Two summers ago I cleared a gravel-bound garden bed, levered up sod, expanded, planted. And I moved some of my rhubarb plants to better soil.
I didn’t pick any stalks that year, when they were settling in and putting down roots. But now, in this early warmth and soaking rain they are thriving. Some of them will move with me to my new and permanent-as-anything-can-be home, but not just yet.
So I picked some.
Vibrantly red– the reddest rhubarb I’ve ever found. Rhubarb that my mother’s mother tended, and perhaps her mother-in-law before her. The rhubarb of my childhood pies, the rhubarb sauce my grandpa ate straight out of the jar with a spoon (still wearing his work boots and spotted with dirt and oil), the rhubarb that puckered my sisters’ faces as we chomped on whole stalks while running barefoot through the grass and climbing maple trees.
I made myself some crumble and started a new batch of schnapps (fruit + sugar + vodka in a jar, shaken and then forgotten as long as you like).
But most importantly I made a tincture. A magic potion. A blessing and a companion for this whole new life that is so represented by the whole new garden I will plant– dividing in half what grows in the old beds, giving everything more room, more earth, more light, and knowing it will thrive– the plants that stay and the plants that go.
I cleared my altar with fire and water, and set it up new with the luminous jar of hope and steadiness, sweetness and sometimes near-painful intensity in the center. It will sit and steep and deepen and clarify for just over a week. Then, on my first night in my new home, I’ll stand barefoot in the yard, try this medicine that couldn’t have been made any other way, and, like Alice, watch and see what happens to me next.