A Writer’s Retreat

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As you know from my previous post, I’m working on a novel for NaNoWriMo. What you don’t know is that this year, my story is set in a place inspired by the area around Fiancé’s parents’ lake house in the Poconos. When I mentioned to him that it would be nice to be able to write in the setting that is my inspiration, he immediately suggested we take a little weekend retreat up to the house so I could write and we could rather get away from it all. It’s a beautiful place, set back in the woods, right on the shore of a small lake. Now, in November, it’s much too cold to go swimming, but I enjoy the mornings and the chill in the air. And it is very peaceful for a writer.

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With nothing else to do, I spent the weekend writing, eating delicious hearty food, drinking plenty of tea and whisky, and just generally enjoying the peace, quiet, and beautiful surroundings. I shared a little bit of it on my Instagram story. And then, Sunday morning, we woke up to this.

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The beautiful autumnal landscape had transformed overnight into a magical winter snowscape. A thick blanket of snow covered everything, making this beautiful place even more peaceful, and it inspired me to bring winter to my novel. I’d never seen the lake in the winter before, so it was even a new experience in my inspiring setting. I continued to write, and then we called a plow to dig us out, so we could head back to our daily lives. I managed to write 10,000 words over a single weekend and figure out where I was actually going with the story, so it was overall a fantastic success. I hope the other WriMos out there are enjoying their November and finding their inspiration!

Cottage Herbalism

I don’t remember how I first learned about herbs and herbal remedies. Probably my mother made a tea of some sort. But at some point I developed an affinity for herbalism. I’ve taken a few classes, but am mostly a self-study, and at this point in my life, have settled into a kind of casual, cottage herbalism, as I like to call it. A kind of timeless healing that eschews potent herbs or attempts to break in and heal aggressively in favor of gentle remedies that supplement a healthy lifestyle and modern medicine when needed.

My favorite remedies are herbal teas. I often buy blends from Traditional Medicinals, although I dislike that they use stevia and liquorice to flavor many of their blends, so I also love the single-herb tea bags from Celebration Herbals and Alvita. I find that using simples (single herbs) to start is good to make sure you don’t have any adverse reactions. And a basic herbal book is nice to keep track of any obscure contraindications, like avoiding parsley and rosemary in medicinal quantities during pregnancy.

But my herbalism is relaxing and soothing. It is a cup of chamomile-lavender tea before bed to soothe strained nerves. It’s a brew of ginger root for an upset stomach or red clover, echinacea, honey, and lemon for a cold. I once developed a really nasty, flat-on-my-back-on-the-couch cold the day before an audition that I really, really wanted to go to. I drank echinacea, honey, and lemon tea 4-5 times that day and was easily well enough to audition.

From there, I occasionally turn to tinctures and extracts when I need a bit more support. My favorite company right now is called Urban Moonshine. They primarily make delicious herbal bitters, which I take to help digestion sometimes. They’re also tasty just added to a glass of sparkling water. But their tonics stand out to me. They keep their recipes simple and don’t use very potent herbs, but their Joy Tonic, a blend of linden, rose, and motherwort, helps balance me during the high stress times of my life.

I used to make some simple tinctures of my own, but I’ve fallen out of the habit. It’s not difficult, and you can use either fresh or dried herbs. The important part is to use a lot of herb, steep it for at least a month, and shake it often. A few years back, I made a set of tinctures that served most of my needs. Hypericum (St. John’s Wort) for low times, Viburnum (Crampbark) for PMS, and Leonurus (Motherwort) for stress. While I’ve largely replaced these with the Joy Tonic (and a little ginger tea for cramps), they served me well for a long time.

And, of course, I have my own Gardener’s Herbal Tea blend, which I haven’t drunk as faithfully, but may end up back in my morning routine. The nettles will help calm my sinuses, and the other herbs will support a rather frayed system from the stress of preparing for my show’s opening weekend.

Do any of you have favorite gentle herbal remedies? Anyone experiment with casual herbalism, rather than trying to be very medicinal about things?

A Walk ‘Round the Lake

The other day it was grey and cool, but not too cold, and I decided to take a walk around the lake near me. It’s something I do often on weekends and days off. The sky was lovely and dramatic, but without any rain, and the weather was just nice enough that I could get away wearing a light jacket.

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I first got to the lake and saw this archway of fluff. I’m not certain what type of tree it is, but the effect was rather striking.

There were other trees around the lake, mostly evergreens. Some were cut off at a point, the work of our resident beaver. The lake itself was covered in ducks and geese, and it was quiet. There were not a whole lot of people around, despite what I thought was nice weather. I suppose most don’t consider a cool, grey day to be the perfect weather for an outing.

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As I made my way around the path, I heard strains of music wafting over from a nearby chapel. Their belltower plays a concert every afternoon. There was a light breeze, but I found myself growing warm. By the time I got home I was rosy-cheeked and invigorated. It was a lovely walk.