Immortelle by David Crow
(From Beloved Plants)
“How did immortelle come to have its name?” I was once asked.
I don’t know. I don’t want to know. I would prefer to avoid what botanists and historians and linguists might have to say or postulate; I would rather not search for archaic herbal lore that would lead to stories about Napoleon’s infatuation with the perfumed landscape of his Corsican home and other such tiresome and probably inaccurate anecdotes. No, I would prefer to leave the question a mystery
Even better, I would prefer to study the book of open mysteries that is laid out before us, telling our ancestral tales in languages we no longer comprehend, even though we are made of their sounds and symbols and meanings.
Why is immortelle called immortelle?
I think it is because time moves ever slower as the warmth of the Mediterranean sun spreads across the afternoon, until the breezes stirring the downy foliage of the wild everlasting could be the very same that carried its honeyed scent to shepherds’ nostrils a thousand years ago.
I think it is because the soft gray herb likes to grow in places steeped in ancient history. It undulates in waves on shorelines of crystalline coves where marble columns of Phoenician cities stand counting the centuries, their seafaring inhabitants long departed. It appears clustered in strange rock formations carved into silent necropoleis by cultures vanished from memory. It spreads below megalithic conical towers devoted to war and around the stone feet of goddesses devoted to love and fertility, their faces dissolved by the winds of time. It adorns trails where families hunted and foraged when humans were still wise in their innocence, the plant’s ambrosial aroma the same now as it was then.
I think immortelle got its name from the tranquility of the mountain valleys where it dwells: where else is it so easy to forget the minutes, then the hours, and to wonder with longing how many meditative souls found final transcendence in the temple caves of yonder crags?
I think it is because the flower of immortelle is the same color as the light which has bathed this world since it was formed, the helios and the chrysum that comprise its Latin name, the golden yellow radiance of the solar orb.
I think it because immortelle produces a unique euphoria of mind and heart and spirit, a joyfulness that must surely arise from the part of our being that is not bound by the burden of aging flesh and its wearisome concerns.
I think it is because immortelle gives to those willing to labor long and hard an infinitesimal amount of liquid, a nectar of such deep clarity and rich sweetness that its power to heal is unmistakable, even for those who have forgotten that nature holds such wonders, and because this power is far older and wiser than suffering humanity.