Gather Ye Rosehips While Ye May

Rose Hips
Foraged wild rosehips from the Pacific NW

Allow me to be straightforward. This post contains a little bit of everything herbs, social issues, poetry. One defining feature is that I can’t make up my mind, but nevertheless I would like to impart some vital musings onto you. Let me start with a famous poem, which both frustrates and inspires.

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
You may forever tarry.

Robert Herrick, 1591-1674

I’m going to be honest: I hate this poem. I will not argue that it has good form, but the implications are grim and – frankly – laughable. “That age is best which is the first, / When youth and blood are warmer; / But being spent, the worse, and worst / Times still succeed the former.” Oh please, Robert Herrick, tell me again how priceless virgins are. I mean, this isn’t Goblin’s Market, but subtlety isn’t Herrick’s strong suit. This poem repeats itself in my head as I gather nutrient-rich rosehips for my winter tea, contemplating the dying of another year. My mind races with the stories of women being sexually assaulted and I ponder how desperately our society worships youth and then exploits its innocence. Many women, myself included, are all reminded of our own personal experiences of being rendered used and then (supposedly) useless. And the representation of women throughout literature, and much of recorded history, has frequently left me unsatisfied.

Rose Seeds
Wild rose seeds harvested from rosehips

Women have often been associated with fruiting and flowering. Shakespeare even related his “deflowered” female characters to moldy oranges. Yes, it’s undeniable that women have a biological clock and we have our own seasons in life, but why is it that women are valued so radically different at varying stages of life? May I suggest that when we put so much value on the flower and the fruit, we forget the tree that bore them.

What truly pains me is the dismissal of the value of experience. Women (and men for that matter) have gained so much wisdom by the time of their golden years, and our society is quick to excuse and devalue them. It isn’t any secret that times have changed and not all wisdom is timeless, but assigning value only to that which can re-produce is doing our community a great disservice. Where did our wisdom go? And why does it seem that so many young adults are unprepared for the challenges which present themselves today? Many millennials struggle to adequately feed themselves, defend themselves, and heal themselves. Valuable traditions are quietly being forgotten. Meanwhile, nature carries on: flowering, fruiting and passing on its wisdom. And there’s so much to learn from nature!

Take rosehips for example. There are over 100 species of roses, all of which bear rosehips: one of the most vitamin-C rich foods. Roses are sweetly smelling and easy to harvest, gather seeds from and plant for yourself. When in bloom you can make rosewater to use as a facial toner, drink as a tea to promote healthy digestion, or help to ease anxiety (both as a tea and as aromatherapy). Find wild roses and their health benefits are yours for the taking.

To wrap up this rosy rant, I encourage you to be mindful of the resources that surround us. There is so much wisdom, in plants, in places, and – especially – in people. Don’t take your environment for granted. Learn from it, nurture it and celebrate it, both “when youth and blood are warmer” and during its dying days, only to be reborn in the coming seasons.