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.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.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.