A False Spring

Remember last week, when we reminded you to take care of your immune systems? We're doubling down on this idea, because, while spring is beginning to swell early in plum buds and acacia flowers, the cold and flu season is also still in full swing, and that pesky omicron shows no sign of stopping anytime soon.
Our native blue elderberry makes an excellent syrup, but the large bushes are leafless and without berries now, in these winter months; they flowered last spring, and their dark, dusky berries were ripe by fall. Luckily, dried elderberries are readily available; our local health food stores carry them in the bulk section. So this week's featured recipe, for an Elderberry Thyme Echinacea Syrup is one that can be made whenever the need arises, and kept in the fridge for weeks after making. Our friend Ashlee recently shared that she likes to use it combined with salt and olive oil, as a substitute for balsamic vinegar, on salads and in cooking. In a season where lettuce is coming on strong, it's a fun way to take our medicine; not just on a spoon, but incorporated into our meals and our lives, seamlessly and deliciously integrated into our everyday habits. Imagine this dark, thick, sweet brew, drizzled over a salad with walnuts and apple slices...it's wellness on a fork, and delicious, at that.

There seems to be a bit of resignation in the air of late, a weariness about Covid and the seemingly endless restrictions, the masking, the limited gathering. While there's no denying that things have been difficult these last few years, it can be empowering to take preventative steps, like the crafting of this herbal immune support syrup, a way to embrace and even enhance the necessary precautions with a bit of homemade medicine. The elderberry is a local plant, and it feels good to call on the assistance of our local plants in order to help take care of our own inner environment, as well as that of our larger community. Make a big batch, and offer it up to neighbors or friends, a sweet, medicinal way to strengthen immunity and community at the same time.

These warm days, though! The air is heady with the approach of spring. We often experience a kind of "Juneuary" here in the Santa Cruz Mountains, a luscious warm spell near the end of winter that lulls us into forgetting that there are still going to be months of mornings laced with cold white frost, as well, hopefully, as some more rain. So it is a kind of "first spring" or 'false spring" that we find ourselves drifting into now. We just try to take it for what it is, and not get too attached to ideas of permanence, a return to normal, an orderly progression of the seasons. We're beyond that, now. We can only appreciate the days for what they have to offer, one by one; the song of songbirds in early morning, the croak of frogs by evening. The sun, slanting low between the redwood boughs, or shining full on the green slopes above the ocean. The peas gaining vigor by the day, fat stems and strong tendrils, hauling themselves up the stick arbor to find the sun. The sunsets, reddened by fire, loss and beauty inextricably intertwined; acceptance of what is, is sometimes a bitter medicine, but there is value to be found in it.

By Jessica Tunis