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Appreciating Spring-Time and Its Uplifting Attributes

by Barbara Payne(more info)

listed in aromatherapy, originally published in issue 134 - April 2007

After the ravages of winter, most people are pleased when spring arrives. The Reader’s Digest Oxford Dictionary defines spring as “The season in which vegetation begins to appear – the first season of the year”.

Obviously a dictionary has space constraints, but even so, I feel spring is much more than this. Spring is the season when all of us, whether we have a garden or not, can benefit from longer and lighter days, bird song, and warmer temperatures. Even if we have to go into a city each day, we see flowering trees and shrubs in abundance in public areas.

If we do have a garden, then our feelings toward these sights, sounds, and smells become more intensified because of being on our ‘territory’. They give us a tremendous boost to our inner consciousness when we encounter them. There is the added bonus of seeing wildlife come out of hibernation, and new growth on herbs and other perennial plants. Even in a setting similar to where I live, which has sixteen houses to the acre, one still sees squirrels, frogs, hedgehogs and the odd fox – if you look. It is wonderful to welcome old friends back from a long absence. In the aromatherapy fragrance garden there are many such small visitors, the resident blackbird of some years is no exception. If his daily dish of cat biscuits is late, he comes into the house and is quite happy to hop on anyone’s finger to be escorted out and although I have four elderly cats, the blackbird simply ignores them all and they return the compliment!

In bygone days, spring plants must have meant so much more to people because they did not have the variety of out-of-season commodities that are available to us. Today we buy primroses (Primula vulgaris), and cowslips (Primula veris), which smell delicious, purely for ornamental purposes, but in history they were used for cough remedies and mild sedatives, and this medicinal usage of many ‘ordinary’ plants can be seen throughout history. Some of them we take for granted and think of as merely visual enhancements to the garden, but in times past they were appreciated and valued for their healing virtues too. All of the Allium family for instance (onions, garlic, leek, chives etc), have beautiful flowers and are now utilized in ‘cottage gardens’, but originally cottagers grew them for their antiseptic, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. As a consequence of this they have been eaten as food to counteract infections, and applied topically to heal wounds (boiled and mashed in a poultice), for millennia. These plants have been used for so long they are even mentioned with fondness in the Bible at Numbers Ch 11 verse 5, “We remember… and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick”.[1]

Knowledge about what one could make use of was passed down through the ages and until the last century this information was commonplace, as it was in our house, as I grew up. One everyday plant having the ability to affect us physically is mentioned by Beatrix Potter in The Tale of The Flopsy Bunnies, (1909).[2] She says,

“The little rabbits smiled sweetly in their sleep under the shower of grass; they did not awake because the lettuces had been so soporific.”

Lettuce is hard to digest and as the digestive system works overtime to process it, the person becomes a little fatigued and drowsy. Did Beatrix Potter know this? She must have.

So how can we make the best of this season with the things we have to hand?

We can take more notice of the things around us when outside. Start the day a little earlier and have breakfast near an open door to listen to the birds and settle down before leaving for work. Even in a small yard birds will come to a feeding station and they need feeding till the end of April. Bird song audio tapes are available if traffic near the house is a problem, or tape your own, in the park. If you enjoy herby aromas, use more herbs in your cooking. Many supermarkets sell a variety of herbs which look beautiful on a windowsill. Feel the leaves, sense the difference in texture, how some are hairy (usually the Lamiaceae family), and smell the scent given off by the essential oil glands in the plant. Buy some essential oils such as Thyme, (Thymus vulgaris), Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), Basil (Ocimum basilicum) and Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), and sprinkle a few drops on the doormats so that your re-entry into your home is pleasant and the ambiance spring-like.

It is now, in spring, that we reap nature’s new life-giving gifts. After a long rest, the plants and animals once more emerge to provide a bonanza of enchanting and enriching treats to fortify us for the coming year, whether it is sound, sight, touch or smells. Taking pleasure in such simple things will remind us all of how privileged we are to be alive.

References

1.    The Holy Bible (King James Translation). Numbers. Chapter 11 Verse 5. Oxford University Press. Oxford.
2.    Potter B. The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies. 1909. Frederick Warne. 2002.

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About Barbara Payne

Barbara Payne taught clinical aromatherapy in various hospitals in the North of England, for School of Health, University of Hull, and was principal of an IFA and IFPA accredited college of clinical aromatherapy, for many years. She served as an inspector and examiner and was Chair of Education for the ISPA, (now IFPA). Barbara had regular interviews with BBC radio and appeared on national television occasionally and lectured annually for the RHS. Having contributed to Positive Health over many years, Barbara has now decided to retire from her PH Expert Regular Column after Issue 154 in Jan 2009. She can be reached on Tel: 01482 835358; barbara@payne56.karoo.co.uk

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