Evolution in Writing

The whole notion of including healing plants in Bitter, Sweet evolved over time while I was writing. I didn’t set out to include it, and I don’t know exactly why it came to play such an important part in the book. Well, yes and no. Maybe I do know more than I’m letting on.

Sometimes an idea begins so small that we have no thoughts as to where it might end up. We find a place for it in our story because it feels right, but it doesn’t want to go away. It comes back again and again until it evolves into a full-blown story idea. Soon that one little idea begins to play an important role without our planning it right from the start. I imagine that’s the best way for me to describe how medicinal plants became so important in the book.

Queen Anne's Lace

When I was growing up my father showed me where gold thread could be found. As I recall, it wasn’t far from our house. He dug in the ground with his hands and delicately brought out the tiny gold threads. I remember thinking how totally wonderful it was that these tiny gold threads were hidden beneath the ground and could be used as medicine. This scene sticks in my mind even now, and so I decided to add a scene in the book where Pru’s mother shows her gold thread one day while they are out in the woods together.

My father also knew about brewing juniper berries and a few other native plants in the area. I’m fairly certain that these things were common knowledge to many people, in this area, back years ago. But then modern medicine came along and for some reason people started to believe that medicine should come from a bottle instead of the plant world around us. Kind of sad to think that many of the older ways have been replaced. I’m sure to some, this whole idea of using plants for healing feels new; a bit trendy–and it is—but of course this is nothing new. It just feels new to those of us who did not grow up feeling that closeness, that connection we all have to nature.

Medical Herbalist, Jeanette Poirier

Yesterday, we attended the Mi’kmaq & Acadian Cultural Festival and Reunion at the Fort Point Museum. Herbalist, Jeanette Poirier, took a group of us on a herbal walk around the area where we looked at Queen Anne’s Lace, yarrow, plantain, and golden rod. She explained to us the importance of being respectful of all living things around us and to always say thank you whenever we harvest something from the earth.

I’m still keenly interested in this subject, and have an idea that I might one day revisit this subject again in my writing. I sometimes think that the notions that are brought to us in childhood hold more importance to us during our adult years than we often want to admit. One thing I am most certain of is this: just as the world and all life in it evolves and changes, so do the things we write about.

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  1. I really enjoyed this post, Laura. :-) I once read that the women called witches were actually just herbal “doctors”, but feared because their healing knowledge of plants also gave them the knowledge to poison. I have two or three herbal tomes, but sadly little time for gardening or gathering now.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post, Linda. Sadly, there has been a great deal of misunderstanding and fear throughout history surrounding this subject.

  2. You live in such a lovely area. I think it’s a blessing to live where nature give you such pleasure. We were out today picking Huckleberries and Saskatoons. Even DH remarked on how blessed we are for living in nature. Jeanette sounds like a wise lady.

    • Nature is something we need to immerse ourselves in, really get out there and enjoy the bounty that surrounds us. Canada is a very beautiful country. Jeanette is very knowledgeable and we all had a marvelous time.

  3. There is so much truth in what you’ve written. :-) Writing takes us on so many journeys and I’m always amazed at how one idea can lead to another. When I set out to write anything, I’ve learned to write everything that comes to mind whether I think I will use it or not in the piece I’m writing. There’s always a chance I’ll come back to it later on. :-)

    • That sounds like a good idea, C.B., to write everything that comes to mind. Those things we end up not using can so easily be weeded out later. :)

  4. Great post, Laura. I’ve always been interested in the medicinal properties of plants, too. The plantain ointment mentioned in my novel is the same I make. I’ll never be without a bottle again. I used it on the kids when they had the chicken pox and it almost eliminated the itching, and they didn’t look like horrid ghosts. I applied it to each sore in the morning and before they went to bed. It helped take out the redness and helped them to heal faster.

    Healing plants always seem to find a place in my novels. I suppose it’s because they are a part of my life just as apples and cranberries.

    Ah, the witches (aka healers) of old. I’ve told my kids witches are just like doctors, school teachers and dentists: some are kind and some are mean. To paint them all as evil is a mistake.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post, Diane. We do seem to have much in common. I look forward to actually meeting with you one day. :) I was excited the way you incorporated plants into your book. I’d like to know more about the plantain ointment, actually.

  5. Madison Woods

     /  August 21, 2011

    Laura I love that you’ve included the plants in your story without thinking. That’s what I do too, and I almost can’t help it.

    • Yes, healing plants are also a huge part of your life, Madison. I’m not surprised that they make it into your writing.

  6. Ann Best

     /  August 22, 2011

    What a lovely post, Laura! You write so beautifully, I love stopping by.

    We do carry many, many notions, some sub-conscious I suspect, with us from our childhood. I remember my Aunt Laura’s recipe for canker sores that came from “nature.” There’s so much in nature I miss living in an area where I’m surrounded only by a small patch of grass and a few bushes!

    I, too, have been interested, especially in the last few decades, with the healing properties of plants/herbs. Recently I discovered the aloe plant–not a derivative but the real thing.

    (And thanks for stopping by my blog the other day and commenting on my Beach Boys post. Their performance in our small city was very special for my daughter.)

    • Thanks so much for your kind words, Ann.

      Many of us know have recipes or know of family members with recipes that use plants. I’m so glad it’s becoming more common again and that people are actually taking it serious. It’s definitely something I want to learn more about.

  7. It is interesting how our lives are intertwined in our writing, the experiences combined like ingredients that become cake batter, creating food for thought.

    • The reason our writing can be so individual is that we all bring somethine new to the page, stemming from our life experiences. It is why we will never run out of fresh new ideas to write about.


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