Beauty Medicine

B E A U T Y • M E D I C I N E

A deep bow of thanks to the wonderful group of folks who joined us on last night's Edible + Medicinal Plant Walk. It is part of my daily practice to wander through the alleyways and city streets at dusk, following the subtle pull of the flowers, fruits, and feral things which wish to find me. To invite others into this space of curiosity and nourishment is such a gift. As we bask in the quiet presence of each plant ally, I have the distinct honor and opportunity to share the stories and the medicine they have so graciously offered to me and to my community over the years.

My teacher says -- the way to make peace in the world is to know where you are. And for me, this begins with the Plants. By orienting ourselves to the Seasons and Cycles of the green and growing world around us, we come to locate ourselves more tangibly within the wider web of the world.

Remaining true to my belief that by creating space to simply wander, we will be met by the medicines we need most -- I took the group on a last minute detour down an alleyway filled mostly with Beggar's Lice and Turk's Cap, of which we'd already spoken. Nearing the ally's end and still uncertain of who or what had drawn us down this path, I remembered the enchanting Four O Clocks that had left me intoxicated by their scent earlier in the week.

I gathered the group before the flowers and explained that I knew nothing about them, other than their name and that they were beautiful and sweet smelling. But wasn't that enough? I don't believe that plants or people should be measured by their usefulness or functionality alone. For that, to me, is missing the point of life completely. It is beauty, and novelty, and delight which feed the Holy best, and which act as the animating force of all things. To take people on a plant walk, without acknowledging pleasure as primary, seems cruel. For the time spent in relationship and connection with the plants IS the medicine. The final plant of the evening held no utility as far as I knew -- she was not edible and I knew nothing of her medicinal value, but her presence alone was healing and good. And that was more than enough.


Evening Primrose

r a n g e

found throughout the US

c o n s t i t u e n t s

Chiefly glycerides, with fatty acids component high proportion of linoleic acid and
gamma-linoleic acid (GLA), which are omega-6 fatty acids, and oleic acid
source :: Herbal Vade Mecum, Gazmend Skenderi

p a r t s    u s e d

Flowers, leaves, roots + seeds. The Evening Primrose is biennial, meaning that it flowers in its second year of growth. In early Spring, Harvest leaves + roots from first year plants which have not yet flowered. To ensure proper identification, prefer those plants which are growing in close proximity to flowering second year bloomers for easy comparison. These pre-flowering plants will be less bitter and more palatable for food uses, described below.

p l a n e t a r y
a s s o c i a t i o n


e n e r g e t i c s

cool, moist, relaxant

a c t i o n s

anti-inflammatory, demulcent, vulnerary,
antispasmodic, nervine, nutritive, refrigerant

p r e f e r r e d     f o r m

In addition to spending as much time as possible in fields of these Springtime beauties and taking the flower essence regularly, my favorite way to enjoy this heavenly medicine is fresh from the Earth, flowers eaten whole, pollen and all. A more practical plan for regular use, however, is to the carefully dry the flowers and leaves, and enjoy them as a hot infusion. I also love to tincture the blossoms along with milky oats, passionflower, and peach leaf for a cooling summer nervine formula that basically saved my life last Summer.

f l o w e r     e s s e n c e

Evening Primrose [ Oenothera speciosa ] essence is is helpful for letting go of the need to control one's environment, the ability to form positive attachment and healthy partnerships, following the heart not the head. Regular use of this essence allows you to experience a deep sense self acceptance--acceptance that you may have been denied in childhood or past relationships. It is helpful for those who are painfully self conscious and instinctively hide their true nature for fear of rejection. The Pink Primrose teaches us to stay centered in our own experience as we move through the world, to acknowledge our own needs and desires as primary, and to stop compromising ourselves in order to gain the favor of others. It assists one in feeling at home in the world and gingerly urges you to let go of all false identities so that you can become a vessel for the Truth of who you are.

The Evening primrose brings us back to innocence and simplicity, to pleasure for and play for their own sake. Her whisper thin Blossom beckons to those who are lost in worry of how others will judge their choices and actions. She guides us back toward the experience of childlike wonder and exploration, a time and space before we cared what others thought of us. Her medicine helps us to slow down and to notice the world around us, letting beauty in, and taking the time to appreciate it. Her greatest gift of all, perhaps, is the ability she has to heal those parts of us we've been told are unacceptable and to reintegrate the entirety of who we are instead of hiding aspects of who we are, not only from the world, but from ourselves. From this space of self acceptance, we can deepen in intimacy with others, allowing them to see us as we truly are, without and masks or posturing to obscure our holy imperfect selves.

r i t u a l     u s e

Add thirteen blossoms to a tepid bath. Use alone or in combination with rose petals, blue lotus flowers, rose quartz, and/or rhodochrosite. Light a pale pink candle beside the tub. Reflect on those parts of yourself which you habitually and unconsciously hide because of a belief that they are unlovable, unlikable, shameful, or unworthy. Invite them into the space with you, into the watery space of your psyche. Ask them what they have to teach you. Ask them to reveal to you their purpose in the larger story of your life. Ask that you might begin to see the beauty which lies beneath them. Invite these parts of you home, acknowledging them as valuable aspects of yourself. Make a commitment to be kind to these parts of you. After your bath, offer the primroses and other flowers used back to the Earth. As you do so, make a prayer to gracefully to reintegrate and to love these aspects of you. If you are seeking connection, intimacy, and partnership with others, make a prayer to trust that these aspects of you are deserving of love and acceptance not only by you, but by all those you wish to share closeness with.

p h y s i c a l     m e d i c i n e

On a physical level, the medicine of Evening Primrose is profoundly soothing, cooling and anti-inflammatory. This delicate blossom brings sweet relief to anxiety and overwhelm that are brought on or made worse by heat. The leaves, stems and flowers can be used externally as a poultice to bring relief to skin irritations and internally as a tea or tincture to soothe an irritated digestive tract. It's effect is also mildly sedative, making it a wonderful ally for nervous indigestion, and stress that effects the liver adversely. Evening primrose is a valuable respiratory antispasmodic with an affinity for the diaphragm and lungs. As a tea, it serves as a safe yet effective remedy to can deepen and strengthen labored or shallow breathing resultant from stress. It soothes parched mucosa irritated by infection and dryness and suppresses unproductive coughing that can lead to exhaustion. Combine with mullein, horehound, or coltsfoot for respiratory issues.

