This sounds so easy but for much of my life inhaling and exhaling came to me with great difficulty. I had severe asthma as a child that followed me up through adulthood. I relied on inhalers and antihistamines to keep breathing and suffered several lung infections every year.
Of course “receiving” and sharing back life is connected to more than just our physiological lung function.
Our lungs are the seat of our grief. Grief is one of our most precious living emotions. Grief is the one of the gifts of being alive and it is in our lungs that we gather it to be breathed into and inspirited by the elemental matrix we call air.
To deepen my own study of plants and as a method of teaching students I have begun using a Planthenge. This is just a simple model that was inspired by the geometric layout of Stonehenge and the many other sacred stone circles of Celtic Europe, Carl Jung’s model of mandala consciousness, and Paul Bergner’s 4 directions model of studying plants.
“Trust that which gives you meaning and use it as your guide.
The wheel of the year is turning once again and the season of Fall is beginning her gentle emersion with first few leaves descending toward the turning Earth. There is a new chill wafting on the morning air and the Canada Geese have us in their flight path as they embark on this year’s journey South. These signs and more tell us that the times they are a-changing. Many of us, including myself, experience seasonal allergies in the late summer and early Fall that will continue until the first hard, killing frost. Growing up in the Northeast I was always told that my allergies could be attributed to the Goldenrod as these bright yellow flowers are in blossom everywhere we look right now. If I look out to my back field it appears as if there is a sea of yellow flowing flowers that stretches into eternity.
“Make sure and add some basilico!” Was a common phrase in the kitchen on Sunday at my grandparent’s house when I was growing up. Basilico is the Italian word for Basil. Whenever someone came to visit in the summer they would ask, “How’s your garden this year?” This meant, “Give me a garden tour so I can make sure you’ve planted your tomatoes and to see if they look as good as mine.”
After a thorough tomato inspection the next question was, “Where is your basilico?!” My Italian family members always wanted to see the garden, and the elders, specifically my grandfather and great-uncles, were always adamant about seeing the garden and inspecting the contents. Everyone grew some traditional Italian food even if it was just a couple of tomato plants growing in pots on the front porch. Even when my grandparents moved to the Adirondack Mountains, where the soil is sand and rock, they turned and toiled the land next to their little cabin enriching the soil and installing deer fences so they could plant basil and tomatoes.
Growing tomatoes, basil, and parsley was part of honoring and respecting my family and our Italian heritage.
The character, actions, and qualities of plants are not merely causal but are also relational. and learning about a plant with only the intention of knowing what it’s “used for” or what it’s clinical applications are allows us just to know one or two sides or angles of it’s full spectrum of being.
Plants, like people and other sentient life forms, embody qualities that are reflexive and variable depending on both internal and external inter- and intra- actions. Reductionist science, patriarchy, and hyper-darwinianism have conditioned us to focus on “cause and effect” or “when this happens this is the result” instead of the relational effect. The relational effect occurs when two or more actions, qualities or events happen together.
This often creates synergy which occurs within the plant and between its individual characteristics as well as between the plant and the person that is engaging it and the external environmental conditions that it inhabits.
Harvesting wild plants, otherwise known as wildcrafting, is one of my greatest passions and a primary aspect of my herbal practice. My relationship and instinctual exchange with plants is continuously informed and attuned by my seasonal seek and search for thriving, healthy, wild plant communities to gather from. One thing that I discovered right away about wildcrafting, is that wild plants are truly just that, wild. They grow where they will and are self-possessed so aren’t particularly concerned with what herbal preparations I might be in need of making at the moment.
Once upon a time these awakenings were well marked by magic and ritual as our clans and communities knew that if place and time were to be an instrument for conscious creation, it must be held by the storied, dreaming, dance and play of those that waited and watched as new life teemed upon the surface.
At our most recent Utica Herbal Study Group we discussed the ways in which herbal medicine can be low-cost and accessible. One of the primary offerings of plant-based remedies is that they provide supreme healing to common folks regardless of socio-economic status. Plants grow wild everywhere, even in cities, and many herbs are also considered foods and can be bought right in the grocery store. Many grocery store herbs are inexpensive and can even be purchased with food stamps.
Another, often overlooked, source of herbal medicine happens right in most of our spice cupboards. Cooking herbs and spices can usually be found bottle up and forgotten in our corner shelves and wall racks. There is hardly a household or, at very least, a neighbor or family members household where one can't find a few basic herbal jars of magic already waiting for us in the kitchen. Cooking with herbs is one of humanities oldest traditional methods of supporting health and immunity. These remedies can be added to soups and stews or simply made into teas, compresses, rinses.