands were covered in gloves less their fingers, her feet bare inside a pair of mismatched Berkenstock sandals that looked like they’d seen better days. Back pack strapped on her back and two full plastic bags slung across one of her arms, she looked like a bag lady fresh off my hometown streets.

From the get-go, Harvey treated her like an old friend. She was living a few miles from the local village, but the path between her little shanty and the village was beaten down with foot travel. Sadie was an old school herbalist. Short and sturdy with curves Michangelo would have loved, she looked the part. She said she’d studied herbalism for ten years and even had a modest practice doing herbalism and energy work before the virus turned our world upside down. She had a few scars from fighting zombies and, maybe more importantly from fending off a couple of the local thunder dormers, as she called the local wild gang of marauders. She was tough as nails, but with a tender, compassionate heart.

The day Sadie took Harvey and I in I mark as the day my life took on a whole new purpose. She agreed to give Harvey and I shelter on the condition we helped her prepare medicines for the locals. The first one, it turned out, was essential to my survival, too. It was Hawthorn tea.

Hawthorn has been used to heal broken hearts for centuries. Sadie said that in modern herbal terms, hawthorn is an adaptogen, meaning it helps the body adapt to the current situation. As a heart-mender, hawthorn helps bring balance to the blood pressure regardless of whether it’s high or low. With no pharmaceuticals available, the many of the villagers who’d once depended on medication to protect their hearts would have been in dire straights without Sadie’s Haw Heart tea. Many took her advice to ingest hawthorn regularly as a preventative, too. We’re all under the kind of stress daily that can bring on heart disease without reliable ways to detect it early or the drugs we’d all counted on to treat it. Hawthorn may not take the place of those old pharmaceuticals, but it’s powerful just the same. As Sadie taught me, Mother Nature provides if we’re only humble and wise enough to ask.

Hawthorn was the first medicine Sadie taught me to make. As I picked fresh haws and laid them out to dry, I found peace I hadn’t expected to ever feel again. With Sadie’s help and the magic of the hawthorn tree, the broken, sorrowful place in my heart began to heal. I set my mind to helping others not only survive but to thrive.

Making Haw Heart tea is easy, but it takes a little planning. The ingredients, Rosehips, Haws, and Burdock root, are all ready for picking in the fall After the first frost but before the ground freezes is the best time. Dig the Burdock roots. Clean ’em, cut ’em, and dry ’em. Pick the Haws. Lightly crush ’em and lay ’em out to dry. Pick the Rosehips and lay ’em out to dry, too. When all are dry, mix them together in roughly equal parts. To make your tea, add enough to fill the palm of your hand to a pot filled with a mug’s worth of water or so and bring the lot to a low boil over the fire for about 20 to 30 minutes, until the liquid starts to take on a lovely reddish brown color and reduces by maybe a quarter or so. Strain the tea off and drink it warm or cool. I often make enough to fill a couple of canteens at a time and sip them over several days in the winter, but in summer I make enough for only a day or two maximum at a time. The cool of winter helps preserve the tea while the heat of summer can kick-start unwanted fermentation or the growth of other nasties. I sometimes miss my frigidaire.

May you be well,

Zombie Hunter C.

Publisher’s Disclaimer: This column is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locals or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.