(on 8/14/15 two years earlier)
Since I have picked up your book (Plant Spirit Medicine) herbs have “come to me." I was drawn to a sage plant in my front yard and plucked a leaf. A bit later I decide to do a healing journeying. I closed my eyes and an inferno came through. It was so intense I could not get beyond the doorway connecting me to the other realm. A few minutes later I read these words from your book on page 49, "Fire has become my primary tutor. Fire brings us into relationship and in relationship messages are exchanged.”
I tried again and was able to get beyond the heat of the fire...I was able to travel through desert land to a wellspring with water. There was a faerie perched there. She offered me a clover.
Liam my son later asked me, You don’t really believe in Faeries do you? I told him that I thought they exist. He looked at me somewhat disgustedly and said, “and people trust you with their mental health?!” I got laughing. I guess we each live in our own world. Our own reality…
October 2017 I am learning about the herbs at the Southeast Women’s Herbal Conference and had a dream about Chinese Herbs last night. I woke up and had trouble going back to sleep. Herbal school?
I had another profetic dream last night of a snake in water approaching me and I was holding Maura. I had to remind myself not to use her as a shield. I couldn’t get away from the snake. Unbeknowst to Bill the snake was heading toward him but then changed direction and came toward me. It terrified me until it turned into a benign animal. I cannot put my finger on what the animal was when I woke up from this deep hibernating sleep in a cold room. Brr…our first snow last night. I made the decision today to go to herbal school. Right after I rammed my new Outback into a pole.
April 2018 The first day of orientation was like kindergarteners with hopeful and unsteady steps we conversed over treats. Jackfruit reaching for a Buddha ball looking around for reassurance that it wasn’t sweetened by anything other than fruit. Torie saying that she had a psychotic experience from blue cohosh, an herb that I have now logged in my mind as warning regardless of how many benign things I hear about it.
4/20/18 I feel like a kid who has found her way home to her roots. We learned about tonics that are nourishing and herbals right for acute conditions and heroics to use only if. If only we could see meds as an only if…
On Week 2 We discussed the woes of how herbalism was almost completely stamped out by the AMA with the Flexner report and how medicine in the way of pharmaceuticals took the place as the only valid treatment modality. One fellow student, Star remarked, why can't we think of history as just was? That maybe medicine needed to take center stage to allow for the advancements in science and technology and I agreed.
Tuesday, we headed out on a plant walk in the rain as it poured down our teacher Snail turns over each leaf with reflection and care with a long discussion on its use. Was the flower regular or irregular? Divided or lobed? Where does it grow? All the details seemed a bit overwhelming. I just want to walk and sit with the herbs. Commune. But my left brain will need to be along for this ride. At least for now.
5/2/18 The second part of Monday was spent with two women discussing LBGTQ issues in healthcare and what types of clients we might get with these kinds of unique needs and the discrimination that can happen if one isn’t educated.
The next day,, we were w/Artemis with her singsong way of talking that has a reflective sound that draws you in. She discussed with us how to make a poultice, tincture, salve and then in the afternoon we went to the park and to stand in circle around trees laced with poison ivy. I guess some call it sister ivy, a way in befriending this territorial plant.
The following week we delved into phytochemistry and then on Tuesday plant walked a small Ginseng and Goldenseal Farm with other goodies interspersed throughout. Things with names like Buckeye, Common Fleabane, Blue and Black Cohosh. I had to coax Snail out of the forest looking for his hari hari knife. The knife that he had accidentally left last year and was obsessively searching for with his tall frame bent down. Come on dude the fairies have it now. It’s a gift to them. Time to go!
Kit taught us first aid using wise women medicine methods with herbals.
But the week beautifully began with Snail reading us this Mary Oliver poem: A Dream of Trees
6/3/18 I am sitting outside on my back deck with the gentle coolish breeze making it so that I need to darn a sweater. The birds are noisy and I remember hearing during the field trip that the birds sing in the morning for no other reason but to bring joy to nature. The sun is covered by a cloud but has a comfortable glow. We have had so much rain, the clouds drenched and then overflowing with water making everything sodden and lush.
Our first week-long foray to the forest (Joyce Kilmer) was so. We were water logged for three days straight, unless you count the hit or miss blue skies that only surfaced long enough to tease us into thinking it was over.
Jackfruit with his guitar that he would bring out now and then wasn't enough to brighten our moods for long. By the end there was a slight feeling of despair. I got that anxious antsy feeling that I get I have to go! And so I did, leaving a 1/2 day early with Owl who rode with me. Snail so different from me could barely understand my impetuous nature and with more than a hint of annoyance watched us leave.