Used regularly as a tea or tincture, this elegant remedy can help to decrease symptoms of PMS, breast tenderness, pelvic fullness, menopausal hot flashes, acne, eczema, psoriasis, and seasonal allergies. A concentrated form of the oil, expressed from the seeds of evening primrose is commercially available and extremely beneficial in its effect on all of the above as well.

e d i b i l i t y

The roots + leaves of first year plants are a choice wild edible. The leaves can be added to salads, eaten raw. They are peppery and slightly mucilaginous. Combine with young tender wild mustard greens or arugula. The root can be eaten raw or cooked. Flowers make a delightful treat eaten simply in the field during harvest or can be carefully preserved and added to dishes as a garnish at a later, but not much later hour. Evening Primroses are prolific but delicate and will wilt quickly once picked. If you plan to incorporate their blooms into your meal, gather them immediately prior to serving.


Real Love

R E A L    L O V E 

f i r s t ,

L  I  S  T  E  N

+    +    +

Real Love is Soulful, cyclical, non-linear, and often messy.  Real Love is spacious and inclusive and it will reveal us to ourselves, if we allow it to.  Real Love gives rise more of the same, for to Love deeply in one direction, is to strengthen the presence of this holy force in all other areas of life as well.  I am learning this.  I am remembering this.  I am willing this to be so -- personally, politically, and in ways that are deeply private as well.  

Love and Compassion are but two faces belonging to the same ancient Muse.  True Compassion is boundless, and all-encompassing and it is fiercest of all when extended unconditionally to those who've hurt us most.  

+    +    +

While I was in Colorado recently, I had the rare privilege of spending time with a very wise and dear friend who shared her perspective on the current administration through the lens of Buddhism and her belief in the basic goodness of all Beings.  I questioned aloud, what she was saying -- that at their core, the individuals who are intentionally perpetuating and escalating systemic violence, racism, and oppression -- retain their basic goodness, and that beneath the many layers of fear and hate which inform their actions, that they too have an unmarred innocence and sincere desire for liberation.

We walked along the alpine ridge-line as we spoke, through fragrant Ponderosas and crisp cool mountain air.  Like bears just woken from their Winter-long sleep, we made our way, lumbering awkwardly over patches of bare earth in our snowshoes, soil and stone exposed by the early Spring which had melted the snow a month too soon.  I tried to remain curious and open to her perspective so that I might understand what she was saying.  But, I felt very attached to my sense of justice, and to the belief that there are forces of good and forces of evil, that there is life and that there is death.  I was, in essence, attached to a dualistic perspective.  A perspective that, simply put, made me right, and them wrong.  But as our conversation and our walk progressed, something in me began to soften, and to remember.

We stopped in a sunny clearing, and set into the steady rhythm of fetch, as we threw a stick for her eager puppy to retrieve.  We hurled small wooden branches down a steep hillside, with the goal of getting Yeshe, the dog, good and tuckered out, as she put all her canine might into sprinting to collecting her prize before beginning the steep ascent -- again, and again, and again, and again.

To illustrate her point, and help me to see what she was getting at, my friend went into great detail about the unwavering non-violent resistance of the Tibetan people in the face of the truly horrifying genocide and erasure of their culture and religion that was and is taking place at the hands of the Chinese government.  And her words reminded me of the non-dual nature of reality.  Her words reminded me of Time which exists on a scale beyond any of our lives, or our children's lives, or their children's lives. Her words reminded me, that what is important, is not whether we win or lose, but rather how we play the game.  Death felt close as we spoke, loss felt intimate.  My breast heaved and my gaze narrowed toward the horizon, as this [ new // old ] perspective found it's place once more in my psyche.

Lyla June Johnston, an Indigenous Poet, Activist, and Leader, who I admire greatly, reminds us that "when we fall to anger and to hatred, we become the very thing that hurt us."  
We have all been hurt before.  And we've hurt others.  We know that there are many ways to resolve conflict -- some more effective than others.  In my experience, when someone I have hurt approaches me with curiosity and makes generous assumptions about the motivations behind my words and actions, I am far more likely to be interested in their feelings and experiences in return.  On the other hand, if that same approaches me with accusations and blame and the immediate judgement that I have knowingly wronged them, I am more likely to become automatically defensive and shutdown.  This is true for most folks interpersonally, and it plays out on the political and planetary strata as well.  How can we get curious about what is beneath the violence and oppression that we experience in the world?  

I believe in action and I believe in resistance, but I also believe that holding a space of sincere prayer and of unconditional loving kindness for all beings -- most especially those who harm us -- is, perhaps, the most foundational practice for true resistance.  This does not mean that we accept or even tolerate the abuse, or the atrocities, simply that we understand and remember that Love feeds Love, and that violence, whether overt or subtle, feeds violence. 

And I am working this out within myself still, for this belief presents a great many murky waters to navigate, especially as someone who holds a significant degree privilege in this culture.  I am an able-bodied, middle class, femme-presenting, fair skinned woman.  And I see it as my role, ultimately, to listen right now, and to stay curious about how I can stand in solidarity with others who hold less privilege than I do.  I believe, that no matter how I, or anyone chooses to resist, that if we allow that resistance to come from a place of care and empathy, not only for ourselves, but for those who cause us harm as well, that we will be more effective by far than if we allow that same resistance to be born of a place of fear and hatred for that which we deem, other.

