Burdock & Rose

wildly-crafted plant tales from herbalist, forager & author lisa rose

Month: September, 2012

Returning to the SouthWest for Traditions, Bringing my kids along to join the Herbalism Resurgence

This year will mark my third year journeying to the desert southwest from the Mitten State for the Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference. While only a few days long, the past two Traditions gatherings have played a pretty significant role in developing my confidence in growing as an herbalist. At the core it has helped me connect with the network of people committed to moving our relationship with the soil, the plants and with each other to a deeper level.

I am not by nature a dry, desert southwest person. I am a water person — a woman brought up in sailboats, on the water, on the beach. I do love a good warm summer; but constitutionally, hot and dry aggravates me in excess. Add wind, well, then I am a crumbling mess to blow away on the breeze.

Despite my mermaid proclivities, and much to my own amusement, I have fallen in love with the beguiling power and mystique of the desert Southwest. I am certainly not the first one to declare my enchantment for this place —  the desert, but the mountains, forests, canyons.

When I first acknowledged in my heart that my calling was to be an herbalist; my husband gave me Michael Moore’s classic, “Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West.” The book was his own personal copy, a relic of his childhood spent studying plants and traveling in the desert southwest, among the canyon lands and mountains. That gift, for many reasons, was very special to me and no matter that I am a girl of the Mitten, Moore’s enjoyable book remains as one of my most treasured.

Not long after my husband gifted me Moore’s book, Moore’s book in tow, I travelled to the mesas of New Mexico to attend the first Traditions at the Ghost Ranch. I found the spirits of the mesas calling to me, infusing my psyche with their ancient advice and encouragement. I left the first gathering with my heart expanded and with a sense of anticipation and uncertainty not knowing how my practice would unfold.

I returned home, a year passed. In that time, I launched my herbal CSA and actively began teaching in my community and continued learning from the plants and my teachers.

The second Traditions rolled around and I returned to the Ghost Ranch. This time only to be called to my knees (literally) by the ancients to pay attention to my intentions and question my own strength and motivations.

I fortunately was surrounded by caring souls who I realized I could show my weakness to — dear kindred spirits that had my back and let me collapse, and helped me back on my feet.

Upon returning to my home, I continued to be challenged on the physical level, with a winter spent recovering from knee surgery.   In the time span of nursing an injury, I continued to teach, contemplate more, and rest. Learnings came from paying attention, giving the time to healing as needed when recovering from a surgery. I actively worked to feed and strengthen my body. Pace has and continues to be an issue, and I still have to be mindful not too take on too much or push to hard.

And now, it is time to return to the southwest for traditions for a third time — to Arizona to the Coconino National Forest and Mormon Lake. Today I find myself comfortable in where I am as an herbalist — comfortable in what I know and comfortable not knowing as much as the herbalists more experienced than I. But at the same time, believing that I have something to contribute, something of value as part of growing this resurgence.

Traveling to Traditions with Children in Tow

One of my intentions this year while recovering from my knee injury was to contemplate what sort of practice I wanted to shape — what my practice would be like for my clients relative to my community’s needs and how it would fit into my own lifestyle given that I have children to care for as the primary hearth-tender at home.  Now, many of you that personally know me know that I am not the kind of mom for whom being a mommy comes easily. If left to my own devise, I could work on projects and plan and scheme for 14+ hours or more a day — I get my energy from my work (Did I say I had a problem with pacing myself?).

I will be honest — I was frustrated when I had to consider changing my travel plans considerably to accommodate my home schedule (husband’s travel, blah blah blah). Then, the clouds parted and it was suggested by a friend (Thanks, Gina!!!) to just bring my kids! And thanks-be to the patron saints of travel, so far arrangement-making has been relatively headache free. Needless to say, I am NOT driving the 29 hour trip to schlepp my kids to Arizona (Thanks, Rebecca!!!).

Of course the kids’ immediate response was, “Yay — no school!”  But also, much to my surprise was, “Wow — 7Song has a plant walk for kids,” and “I can’t wait to see Rebecca McTrouble!” Even, “I can’t wait to heal people at my first aid class.” {All giggles on my end}

They excitedly read through the classes for the weekend, marking their names to the classes they wanted to attend. I was delighted to see them excited about taking a kids herbal first aid class and Jacob even saying he wanted to go to all the kids classes and even sit in on 7Song’s Street Medic class.  Emma picked up on Jacob’s excitement at wanting to go to all the classes — “as long as there are crafts,” she said.

I am really grateful to the organizers — particularly to Kiva Rose, Katja Swift and to Kristine Brown — who have made it a priority to create programs for kids so they can be involved in the resurgence of herbal medicine.  Because of their really great advice about shaping a good experience at Traditions with kids in tow; I plan to set aside my own agenda (dammit — how I really, really, really want to sit through all of the great classes on the agenda and absorb!!) and shape our experience by letting my kids discover, inquire, make friends, get outside and just be.