There was one day though that was special. It was the day that it rained the longest and hardest. The day we went into the Park to see the trees. The hemlocks that are dying from a non native pest but are now graced with the new life of Reichi growing out the side of their stumps. The tulip poplars that stand tall and erect a reminder that we need to engage our posture to stand proud. Snail and Jackfruit lead us through the entrance where there was a poem about Trees that Fairygirl took a picture of and later read to us as we listened to her melodious voice barely heard over the falling drops.
We meandered through the lush forest and they told us to just observe and feel in silence. I had my umbrella and at one point I found a tree that I sat under. It was the best of both worlds being protected from the elements but also among them. Tears of grief for the changing cycles of life within the forest, within humanity and other worldly beings streamed down my face intermingling with the abundant water that was flowing off the trees and down from the sky. The hour came to a perfect end as we meet up at the U shaped trees naturally huddling in a circle as Jackfruit serenaded us back with his beautiful voice.
We processed what we had experienced during that hour and a common theme of redemption was shared. How life through its painful past can be necessary to allow us to get to where we are today and how things can always go one of two ways.
When we got back from the field trip, Josephina taught us about cells. She did everything right, used different modes of learning and talked about which style we might like best. She tried to be interesting and would have been if we all weren’t so tired from the field trip. It was like we had all taken a melatonin and were getting ready to sleep. I felt especially bad as I know her from yoga and she’s lovely. I wanted to text her and tell her what a great job she did but was feeling like I was in this quagmire of inertia. Instead of texting her after class I went into this deep sleep and slept through the night. I had all sorts of weird dreams but woke up rested. Jackfruit taught us about Chinese Medicine the following day. We learned about deficiencies/excesses/yin/yang/cold/hot. I am deficient/damp/ full of excesses and yin. They don’t necessarily go together but that's how I am feeling.
It is the end of June and I'd like to say I am enjoying school or that it comes easily. The teachers lecture and the words pass through my brain and slip out of me and are left on the classroom chair as I leave. It is within spaces in the classroom that I find important. The reflection of my interaction with others and the missteps that I make. Such is school. The herbs are coaxing me on. I need to complete this even though my urge is to walk away from it all.
7/1/18 A big test this week and I am studying and trying to retain. During breaks, I make tinctures and admire the landscaping that was just done in my yard and I sweat that some of the weeds have been removed by the landscapers. Where did they go?
"It is no measure of mental health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society." Krishnamutri
7/16/18 It has been a wonderful break from school. I had two dreams on vacation one was about student Michele who had a tincture business in the dream. The other dream was about Snail. He got incredibly mad, in the dream at Mike one of our teachers. I looked at the schedule and we are due to spend some time with Mike. I wonder if Snail will get angry at him when we are together or if my dreams are just silliness. I told Snail and Michele about my dream. Snail laughed and said that he rarely gets mad and maybe it was my Jungian stuff but Michele said that she does have a tincture business. Hmmm...
When we did the plantwalk with Mike it was actually he who lost his temper at one of the students. The intensity of his anger took us aback. It was territorial in nature and I get it now. After Flexner the plot of land allotted for herbalism very small and his shadow and fears held by the collective came through. The fear of losing out and the need for hanging on.
7/18/18 I am not sure why but said a prayer before going to Joe Hollis’s place. A few of us jaunted out to the river watering hole after class. The water was cold and mostly clear. It was so refreshing to be swimming about it its depths as I glanced over to the rocks where my peers were sitting and then reassured myself just a stick as I plucked one out of the water before barely turning as it came at me. Its head rutting up with its white open mouth less than a foot away. I didn’t see teeth or fangs, later learning that they retract their teeth. I screamed and thrashed away as fast as I could but it seemed to stay with me. A sign of healing, transformation or a talisman of another sort. Me coming face to face with my own fears and mortality. I am learning a lot in herbal school.
7/24/18 We went to Catawba Falls to focus on trees. There was a man from England named Robin who was with our teachers, Snail and Mike. He told us the lore of the Yew Tree. A tree of transformation and resurrection. A tree that has been found to line graveyards. How the fruit is so sweet but the seed and needles poisonous with less than 15 fatal if ingested. A trickster tree? I found the piney needles fascinating as I turned them over in my hand. I went to take a picture of the tree, but thought better if it. It reminds me of Sister Ivy. Demanding its own kind of respect. Mike told his own story. A story of the Princess Tree that originally grew in China. It is planted when a girl is young. By the time she ages up and is ready to marry, Its wood something priceless and special to use.
