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YO MAMA: The arnica will bloom again

FILE PHOTO - Arnica flowers are wild perennials which pop up around May in the Okanagan.
FILE PHOTO - Arnica flowers are wild perennials which pop up around May in the Okanagan.



Every spring for the past five years, I’ve gone into the woods behind my house and harvested a small number of arnica flowers. These wild perennials pop up around May and can be steeped in olive oil for future use in anti-inflammatory salves and creams.

While I am by no means a veteran forager, learning about plants and their medicinal uses has been a cherished hobby over the past decade of my life, a chance to quietly connect with nature and devote time to personal learning.

After my son was born, I had full intentions of continuing my tradition. He came in late March, which gave me almost two months before picking time. I pictured myself on hands and knees, the baby snug against me in a carrier, harvesting a basketful of flowers.

The arnica began to bloom when my son was three weeks old. It was an early, warm spring. I knew there was only about a two week window, maybe less, where the flowers would be in bloom.

Every day on our stroller walks (the baby did not, at the time, enjoy being in the carrier) I gazed at the polkadot-yellow blooms peeking out from the forest, calling to me. Most days, I forgot a bag, and on the days I remembered, the baby started crying and I would race back home to feed him.

There just never seemed to be enough time. The flowers began to wilt and die. Even if I did manage to harvest some blooms, I doubted I would have the energy to do much with them.

So I missed a year.

In fact, I skipped a lot of things that first year. I had less time for things like biking, baking, canning, breakfast dates with friends and reading — pursuits that filled my free time before I had a child. I often grew frustrated that I couldn’t do it all and raise a child.

A year is about how long it takes for your old life to start seeping back into your new one. That first year can feel like an awfully long time, or it can feel like no time at all.

By one year old, your child is able to do so many things independently, and can participate more in the routines of daily life. Things don’t exactly go “back to normal.” It’s more like a new normal, a hybrid of your pre-and-post-baby life. 

The arnica bloomed again when my son was about 13 months old. He couldn’t quite walk yet but he was happy to sit on a bed of moss pulling apart petals while I filled a ziplock bag with blooms. What a difference a year makes.

I felt like I’d gotten something back, some integral part of my old life and, more importantly, of myself. But not only had I gotten something back, I’d gained something too: a companion forager.

Like most youngsters, my son already loved the outdoors and was usually happiest playing in the dirt. Being outside together was — and still is — one of my absolute happiest times. 

I have a few jars of salve made from oil infused with the blooms we collected during my son’s second springtime.

Whenever I open it up and inhale its sweet aroma, I am transported back to that day in the woods, my son covered in confetti-like yellow petals, a bit of dew from the inside of a flower glistening on his nose.

It was worth waiting a year for that moment, for the arnica to bloom again.

— Charlotte Helston gave birth to her first child, a rambunctious little boy, in the spring of 2021. Yo Mama is her weekly reflection on the wild, exhilarating, beautiful, messy, awe-inspiring journey of parenthood.


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