Ramblings on Zingiber officinale

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From an experiential assignment in February 2013…

An accidental chomp and it is an explosion of bright light and heat. A genuine smile. Drunk as tea, it’s a gentler, simpler warmth. Closed eyes and a look of satisfaction. Even candied, the fieriness breaks through and travels downward to settle a troubled tum.

It’s no coincidence that I sit down to write about ginger (Zingiber officinale) as the flurries dance through the air and are suddenly blown away with a gust and sunbeam. Imbolc sits so close at hand that we turn our faces to one another and nod, and I can grasp her. Midwinter. The valley was surely reached in January, and now it is time to climb. Dried ginger’s concentrated heat is the smoldering spirit within. The critical sustaining force. Fresh ginger is the awakening – the spirit bursting forth: hot, fresh, and invigorating. Ginger represents this pivotal point with its yin and yang – both the burrowing-in and the release.

Ginger is an anchor; a point of interest in meals (happy or shocking, depending on your taste) that also holds a secret for digestion. As a tea it is a comfort, a nurturer, and the scent of the freshly peeled rhizome offers liberation from any deep unsettled state.

Dreams these weeks have been plagued by heat and fire. During two, I awakened to the distinct smell of smoke, looking left and breathing deeply until I was fully awake, and then it was suddenly gone, though the memory stuck. This theme has been at the forefront of my mind. So much so, that I’ve found myself contemplating whether it is some sort of paranoia… “Did I really turn off the stove? Is the house burning while I’m gone? Will we go up in flames as we (if I) sleep? Will I get another call that the new house is on fire?” The flash of the traffic camera on the car ahead of mine startles me, and it takes a moment to process whether there’s been an explosion. Dancing flames over the oil refinery towers catch my eye as I drive towards the city over the bridge and I choke back panic. An unusual obsession.

This transition, represented by fire, embodies vitality roused within each of us. It is a time of rebirth. Where the solstice is a deeper, more reflective shift, Imbolc is a statement, loud and sure. At the solstice, we hold on as the world shifts around us. When winter begins her loosening, we must let go and be swept upward.

The ginger days have had a manic energy, and life a wild uncertainty. I was fighting something. My steady culinary friend threw me for a loop, and I was relieved to close out this brief chapter of connected observation. I had to let the reins go. Enough with the body lashed to the front of a speeding train again! So much fell into place when the straps finally fell limp, and ginger settled back into its safe space. Who am I to try to contain fire? What use is it? To witness and respect its splendor, divine. To keep it kindled and harness its power, sure and lovely. But to box-in and thus suppress this fire? Such a trial serves no one.

So I learn, slowly, to open, to awaken and embrace the warmth (at times narrowly avoiding incineration), and to let go and flow with the release – to travel where the momentum drives, with joy in the soul, reflecting outward, as my first yoga teacher would always remind me, with a smiling, happy face.