That day I went off by myself and waded in the cold crisp flowing water that came down from the spring-feed water falls. For the first time I understood the true meaning of a baptism. It felt invigorating and special to sit in the cold water as it lapped around me helping to release what I no longer want to hold. Later as I glanced over the forest land, I could feel the faeries there. I pointed this out to one of my peers who absently listened as she diligently continued to take notes. In the car ride home the song Faery Heart Magic played. I hadn't heard that song in years. A sweet confirmation from Faery land that we indeed did connect amongst the trees.
7/31/18 We meet with Lila to learn about flower essence and plant medicine. Our group, all women by accident or design I am not sure. I just know that we sat in her parlor that is housed in an old industrial-like building with hardwoods, and scalloped furniture. With lots of feminine touches down to the circle we made around her as we looked on at her soft features and quiet tone. She told us that our job was to rest and be in stillness as she introduced us to her medicine. She reminds us that her town, and the mountains that we are now living in are powerful and they draw you in. But they require something of you, she says and we know this to be true
She patiently listened to our names, and our preferred pronoun and asked each of us which plant we want to work with today. Sage came to me. The plant that had coaxed me to the school and first announced itself in 2015. She then took us through a meditation with our plant by our side. I was instantly drawn in by a female, androgynous presence. She walked me down a long hall as I was taken into a beautiful garden. She seemed so excited to finally be able to greet me again. The last time we spoke I was told that she would help me to help children. I also saw the word TEACH in bold letters. A wolf came through and he looked a fable character, with big teeth and fangs. I wonder if my teaching will be through storytelling. My grandfather was there and he greeted me and sent me words of encouragement.
Before ending the day, we journeyed again with our plants and I started to receive strange downloads like I need to wake up. That there isn’t a lot of time left. And that Timbuktu is an actual place not just a saying, from here to Timbuktu. I later discovered that indeed it is a place in Western Africa and that Sufi teachings are buried there.
I saw things like a spider web that seemed symbolic of the past. And the fragile seeds of beginnings that we are now gifted to care for. And that fear is held in the collective consciousness, and as healers in the past we may have faced persecution, been outcasts or deemed bad.
August 19. 2018
We had our second field trip. I want to tell you I enjoyed it. That it was fun. Restful and just what I was looking for. Is life ever what we are looking for?
We arrived on Monday backpacks, tents, cars filled with lunches and snacks. Uri to cook our breakfasts and dinners, and he did. We were warned not to use a rhododendron stick to roast our veggie and beef hot dogs for fear of poisoning ourselves with the fumes. He is a kind gentleman who sings in a community choir. I asked him if he performs and he tells me that he wants his singing to be inclusive and that everyone can sing. He made me feel good about my off-kilter voice.
The days were long but the week not too bad. It ended just like it should have. With the sun shining down on us. Jamiah taught us to make things from straw, bark, and trees. She with her big earrings, and multiple rings. We all gathered around her coolness as she showed us her basket purse made from a tulip poplar tree. We were serenaded by songs of blueberries and yarrow. Jackfruit had us stick out our tongues as he taught us about its terrain's meaning. And that our ears are shaped like a fetus.
We stumbled over roots as we plant-walked in front of Snail with him pointing out Angelica, Self-Heal, and Golden Rod. At the end of the day, we gazed over the mountains as the clouds hung low and watched falling stars and the planet Mars so close to earth. A few with beer or glass of wine in hand, sitting in rocking chairs at the Pisgah Inn between bites of school.
I met Prunella Vulgaris there and she beckoned to me...pick me! So I collected this pretty small flower and went home to tincture it.
Here is a poem from herb faery artist and poet, Cicely Mary Barker:
The Song of the Self Heal Faery
When little Elves have cut themselves,
Or Mouse has hurt her tail,
Or Froggie's arm has come to harm,
This herb will never fail.
The Faeries' skill can cure each ill
And soothe the sorest pain;
She’ll bathe and bind, and soon she’ll find, that they are well again.
9/13/18 7Song taught us this week. He runs a free clinic in Ithaca NY and goes to gatherings around the world to provide First Aid care. He went on at the start of his presentation about how he isn't spiritual at all but science based in his approach, but I couldn't help wonder how someone who provides free medical care and devotes so much time and energy to helping people can call themselves nonspiritual in nature(? ) He commented to us that Snail hasn’t changed over the years. That he still is kind. I would agree.
Last week Liza did a wonderful job explaining PTSD to us and then Samantha taught us about Essential Oils. She made the afternoon, girly and fun. We have another field trip to a Hostel and Chastity who is with us and had done the program before mentioned with disdain all the flies that were there last year in the mess hall before Snail cut her off with direction on how to get there. For now I am trying to stay present and just savor these last few days that will end soon before we all move out and take our own routes.
