Deadly Nightshade

This remedy she rejected, saying that she would rather die than do anything that she believed to be a crime or contrary to God’s will.

-Vita Sackville-West
Saint Joan of Arc: 1936

In one of my favorite books (I mean, if I was stranded on a deserted island (touch wood), this would be one of the books I would take) the protagonist tries to unsuccessfully kill herself with the deadly nightshade berry.

Memoirs of a Midget by Walter De la Mare caught my eye as I wandered about my favorite used bookshop Downtown Booksellers.  I intended to give it to my brother as a birthday gift, but as I read the first page I became so enamored with its story and prose that I ended up keeping it for myself.

It was like a secret.  Its title was practically unknown to all, and its author, equivalent to an indie rock group with just a small following.  Even so, it remains one of my favorites and I can’t understand why it doesn’t stand alongside the classics of Austen or Fitzgerald.

SONY DSC“Its bitter juices jetted out upon cheek, mouth, and tongue, for ever staining me with their dye.  Their very rancor shocked by body wide awake.  Struck suddenly through with frightful cold and terror, I flung the vile thing down, and scoured my mouth with the draggled hem of my skirt.” – Walter De la Mare; Memoirs of a Midget 

I realize Vita would not have had much experience with nightshade, but I was riding along the Paint Creek Trail the other night and saw its scraggly vine creeping along the riverbank.  Its flowers were beginning to turn themselves into berries.  This is where the toxin alkaloid solanine dwells, and I was reminded of the passage above.

The toxin however exists only in the leaves and un-ripened berries, although I wouldn’t eat the ripe ones either.  The toxin can kill you if injested in large quantities, and it is known to cause problems in small children if eaten in any quantity.

Solanine contains properties which are anti-fungal and pesticidal.  This is the plant’s natural defense, making it entirely disease and pest resistant.  Can one of you rosarians please get some of this Solanine in a rose bush?   We’d never have problems again – Yippee!

An interesting fact; this toxin is also produced in potatoes right under the skin, so green un-ripe potatoes should always be peeled.  In fact, some of the toxin still exists in ripe potatoes!  You have to deep-fry them to eliminate most of it.  Boiling doesn’t do the job as well.

Thanks for reading!  Go out and get yourself a copy of that book!!

If you’ve read it, what did you think?


Magic Mornings

That he was both censorious and pious I quickly discovered from the first page of the introduction, for after a reference to ‘this rude lumpe and confused heape’… ‘wherein Wickedness superabounds and as it were forceth God to withhold the rain, to send the Mildew, the Caterpillar, and other his inferiour officers to correct us.’

-Vita Sackville-West quotes from a mysterious seventeenth century leather-bound book she found belonging previously to Mr. Francis Wright of Nottingham.



The river mist has just debuted itself and the moon is still out.  It’s struggling to keep its glow against a pale morning sky.  I want to stay in my warm bed but the birds begin to call me.  So forcing myself up, I venture out on my morning walk and I’m soon reminded why it’s truly a magical way to start the day.

Metaphorically speaking, when “wickedness superabounds” and God is forced to withhold the rain, and instead sends mildew and caterpillars in order to “correct” you, a morning walk will surely do the trick to guide you to the way of “correctness”.

There is an invisible magic that occurs during the wee small hours of the morning.  During the day the sun helps the plants take in carbon dioxide by way of photosynthesis.  But at night when the sun has set, the plants and trees let out one long invisible breath of fresh oxygen.  So the sooner you get out there and breath in, breath out, the better you’ll probably feel.  Incorporating a walk into your daily morning routine will do wonders also.


Walking for me is meditative.  I find that because I’m a writer of fiction, the peace and quiet of dawn helps to bring focus to my stories and solidify my concepts.  I listen to some music or listen to the birds or the rushing river.  It helps bring me back to the place I need to be.  Center, balance, purity, beauty, magic, love – it is all there just waiting to be plucked from the atmosphere, and hopefully soon God will see my correctness and send the rain once more.