"Forgiveness is some of the strongest Medicine in the world."

- L y l a    J u n e    J o h n s t o n
I have been so moved and inspired by Lyla June.  Last year, she led the Forgiveness March to the Morton County Police Department, to pray for the police officers and law enforcement officials who had injured and committed violent acts against the Water Protectors at Standing Rock.  At that time, I felt angry and helpless as I watched from afar, the injustices being perpetrated against the Indigenous Peoples of this Land.  And then I melted into tears of humility when I heard and saw the incredible compassion that Lyla June offered to these same people whose actions so angered me.  Lyla June reminds us that "Forgiveness is some of the strongest Medicine in the world."  Upon hearing her words all those months ago, I understood, that when we can truly love those who harm us --  this is real Healing, this is real Resistance. 
I believe, now, in writing love letters to the Guides and Ancestors of those who misuse their power.  I believe in praying for their healing, making offerings at altars dedicated to their awakening in hopes that they might remember all that which is Sacred.  May softness reign, may forgiveness belong to us all.   May we find more and better ways to offer real Love, fierce Compassion, and Forgiveness against all odds -- not only to those closest to us, but to the people who have harmed us as well.  May we remember that their healing is our healing.  May we remember that Love feeds Love.


Point Of Reference

"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains
unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered."

- N e l s o n    M a n d e l a

I'm writing to you today from Colorado.  I lived here for many years and it is in these Mountains that my love of Plant Medicine first took root.  I have stayed long away, and returning now, even for a brief moment, has been a gift rich with reflection and revelation.  For it is precious to recognize and to remember, from whence you came, so that you might know more clearly, just where it is you are going.

A place remembers you and through it, you remember yourself, see yourself. My body felt electric, alive with recognition as we drove through the canyon I once called Home. The frozen creek seemed to smile in recognition, reminding me of the morning's I'd spent by her side, in the low light of daybreak, shrouded in mountain mist and watching as the hummingbirds flew with violent precision through the air above her icy waters. I remembered the motherwort and lemon balm and catnip that grew wild outside my door. The plums that ripened in sumner and the apples that floated sweet and offering downstream in fall. I remember baking pies and pressing Cider, falling in love, finding community.

There is snow here, lots of it. And Ponderosas taller and more magnificent than I'd recalled them to be. There is still the sweet and simple rhythm of mountain life, steady and unchanging after all these years, gone. And while I am so glad for the chance to slip into this Rocky Mountain reality for a brief moment, I can see clearly that I no longer belong to this place, nor does it belong to me. The cycles and Seasons of our life are funny things, and we cannot guess at where they will lead us. There was a time when I would have been content to live here forever, high in the mountains, at home in the arms of the one I then loved; stoking wood fires and collecting wildflowers in Spring. But life is vast and I am so grateful for all of the places I have known, and loved, and been known by since that time. For they are like old friends, whose company I can delight in for a time, and with whom I can reminisce on the most honey-hues of memories, sharing gratitude for the lessons we learned together, as well as sorrow for what was and what never will be. These places of the past, they see me now, and nod in warm and silent approval as they witness the woman I have become, a woman I could only have become, because I chose not to stay forever, but instead kept following that thread which has led and continues to lead me, farther down the path I came here to walk.

And that is not to say that there is not an ache that lives within me still, for every Land and Love and Life that I'd hoped to make mine. But I've learned that my deepest loyalty lies not on the world of humans, but rather in some other realm where unseen forces work through me as I give birth to a thing, at once holy and not yet fully formed. And I will always follow that, I will always choose that, I will always be in service to that. For it is Spirit which knows, Spirit which guides us. And when we it is Spirit to whom we answer, we will always find our way back to those people and places we are meant to, but only when the moment is right. Only when we have done the work. Only when we are truly ready to remember. Thank you for welcoming me with your magnificence and your mystery. I'll love your Rocky Mountains forever.


Let's Talk About This

I n    t h e    E n d ,    w e    w i l l    r e m e m b e r    n o t    t h e    w o r d s

o f    o u r    e n e m i e s ,    b u t    t h e    s i l e n c e    o f    o u r    f r i e n d s .

[  M a r t i n    L u t h e r    K i n g    J r . ]

I lately I have said little, but felt much.  I have been in shock and uncertain of the best path forward.  As dear friend very wisely explained to me, it is one thing to imagine what it might be like to visit Spain, to plan your trip there and consider all the ways the experience might unfold, but it is another thing entirely, to actually be in Spain.  And as of January 21, 2017 we are now, metaphorically speaking, in Spain.  And it is much more frightening and much more extreme than we could have ever have imagined.  We knew this was coming. And now it is here and I am crying as I write this. And I believe this is a mark, not of my weakness, but of my strength, because as the weight of reality sets in, the most potent medicine, the most revolutionary thing that you can do, is to first, simply feel; to grieve and to rage and to take those feelings and build a fucking fire inside yourself.

T a k e    a l l    t h a t    y o u    a r e    f e e l i n g    r i g h t    n o w ,

a n d    b u i l d    a    W i l d f i r e    i n s i d e    y o u r s e l f .

After two days of feeling out of numb and disoriented and out of sorts, I really let myself go there, into the grief, and the fear, and the despair, within the safe space of a conversation with my dear friend.  I let myself acknowledge,  f u l l y , what is happening in our country and then further allowed myself to consider just how bad this has the potential to get.  This could get really bad.  I spent all day yesterday, all day today, and most this evening, doing anything at all that I could that was not writing these words.  But I knew I had to write them.  For me, and for you; for the communities of which I am a part as well as those of which I am not a directly a part but with whom I am strongly allied.  I knew I had to write this for my Ancestors and yours, for the generations which will come after us as well.  For the Land and for the wide web of life of which we are a part.  Which is not to say that my voice is any more important than yours or than anyone else's, but rather that   e v e r y   voice is needed right now.