October 1-5, 2018 We arrived at the Hostel in the rain. Star stripped down to swim leaving her dress by the lake as she dove in. I huddled on a swing with her umbrella over me. We were waiting for our room assignment and the other students to arrive. After that first day, we had sun. The Hostel is run by volunteers who are friendly albeit a little young. Our first night the music was blaring and Star angrily stooped down the stairs of our treehouse to tell them to turn it down. A few of them were partying with Fairygirl our third roommate. I couldn’t help but wonder if the inmates were running the show.
After that first night though it seemed more orderly. The land is beautiful with forested trees, a sandy bottom and plenty of herbal plants to plant walk around. Things like beauty bush, papaya, orange, sweet potato leaves, and bidden to name just a few. I loved frolicking in the lake and was quite eager for our beach day at Jekyll Island. I didn’t like the distraction of the herbal classroom time and was impertinent more than once that I wasn’t going to go. At one point I was on the dock with Martha (who could be anointed as valedictorian of the class if there was one), and Jackfruit. I had just climbed up there to sun myself with a sigh as Jackfruit announced it was time for class. I told him boldly that I didn’t plan on being there and with a grain of hope asked Martha if she was going to stay with me to swim. She dutifully announced that no she was headed in for Materia Medica. I lamely announced that I felt like the bad one. Jackfruit asked if I was holding shame around this and before I could fully answer, Martha, blurted out that “maybe you feel like the bad one cause you kind of are!”
Jackfruit in his egalitarian way announced that we are adults and can make our own choices to go or not to and that one of the reasons that the days are so filled with class time is b/c in the past students have actually complained that there was too much free time. “OMG, I shouted, “what was wrong with those people!!” Martha pointed out that not everyone thought the way I do. I shook my head in disbelief as I watched them swim away
Later that day though, I had the right brain activity that I so craved. A Cacao ceremony that I happily helped with, by smudging each beautiful woman as they came in. We left our grief, sadness, disappointments, fears, inadequacies there in a blessed bowl of water to be returned to the ground. Jackfruit a shaman of sorts lead us through the ceremony where we both laughed and cried. Afterward, I felt raw and drained but also invigorated, as my body buzzed into the end of the week. In listening, I came to realize that it is within our wounds that are greatest gifts are held.
I felt a tinge of disappointment when the field trip was over and as the final weeks are now approaching. I will miss these people; they have become my soul brothers and sisters. We are all different but will forever have a common bond for the interest we share in herbs, the program that we have completed and the field trips that we have experienced and endured together.
October 9 Venus is retrograde and there is a new moon in my sun sign of Libra. Mame taught us about roses, rue and resins to ward off the bad and protect with love. She smudged and sprinkled holy water on us and story-told in her all-knowing quiet way. We heard about her grandmother and the elders who have paved the way for her. During break, her grandmother spoke to me to be quiet that I needed to give respect to her granddaughter as Mame tried to explain something to me. I interrupted anyway telling her that her grandmother was right there next to Rue. This seemed to bring tears to her eyes.
When the rue plant was highlighted, it danced in front of me and whispered that it was my medicine for the taking. We circled around at the end throwing rose petals on each other and Mame asked us what we wanted to take w/us. People said descriptive like peace, love, and calm. My answer was Rue. I was taking it home for protection, completion and whatever good medicine it has to offer me. After class, my husband asked what I wanted for my birthday and I said a Rue plant. Today I read that it helps with karmic completion.
mid October 2018 We headed out to Mike’s to make some mead. He met us in the road barefooted directing us to best spots to park. In his tangy voice he gathered us around his different types of honey and tinctures that he so generously shared. He had us forage in his yard for different herbs to place in the mead that we helped to make. We each hurried off to different corners to find the herb that called to us, mine ground ivy perfect for me that day as I was fighting a cold and learned of its vitamin c and antiviral effects. Afterwards we placed our bounty on a blanket that he laid out and discussed their edibility, purpose and family. Pumpkin his cat wandered from woman to woman as I observed each hugging her before she squirmed away. It was like we were Halloween Goddesses grabbing for the elusive Pumpkin.
10/15/18 I presented a case study of one of my clients who gave me permission to share their story today. I was so humbled to look out at my classmates and Snail and ‘phina who accepted my invitation to come and listen. We said a prayer for my client and in looking out at their intent, serene meditative faces I knew that these are the practitioners I want to plant walk with through life. They are of the ilk of those gifted with the opportunity to change the world and I am fortunate to walk among them.