Tuesday, March 30, 2010

spirits of gilead

The Other Kingdoms

Consider the other kingdoms. The
trees, for example, with their mellow-sounding
titles: oak, aspen, willow.
Or the snow, for which the peoples of the north
have dozens of words to describe its
different arrivals. Or the creatures, with their
thick fur, their shy and wordless gaze. Their
infallible sense of what their lives
are meant to be. Thus the world
grows rich, grows wild, and you too,
grow rich, grow sweetly wild, as you too
were born to be.

~ Mary Oliver ~ (The Truro Bear and Other Adventures)

Years ago when I lived in rural British Columbia in the Pemberton Valley, you knew spring had arrived when the air became thick with the aroma of poplar trees budding. Have you seen them up close? The leaf buds are about 1" long and they are very sticky and smell, to me, divine! They have a rich, deep, base, woodsy smell - I hope you have a chance to fill your olfactory organs with them this spring!

One day while mountain biking along the valley trail with a friend she exclaimed, "I love the Spirits of Gilead!!!" I had no idea what she was referring to, however, she proceeded to tell me that this was the name of the buds of the poplar trees.

Recently I googled "Spirits of Gilead" and couldn't find any reference to it, but, what I did find was "Balm of Gilead." A balm or spirits, either way, I love the idea that these buds are medicinal and have healing properties (although I like the idea of the luscious aroma as being the 'spirit' of the tree... :~). The dried, unopened buds of the poplar tree have been used in ointments and skin treatments for at least 3000 years.

"Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived."
Helen Keller

Today while hiking to the beach, I was so moved and intoxicated by the smell of the "Spirits of Gilead" I knew I had to dance the smell and celebrate the tree. My medicine woman mentor has said that if you honor one tree of a species, you honor them all - all the trees of that species feel it as they are all connected. I like that idea - hug one poplar tree and they all receive the love!

I was also drawn to the curves of the boardwalk and the pattern of the planks of wood along the edge of the pond, wanting to interact with them. It was a joy to have the company of the mallard duck pair in the pond to interact with - feeling happy and content to dance this moment with the trees and the ducks beside the pond...

I came across a spiritual hymn from the 1700's with the lyrics:

"Sometimes I feel discouraged and think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.
There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul."

Celebrating the Balm and the Spirits of the poplar trees...

Thank you for viewing! It means a lot to me!

There is a film in the space below:
Music: Satowa
Filmed by Brooke
Visit my butoh mentor's inspiring blog here: Maureen 'Momo' Freehill


  1. so sweet to feel and know that will all that is wounded..there is a cure right there waiting to be received through the glory of this amazingly generous planet of ours...what a precious life you celebrate dear lee. thank you. im looking forward to finding some of these buds now....do not remember ever smelling them before. as usual, you share and enlighten us to poems, beauty, gifts that we would otherwise have missed.

  2. Just beautiful and i love your video, at sixty, it looks to me, of the era of what a 40-50 year old woman "must do" to break into the next realms of living, you do it well!~ blessings