A Story of Hawthorn

“There are only two things: energy and its direction. One needs both energy and a direction, the direction is the dream you have, and you have plenty of energy – knowing you. So “Never Give Up!” for me is to continue to attempt to build the dream, the love life, the Path with Heart. I appreciate u sharing yr struggles as I struggle as well, with other things. But the resolve, the decision to put energy towards a direction is everything for me. Many times I notice people seem “directionless” or they don’t have any energy. Sometimes I’ve lost both.”

~ federico1871 (aka Louis Hillman, aka Fred, aka Jones)
RIP May 5, 2019

I met Jones just over 10 years ago while working on setting up a temporary free first aid and wellness center. I don’t think he’d encountered many herbalists. He was intrigued by the wonder of finding healing in the plants and trees.

At the time I was working on a farm in Wisconsin and he came to visit. He wanted to learn more about healing his heart. He knew that the heart attack he’d had years before was a wake up call about his physical and emotional health. I introduced him to Hawthorn.

The tannins in Hawthorn gave rise to its reputation as a heart tonic. The antioxidants in the leaves, flowers, and berries support the circulatory system. It is known as a heart healer on emotional and physical levels. As a member of the Apple family, it has similar properties to the older smaller apples of the past. Today apples have become giant globes of sugar through the collective desire for sweeter than sweet. Perhaps a handful of Hawthorn berries a day is better advice, though most people make them into jelly, syrups, tinctures, or tea.

There are many stories about Hawthorn. Solitary trees are doors to the fairy realm. It’s safer to take the flowers or fruit from the hedges rather than the solitary trees to avoid fairy abduction. It’s ill-advised to uproot the thorny hedge (haw is an old English word for hedge) bringing bad luck in many European traditions. Also avoid bringing the flowers inside your home and certainly don’t harvest before May Eve (luckily it tends to bloom in June here). But on the flip side, sprigs and thorns were worn as protective amulets against lightning, fairies, and bad luck. The sickly sweet smell of the blossoms inspires a sense of the passion of Summer Love and the balance that Death brings in the great wheel of Life.

But this is a story about Jones.

Jones wanted to get to know the Hawthorn tree. Spend some time under it. Observe the tree to see what it needed. So I left him with some pruning shears in the event that pruning was the need and let him be.

I went about my business, which included the daily haul of water. I was staying in an off-the-grid straw bale house that had no plumbing. The water pump was down by the garden, not far from where the Hawthorn lives.

So later in the day I’m hauling my water up the hill and as I pass the other cabins I see a man standing out in the hay field. I can’t see clearly because I’m facing West (so is he). There are many visitors on this farm, so it could be anyone as far as I’m concerned. I continue on without a further thought about it.

The next morning, Jones is a bit anxious about wanting to cook breakfast for me. I’m not sure what his story is until halfway through the meal he tells me he had a significant experience with the Hawthorn.

“I sat with the tree for about an hour. I experienced all of the emotions I’d been hiding away. Grief. Fear. Joy. And a bit of Anger for all the mistakes. But mostly Joy. The joy of being alive. The joy of experiencing emotions in general. The joy of plants and trees. The joy of watching the sunset as the colors slide across the sky and down into the horizon. At that moment, I realized that Hawthorn also wanted to see the sunset. I cut a few branches and took them up to the hay field as a way to carry the spirit of Hawthorn to watch the sunset.”

And then, in that moment, he also tells me that despite his plans to stay for a week, he felt a bit desperate to get back home. So off he goes.

I heard from him many times about how he found other Hawthorns here or there. I later introduced him to Mullein, a plant associated with Grief. And over the years, he has been in touch with creative ideas about promoting the Trillium Center and herbalism in general. Often commenting on our blogs, encouraging us, and expressing the inspiration to try new things. His quote above is one that I will hold dear in my remembrance of him. But back to the farm in Wisconsin.

There are two ways to prune a tree. One method encourages growth in a particular direction while another discourages growth in an effort to increase production.

When I went back and looked at that Hawthorn, I realized that Jones had pruned a few branches in a way that would encourage the tree to get taller. He had pruned so that the tree’s energy would move in the direction of the sky instead of pruning like an apple to improve production.

Perhaps one day the Hawthorn will be tall enough to look west and feel the rays of the setting sun on its leaves while Jones steps off into the world of our Ancestors, whatever and wherever that may be.