S p e a k    U p .     T h e    w o r l d    n e e d s    t o

h e a r    w h a t    y o u    h a v e    t o    s a y .

Mid-sentence, during the paragraph above, I stopped my writing to open the door for someone who'd already come by twice tonight -- a young man from the Texas Environmental Network.  You know, those well meaning folks with clipboards who probably have so much sincerity and passion in their hearts for whatever it is they are collecting money or signatures for, but who, more often than not, end up simply reading from a script that tells little of their personal connection to the issue and leaves you feeling similarly uninspired.  When he came the first time -- I just couldn't.  When he came the second time, I pretended not to be home, overwhelmed in knowing what our conversation would bring up for me.  When he came by a third time, I opened the door and told him, rarely brusquely -- "I don't want to hear you spiel, but if you want tell me what it is that you're feeling and why you are doing this, I would love to listen and to talk with you. " Taken aback at first, then softened by the sadness so visible behind in my eyes, he started to tell me me that he had just moved here from Flint, MI -- a place where the water is so polluted that it is toxic to drink.  He told me that he left his girlfriend and his dogs to come here and that it was his only his second day on the job, knocking door to door, and asking people to donate money to halt the use of toxic neonicotinoids pesticides in Texas.  These are the chemicals that are causing Colony Collapse Disorder and decimating the Honeybee populations which are crucial to pollinating food crops and are, therefore, vital all life on Earth.  I told him that I was an Herbalist and that the name of my business -- La Abeja Herbs -- means Honeybee in Spanish.  I cried, he cried.  If you are reading this, thank you Jason.  For the work that you are doing, for your courageousness and generosity of heart.  As I let my tears fall freely, they began to well up behind his eyes as well and we hugged and we thanked one another for being so real.  I gave him a bottle of Hawthorn Tincture + told him to come on the Plant Walk I will be offering in February. These are the conversations we need to be having.  With friends, with family, with strangers.
T h e s e    a r e    t h e    c o n v e r s a t i o n s

w e    n e e d    t o    b e    h a v i n g .

Today I asked my mom, a psychotherapist in private practice, what it was she that and her colleagues are doing to Resist and to show solidarity with all oppressed peoples.  I was proud when I heard her answer and even more proud when she appreciated and thoughtfully considered the suggestions I gave on how to be of greater service to POC, Muslims, and the Queer + Transgender community.
T h e    m o s t    d a n g e r o u s    t h i n g     w e    c a n

d o    r i g h t    n o w    i s    r e m  a i n    s i l e n t .

The most dangerous thing we can do right now, is remain silent.  The most harmful thing we can do right now is remain silent. We need to keep talking about what is going on, in all spheres -- politically, environmentally, in areas of social justice and racial equality, and so on.  When we can approach these topics from a place of feeling and personal experience, our conversations can be so much more potent and meaningful, than when we are simply reciting the latest article we've been shocked and outraged to read.  It is these conversations which give us the hope and the sense of solidarity that are needed for the work that we are engaging in now, as well as all that lies ahead. 

W h a t     i f    w h a t    T H I S    i s    w o r k

 w e    c a m e    h e r e    t o     d o ,    t o g et h e r ?

Many of us have felt a sense that there is a singularly important thing which that we came here to do in this lifetime.  It's been a journey that many of us could sense but not see; a fate existing just beyond the veil, but alive in a knowing that has its home in our Hearts and our Bones, and our collective Ancestral memories. Over each of our lifetimes, and perhaps especially in recent years, we've met others too, who hold this sense of purpose within them, this similar sense of shared destiny.  Well, what if    t h i s     i s     i t   ?  What if this is the moment we've all been preparing for, as we've cultivated our courageous hearts and as honed our practical skills in the outer world? What if what this is work we came here to do, t o g e t h e r -- to fight for the more beautiful and free and equitable world that we  k n o w  is possible.  This is the moment to give it everything you've got.  To stop playing like you're waiting for your real life to start.  There is nothing left to wait for.
F r e e d o m    f i g h t e r s    d o n ' t    a l w a y s    w i n ,

b u t    t h e y ' r e    a l w a y s    r i g h t.

[ M o l l y    I v i n s ]

I don't know what's going to happen, anymore than you do, and my hope is for a vital + loving revolution to spring forth from the fertile decay of so much in our culture that is long overdue for death.  My prayer is for a revolution in our relationship to one another as humans, to this Earth as our one shared home and source of life, and to our shared resources, within and without.  But maybe that's not what happens.  There are no guarantees.  What's important now, is that we show up. Again and again.  That we stand together in solidarity for the rights of all peoples, for the rights our Earth, for the right to speak our Hearts and our Minds and to share knowledge and wisdom freely.

If you are despairing, then despair for a little while. Really let yourself go deep into the feeling.  And then move your body.  I will tell you, there is nothing in life that is not made somehow more manageable by an hour of intense exertion.  It is possible to feel good and strong in your body and in yourself despite what is happening right now.  In fact, it is more necessary than ever before that you do, because right now you are so needed.

When a a traumatic event occurs, or a loved one dies, you don't grieve forever, but without taking that time to allow grief to move through you, you cannot take the next steps toward ultimately healing, acting, and moving forward with your life in a way that also honors what has been lost. So join me for a moment now, and just let yourself feel it all -- the grief, the shock, the anger, the confusion, the despair, as well as the tenderness and hope and whatever else it is that wants to be lived through you in this moment. Just fucking feel it.

