Welcome to The Nettlesome Life
Nettlesome. Causing annoyance or difficulty. As I write this post I’m sitting at my kitchen table sipping a homemade herbal tea blend, occasional watching the rain fall gently outside my window. Hardly nettlesome. However, there are many things I do, with pleasure, that could be considered by many to be so: making 90% of my meals and snacks from scratch, growing my own food, sewing clothes, making soap, doing home repairs, changing my own windshields wipers, cutting my children’s hair. The list goes on and on really.
The first time I encountered nettles (urtica dioica) I was living in the south of France for a brief period of time. I had just developed an interesting wild edible plants, and after a lifetime in the desert, it was the first time I was living in a place that had enough water to grow all the easily findable wild edibles. I headed out (foraging book in hand) with a baby on my back and a three year old by my side to a stream I suspected might have nettles growing near it. At first I found wild lemon balm (melissa officinalis). The citrusy smell lead me right to it, and I was giddy with my finding. I plucked a leaf and gently massaged it between my fingers and then popped it in my mouth, the taste was so refreshing. I gathered a few stalks to dry and placed them in my basket.
As I turned to go on, I spied another type of green leaf, the one that I had come there for. It was pointed and sharp-toothed, with little hairs on the leaves and stems. Suddenly my fingers tingled with anticipation. I knew if I touched them that I could be stung. Some people describe the sting of nettles as the worst thing on the plant, others shrug it off and eat the leaves raw. (Now you might wonder, why in the world would you eat nettles? Because they are delicious like spinach and full of nutrition.) I looked at my book, I studied them again, and decided the only way to know if they were indeed nettles, without being able to ask someone who knew, was to touch them. I decided I would use my pinky finger because darn it, need my other fingers incase it was horrible. I reached out and touched a leaf, sure enough a gentile brushing was all it took, my finger stung, then began to tingly and feel numb and generally irritated and annoyed. Then of course my three year old decided she’d touch them too. Gah, this had become ironically a nettlesome situation. She’s crying, the baby wakes up and starts crying, I’m at once frustrated, annoyed and over joyed that I’d found what I had wanted to find for so many years. I quickly put on my gloves, cut enough tips off the plants to make meal with and hurry home to find some remedy to stop the sting.
A life that includes annoyance, challenges, and difficulties is actually good for human beings. It’s those challenges and difficulties that require us to step up to the plate and show what we can do. Learning new skills, teaching them to others, taking raw materials and turning them into useful and valuable objects, feeding friends and loved one from the food you started from seed and tended all season, all these and much more lead to a connected, mindful and empowered life. It can be very daunting to step away from convenience, like drive through coffee, microwave meals, paper towels, cheap clothing and throw away electronics, but I hope that this blog will inspire you to step to the challenge and make your life a little more nettlesome. Who knows, like me, you may just come to love the sting that is a nettlesome life.