Wild in the East Bay: Summer Comes to Multiply

Artemis was imagined to dwell in the mountains, but her sanctuaries were not peak sanctuaries. It is not the mountains themselves that were sacred to her but the narrow passes in between. S. Cole

As we wound down the steep grade in the Livermore hills, Fern piped up from the backseat, Mama? This is a stupid day. We’ve been trying to discourage the use of the S word, but I really couldn’t argue…it truly had been.

What was supposed to be an hour’s drive from San Francisco was going on three. First I had missed the exit off 580. Then there was construction on the tiniest of roads where we sat breathing tar fumes for an eternity. Then there was twisting descent into San Joaquin county, the definite dawning that we were not in Kansas anymore, and the directions from the WTF national park. Turning around we had to sit in the same construction AGAIN, and even though we had finally found the damn turn-off, spirits were flagging. I had spent the entire drive spiraling into what has been my baseline lately…this sense that all forward momentum in our life has screeched to a grinding halt, and we are broke down somewhere in the Nevada desert…so close to the California border and SO out of gas.

I answered Fern with, You’re right. It HAS been a stupid day. But we’re almost to the lake now and hopefully our day will start to be AWESOME.


This is how we get our awesome on.


Del Valle Regional Park lies nestled in the high rolling hills south-east of Livermore. As part of the South Bay Aqueduct Project in 1968, Lake Del Valle was born. It has the slightly unsettled feeling that most man-made lakes do, and it attracts an odd mix of users. I say users, and not visitors, because the area definitely feels used…it is set up for recreation and every corner bears the stamp of human presence, mostly in the form of ludicrous littering (we packed out yards of used fishing line, plastic bags, bottles and cups…just from our one little spot).

We spent a good hour or so washing the highways off our minds and while Fern collected “barkwood” for a “fire”, I kept up with my studying.

A must-have and I also am enjoying this recent find.

Spirits wheeled overhead and families sought refuge in golden shade.



It could be said that when Artemis came to town, “she brought the wilderness with her” S. Cole.

When Fern reached maximum teeth chattering, we dried off and decided to go on explores. An isthmus across the way from us had been beckoning with bird song, hawk shenanigans and vulture swoopings.

A little sandy trailhead was partly hidden, quickly dipping over a hill into the unknown. At its gates stood the guardians, which, in my own personal iconic language, is a Las Vegas neon sign…an arrow pointing the way to good fortune.

Roxanna Elfea takes in the scent of Artemisia douglasiana…California Mugwort.

Milla wrote a few months back how the Nettle People are her plant familiars. In my own veins, I feel the running kinship with the Artemisias, especially Mugwort and the sagebrushes.

Thus Artemis was associated with turning back the enemy and was named Astrateia or “she who disperses invasion”. As such, “Artemis was a god of turning points” S. Cole


Mugwort is anti-fungal and anti-microbial, which means that if you make a tea out of it, it makes a good wash for wounds. You can also drink the tea to help with fat cravings and a sluggish liver, or to help with gastric complaints. It also stimulates the lining of the uterus, so should be avoided in pregnancy. However, if your period is slow and crampy, stop and start, a cuppa might move things along.


The animal most associated with Artemis is the Stag, and I always appreciate how the leaves of Artemisia douglasiana remind me of antlers. Vivid, dark green on top and silvery underneath, they contain the most heavenly scent. This variation of Artemisia is heavy in thujone, the active ingredient in absinthe. Thujone oil is also excellent for getting rid of warts, but use with caution as the oil can be an irritant.

Burning the stems is used in Chinese medicine, known as moxibustion. It is amazing for moving stagnant blood and energy, especially when blown over muscular-skeletal ouchiness. I healed severe sciatica by using moxibustion, among other things.

To be honest, it is the magical properties of Mugwort that endear it to me the most. The aromatics in this Artemisia bring on vivid and prophetic dreams. Sleep with some under your pillow, or drink the tea before bed. Artemis was a goddess of the moon, after all, that lamp that lights the way for all dreamers. Call on Artemis to accompany you through the frightening passages of transition, from wake to sleep, from womb to air, from life to death…she is guardian and guide.

As Fern and I followed the path, we entered a veritable forest of mugwort, sagebrush and poison hemlock. The air was heavy with scent and time stopped, then shifted.



Sagebrush, but I’m not sure what kind. I don’t think it’s Coastal Sage. I picked a little bundle.


Alice disappears down the rabbit hole. You can see the tall stands of hemlock…be careful with your kids around this plant. It is not poisonous to touch, but if your kid likes to put flowers in her mouth like mine does, just make sure neither the flower nor stem touches their lips.

I picked leaves of mugwort as we walked along and then, seeing some that had been trampled, whole stalks. Currently they are drying in the dehydrator and the whole house smells like a dream.


We settled down for another hour or so in a sheltered spot overlooking a secluded section of lake. This mother Merganser came floating by, weighed down with love. Can any of you mamas relate?


The whole day had a funny rhythm to it. Intention set in the morning, followed by multiple travelling cock blocks. Just when we were going to give it up for lost, we found that road leading to Del Valle. Our arrival was not ideal, nor was the location. But somehow we found serendipity in increasing amounts, and the afternoon felt blessed. As of late, having hope has felt like a dangerous idea. Yet, being a basically optimistic person, I cannot help but hope…perhaps this is foreshadowing? Perhaps a tow truck will come down that lost desert road. Perhaps it will be Artemis on a chariot, pulled by a team of stags.

Now fade away…after 18 years she’s not as sharp as she used to be. This is for Rachel, who wanted to know about my tattoos. The story of this one is one I won’t tell. But I can say these words…Artemis, goddess of the wilderness, huntress under the moon, protectress of pregnant women and babies…

Righteous babe.

The Disclaimer

Think with your stomach! Do not ingest wild plants unless you are sure you have identified them correctly and are willing to take responsibility for using yourself as a guinea pig. It is SO not my responsibility if you eat the wrong thing and get poopy pants, or die. You’re an adult. you can make your own choices.


8 thoughts on “Wild in the East Bay: Summer Comes to Multiply

  1. This is terrific. I live vicariously (wonder if that is spelled correctly…oh, well) through your nature adventures and shrival with envy.

  2. Mary, you always write so beautifully about the things that most of the world don’t even see… or worse, consider useless weeds. You inspire me so much to take more notice of the little wild things around me.
    P.S. We had a walk by a man-made lake the other day too – though it was much too cold for a dip … and is it possible that Fern is getting blonder?? She looks so golden in these photos!

  3. oh, i know those kinds of days! glad you persevered. this was a beautiful read, of course all your posts are beautiful reads 🙂 and yes, i totally feel like that mama weighed down (but still afloat) by all her chicks.

  4. oh my kindred friend! mugwort & sage are my dearest spirit herbs! I make lucid dream tea using mugwort and it encourages the lovliest prophetic dreams. Every time I get back to California I collect as much wild white sage as I can find. missing the calif wilds. love all the pictures! xo m

  5. Such a shame about the human litter…. I admire your gumption, getting away to wildness when you can; that itself is optimism my friend, and resolution. I like your spunk and curiousity. Hope keeps us positive i think (believe?). You were in my dream last night, vividly so. You were driving past (in my little red bomb. dirty windows et al) and put your head out the window (NZ right hand drive) – and asked me if I’d listened to the “Inner Circle” tracks you put on a CD for me. Incidentally I was on my way to a self help/”yes man” type seminar thingy. And in my dream “inner circle” was that reggae band in the 90s, the dudes that had the song “Bad Boys” you know…the theme song to “COPS”.

    Anyhow. there you have it. It was nice seeing your face girl! Even if it was only in dreamland.

  6. i love days and wanderings and wonderings like this…you realize that there is a change in the air, that you weren’t ever sure was coming. maybe it’s the mugwort, sounds like she is quite the goddess of transitions. i think i need more of her in my life. love to read your words and see those incredibly clear eyes of such a special sprite. and oh how i missed seeing you! i want to soak up some of your gentle wisdom and ways of knowing through sweet sister osmosis.

  7. holu cannoli, so much.\

    that book is a personal dream.
    we have a wtf park in our area too. WTF?

    and mugwort, muggy muggy mugwort
    is a good friend that loves to shake my hand and leave me smelling musky and fresh all at the same time.

    i’m going to dry some now.

    love your plant medicine talk.

    artemis, artemis ho!

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