Often, things have to get as bad as they can possibly get, emotions and symptoms, and toxic relationships, and bad habits have to escalate to the point of intolerability before most people are ready to commit to any kind of real and lasting change. Whether it's a crisis of health, of spirit, of family or community -- a common pattern is that things get much worse before they, ultimately, improve or resolve. In the Vitalist tradition of herbalism passed down to me by my teachers, this is referred to as a Healing Crisis and is actually an indication that a significant and potentially positive shift is imminent. And to my fellow Americans, I believe that the Healing Crisis of the patriarchy, of capitalism, of racism, classism, homophobia, and misogyny, and so much more is reaching its breaking point.

Much like someone who falls suddenly and seriously ill after a lifetime of poor eating, lack of self care, and no exercise --  the privilege of continuing to go about our lives as though all is well is no longer available to anyone. But this is a gift we must choose to graciously humble ourselves to accept. When we are seriously illness, we must wake up to what our body is asking of us, or ultimately risk death. Similarly, now that our political system and the culture of oppression which perpetuates it has come so far out of balance, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to truly heal, and we're doing it, but it takes diligence, vigilance, and commitment. This is our opportunity create the change we want and need in the world. We are the ones we have been waiting for. None of us are here by accident at this time. We all have important gifts and teachings to offer, medicine to share. And the time for this is now. Get to it y'all.

And if you are not already doing so, I urge you to please take this time in particular as an opportunity to openly , fiercely, and unapologetically express and deepen your allyship with indigenous communities, people of color, LGBTQ identified folks, immigrants, women, neurodivergent persons, Muslims, and all others whose safety + continued existence are greatly threatened at this time.



“We are the priests of a dying world.” My friend, Olivia Pepper, said that to me, a good while ago now. And I didn't understand it then, when she first spoke those words to me, not the way I do now. For it is one thing to grasp a statement like that with the intellect alone – but it is another thing entirely to feel the weight of it in your body and in your bones, and in the depths of your being.

I have just returned from five months of solo cross-country travel It was a journey of mythical proportions, a time of gathering medicine to savor in solitude and to share among friends, a time of weaving stories I'll treasures as secrets for myself as well as bold tales to offer to the world freely. I fell in love. I deepened in kinship with friends old and new. I became ill and nearly died one night. My truck broke down, horribly. I wept beside the ocean and gathered salt from her shores. I came to know and love a great many children and I sang late into the night with a circle of witches I have worked alongside for many lifetimes beyond this one. My trip was many things. It was a reminder of the deep longing which lives within me for home, most of all. A home I am not convinced that I will ever know. But I have already told you that story and it is time now for different tale.

Much about this trip felt pre-destined. As though, I'd dreamt it all long ago, laying in my bed as a child, listening to Joni Mitchell's warm voice drift from the turn table beside me on the nightstand. This trip was vision that had lived within me for as long as I can recall. On the final day, precisely five months from my departure, I drove east from Balmorhea back toward Austin. Leaving at sunrise and stopping only to gather a few fistfuls sweet-smelling desert vervain, blooming for the second time this year at the first hint of Autumn on the air. I ate her purple flowers one by one as I drove, eager to remember her soothing medicine, and I felt myself at ease as I set out on that final stretch of highway. As I drove, I saw reflected in the pastel palette of the early morning sky, my own sense of completion, and of return. It is an odd thing – at once a privilege and a burden – to live out the dreams you've held so dear for so long, and to be forced, finally, to face them by light of day, seeing that they too are just a collection of imperfect moments like any other, unless you choose to savor them, which takes discipline and intention, and a certain degree of safety that I often find it difficult to conjure.

The Monarchs were migrating as I drove on this final day, filling the blue-grey skies all around me. Their journey echoed of my own, as they followed the timeless path of their yearly pilgrimage, listening to the Earth's pull unquestioningly as they flew South toward Mexico. The route of my trip had been informed by a similarly mysterious and powerful internal compass, which guided me toward places I'd been destined to arrive, in this cycle and season of my own life. The butterflies flew uncharacteristically low, and head on into my truck. Their whisper light bodies of banded black and orange colored the highwayside. By the thousands, they were being hit and killed by semis and sedans -- they were being killed by me. I froze, horrified and completely uncertain of how to act. I had to restrain myself to keep from swerving to avoid them as they flew into my windshield as though it were another dimension, entirely. Hot tears stung my tired face, as the weight of each winged creature fell upon my heart's conscience. Desperate and frantic, I pulled over to the side of I-10 and began collecting their fragile corpses in my too-small palms. The wind blew hard with each passing semi and their lifeless bodies leapt from my hands as quickly as I'd gathered them. I found a basket and began to fill it, praying hard and crying salty crystal tears upon the hot asphalt as I went. My heart ached palpably as I knelt to collect each winged being. I felt as though I was gathering the tiny fallen angels, and I grieved in confusion with the knowing that I'd have to get back into my truck and continue to drive, headlong into the sacred route their ancient migration followed.

As painful as it was, the experience was also exquisitely beautiful. What a rare opportunity it was to admire these ephemeral creatures so intimately, to feel the dusty velvet of their bodies and the silk of their tangerine wings upon my skin. Try as it might my Mind could not make sense of the disparate emotions which consumed my Heart by turn. I was filled with awe as I beheld the preciousness of each tiny creature but then just as quickly, that awe was replaced by the harrowing reminder of what a truly dystopian scene I was baring witness to and participating in. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that there were thousands of Monarchs lining the highway for nearly one hundred miles. While many drivers pressed onward hardly noticing, I am sure, I did not know what to do. But to have placed my tears upon the Earth's surface, pausing to bless the Earth's surface where each butterfly lay, I believe I was fulfilling my some sacred and long forgotten duty as a human.

