I am lucky enough to have the pleasure of collaborating with my dear friend Steph Zabel, the founder of Herbstalk. This past weekend we got together to teach a class called “Waking Up to Spring with Herbs,” in which we discussed how to use, grow, and forage the herbs that support and nurture us as we transition from the black and white months of winter into the dawning deliciousness of spring.
As I searched for the tiny first leaves of Urtica dioica—deep green, laced with acid, and tinged purple-red—I discovered other things. There were the crocuses, closed from the cold, but still stalwart and sweet. Long pearls of snowdrop buds dangled in delicate drifts. I also found a single squill blossom, ragged but deeply blue and alive.
Bramble leapt over and sidled the path, catching on my skirt and grabbing at my bare knees. Beyond the bramble rose cattails, some still fuzzy with the seed heads they had grown months before, swaying around me. Beyond the marsh were witch hazels, their spidery flowers egg yolk yellow, and a tremendous grandmother of a silver maple with branches tipped in a burgundy haze.
Snowflakes occasionally laced through the branches, stalks, and stems as I continued searching, and eventually I stumbled upon my prize: a tiny patch of nettles in miniature, their infant leaves unfanning and little stingers shimmering. Gratefully I snipped a few and laid them in a paper bag. Overhead and throughout the marsh the red-winged blackbirds sang, and I headed home with a handful of brand new life in my arms.