Midsummer Musings by Lucinda Herring
I had the pleasure of vising White Rose Farm for the first time on Saturday. I came for the wonderful puppet show of “Jack and the Beanstalk,” created and performed by Ingrid and Ole of Beech Tree Puppets. It was a blustery, blue-sky day. Birds joined Ole and Ingrid in song, darting back and forth over the puppet theater, as if they too knew to be part of the story unfolding there. It was a magical morning – the day before the Summer Solstice, which falls this year on June 20th.
I felt Sally’s spirit on the land there, even though I never knew her in life. Sally and I had connected deeply last September by phone and email. She was looking for someone to come and live on the farm with her, and had advertised that search. I was looking for a place to live in Maryland, because I was driving across the country from my home on Whidbey Island, north of Seattle, to come care for my four-year old granddaughter during COVID. It turned out White Rose Farm was too far from my daughter’s house. I found a special home on another farm in Clarksville, but Sally and I were looking forward to my coming to White Rose Farm when I got settled. We had so much to share and talk about. We were kindred spirits, inspired and nourished by the same things - one of them being creating seasonal festivals and celebrations as a way to build community, and to co-create with land and place through the turning year.
But it was not meant to be. By the time I arrived in Maryland, Sally was gone. Her sudden death, and the loss of a potentially deep friendship was surprisingly difficult for me. I was thinking of this as I walked the land and visited Sally’s flower beds and gardens.
I was heartened to find St. John’s Wort growing sturdily on the land. St. John’s Wort blooms near the Feast of St. John the Baptist, which is June 24th, old Midsummer’s Day, a festival still celebrated in European countries today. There’s a connection between the Summer Solstice on June 20/21st and Midsummer’s Day, or St. John’s Day, on June 24th, just as there is a connection between the Winter Solstice on December 21st and the birth of the Christ Child on Christmas Eve, December 24th. It’s a weaving of more ancient customs that arise out of the land with the Christian liturgical calendar, a blending of both. Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream arises out of the magic and lore of this summer gateway in time. I have created Midsummer festivals for children, with bonfires to honor the sun at its greatest glory, stories about the faery folk who frolic and dance in the long lingering light, herb lore, singing, feasting and fun. It is a truly magical time, a celebration worthy of reclaiming.
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) was considered an essential herb of Midsummer festivals, gathered and woven into wreaths, and hung on doorways and thresholds, or worn in the hair or on a belt for protection and balance. Its yellow flowers look like tiny suns, bright and golden, shimmering in summer heat. It is a potent medicinal herb, used for treating mental health issues, anxiety, depression and sleep disorders. The herb also treats wounds, nerve damage and skin problems, among other uses. Its oil is collected from the yellow buds before they flower. Pick a bud and squeeze it, and you will create a deep purple red oil that can stain your fingers. That substance is used to make the tinctures, salves and soothing oils used for centuries to heal and restore balance and well-being to those in need.
White Rose Farm is in a time of transition and change – a threshold time, where uncertainty exists, but potential and possibility are also alive and present. I came away from my visit, grateful to have connected with Laurel and the land, with Sally, and with the St. John’s Wort growing there. What a perfect herb and ally to call upon, now, at Midsummer, and in all the days to come. Many blessings to White Rose Farm, to Sally, and to all those who feel called there now to be with the land in new and restorative ways!