After returning to Austin, the experience faded into the background of my awareness as I gathered myself fully present to celebrate my dear cousin's wedding, and began to tend to and process the medicines I'd gathered along my travels. The 2016 presidential election loomed just a week away. It was raining in Austin and grey for days on end with no sunlight in sight. The basket of butterflies sat on the floor of my apothecary, unmoving, but far from forgotten. I spoke of them often, struggling to tell the tale. My words always fell short, my Heart unable to express the tug of war which went on within me still as I tried to make sense of the conflicting sense of beauty and death, awe and horror which I feel faced with when I consider the fate of our species and so many others. For how do you explain to your friends that you sense the world is dying? How do you tell the tale of your greatest fear coming true?

On the morning of November 9th, I woke to learn the results of the 2016 presidential election, still in bed and staring at my phone for what seemed an eternity, as I lay motionless, frozen. I felt as though the sun would never return, that it would rain forever, that the whole world and all that I loved would be swallowed by a river of raindrops which returned us to the Sea. I reached out to everyone who came to mind that morning, everyone I was scared for, everyone I loved, everyone I hoped could help me to make sense of it all. I cried in the arms of the kind stranger who taught the exercise class I forced myself to attend that morning. No one knew what to say. One friend in particular, who never fails to bring uncanny wisdom and remembrance to even the most dire moments, offered only that the hills were on fire around her, that she didn't know what was happening either. I spent the week grieving our uncertain future, waking and sleeping in a daze of unending grey.

The Sunday after the election, I went out to lunch with my grandmother, 86, a trail-blazing liberal and feminist since her early life as well as one of the first ever program directors of Planned Parenthood. The skies had cleared and it was a pleasant early Autumn afternoon. We sat outside, waiting for our meal, talking about my work, about my cousin's recent wedding, about her dog, who'd joined us for the outing. I spotted a bee wandering haphazardly across her blouse and leaned over the table, gently coaxing it onto my finger. The bee was disturbingly suggestible, crawling onto my finger and seeming to have no plans of flying away anytime soon. I placed her on my own shoulder, welcoming her presence. When she still had not alighted, minutes later, I understood. I picked her up again and walked over to a nearby blooming Rose, waiting patiently as she crawled, uncertain, into its center. Feeling somber now, I explained to my grandmother that it seemed as though the bee had been exposed to neonicotinoids – a relatively new class of pesticides which disrupt the nervous system of insects who come in contact with it, leaving them disoriented, and in the case of bees – unable to find their way home to the hive. These extremely harmful compounds are likely one of the causes underlying, the very scary phenomenon of colony collapse disorder. I asked my grandmother what she thought – about what I'd said, about the election, about the world. She nodded, solemnly, shrugged, and squinched her face in this way that she does, just barely shaking her head. She told me she thought it'd be best if the Earth was hit by an asteroid – swift + immediate – rather than enduring the natural disasters, degradation of ecosystems, and immanent collapse of civilization, which she predicted as the relatively slow and painful alternative. I sighed deep and excused myself as I let her words penetrate my reality.

It is a truly haunting thing to have your worst fears affirmed by the words of your Elders. Walking to the bathroom, through the crowded restaurant, all clean lines and laughing customers, I felt the immense weight of it all – and Olivia's words returned to my mind. We are the priests of a dying world. I do not yet know, fully what that means, only that it is true, and increasingly so. We are actively midwifing our planet through a process of transformation, the other side of which remains a mystery. I know that Death is the very thing which gives rise to new Life, but on what timeline is that possible, when the organism of which we speak is as vast and ancient and complex in its wisdom as the Earth, our Home. When we think of things such as this, we are no longer considering a scale of biological time, but rather geological time. To speak of these things, we must remember that a mountain's rise and fall upon this Earth is as brief as a wave upon the ocean.

Stephen Harrod Buhner, a favorite herbalist and earth poet, reminds us that most creatures are not consciously aware of the ecological niche that they fill, or the irreplaceable function that they serve as within the larger ecosystem of which they are a part. When bees travel from blossom to blossom, to nourish themselves with nectar and pollen, I believe that is their singular thought. But as they gather sustenance, they are in fact, acting with incredible grace and efficiency to simultaneously and effortlessly pollinate flowers and perpetuate Life's flourishing -- simply by doing what they do to survive. Buhner says, and I agree, that Nature does not make mistakes. And if this is true, then what could be the ecological role of the human species? What sacred service are we here to carry out? Is there any possibility that through our presence, we are somehow ultimately contributing to the Earth's fertility on a scale of time far beyond our comprehension?

I believe that functions have been many, during the relatively short time we've existed on this planet. Certainly, in recent history, we have changed the landscape in an irreversible way that no other species during this era of life on Earth has even come close to. There was a time, though, not long ago when your ancestors and mine, tended to land as both sentient and sacred. When they were allied with and in direct relationship to the elements which sustained them. Though we now live quite far from this place, I sense that it is much closer to us than we collectively acknowledge. Despite what the mind may tell us, a world where we honor all our relations is just on the other side of softening to allow it. A world where each we act undertake has as its goal, the weaving of a steadfast community which honors all of its members, both human and non-human, as equally precious and essential parts of the whole. I do not doubt that we can return to it, and must, but I see also that we have a more seemingly subtle role to play at this time – that what is most needed of us now is our prayer, our ceremony, our honoring, our witnessing. For, what if it is through these acts that we are as the bee to the flower?

