In the spring, the scent of cottonwood wafts gently over the sunbeams and birdsong in warming woodlands of Robinwood. It smells of newness, unfolding, opening space, that sticky amber mineral-rich resin, bright, peppery and sweet.
If you know this smell, it’s in your heart. It will remind you of rebirth and wild magic, the medicine of the woods, a pure and faultless joy – It’s the first scent of early spring. It’s time for growth, light, rising to life. You made it, winter is over, the forest fairies are coming home, the root children are yawning and stretching, and it’s time to go outside and play.
Or maybe that’s just me.
Cottonwood trees are incredibly tall, so I can only collect the buds from windfall. The thick red sticky resin in each bud is packed with antimicrobial properties, anti-oxidants, and contains a chemical compound called Salicin which is an anti-inflammatory also found in willow trees, and is the origin of aspirin. Then, it becomes a salve called “Balm of Gilead”, which I did not come up with. It’s a thing.
Anyway, this salve is commonly used for skin irritations, arthritic aches and pains, and minor wounds. I have it around at all times, especially now, to soothe my worn-out winter-dry hands and a worn-out winter(COVID fatigue) spirit, to remind me that the wild sweetness of spring is coming.