In Search of Basil
Have you ever stumbled upon a piece of genius that stopped you in your tracks and uplifted you so much that it stayed with you and you chewed on it, ruminated on it for so long that it almost became you? That recently happened to me as I was searching for poems that mentioned Basil (Ocimum basilicum).
Poems and other art forms often bring inspiration when I need a muse for any creative process I’m muddling through. When I was writing a piece about Basil a few months ago I was in hot pursuit of a poem that conjured that spicy, diabolical plant. Among all of the beautiful pieces encountered (e.g., “Isabella; Or The Pot Of Basil” by John Keats) emerged a gem that made my heart sing and my mind go wild called “The Other Woman.” (I’m not kidding, no hyperbole here.) WOW. I couldn’t stop reading it over and over and reciting it out loud until I could capture its cadence and melt into it.
The Other Woman By Twyla M. Hansen as I picture her she has no basil no cumin no sun-hardened hyssop nor sage around her eyes she never catnips but laughs comfrey tansy with a primula smile as I think of her she's angelica foxglove and jasmine somewhat peppermint not letting you see all her saffron at once one day I’ll meet her that rue woman that wild indigo teasel somewhere neutral free of woodruff and of dropwort some summer savory she's the nose set to lavender eye full of sesame ear ringing rosemary she's wind through wild thyme
The Wild Side We Stuff Away
Does the poem make you smile too? Not a little smile, but a big-goofy smile that allows your wild side to come through? I believe you don’t have to be a “woman” or “man,” or any identifier you prefer, to let this poem get inside you and tickle your bones. “The Other Woman” is not a wanton harlot who stole your lover or partner.
The parts that held some curiosity, wonder and imagination, possibly a deep need for and understanding of nature. A reassurance that the sun and moon will rise, soil will be there, air readily available and the tides will always do what they do; providing enough constancy and stability to live in your true skin as you play within the earth-moon-sun-water-air container. Playing in the mud. Being unruly and unsightly, sometimes abrasive and coarse.
The Other Woman is not “NICE.” Oh! ALL of that stuff that gets tidied up and sweep away in order to be “NICE” or “GET BY” in life. The shadow side of you that got stuffed away, but when you see it in other people it irks you, gets into your bones. Makes you itch. Because, deep down, you know you can be that way but are not “supposed” to for some made-up reason.
All of This From Basil, a Plant?
The Other Woman is a lover of nature. A lover who wildly embraces all types of everything for what it is. She laughs boldly with the sun and howls with the moon. Take Rue (Ruta graveolens), mentioned in the poem. Rue symbolically dances with and embodies the sun. But remember, Icarus got too close to the sun and got burned so-to-speak. Dare I write that Rue is as sacred as the sun. The fun thing about several sacred plants is that they often have associated risks, like dancing with fire energy. Rue has chemistry that may cause drastic irritation which is enhanced by sun exposure. This embodies the lesson that you sometimes get burned when playing with the sun. An interesting thing is that Rue doesn’t get along with Basil very well in the garden. I guess everyone has their own antagonist.
Here’s another one that rolls off the tongue from the poem: “Wild indigo teasel” (Dipsacus sylvestris )! Sometimes the phrase pops into my head out of no where! Say it out loud, I dare you! That beautiful, invasive, prickly monster of a plant which is hated by many for its barbed armor, ability to readily seed and penchant for surviving in in the toughest of places. Introduced to North America from Europe, supposedly for textile processing, this plant stands its ground with a tap root as long as two feet. “Wild indigo teasel,” whose often purple flowers may entice but spiny stems communicate to back off as it protects itself and the land it calls home. Perhaps Teasel is a symbol of resilience, standing ground and having the wherewithal to protect itself and others.
Maybe I’m dead wrong about this poem. I don’t care. It makes me smile and see through my mind’s eye the wild-child self is still smiling like the sun, playing in the mud, hiking in the wetlands and being fascinated by milkweed and skunk cabbage. These poem’s lines often fall in and out of my mind. It sings in my blood and helps conjure up the courage to embrace that “wild thyme” that I somehow stuffed deep into my medicine bag of tricks accumulated through life to help me navigate this wild messy world among other humans. Does this resonate with you too?
And Finally, An Aromatic Offering…
With such an inspirational poem and plunging into the depths of “The Other Woman” who is in all of us, it’s time to think about excavating your Other, your Wild Side. There are many ways to tap into this; one way is by working with aromatic plants and their essential oils. Combine the following essential oils into a “stock bottle” to help coax out your Other|Wild Side!
- 10 drops of Basil (Ocimum basilicum ct linalol): for igniting your inner fire and initiating focus needed to tune-out the external world and focus on your inner processes
- 15 drops of Laurel (Laurus nobilis) to bring strength, courage and bravado to your soul
- 30 drops Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) to bridge the blend and connect the parts of you that seem fragmented, too tight or too loose.
Want some usage ideas? Put a few drops in a diffuser and spend 5 minutes a day doing breath work as you sit with the molecules or put a 20 to 30 drops into a 2 ounce spray bottle to use daily, as a mood mist, as you conjure up your “Other Woman” (click here for more information on making an aromatic spritzer)!
Further Reading and Other Poems
If you are interested in “shadow work” (e.g., Jungian-type work), check out works by Robert Bly (below is a link to a recording I did of his “Conversation with the Soul”–another poem that got into my bones YEARS ago and WILL NOT leave!), Marion Woodman, and the “Buddhist-vampire” blog I love revisiting from time-to-time. By no means are the aforementioned the only wisdom on this type of work, but I find them to be impactful references. Thank you for your attention and time!