It is a deep form of honoring, to simply offer your presence and curiosity to a place. Just showing up to do this is a sacred and healing act in and of itself. Go to those landscapes which are hurting, which were once lush with life and now lay eerily still. Tell them that you see them, that you have not forgotten them, but adore them even now. Be with them as you would someone who fell ill and needed your care and belief in their ability to heal. Let your tears fall upon the Earth, to let her know she is not alone. For we are the Earth, experiencing herself. We are her heart, her hands, her prayer. And I believe that as humans, our sacred responsibility is to feel it all. To experience it all. Not a single one of us is here at this time by accident. We all have precious gifts to share with one another, and as my friend Vanessa pointed out, to make the most potent elixir, we must bring together the medicine of many.

Later that same day, after having lunch with my grandmother, I returned home feeling totally spent, and I texted Olivia, asking her without pretense – Do you think the world is dying? She replied right away – I do. Though she quickly added – but I believe in cyclical time // it need not die forever. I agreed and told her I loved her. She told me she loved me too. I dropped my phone onto the soft surface of my bed and collapsed into tired sobbing, as I had so many times in the days prior. And then I knew -- it was time to write the words you are reading now.

If you found out that someone you loved dearly had only six months to live, the irreplaceable nature and incredible treasure of that connection would surely come into clear focus. I imagine that you would go far out of your way to see them, and do all that you knew how, to honor the kinship that shared. You'd notice every detail about them, savoring the sound of their voice, and the way their eyes crinkled each time they smiled. You would soften into an acknowledgement of your own ephemeral nature, and each moment of life would become more potent for its rarity.

Just as you would not leave this loved one alone at the time of their passing, your full presence is needed now as we witness the world we love, dying all around us. Which is an odd thing to say, I know, and what that means I am not yet certain. But it is so essential that we not look away as we watch hillsides go up in flame and butterflies fall from the sky. It is dangerously seductive to go numb. Luckily, this is one of the many gifts that the dying offer, so graciously to the living – this reminder of the sheer preciousness of each moment, the exquisite pain and beauty of simply existing during this or any time. We are woken out of our habitual numbness by the reality of death. So, try your best instead to soften into whatever it is you feel – for this is the medicine the world needs. Do not be afraid to witness our beloved world as she is. And ask yourself, how can we continue to nurture and feed the seeds that will give rise to new life? How can we, as individuals and as a collective, tend the soil of the worlds within and without, so that when the time comes – whether it is tomorrow or in three billion years from now – that which is sacred will have fertile dirt from which to blossom and flourish?

Hard as it may be, it is so important that we continue to gather, that we again and again come together and make ourselves vulnerable by showing up, for it is this act of community through which we will ultimately find our own strength. I am healed by you, by your friendship, and by your presence. In moments such as this, it is dangerously seductive to isolate myself in my grief. But that is the last thing that this world needs right now and by grieving together, we can act together.

And I don't really know of any way to wrap this up neatly, with some clever or tender insight that offers consolation in a world so badly in need of such. I guess all I can do right now, is ask for your help. And offer mine to you, from the deepest place sincerity, and tenderness, and strength that we all must draw upon during this time. This was a really difficult piece to write, for it is a dangerous thing to believe your own thinking. But when thoughts persist, I've found it wise to remain curious about them. And the themes of which I have written have been relentless of late – finding their way into my consciousness and conversations, filling the very air around me. My energy wanes as my heart hangs heavy with this new knowing that grows in my bones as I watch the bees waggle with confusion, uncertain of how to find their way home to the hive. But I do know that to show up right now – that is the work, that is medicine. So, please keep feeling, please keep fighting, please keep showing up. Know that I promise do to the same and that I am here to be of service to you and offer my support in whatever way you need it most. Thank you Olivia Pepper, dear friend of my Heart, for seeing and naming so eloquently, just exactly who we are and what it is that being asked of us. I am here, I am ready, and I sense that you are too.


America's Healing Crisis

I've noticed that often things have to get as bad as they can possibly get, that emotions and symptoms, and toxic relationships, and bad habits have to escalate to the point of intolerability before most people are ready to commit to any kind of real and lasting change. Whether it's a crisis of health, of spirit, of family or community -- a common pattern is that things get much worse before they, ultimately, improve or resolve. In the Vitalist tradition of herbalism passed down to me by my teachers, this is referred to as a Healing Crisis and is actually an indication that a significant and potentially positive shift is imminent. And my fellow Americans, I believe that the Healing Crisis of the patriarchy, of capitalism, of racism, classism, homophobia, and misogyny, and so much more is reaching its breaking point with this election.

Much like someone who falls suddenly and seriously ill after a lifetime of poor eating, lack of self care, and no exercise -- we no longer have the option or the privilege of continuing to go about our lives as though all is well. But I see this as a positive thing, as a gift we can choose to graciously humble ourselves to accept. When we are seriously illness, we must wake up to what our body is asking of us, or ultimately risk death. Similarly, now that our political system has come so far out of balance, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to truly heal. This is a wake up call to create the change we want in the world. We are the ones we have been waiting for. None of us is here by accident at this time. We all have important gifts and teachings to offer, medicine to share. And the time for this is now.


B A B Y • W I T C H E S

This is an image whose origin I am uncertain of. The caption, and only information I have about it, is that these are Russian Kindergarteners about to perform a tradition folk dance. Russia is one river from which my ancestry flows and the place from which my most communicative ancestor fled at the age of 16.

Whether these little darlings grew up to be full fledged witches or not, their image speaks to a deep longing that has always been within me -- to live in a world that is alive and enchanted, where strangeness and beauty and awe suffuse each moment, and magic happens when you least expect it. Tragically, from a young age, this view of the world as alive, communicative, and filled with wonder was discouraged and I was made to feel shame for believing in it so fiercely. Which brings me to the real point of this post -- which is that this image also speaks to a similarly suppressed longing to dress as my true self every damn day.

