blueberry plant

Wild Blueberries and Memories of My Dad

Wild Blueberries and Memories of My Dad

Wild blueberry season has begun, and when I think about wild blueberries, I think of my Dad. A true blue noser from Joggins, Nova Scotia – a province known for wild blueberries. I was fortunate to get to spend time with him before he passed in his childhood home doing all the things one would do in the little Bay of Fundy village… Visiting the fossil cliffs, clamming and picking wild blueberries. Now my Dad was never one to do things the conventional way, so off he goes to gather berries with a homemade tool that looked like a pair of salad tongs. Hours later he returns, grinning with his two full pails and a story about a bear he befriended along the way. In our little cabin not exactly equipped for baking, he announces that we should make blueberry pies so I run out and borrow a rolling pin from a neighbour. All goes well until I find a mushy mess in his pails from his make shift gathering tool. I say to Dad, “your berries are squashed” and he says, “no problem, I’ll make blueberry juice!” And he does!

Blueberry Picking in 2007(My dad, Wayne Hoeg, picking blueberries in 2007 with his grandchildren, Hayley and Dallas)

The next day more adventure ensue as we head out with the kids and the dog all suited up in our rubber boots to go clamming further down the bay. We come back later that evening, muddy with the same two pails only this time full of clams. Into the pot they go and we have a late night clam supper while my Dad pours an ice cold beer into a tall glass and tops it off with his blueberry juice and I have to try what he calls a “blueberry beer”… I don’t know if it was just the fresh salt air and the hard afternoon of trudging through the mud digging clams, but a fresh clam boil with blueberry beer and blueberry pie for dessert was a taste experience I will never forget, and a memory of my Dad I will always cherish.

That was an experience I can’t get here in Ontario, but I always have frozen wild blueberries in my freezer and they go in my smoothie every day – not only because I love them, but because they are so awesome for your health. Wild blueberries have a flavonoid called anthocyanin that is a potent antioxidant responsible for the beautiful, deep, bluish-purple colour in the skin. Antioxidants fight free radicals that cause diseases in the body such as heart disease and cancer, so I personally consider wild blueberries one of nature’s most powerful foods.

The Medicine of the Blueberry

Also, the wild blueberry plant is extremely resilient. It can boost your own resiliency and help you recover from crisis. Anthony William, the Medical Medium writes,

Native Americans observed early on that when wildfire occurred, the only thing that would grow in its path afterwards were wild blueberry plants — in fact, they would come back stronger and healthier than ever before. This is the source of the wild blueberry’s power: not only can it rise from the ashes, it uses those ashes to its benefit.”

Wild blueberries support my physical and spiritual well-being and they will always provide me with beautiful memories of my Dad who I miss every single day… And as an Anishinaabe artist, I often enjoy capturing the spirit of blueberries in my paintings.

Blueberry and Bee Painting by Lauri Hoeg

Blog “polaroid” photos and art provided by Lauri!

Red Clover

A Friend in Red Clover

red clover polaroid frame

A Little Talk with Red Clover

Sometimes life throws you a curve ball and you are knocked to the ground with such force that you can only wonder, “what the hell just happened?”

This literally happened to me a few years back, on a beautiful summer day, playing a friendly game of baseball with my First Nation community. A mix of all ages and skill levels gathered for good fun. I was back catching when a teenage boy on short with a powerful arm threw the ball home. I was in position, glove up, sun in my eyes, with no protective mask on, when I heard a crack and fell to the ground. I ended up with several fractures in my left cheek bone.

Many weeks of healing ensued and I think back to the helpers along the healing journey, especially the plants. Arnica, Solomon’s Seal and especially Red Clover. My friend Penelope teaches an old folk saying about Solomon’s Seal; “for a willful woman stumbling on her hasty husband’s fists!” My injury was a blow to the face, so Solomon’s Seal seemed just the thing – and there was Arnica for the pain. Now, Red Clover does not seem the obvious go-to herb for this issue, but this pretty herb came to my soul’s rescue.

A few days after the accident, I left my bed for a walk to feel the warm summer breeze on my swollen face and hear the birds sing to cheer me. I walked right into a patch of thick Red Clover so beautiful it stopped me. The leaves were speckled with white and the plump pink flowers were buzzing with bee activity. I gathered some blossoms and headed home to fill the kettle. The cup of Red Clover tea soothed my soul and my nerves, and I continued to visit that clover patch through my weeks of healing. Red Clover is an alterative, sedative, deobstruent, and for me… a friend when I needed it most.

