People call me to fix leaks. I’m a plumber. I have to cut into walls sometimes to replace old pipes. What I find there, you may call family secrets. Yesterday, in an old stone house, behind some crumbling plaster, I found a stack of old letters in their original envelopes tied together with hemp twine. There was a note on top: “To whoever finds these letters,” and it was signed: “Margaret Emond”.
Letter no. 1 – May 21st, 1854Dear Mystery Friend,Ever since I was a little child, I stood still watching people. People appear warm and clever but are preoccupied with ambitions. They pretend to converse with motives unspoken. I find myself not caring for their presence. I distance myself as my suffering from people’s absence from their heart is too heavy to bear. I have come to be a quiet person.I walked to the park to watch the swans earlier today. My spirit filled rejuvenated and blessed with hope.I cannot suppose men and women of all races and religions will treat each other with contempt forever. I long for a friendship with someone open to a true sharing of the soul. I hope you will take my confidence to heart kindly.Sincerely,M. E.
I am making plans to visit my aging parents for the end of the year holidays. On the phone, my father asked me for a favor. He told me he needed nettle roots. He makes it into an herbal tea; it helps lower his PSA levels and relieves pressure from his swelling prostate. He can no longer find it at the health stores near him and wondered if the stores near me would have some.
My friend Mel called Chris, a farmer friend of hers, and we were soon driving to his farm. He told us there were different species of nettles. He’d never heard of their roots being used for medicinal purposes and thought he should look into it for his own father. He directed us to a meadow where he pointed at two patches of tall brown growths.
We did not have to dig too deep and large amounts of roots came with each shovelful of dirt without too much effort. In half an hour we had two tall buckets filled with roots. There was plenty more. We gave them a quick rinse and went home.
Letter no. 2 – May 28th, 1854I wonder about your era, Mystery Friend. Are people still bickering over racial and gender divides? Are people celebrating life? Are people living with passion? Oh! I am elated at the idea of seeing something of your world!M. E.
“It has to be roots from the stinging nettle,” Dad said on the phone.
“That’s what I have. Do you know what part of the root I need to dry up?”
“What do you mean?”
“I did not buy them at the health store. I dug them up at a local farm.”
“Are they organic?”
“How do you know?”
“The farmer said they are. I trust him.”
“And you are going to dry them up?”
“Yes, Mel has a food dehydrator. But I need to know what part of the root has the healing properties you are looking for.”
He did not know. A day later we had the same answer; we can use the entire root.
Washing the roots and chopping them up to get them ready for the dehydration process, I thought of my relationship with Dad. Neither he nor I are herbalists. He is a historian. He seeks for and reads old documents from archives. He pieces facts together like puzzles. He does not try to say more than the documents say. If something is missing, he keeps searching until he finds answers that make sense.
I don’t live in the same world as Dad. I work hard and don’t mind getting my hands dirty. Dad and I, we do not have much in common except for fitting pieces of puzzles together; different kinds of pieces.