Lisa Richardson | Longreads | April 2020 | 15 minutes (4,084 words)
On a Friday afternoon, pre-COVID-19, my husband dropped some ice-cubes into glasses, ready to make us screwdrivers and cheers to surviving another week of working/parenting/wondering where the hell the years were going, only, the vodka bottle was empty.
“Oh yeah,” I said, my eyes sliding sideways, trying to not cause a fuss, “I used it for medicine.” The previous week, the kitchen counter had been cluttered with a giant mason jar full of oily plant matter. “Balm of Gilead!” I explained, brightly, as he wiped away the breakfast crumbs around it.
“But what is it?”
“Cottonwood tips in oil.”
His eyes had flicked, then, over to the brand-new bottle of extra virgin olive oil that was now nearly empty, as I enumerated the medicinal benefits of this old herbal remedy (and all this from a tree in our backyard!). Twenty-four years together means I could hear the abacus in his brain clicking, as he wordlessly calculated the cost per milliliter of a gallon jar of plant matter masticating in top-shelf olive oil, against the cost per unit of a bottle of generic aspirin tables, overlaid with the probability of me losing interest in this project.
First the olive oil. Now the vodka for dozens of little jars of tinctures — garden herbs and weeds soaking in now-undrinkable booze. My midlife quest to attune more deeply to the rhythms of the natural world was starting to incur unexpected, but real, costs.
He was quiet, as he opened the fridge and pulled out a beer instead.