Back in December, Tracy Maier, a good friend of mine crossed over into whatever follows this life. It was unexpected.
Tracy was a humble easygoing person who laughed long and hard. I learned a lot from him, but if I ever said so, he’d wave his hand at me like he was waving off an annoying insect. Despite his unwillingness to consider himself a teacher, I learned much from him. Even in his death he taught me a lot, which I’ll come back to at some point.
To honor him I’ve been writing about him. I realized in the process of remembering my stories of Tracy is that the longer he is gone, the more I remember, and to allow myself the freedom of remembering, I’ve decided to tell his stories in a series of blogs. Because honoring him is also an exercise in honoring and enduring the seasons.
Right now the story that is fresh in my mind is about a plant called stinging nettles that comes up in the early spring.
OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!
There was a place near the Clackamas River where Tracy liked to visit and gather stinging nettles early in the spring. It was one of those magically green places where mushrooms winked at you in the corner of your eye, then pretended they weren’t there when you looked to see what it was. The kind of place that makes a person want to believe in fairies.
We were there for a couple of hours visiting the tall spiky devil’s club, the cedar, and, of course gathering stinging nettles. He taught me first to sit in the area, watching, listening. Noticing what other plants are there, what birds and creepers and crawlers are about their business. He taught me to ask permission and make an offering to the plants. His offerings were usually the marc left over from tincture making or any dried nettle leaves left over from the year before. Then he taught me to gather nettles by snipping off the top of the plant, leaving enough of the plant there to sprout two more stalks. Late summer he returned to gather the long stalks to make baskets.
I wandered off, filling my bag with the nettle tops, I kept getting a song in my head. “All you need is love;” a goofy relic from my childhood. But it persisted enough that I told Tracy. He grumbled. “Huh?” Mumble, mumble. Then he turned away and I’m pretty sure he said something about “off with their heads.”
I’ll never know if he was talking about the nettles or the Beatles.
And he probably wouldn’t say if I asked.