Calamus, an enduring obsession.

Let me walk you through my Calamus harvest. I am standing in about a foot of mud and 6 inches of muddy water. I can’t see my feet, though I have faith they still exist. I plunge my bare hands into the depths of this muck and wrestle up a rhizome of Calamus which is about the length of my forearm and looks like something straight of a sci-fi horror movie….it’s a creature. I am covered in mud, bitten by insects and slightly nervous about slimy fanged amphibians. I toss the precious root into the bucket and do it again….100 times. It is the best F-ing moment of my life.
I am soaked to the point of dripping and when I finally get my feet free they make a rude slurping sound. Red-winged blackbirds are flitting around the swamp and I manage to get into the creek to wash off a tiny bit-mud is heavy, you know, and I have to carry about 100 Calamus (Acorus calamus) roots 1/4 mile home, uphill.
It takes a whole afternoon to wash, separate, cut, otherwise process and lay out to dry my whole harvest, and then I take all the plantable pieces out to tuck into my own muddy swamp to join my existing Calamus community. This is a great time to think about stuff, reflect, daydream, observe the rhizomes or just rock out to Beyonce.
This kind of work can be physically exhausting, but it is the type of exhaustion that speaks to who we are as humans, deep down, way back, before we learned not to let our hands disappear into the muck, trusting, and use nothing but their power to discern prized rhizomes from an alligator’s tail….the exhaustion of a successful forage or hunt. It is invigorating to the spirit, and this invigoration may be the main driving force that keeps me deep into medicine making, excited every day to do it again. It is this drive that makes me think of the hunt as a spa-type mud treatment rather than some scary “dirty” mess to avoid. I see the harvest as a workout and a therapy session.
I train for it, squatting and pressing so I can manage to get the Calamus rhizomes, whose many roots can easily be a foot long, up from the deep, by hand, while maintaining my balance on the wildly uneven surface of a swamp. I train so I can squat for an hour with my gluteus in 6 inches of muddy water and not fall in. I train so I can schlep the heavy buckets home.
And I can’t overstate how much the harvest is part of the medicine. The harvest is the teacher, and what demonstrates our oneness with nature better than being right there in it, in every way? The mud is a part of us all.
So maybe you’d like to know more about Calamus? This is the Calamus guy:
And for true Calamus-lovers–watch for my upcoming Calamus lovers’ gift set. It will be one award-winning Calamus Bitters, one jar of Calamus chewing roots (coins or larger pieces) and some Calamus rub for external use–all in a Calamus-themed gift bag. In case you REALLY want to get into it. Yeah, obsessions sometimes bear fruit.
Notes: Yes, I am harvesting responsibly, Calamus is “to-watch” due to habitat loss. The Calamus set will be ready in 2 weeks. It is a limited edition. No I am not positive that it is American Calamus. It is unsprayed.

5 thoughts on “Calamus, an enduring obsession.

  1. Awesome post about calamus, Traci. I’m looking forward to getting some growing in my yard soon, and definitely excited to hear more about your upcoming Calamus Lovers gift set.

  2. Thank you for writing this very deep in the mud post! I love it. I love the taste of calamus. And I would love to make medicine.
    Do you still have fresh calamus available?

  3. HI!
    I have calamus for planting and fresh roots both available right now.

  4. Calamus is a medicine that I’ve recently taken and interest in and developing a relationship with. Thanks you for this article as it has come in a very timely manner. This has only deepened my interest in learning more about the plant. If you will, can you please recommend a menstruum best palatable for tincturing Calamus?

  5. HI
    I use grain alcohol for most tinctures and whiskey or brandy for most elixirs.

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