As always, the fire is burning and crackling cheerfully, warming the home hearth of the humble little cabin by the lake. Gramp’s nightly ritual is soothing and comforting in its familiarity. We know it off by heart yet it never fails to fascinate. The meerschaum pipe. The slow and methodical cleaning ritual. The smell of fresh pipe tobacco. The air filled with hushed expectancy. And of course the loud purring of One Eye , the cat, sleeping on his lap.
Last time we were here, Gramps told us how Cat’s name had changed to One Eye. We had left them all alone, deep in the forest. One Eye barely alive, had been badly wounded by the attack of a feral cat. Minus an eye, her life hung in balance as Gramps frantically worked to tend her terrible wounds.
He promised to tell us how he helped her to heal. That time is now.
Aaah, my beloved little ones, said Gramps. I can see you are anxious to hear what happened next after that terrible wild cat attack. As you may remember, we were far away from civilisation, surrounded by trees and a bubbly, flowing creek. I had chosen our camp site with care, making sure we were close to everything we needed for a comfortable resting place.
Of course, I was not to know that other creatures had that very same idea. I should have guessed it really. As it turned out, many creatures of the forest came to that very spot to drink of the sweet, pure water. Seeing us there, they gave wide berth, going further down. I also kept the fire burning day and night. Wild animals fear fire, so it kept them away.
Many long years before One Eye came into my life, I had spent quite some years working for a Bedouin camel caravan travelling a trade route known as the King’s Highway. From Egypt, through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel and Syria, it transported highly sought after exotic goods to many a place. There were spices, bolts of gossamer light silken cloths, fragrant herbs, incense and resins to name just a few. It was hard, dangerous work travelling through the desert. But the rewards were great. Eventually I grew tired of the hard, dangerous work. With me I took my share of the wealth and earnings. Far more than I would have earned in a lifetime elsewhere. Of even greater value was the knowledge I had gained of their ancient healing techniques. That knowledge has served me well all my life.
In fact, it was that priceless knowledge which I used to treat One Eye. First I threw a handful of dried flowers and leaves of valerian and chamomile into the fire. The smoke helped One Eye to relax and ease his pain. Filling a small basin with the boiled tincture, I next soaked some clean strips of cloth in it. While it was cooling, I gently wiped the wounds and the empty eye socket with more clean cloth dipped into the same water. Warmth and moisture is soothing and so much easier for cleaning congealed blood and dirt. It was slow, tedious work. But One Eye let me do what I must without fuss. She knew it was helping. I put the used strips aside for washing later. The boiled water would be good for that too.
When I had finished cleaning the wounds, I again washed my hands carefully. Always remember that cleanliness is the most important thing in tending to the sick and injured. Wringing out the steeped strips of cloth, I added essence of frankincense, myrrh, spikenard and balsam and packed the empty eye socket gently with the poultice. The mix would help healing and kill any infection or bacteria that might still be there. I also rubbed this same mix gently on all her other wounds. I repeated the process many times over the following few weeks. Finally, I gently wrapped her in a soft blanket to keep her warm and comfortable. Sleep helps the body to do its healing work.
That first night, I slept fitfully with her close by my side, tending the fire, coaxing her to sip a tonic of honey and valerian as often as possible. This, I knew, would help her to sleep as well ease any discomfort. Day by day One Eye grew stronger. As soon as I could, I foraged in the forest for moss and lichens to use as clean bedding. It makes for a soft, comfortable bed, as well as being good for healing. This I changed every day to keep it clean and vibrant. One Eye was safely tucked into a sling I hung around my neck on these excursions. I could not risk leaving her alone.
Some three weeks later One Eye was strong enough for us to start back to civilisation. Along the way, I taught her to walk, hunt and look with one eye. It did not take her long. When she grew tired, I carried her in the sling while she rested. And so we returned to the port from whence we had left. There, I sent a message to my friends the Bedouins, with a list of all the things I needed to replenish my emergency kit. It was pretty well all used up by then.
To this very day, I will not go anywhere without it. There it is, said Gramps, pointing to a box in the corner. Just then, as if she had been listening all along, One Eye, jumped down from his lap, stretched lazily, and ambled over to the kit, sniffing and rubbing herself against it.
© Raili Tanska
Mother Earth’s medicine chest is full of healing herbs of incomparable worth.
Robin Rose Bennet