Sweet Gale & Canoe Trip

It started in March while there was still snow on the ground—a strong yearning to smell sweet gale. I longed to run my hands through the plant, to bring my hands to my face, and inhale deeply its sweet-slightly-spicy perfume. For me, the smell is warming and comforting, and also uplifting and fortifying. I badly wanted the comfort and rejuvenation of this smell. I felt it as an instinct—a need to be with the plant. It was a desire for a smell and a plant that I knew would work to calm my nerves and bring a smile to my soul. I wanted to be lakeside, and to be on canoe trip where these plants would be beside me. 

Smell is often discussed as a strong trigger of memories. And though this smell is surely associated with many good memories, this was different. It was the longing for the smell of sweet gale itself, and the instinct to soothe myself with it. I have a similar sort of instinct when my daughter and husband are away, and I might sleep in my daughter’s bed or with one of their pillows to feel closer to them and to be comforted by that. The sense of smell is powerful in this way too.

Recently, I listened to Joseph Pitawanakwat of Creators Garden explain that they harvested some sweet gale seeds to keep in a jar next to their daughter’s bed so she could smell them before bed or in case of a bad dream. Chi-miigwech Joe for sharing this Anishinaabe plant knowledge.

We did get out on canoe trip, and it was perfect. We had plenty of time to play, to relax and explore. We fell into the simplicity and daily rhythms that are canoe trip. Our excitement revolved around the menu and discovering what the next lake and campsite might be like.

Our beings soaked in the wilderness. The warmth of sun and the coolness of the water was a pattern repeated. Our eyes thanked the beauty of the water, rocks and green. We took note of the complexity of beings calling the lakes and the bordering vegetation home. My curiousity grew about how certain plants, insects, and fish were interacting. We enjoyed visits of Red Crossbills, and the animated, nighttime Barred Owl conversations. We watched the small fish beneath, and greeted the frogs and dragonflies at every portage. I lent my ears to the dip and drip of the paddles, and the plaintive wails of the loons. And I most certainly buried my nose in deep gratitude in many sweet gale bushes.

Thank-you sweet gale.