I have always felt myself and seemed to others, to be from another time + place entirely. The dress of this time has never suited me any more than the prevailing culture and worldview. How we dress is no small matter, it is magical. It points to a deeper meaning that is felt + sensed beneath the surface of things.

So, dress yourself in those things which delight you, which fill you with a sense of personal power and belonging in this world. Dress in talismans and sacred stones that remind you of your prayers and of where you came from. Wear things you have made with your own two hands. Invoke the practice of dressing as a time of ritual and of magic, and most of all, of play -- for it is my experience that when combined these things become all the more potent.


Return To The Earth

A    T a l e    O f    C o m i n g    O u t

Recently I posted a version of this picture to both my personal and professional social media.  Then I deleted it. Then posted it again. This time I left it.  But I wondered if it was ok.  I wondered if it would be misinterpreted.  I wondered how I wanted it to be interpreted.  What did it mean to me?

Recently it was National Coming Out day, and Indigenous Peoples' day before that.  I am often late to the party, so to speak.  And though I am typically quite vocal online, I said nor shared anything which outwardly acknowledged either day.  I thought intensely about both though as I navigated the delicate situation which demanded my more immediate attention in real life.

But then I took that photo.  

I was alone in the grow dome on my father's property.  I'd been sitting for tea by myself, getting still and quiet as I journeyed within, contemplating the emotions that had moved through me since arriving in this tender place that once felt like home.  The atmosphere was balmy in the dome, despite the chill of the mountain air, just beyond its walls.   I have always loved it in there.  It is warm and moist and smells like earth.  The vitality of the plants is palpable.  And so I took this photo.  And I loved how it came out.  It seemed to me, to accurately communicate a feeling which I've tried to capture, through both words and images with limited success.  It is a feeling which has guided many of the most precious and meaningful moments of my life.  It is, simply, the love that lives in and through my body, both for and as this Earth.

I am someone who is aroused by the scent of soil, the sight of petals spreading wide in invitation, beckoning to the bees who will drink in their nectar, and collect their powder-fine pollen as a devotion to life itself.  I am someone who is aroused by the breeze playing in my hair, the touch of feather and flower against my skin, the sensation of the Earth cool and solid beneath my feet.  Sharp teeth and strong arms.  Soft lips and the scratch of hair on bare cheeks, bare breasts.  Thunder.  Birdsong.  Dawn.

I bought a greeting card at a garage sale many years ago, depicting a luscious seventies bombshell of a woman.  The card read-- How Dare You Assume I'm Straight?  Twenty-two at the time, I felt affirmed by this image and sentiment.  I walk through this world with many privileges, and it is my intention to be come increasingly aware of and responsible to these privileges -- one of which is that I am largely perceived as a straight cis woman.  I do identify as a woman and the pro-nouns she and hers suit me just fine.  However, straight I am not.  Though many of the people I have taken as my lovers are male-bodied and male-identified, many of them are not.  I do not subscribe to or support any definition of gender that does not make space for self identification.  I do not believe in defining my sexuality or yours in relation to what mainstream Western culture defines as normal.

When I posted this photograph online, it felt deeply beautiful and true to me. But then again, so have many things in my life that I have done or said or shared, which I have later been shamed for, punished for.  To me, this image feels no more suggestive than fruit ripening in late Summer, flowers unfurling their petals as the warmth of the sun falls upon them.  But then, I find these things, and so much of life, to be totally and completely infused with eros.  And I am a part of all of that and so are you, and I would not change it.

I self identify as queer, which means to me that I love and am aroused by many people, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.  To me this means, I am capable of loving and sharing intimacy with more than one of these people at a time -- sometimes separately, sometimes all together. But more than that, for me, being queer means that all of life, all of the natural world, excites me and stimulates my sense of eros.  I have made love with roots as I dug them from the hillsides, with wild waters as they caressed my body in hot springs and oceans, with the stars overhead as they spoke to me of the ancient Love we've always shared and always will.  

My heart belongs to Nature herself, my body to the Earth.

And all of this overlaps with the indigenous spirit and self which persist within me.  I am not indigenous to this continent, nor were any of the ancestors in my bloodline to my knowledge.  Because of this, nearly every interaction I have with this Land is colored by a strange blend of gratitude, wonder, shame, remorse, and longing.  It is my prayer that this Land, and all Lands taken by force, will be returned to those First Peoples who cared for and honored them so graciously, and who continue to do so to this day.  And though this is not the land of the people from whom I descend in this life time, my Spirit has lived here before and is deeply recognized by this place.  So I cannot claim this land as my own, nor do I wish to, but it has surely claimed me.  For just today, I spoke with the ancient Aspens as they guided me back toward my true North.  I sang and prayed alongside the mountain stream as the sunlight played on its waters.  I offered the blood of my womb to the ancient stones and listened close to what the Autumn leaves had to tell.  I gently coaxed Autumn roots from the fertile Earth, and watched for meaning when a red fox crossed my path.  This is to say, we all hold within us, a marrow-deep memory of how to be a part of this world, of how to bless each place with our presence and our prayer.  We all come from people who knew how to walk in a good way and it is up to each of us to remember this now and to help those around us remember as well.

I believe in honoring those indigenous persons who still live in the ways of their ancestors.  I believe in acknowledging their sovereignty and their right to steward this land as they see fit.  And I also believe that it has never been more crucial that we all take responsibility for getting curious about and rediscovering the indigenous spirit which dwells within each of us.

I will help you and I hope you will help me too.

May we all feel both inner and outer permission to love who we love, how we want to love them, without fear, without apology.  May we honor this Earth and ourselves not only through ceremony but through every act of daily living.  May we all feel safe and seen in this world, as the creatures of prayer and of blessing that we are at our core.

 T h a n k     y o u     .     I    l o v e    y o u

I    a m    s o r r y     .     P l e a s e    f o r g i v e    m e