It has been a mercurial summer. The rains seem forever locked in a cosmic battle with the sun, wrestling for dominance, throwing the prairie skies into turmoil as they cycle endlessly from searing, blue-hued heat to murderous black rainclouds and back again. I wouldn’t be surprised if the ancient Titans themselves ripped open the surface of the earth to rise again. But even amongst the mayhem of the heavens, there is calm to be found. The moon is still wears her cool white face, and silent, glacial lakes still shine turquoise with limestone. The earth still offers up refuge and healing, medicine both spiritual and physical, very often hidden in plant life.
After a rather bacchanalian weekend, I’ve emerged with a wicked sunburn and a body in dire need of some gentle recalibrating. My husband’s grandparents recently celebrated their 60th anniversary, and Reists from all corners of the nation descended upon the mountains for three days to mark the occasion. Nazarene hymns were sung in four-part harmonies, caramel cakes were devoured, several exploratory miles were walked, and Andrew was somehow convinced to carry on the family legacy of playing the musical saw.
We snuck off for a cocktail party at our dear friend Brittany’s place, and I ended up moon-gazing and soul-baring with a new girlfriend until the wee hours of the morning, fueled by a king’s portion of creme de violette and gin. An actor friend lulled us to sleep with a dramatic reading of the first act of Hamlet, in full Scottish brogue. Four hours of fitful sleep later, we were on the road again, weaving through the purplish, sunrise-kissed Rockies and back to the family.
Between the punishing weather and the abundance of activity, I’m very much in the market for some cooling down, both literally and metaphorically. The aloe vera plant is one of earth’s most glorious remedial offerings, the perfect champion for the task.
Besides the well-known properties of aloe as a powerful cooling salve for the skin, it is also rich in antioxidants, helpful in balancing blood sugar, and intensely nutritious, boasting vitamins A, C, E, and B’s 1, 2, 3, 6, and 12. A little aloe juice in some ice water is the perfect detoxifying drink after a weekend of heavy reunion food, very little sleep, and a little more sun and gin than my body would thank me for. It’s as soothing and rejuvenating as the glow of the moon.
What you’ll need:
a knife & spoon
1. Start by slicing off the prickly spines of your aloe leaves. Don’t be too concerned if you cut a little farther into the leaf than you intended – you’ll be surprised at how much gel these leaves really hold! And you can always (carefully!) squeeze out the gel from these cuttings afterwards.
2. With the blade facing away from you, start to skin the flat of the leaf. You’ll want to do more than just scrape it away, as you’ll want to remove the yellow latex sap that lives under the skin of the leaf as well.
3. Gently scoop out the gel from the leaf, taking care not to dig in too far (we’re trying to avoid that yellow sap again!), and place your slimy, magical bounty in a jar for later.
4. Once you’ve harvested all of the gel from the leaves, toss your harvest into a blender with a little bit of water. Blend in pulses until completely smooth. Your aloe will get foamy and bubbly, but it will calm down with some gentle stirring and a bit of patience.
5. Apply your aloe gel directly onto your skin, or heap a spoonful into a glass of ice water with a little lemon.