Blog “polaroid” photos and art provided by Lauri!

Wild Strawberry

Ode’imin: The Heart Berry

“The Heart Berry”

The warm weather is here and it brings a special gift, an abundance of Ode’imin, considered a sacred food to Anishinaabe people. Out on my walk, her little five petaled white flowers are catching my eye and signaling what’s to come… little juicy red berries! Ode’imin (pronounced “O-day-min” in the Ojibway language) means “heart berry” – referring to what we know as the strawberry.

Medicinal Properties

Strawberries are so good for us! They are high in vitamin C, a known antioxidant that boosts the immune system. They are also a source of potassium which lowers blood pressure. Actually, the entire plant that includes the leaves, roots and berries are medicinal. It is a mild astringent and diuretic. A decoction of the leaves and roots may be used for diarrhea or to support kidney function and detox the body. A strong decoction of strawberry leaves may be used to cleanse the skin and heal eczema.

Ode'imin polaroid Lauri

The Art in “Heart”

As an artist, painting Ode’imin brings me joy. The bright red berries just pop in colour on the canvas. This month I had the opportunity to teach teachers! A group of educators completing their AQ (additional qualifications) course in Indigenous ways of knowing joined me in a virtual paint night where we painted together and chatted about Anishinaabe art and strawberry teachings.

With my cup of strawberry leaf tea in one hand and paint brush in the other, I shared that in our culture strawberries are included in many of our ceremonies. During ceremony, we sit in a circle and a wooden bowl full of berries is passed around that has been prepared by our women. We are instructed to eat the entire berry including the little green leaves that sit on top. Although we commonly remove this part of the berry, we are told by our elder that this part is not only full of medicine but it is also part of the spirit of the plant.

I also shared that Ode’imin is considered a women’s medicine in our culture because when a young woman receives her first moon time or cycle, it was traditional to do a berry fast. During this time the young women would fast from eating berries for an entire year. During that year she would spend time receiving many teachings from her mother, aunties and grandmothers. The young woman would end her berry fast by gathering berries and holding a ceremony and feast with her community. This was a beautiful time for our young women.

Odeimin Painting By Lauri Hoeg

Our evening painting together was not only creative and informative but served everyone’s wellbeing, just as Ode’imin does. Spending time with others even virtually during stressful times is healing and good for the soul. Further, when you are creating with no expectation other than being present, you can relax and let your creativity flow and let the stress disappear.

Blog photos and art provided by Lauri!

Lauri's Blanket

Creative Wellness at Eagles in the East Studio

Welcome to my Studio

Or, more accurately, my life on the eastern shores of the Georgina Island First Nation.

Here, from my home and small studio, I can look across the waters of Lake Simcoe and see Beaverton, Ontario. Although one can witness a spectacular sunset on the west side of the island, I so enjoy the sunrises – when I’m up in time!

I am Anishinaabe Kwe, an artist, a plant medicine practitioner and a spiritual seeker. I love all things that support creativity and well-being, and believe my purpose in life is to be inspired or be “in spirit” and to inspire others. One needs to be inspired to create! To create a painting, to create a medicinal tea, or to create a life full of joy… In the end creativity is a way to well-being.

Lauri Hoeg Painting

Art and Medicine

I create eastern woodland style First Nation art pieces that are inspired by my island environment. Georgina Island has unique flora and fauna and a variety of birds and animals that fill my spirit with such joy. I paint loons, herons, eagles, hummingbirds and anything that calls to me to create. My work also captures floral patterns that are based on traditional Ojibwe beadwork designs. My first creative love was Ojibwe beadwork that my mother taught me when I was 12 years old.

Sweetgrass on Blanket

My other passion is for the plant medicines, particularly the traditional medicines that have blessed our territory for hundreds of years. It is an honour when our elders pass on the traditional teachings of these medicines for both their spiritual and medicinal uses, as those teachings are meant to live on. The elders tell us that the plant medicines may speak to us, but only if we choose to listen will they will heal our bodies, minds and spirits. In Anishinaabe culture we have four sacred medicines; tobacco, sweetgrass, cedar and sage and we use these medicines in our ceremonies.

I have a vision of the plant medicines in my art. They are asking that I include them and capture their essence in another medium, other than tinctures, salves and teas. I can’t wait to see what more comes!