Thursday, August 17, 2017

Solar Eclipse August 21, 2017 Poem

moon pulls a room-darkening shade
across the sun, a small circle
to have a private conversation,
a face-to-face performance appraisal

between this midsize star
and earth’s orbiter
after nearly a century.
the moon first gives sun honor,

praises its radiance,
while the sun bathes the side
of the moon we can’t see
in invisible, noncommittal light.

the moon, more assertive than usual,
asks for higher recognition in the solar system,
despite its pockmarked, dusty complexion,
telling the sun it needs a promotion,

after toiling and twirling
all these years for earth,
never revealing its bad side,
no matter how much it wanted to.

showing off now as it casts cities
and states one by one into shadow,
however fleeting,
hurrying on to make the next impression.

still seeing no response from the sun,
the moon turns to the words of man,

speaking the language of each country
it traced in its former eclipsical paths.

reciting to the sun countless poems
that poets have written
about its fullness and mystery,
believing earthly rumors

woven on terra firma
might make good references.
but by August 22,
the eclipse comes to an end.

the moon is disappointed.
but the sun smiles,
opens its round yellow mouth
and tells the moon,

“I know it’s been
a long 99 years,
spaceships have landed
on your surface in the interim,

for the first time,
earthlings have left
footprints across you,
stuck flags in your face,

alien colonies make
way stations
on your
dark side,

you continue to reflect,
to orbit, wax whole, wane crescent,
play hide and seek,

making the same loyal dance
every 28 nights,
nonetheless, you want an evaluation?
how about a question?

can what I say or
any earthbound poem
still the twice-daily tides you create
that rock the world?”

                        ~ Cynthia Gallaher


Thursday, August 03, 2017

A Personal Field Trip to Four Elements Organic Herbals Apothecary

Somewhere there’s a certified organic family farm, surrounded by more than 9,000 acres of protected land, far from agricultural drift, with mineral-rich soil sitting on one of the most ancient outcrops of quartzite in North America. 

Four Elements organic farm in Wisconsin
In the pristine Baraboo Bluffs, designated as one of the Last Great Places by the Nature Conservancy, is the 130 acres where Four Elements Organic Herbals grows and handpicks herbs and flowers for its line of organic handmade soaps, balms, creams, oils, deodorants and hydrosols/toners.

Shirlie & I hiking at
Aldo Leopold Foundation trails
Four of us from Chicago were camping for a few days at the local Devil’s Lake State Park in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Before we ventured on one of our hikes up the park’s bluffs, my friend Shirlie pulled out a pump bottle of natural insect repellant from her knapsack. “Want to try it?” she asked. It was Four Elements Lavender Catnip Insect Repellant. She said she had purchased it at a shop in Evanston, a suburb of Chicago.

I was pleasantly surprised by my friend’s offering, as I had been using Four Elements products  I had immediately fallen in love with her soaps, in addition to a special roll-on facial oil called Golden Crown Botanical Elixir “designed for wise women with mature skin," for years. I first met Four Elements farmer and owner Jane Stevens at the Baraboo Farmer’s Market during a previous trip to the area.

Golden Crown
Golden Crown Botanical Elixir is made from a list of luscious naturals: sage, calendula, gotu kola and ginseng infused almond oil, neroli, rose geranium, rose and clary sage essential oils, rose hip seed oil, vitamin E and something called “pretty face flower essence.” Smells so good! It keeps my skin glowing and I am totally unable to live without it. Thus, I have ordered it online ever since.

Evidently, Four Elements has increased their distribution beyond the local Farmer’s Market and online sales, as Shirlie could attest. Four Elements products are now available in retail locations in 36 states.

As I held and used the insect repellant that Shirlie just handed me, I asked her, “Do you have any idea where they actually make the Four Elements products?” She did not. “In the little town of North Freedom, just west of here!” From the Four Elements website, I had learned that they ran an apothecary of their products in North Freedom, eight miles west of Baraboo, the town closest to Devil’s Lake.

Coincidentally, with a Four Elements brochure tucked into my camping supplies, I had actually planned ahead to suggest a field trip over to the apothecary sometime during our stay in order to introduce Shirlie to their great products. Little did I know she was already familiar with them!

Four Elements Apothecary
in North Freedom, Wisconsin
No need to talk her into making the side trip to Four Elements Apothecary.  One afternoon, Shirlie and I and our significant others drove up to the Aldo Leopold Foundation Legacy Center and visited the buildings and trails on this bucolic, environmental site. On our way back, we made a loop into North Freedom (population 706) and pulled up to the unassuming storefront of the Four Elements Herbals Apothecary

Inside, we entered a modest shop area where the skin care and wellness products and testers were lined up on wooden shelves.  We were greeted by Molly, who explained how all the products are processed and packaged right on premises in a large area behind the shop.  And how everything that went into the products is grown and handpicked at the farm, located about six miles from the shop. How often does this this local farm-to-product process take place in America? Unfortunately, too seldom! The Four Elements farm itself, founded in 1987 and certified organic since 1990, is open to the public only on a special Open Farm Day held in late spring each year, or by appointment only.  This year marks their 30th anniversary.

My cache from Four Elements Apothecary
After testing products on our skin, smelling their wonderfully natural aromas, and chatting with Molly about the benefits of each of the items we were interested in, both Shirlie and I gathered a cache of healthy selections to bring home with us. 

Hiking can sometimes leave me a little banged up after hitting stray tree branches or unseen jutting rocks, so I was eager to try the Four Elements Black and Blue Balm. In addition, my husband Carlos entered the apothecary with sore wrists and Shirlie with sore knees. After a couple of sprays of Four Elements Arnica Capsicum Botanical Liniment to the affected areas, the pain of both parties immediately vanished. Sold!

One of my family members is plagued by painful varicose veins, so I bought him a gift of Four Elements Very Close Vein Cream, which contains horse chestnut hull, gotu kola, St. John’s wort and other botanicals to help relieve vein pain, smoothly delivered in a shea butter and botanical oil base.

I was a little sad to see that my favorite and delightfully fragrant Four Elements Hunter’s Oakmoss and Pine Soap was being discontinued, but was able to pick up the last several bars half-off in the clearance bin.  A few other items rounded out my purchases including a Triple Lemon Tea, comprising lemongrass, lemon balm and lemon verbena. And Shirlie left with a healthy supply of items, as well, including a vial of the Golden Crown Botanical Elixir facial oil roll-on for herself. She and her beau Jim also liked the Herbal Shampoo in bar form. Easy to pack on camping trips, and not considered a liquid in flight carry-ons.

It was a highlight of our central Wisconsin trip to finally visit the Four Elements Herbal Apothecary in person to hand-pick new items and learn more about its earth stewardship and fair trade practices, and the dedicated local talent who grow, create, package and ship products
Owner Jane Stevens & her crew
who farm and create the Four Elements products.
they believe in.

Four Elements. Earth (some of the best soil on the planet). Air (clean air from 55,000 acres of surrounding forests). Water (set among the Baraboo, Wisconsin and Mississippi River watersheds). Fire (summer days of 16 hours of sunshine). It is all pure and vibrant in central Wisconsin. Hoping next year to take part in Four Elements Open Farm Day come spring! 

For more information about Four Elements Organic Herbals, visit: