It's About Thyme | You are the Gift!

thyme

“An exchange between two people, or reciprocity, keeps the gift-giving in a closed-loop, but gifts shared with a circle of friends or with Creation as a whole, spark a special kind of magic in the gift.”

Oh, Blessed Christmastime!

While wrapping a gift this year – a live French Thyme plant for my partner – I was eager for Christmas morning when he would open it. I could give thanks for all the days, hours, and thyme he gives to us, celebrate how thyme flies by, and assure him that the gift of thyme charms more than the eye, green thumb, and taste buds.

This sweet perennial gem with green, pointy leaves and red-tinted stems is actually quite magical. Besides its pungent flavor and infinite cooking uses, thyme’s medicinal qualities could fill volumes. It eases acne, anxiety, blood pressure issues, and coughing, all the while boosting immunity and repelling mosquitoes!

Thyme is unique, but, like any gift, the sheer act of offering a gift has benefits far beyond what is physically given, and the extent of a gift’s enchantment depends on how much time is given and the extent of the full circle of sharing.

The Kula people of the Trobriand Islands give gifts to each other, just like we do, but they don’t give them tit-for-tat. It’s not a barter, because to possess a thing is to give it. If a man receives a gift necklace, for example, he then gives an equivalent seashell necklace to another. A gift is not kept for long. What makes it a gift is that the receiver immediately gives away something else.

An exchange between two people, or reciprocity, keeps the gift-giving in a closed loop, but gifts shared with a circle of friends, sparks a special kind of magic in the gift. When I give to someone from whom I do not receive (and yet I do receive elsewhere), it is as if the gift goes around a corner before it comes back.

“For that special magic, I have to give blindly. And I will feel a sort of blind gratitude as well,” writes Lewis Hyde in his timely book, The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World. Gratitude is the light in which to view a gift, but how many times a gift like thyme is given, and depending on how it is offered, the innate value of the gift can decrease or increase.

When we give a gift to a mate, friend, or lover, it is a gift to a specific person. When we give a gift to the forest, to the birds, to a charity, church, or service organization, or to the Earth, we are acknowledging the gift of life, of breath. Every gift that extends the circle of goodness beyond the self or one person increases the value of the gift.

In Earth-centered, holistic societies, whoever receives a gift is called to make a return gift, to complete the circle of giving. But not necessarily to the person who gave them the gift. That’s what expands the circle of loving into the larger natural and spiritual worlds.

Balinese communities in Indonesia, with whom I spent time in the 1980s and 90s, are pantheists, believing there’s a soul in everything. They harvest rice to feed the people but as they return with wagonloads of rice from the fields, they stop first at temples where they give priests and priestesses the first portions of rice to feed the community soul. The holy people cook it over a sacred fire, eat a little bit, and prepare elaborate flower, rice, and incense offerings which embody the souls of the land, water, and air. Placed in temples aromatic, visual, and artistic delights for the gods and goddesses, these offerings are called Banten tegeh – high offerings.

But every family affirms and honors the soul in everything too, with thousands of smaller offerings of flowers and incense, called banten – meaning gift –which they leave at an abundance of smaller shrines throughout homes, shops, and fields.

Offerings become the physical embodiments of the fertility of the land, and the Prana, the spirit and lifeforce, is released and increased through the continual cycles of small, private rituals and the larger ceremonial festivities and events throughout the island.

By giving their gifts first to the spirits of Nature that nourish the rice that feeds the people, the Balinese extend a wider circle of giving and receiving.

The gifts of the temple keepers give back to Nature and causes Nature to be more abundant in the full cycle of life. The temple keepers distill the Prana into the gifts, and everyone, through holy chants and sacred dances, is called to entertain and align with higher vitalities — gods and goddesses. Nature, people, and temple artisans are all uplifted by the elevated exchange.

Making and offering gifts to the Temple to nurture Nature’s abundance is one of the most significant elements in Balinese life. It’s what makes such a healthy society of families on the island where they say, “The gods spend their vacation.”

Connected to the larger circle of being, giving, and sharing, the Balinese Temple priests and priestesses realize that giving gifts to feed the mouth and stomach, without passing the offering through the spirit world, most certainly feeds the stomach, but it will not feed the Soul.

Gift-giving is an extraordinary and noble thing we do as humans. Noticing its value in our lives, in being able to both give AND receive gifts, we expand the circle of life and bring more luminosity and Soul into all our gifts.

Savoring all my gifts this year, both given and received, I am “learning to be astonished,” as poet Mary Oliver insisted is our one task under heaven’s dome. Wrapping myself in a newborn wonder for life, I look out my window at the coconut palm, breadfruit, and avocado trees around my home.

To these luxuriant tropical plants, we’ll be adding more Thyme to the mix – the kind of Thyme that likes to grow its own slow way and ignores the wall clocks. There’s nothing to lose in adding Thyme to the garden, I assure my partner. And if we did lose anything, help is at hand! Herbalists from ancient times have said on the night of the full moon, you can leave an offer of fresh thyme and honey in the woods with a request that fairies should help you find something lost.

As the wheel of Thyme turns, may all that was lost in 2020 – hugs, people, gatherings, dinners, outings, vacations, parties, celebrations, reunions – be returned on the wings of the New Thyme…er… excuse me, the New Time!

We all can give the gift that our beloved Mother Earth needs the most, and that is more time to heal. I enjoy knowing that thyme in the garden, in food, and in aromatic essential oils, acts as an anti-viral that is helping everyone to be healthier.

Thyme to heal can also give our planet more time to heal. And so it is.

As we recover from the human ignorance of our fossil-fuel burning past, a mistake that is still threatening to decimate Mother Earth, I affirm, may more thyme save her!

Much Love and Namaste!
Marya

Notes on Thyme: There are more than 300 varieties of thyme, whose medicinal properties differ vastly from one species to another. The Thymus vulgaris like the French thyme I gave to my partner is the most widely used for culinary and therapeutic purposes.

Of the temperate genus Thymus, this aromatic perennial evergreen shrub is in the mint family Lamiaceae and emits a strong mintlike odor. It has small waxy leaves and can have white, pink, or red flowers.

Thymes are relatives of the oregano genus Origanum. They have culinary, medicinal, and ornamental uses. Medicinal uses vary by species, so be sure to check your thyme plant for its therapeutic potential.

Thymus citriodorus – various lemon thymes, orange thymes, lime thyme Thymus herba-barona (caraway thyme) are used both as a culinary herb and for ground cover. Thymus praecox (mother of thyme, wild thyme) is cultivated as an ornamental.

A good resource to fight coronavirus: EPA recently approved Thymol Cleaners to Kill Coronavirus—So What Is Thymol? https://www.housebeautiful.com/lifestyle/cleaning-tips/a32291832/epa-approves-thymol-cleaners/

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“This the kind of Friend you are — without making me realize my soul’s anguished history, you slip into my house at night, and while I am sleeping, you silently carry off all my suffering an sordid past in your beautiful hands.” — Hafiz, 14th century Persian poet, translated by Daniel Ladinsky
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