Gathering at the tops of the big old trees

Day 109

photo by Wilson Alvarez

photo by Wilson Alvarez

I don’t know.

I don’t have any answers.

I like to watch the vultures gather in my neighborhood to roost at dusk.

Large dark wings barely flapping,

riding high on the thermals my eyes cannot see.

Gathering in the tops of the big old Spruce and Fir trees,

families from another era planted in their front yards,

for privacy, shade.

I am mostly lost,

confused about what to do,

where to go,

how to act.

I wish I was like those vultures,

pointed home at the end of the day,

or sitting all lined up on the church roof.

Shoulder to shoulder,

Glossy black feathers blending

with approaching night.

Thank you for listening,



photo by Yank

photo by Yank

Dear Michelle, Your guest post tonight is an ancient and glorious song that awakens a sleeping part of me. Thank you for sharing it with here, I love you. These beautiful photos are hers as well.

The Rebellion Family

photo by Michelle Johnsen

photo by Michelle Johnsen

When I first met mullein, I was enchanted.

I spoke new words like “rosette”, and “biennial”. I heard the buzz as mullein’s tall stalks were swarmed with beetles and butterflies and bees.

I touched and awed at its sweet yellow flowers with their fuzzy stamen, reaching out for pollination.

I inhaled their sweet scent. I rubbed the velvety leaves into my palm. So soft! How extraordinary!

photo by Michelle Johnsen

photo by Michelle Johnsen


I marveled that something so tender, and so light, could survive a cold winter to become a bigger, medicinal version of itself. It must be such a pristine plant, I thought to myself. It must need to be cherished, and well cared for, and loved, and then it will blossom with its velvety leaves. Wrong.

Mullein doesn’t grow like a queen in a castle.

It comes up in the rubble beside a demolished building.

It sits between railroad ties, dainty among the black tar and diesel.

I’ve seen it in the worst ditch, the ugliest trail, near the most polluted water.

Not long after, I made an acquaintance of mint.

photo by Michelle Johnsen

photo by Michelle Johnsen


I felt the softness of fresh apple mint with my fingertips. Tasted sweet, wild mountain mint on the tip of my tongue. I heard the crackle of dried peppermint as I made it into tea. Inspected the curling edges of the skinny spearmint leaf. I smelled it from yards away.

Soon I learned of the “mint family”, an intriguing, new-to-me concept that groups of plants can be gathered together by their similar characteristics. I assumed all mints smelled “minty”!

So I was surprised and delighted to realize that tranquil catnip is a mint. And lemon balm, the gentle “herb of good cheer”. Oregano. Holy basil. And lavender! All strongly scented members of the mint family.

Now THIS, I thought, this is a plant to cherish and coddle and treasure.

Spearmint, peppermint, apple mint.

The wild, sweet mountain mint. Surely, these delicious smells and medicinal uses are incredibly important and rare. Wrong again.

Important, but by no means rare. Mints grow wild. With the right sun and plenty to drink, they spread in no time, they grow. Mints appear as “volunteers” all over; not planted, just sent there by chance in the wind.

photo by Michelle Johnsen

photo by Michelle Johnsen


When we begin reaching into our wild selves, we can morph into something new and wonderful, like mullein.

We can take root just about anywhere, like mint. We can open our arms widely, catching hold of others like us, the same way mullein stamen expertly catch pollen.

We come in many forms, just as mint does.

Our wild family is made up of so many individuals who share the same characteristics:

One throbbing heart.

Wide, wide eyes.

Ears that delight in bird songs and silence equally.

We grow in clusters. We “volunteer”.

We love clean water. We want to protect it.

We love clean air. We want to protect it.

We love wild food and medicine, and know how to find them.

Animals are dear teachers to us.

We hold a place in our hearts, dear and deep, for one another and for this planet, for all time.

Make that, the time we have left.

We’re not in a field guide, not listed on a website somewhere.

Don’t have an index, germinate where we please;

escaped from cultivation, common along roadsides, in margins of shallow streams, sandy pinelands, bogs, mountains, open woodland, concrete cities, and other sunny areas.

We are part of the rebellion family.

photo by Michelle Johnsen

photo by Michelle Johnsen


One response to “Gathering at the tops of the big old trees

  1. Pingback: Gathering at the tops of the big old trees | Adventure Journal

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