rue the day!


A few weeks ago when I was reading about beneficial plants to grow for the chickens, one of the suggested herbs was rue (Ruta graveolens) as it has both medicinal and insecticidal properties (for poultry and for people.) Among other things a brew or a powder of the dried leaves is apparently a great way to treat lice.

A few days after reading this I happened to be at a small local nursery and was very surprised to see several small rue plants sitting amidst all the run-of-the-mill herbs. What synchronicity! Rue is hardly a kitchen staple in the US, so it seemed very fluky and fortuitous to find it.

Rue has a fascinating history going back to ancient Rome where it was used as a key ingredient in moretum, a spicy garlic and cheese paste. (Virgil even wrote a poem about it.) I first learned about rue when I lived in Italy where it's used to make some types of grappa (grappa con ruta), and later re-encountered it in Ethiopia where it is used extensively both to flavor coffee as well as in the ubiquitous Ethiopian spice mix, berbere.

After I brought home the four rue plants from the nursery (their entire stock) I was reading about companion planting and discovered that rue is also a good complement for raspberries. More synchronicity as I had five bare root raspberry plants I was just about to plant!

Since there seemed to be a lot of naturally occurring significance around these rue plants I decided to make their presence in my life even more meaningful by planting them on a day that would best befit their name. That is, on a day that I could truly "rue."

In general I try (not always successfully) not to regret things; even various "mistakes" in life always seem to provide opportunities for learning. I also like the Chinese fable about "good" luck and "bad" luck that illustrates how a loss can turn out to be a gain; it's all about perspective.

That said, even in my most sage (yet another herb with a dual meaning!) moments I still have things I can't quite accept in a harmonious way. Can you really find an upside to Hitler? Apartheid? Darfur? And the scores of other senseless tragedies that continue to occur?

On a more personal level I think we all have those (hopefully few) things in our lives we really do regret or lament. Either something of our own doing or something unfortunate that was done to us. The kind of thing that no matter how you look at it, no good seems to come from it.

So…getting back to my rue plants, my thought was that by planting these beneficial herbs on a day that had very negative repercussions in my life, I would be shifting perspective and creating a positive outcome. Conveniently I knew just such a day was coming up today (another synchronous occurrence) so I didn't have to wait long. I must say it felt great to "take back" the day by openly and flagrantly "rueing" it.

Now that I've done this I really appreciate that rue is also known as "the herb of grace." How fitting.

What if everyone started their own personal "rue gardens" to exorcise bad memories?

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