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It was cold when the woman arose. It was before dawn. She could see her own breath hang in the chill of her bedroom.

“Ugh, I have lot to accomplish today,” she said to herself as she accepted the fact that she would not be able to linger and enjoy the luxury of a leisurely arising. She rolled over onto her side and pushed her upper body upward with her arms. She could feel the stiffness and pain in her lower back which was the result of a lifetime of hard work. I’d better get into town before mother awakes.

The hot water beating on her back during her shower helped to ease the pain and stiffness a little. She spent a few minutes longer than usual to allow for this effect to take place, then got out to dry off. She quickly dressed and readied herself for her trip into town.

As she arrived in town, she noticed a previously vacant shop on Main Street had new signage painted on the window.

Out the door of the shop came a man. He wore a dark brown hat with a large brim, earth-tone pants, boots with some caked-on mud clinging to the sides, and a green flannel shirt. He donned a large backpack and walking stick. As she walked by, he said, “good morning!”

 She mustered a smile and returned his greeting, “good morning.”

Just then, a small object fell out of the woman’s bag onto the sidewalk. She bent forward to pick up but in trying to straighten back up, stopped in pain. Reaching around with her hand, she tried to support her back as she slowly worked her way up to a standing position.

That brief moment of pain had been excruciating and took her breath away. Great… now how am I going to get through my day with my back out? This can’t be happening!

She noticed that the man who had just greeted her was observing her and had probably been doing so through this whole episode.

“Are you okay? It looks like you have some back pain.”

“I’ll be alright. My back just goes out from time to time. Nothing a little ibuprofen can’t handle.” If only that was true.

“Unfortunately, I’ve not had such good luck using ibuprofen for my own back pain. Luckily, I am an herbalist and healer and I have other tools at my disposal. Can I offer you a remedy before I head out?

“I suppose so.”

“Please, come inside my shop and I’ll send you off with something that should help.”

She looked skeptically at the stranger. She hesitated for a moment but then a realization dawned. The man looks like someone who is genuinely interested in caring for her problem. Her other medical providers in the past had seemed more in a rush and harried.

“Okay, but I have to get to the store and back home as soon as possible.”

“This will just take a minute,” he said as he unlocked and opened the door to his shop.

He walked briskly behind the counter and opened a drawer. He pulled out a flat, mylar covered package and handed it to the woman.

“This is an herbal plaster that you can apply directly to the painful area. Leave it on for a while and it should provide some pain relief. If it helps, feel free to come back and we can talk about a more comprehensive strategy for dealing with your back pain problem.”

“Thank you.” She took the package and placed it inside her bag. and pulled out a small amount of cash to pay for the plaster.

“May I ask you a question?” she asked.

“Sure, fire away.”

“It looks like you were heading off on a hike or something. Where are you heading?”

“Into the woods just outside town. Once a week during good weather months I head out to wildcraft herbal medicines which I incorporate into my practice. Sometimes I don’t find any. That’s okay too, since the stroll is very centering for me. I love the feel of earth beneath my feet and the sights and smells of the forest. Think of me as a wayfaring herbalist.”

“I see. Well thank you very kindly. I’ll let you know how it goes.” The woman left the shop and made her way toward her destination with slow and deliberate steps.

Later that same day, she decided to give the herbal plaster a try. She applied it to her back and then went about her very busy day. Much to her amazement, within 15 minutes all her back pain was gone.

By the next morning, she had again arose early but this time had considerably improved stiffness and pain upon getting out of bed. She was intrigued. Maybe there is something to this herbal medicine stuff after all. I’ll have to pay that rambling herbalist another visit soon.

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