October has been, as it so regularly is, a season of change for me, and of learning the lessons that go hand in hand with change, and it occurred to me (at long last – I obviously have an unusually thick skull!) that life goes in seasons, much the way as the trees do. We have ideas that bloom, that bear fruit, and then slowly they die back, until winter winds draw them away from the trees and dance them to the ground. Taking stock last week, I realised that my ebay shop was no longer worth the effort I was putting into running it. That shop has been the one constant ever since I started Eldrum Herbs, about two and a half years ago, and closing it has been a real time for reflection, highlighting the fact that as much as I like to believe otherwise, I still have a real need to control things. Perhaps it is time I learned to be more like the trees outside – and that learning how to let go of things that no longer serve a purpose is a necessary part of life, and creates room for new growth. Falling leaves do, after all, turn to loam, which provide fertile ground for new seeds in the spring, and tuck in the existing plants against the winter snows. Taking a deep breath, slowing down, not needing to be in control all the time – these are all valuable life lessons, not only to associate with the running of my business but also with life in general. The more I need to cling to a semblance of control, the more difficult life becomes when the seasons shift and the ground moves out from beneath me. Grief and joy, life and death, all run in their own cycles, their own seasons, and learning to be still and let them just happen, without fighting them, without digging my heels in, without needing to control them – that has been the lesson I have learned, slowly and painfully, over the first 30 years of my life. There is beauty to be found in all things, and learning how to see them even when it is through tears has been simultaneously one of the most difficult and profound things I have experienced thus far.
I began my business in May 2009, under the name Hearthcraft Apothecary, a dream I had nursed all the way through university. I had romantic ideas of running a herb shop that would have a really old fashioned feel – candles both lit and for sale, herbs in coloured glass jars, hand made gifts, rag rugs on the floor, rocking chairs and blankets and hot drinks for my customers, all very impractical in the current era of health and safety, but still, it was the vision I began with. Slowly the company evolved, with seeing clients at the clinic I rented room space at at the time, and running an ebay shop on the side. Nothing really seemed to fly, though, and I was faced with real difficulty letting go of that. Finally I elected to change the company name about a year and a half ago, and Hearthcraft Apothecary became the Eldrum Tree. I formulated tea blends, changed packaging, designed my own logo, began to run stalls. I started doing talks for local groups, and found that surprisingly enough, it was something I had a certain amount of talent for – I have always been both an introvert and painfully shy at times, and doing talks for groups has been something that has really forced me to grow, both as a person and in confidence. Finally, this summer, I left the clinic I had been practicing at. Last week the ebay shop closed. In actual fact, the only constant thing throughout the business has been me, and the herbs! Gradually the company is evolving into an eccentric entity with a strong identity that is rooted within me. It puts out leaves, and some thrive, and some don’t, so the Eldrum Tree lets them fall back to earth again. Sometimes leaves become flowers, which in turn becomes fruit, and the seeds that fall from that fruit become more saplings of the Eldrum Tree. Sometimes those thrive. Sometimes they don’t. Current seeds that were planted recently include clinic days at outlying towns and villages, and re-opening my etsy shop to sell my tea blends in, as well as the range of hand made items that I constantly need to make. One really important thing that has happened over the last few weeks is the growth towards a much stronger personal and professional identity. I am who I am, and my eccentricity is both an identifying characteristic and one of my strong points. Allowing that to grow, to be what it needs to be – that is the next lesson I strive to learn.
I envy those who,
rooted deep within sorrow, coiled,
bramble bound, can
with thorny pens and bloody ink,
let themselves flow onto the paper,
alder wise, alchemical child of borders
transmuting water into fire, sorrow into beauty.
They cast themselves loose after cloud castles,
bridges of dreams beckon them, whilst
their feet sink deep into the soil.
Groping, blind in the dark, I
swim through the waters of my nature, searching,
toadlike amongst the currents, burrowing
in mud, and in pain I find pearls,
lost in endless oceans, islands
on the horizon, calling from the skies, and I
rise once more, reach,
grasping at that which is ever beyond me.
Swimming upstream again, I become
salmon in the water, skin silvered, sinuous,
and above, holy hazel hails,
sweet fruits of wisdom falling ever into my waters.
Courage is required, after all, to see truly,
to sink into wildness and follow the trail of your tale,
your story, your once upon a time, to lift rocks and
peer down rabbit holes, hope and wish and dream,
to experience all pain, all sorrow, all joy and hope
as part of the story, for
I am queen of my own quest, my witch’s nature
hiding deep in the forests of wisdom, and I,
trailing under tall trees, traipse with trepidation,
leaving the paths and wandering blind once more,
searching eternally for wildness, truth, beauty.
The trick, you see, is to call them by their true names,
the pen, a spindle, spinning straw into gold,
brambles unwinding as I write,
and my blood becomes ink once more.