There is no one reason why I chose this name Sweet Annie Tales. There are multiple reasons, and they all make me smile.

I grow Sweet Annie

My niece and her four children have long called me a “granola” with some justice, because I do grow, eat, and otherwise use herbs. Among my plantings is a tall herb with feathery leaves and curved branches heavy with delicate yellow blossoms. An artist worked Sweet Annie into the design of the Sweet Annie Tales logo. A friend once shared a Sweet Annie plant, and it has re-seeded abundantly and graced my herb bed for almost 20 years. Artemisia annua naturally repels gnats and other bugs, and borders of the herb deter deer from entering and gobbling gardens.

Sweet-smelling and beautiful herb

In earlier times, sweetly fragrant Sweet Annie was hung in closets to scent linens and repel pests and as a natural air freshener in homes generally. This annual is an everlasting or a plant that beautifully retains its color and shape when dried. As it dries, it turns golden and is an attractive choice for dried flower arrangements. Years ago, I spent a lovely morning with friends, eating homemade soup and making Sweet Annie wreaths. My wreath scented and beautified my home for years.

A healing herb

Globally, Sweet Annie’s value goes far beyond its beauty and hardiness in the garden. Traditional Chinese medicine used this herb (there known as quin hao) for fevers and a variety of infections. Today’s science tells us that Sweet Annie contains flavonoids, essential oils, and a substance artemisinin, now included in medications that combat malaria throughout the world. Furthermore, researchers continue to examine Artemisia annua for its potential as a treatment for cancer.

Another beautiful therapy — books

We can find many good things in herbs. Likewise, in novels, we can not only find something lovely or something to keep annoyances at bay, but also something therapeutic. Writer John Green says, “Great books help you understand, and they help you to feel understood.” C.S. Lewis was more specific. “We read to know we are not alone.”

Annie Dillard

Author, Annie Dillard Sweet Annie also makes me recall a favorite author, Annie Dillard. I was and am at heart an outdoorsy Oklahoma farm girl. Ironically, I found myself commuting across Washington D.C. underground on the Metrorail, on my way to a day in a cubicle. As I traveled, Reading Dillard’s memoir, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, became my daily nature hike. Her meditations on the unaccountable wonders and perils in nature recalled my childhood explorations of whippoorwills, fire ants, goat head burrs, and broom weed. Annie Dillard and I have each drawn our respective conclusions on our experiences. However, this conclusion I share: “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.”

Dillard once described a weasel’s unshakeable, fierce determination in “Living Like Weasels.” She admired the small beast’s wild, fixed purpose and challenged her readers to do the same. Annie Dillard riveted and inspired my English students by her call to a life of fierce focus. “I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you.”

This wordsmith has issued another fine bit of wisdom: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” I am doing my best to honor the advice and spend my days well. So, yes, there is a nod to Annie Dillard in Sweet Annie Tales.

Also, Annie Oakley

There is also a nod to Phoebe Ann Moses, also known as Annie Oakley. Annie survived a hard scrabble childhood. Even so, she parlayed the skills acquired keeping her widowed mother and eight siblings fed into becoming a show business marvel. An American sharp shooter and exhibition shooter, Annie was named Little Sure Shot by Lakota chief Sitting Bull. They both performed in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show and became devoted friends.

Annie Oakley used her fame and her wealth to promote safe working conditions and fair and equitable pay for women. She also supported numerous young women through school. While Annie projected a demure girlish image, making her own costumes and embroidering in her spare time, she volunteered to organize a regiment of female sharpshooters for her country during World War I. However, she had to settle for fund-raising and giving shooting demonstrations for soldiers. Later in life, she shared her marksmanship skills with women, and performed for charity.

Women with grit, courage, and wisdom

I have thrown in my lot with these Annies. It is a good choice. I admire women of wisdom and of grit and courage. You will find one or two in my books.

By the way, not that it particularly matters, my middle name is Ann. It is a nice name to share.

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