For me, finding good flow and a reasonable pace has always been challenging. Aligning my life and work to the seasons has allowed me to shift and flow with not only the cycles of nature, but of the days, and minutes and hours and the curveballs that get handed to me all the time. Respecting the need to shift and be flexible is difficult for me; but helps me just “go with it”  so even with this upcoming weekend with other herbalists, I can flow into this space with my children in tow and integrate them into the tribe of herbalists I love and admire so dearly.

And now, with what at first I saw as a tremendous barrier, I now see as an exciting opportunity to introduce my children into my tribe of herbalist folk and hope they too feel they are part of the next generation of herbalists. Because they are.

Hawthorne for the Herbalist’s Heart

The Hawthorne

Today I was called out to the fields in search of my Hawthorne tree. It’s a tree of the faeries, a tree that in folklore in linked with the spiritual heart, fertility and death.

Even approaching this tree in a windy field, I felt a calm come over me. The winds — both those swirling about me and within me — calmed. Her branches spiked with 3″ thorns warned for me to hone my senses and to pay attention to the placement of my person, lest I desire to lose an eyeball. Each step, as I came into her fray, was taken carefully as I was on a rocky hillside and it wasn’t in my interest to fall into her spiny clutches. 

A profound, deep sense of peace comes over me when I sit at the base of this tree. Last year at this time, I collected the fruits from the ground as they had fallen before I arrived to gather them from the tree. I sat in the soft grass, collecting the newly- fallen fruits and found my senses sharpened, my ability to focus and attention increase. The wisdom offered to me that day was to Occupy nature. Occupy myself. Quiet down and find peace and softness.

Sitting there, colors became more vibrant. It’s almost as if I have those colors burned into memory the day was so clear. Much like the colors today. 

Hawthorne as both food and plant medicine is cooling in nature. The berries, high in flavonoids are an excellent food and can help dispel heat and inflammation in the body, having a particular affinity to the heart muscle.

And while there is an abundance of literature on the use of the leaves, flowers, berries and thorns of the Hawthorne for support of the heart, this post focuses on how I find myself drawn to the tree and her herbal abundance for her affect on me and my internal rhythm.

What I’ve learned by sitting with the Hawthorne.  It’s cooling nature helps bring that sense of peace to the one who’s agitated. Good for one who has a limited ability to settle down and pay attention. It can help bring the attention inward.

For the aches of broken-heartedness, it can soften the ache a bit. And for those who have a hard time being playful, the Hawthorne can help bring a bit of softness to a hardened heart. It teaches one how to be open and willing to receive soft, loving, nourishing kindness in a way that is respectful of space and boundaries.

I like to prepare the berries- harvested at peak ripeness- with leaves, flowers (both gathered earlier in the spring) into a brandy-based elixir, sweetened with raw honey (though it can stand on its own without the honey as well). It’s divine to take a drop here, there whenever there’s an achy, melancholic anxiety in my spiritual heart.

I am grateful for this lovely tree. She grows in a large field with hedgerows to either side of her that are lined with other Crategeous species that aren’t nearly as majestic or prolific — many of the trees in our area suffer from a rust blight. In addition to the blight, the frost patterns we had earlier in the year squelched what little we would have had in terms of fruit in the hedgerows.

I enjoyed my visit with my Hawthorne today. Alas, I didn’t bring an offerings to her as I should have, though I did find myself singing softly while gathering her berries. I will return on the New Moon with a proper offering in tow as a showing of my thanks and gratitude for her gifts of food and healing medicines and presence.

~~~

A few herbal musings on Hawthorne:

Sean Donahue

Darcey Blue

Henriette Kress on Hawthorne

Rosalee de la Foret 

Encouraged by the GoldenRod

About two years ago, I began documenting my forays in life — mostly edible and mostly of plants — on Tumblr.

It was easy. It’s been easy.

I’ve gotten great feedback for offering my aesthic and perspective on family, life, plants, cooking, and gardening in this way — short, simple, easy, visual. Tumblr has been a perfect platform for the immediate sharing of things I am contemplating and for sharing my point of view on a subject and hopefully my musings and ramblings have offered inspiration.

But now I am seeking more than an insta-platform to communicate what I see and am understanding. As my herbalism practice deepens and I make more connections to the plants and between the plants and to my community as a practitioner, I feel compelled to continue observing and also writing a bit more as means to share these insights. And housing it in a way that is accessible and archived. And hopefully this becomes a contribution to the resurgence of herbalism in this country — the medicine of the people.

Alas, I’ve resisted for a number of reasons — 1) I have no idea how to use WordPress. 2) I have no idea how to use WordPress. 3) I have a pretty irregular writing habit. I’d hate for people to get all expectant on my writing and musings — some of which take days, months even years (yes, this is true) for me to even synthesize and distill into something someone else can make sense of and appreciate.

I am doing this because I believe ~this~ is the next step in my calling.

So, irregardless of my anticipated sporadic contribution to this body of work, I do hope that you and others find my writings useful. If you are so inspired and inclined by my writings, please feel free to share your insights and experiences. I hope to learn along this path as well as share.

And if you were wondering as to the role of GoldenRod in this title, it was she who has encouraged me along the way to align with what lights my heart on fire.

~lrs