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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
I a m s o r r y . P l e a s e f o r g i v e m e
While most of our time is spent in the wilds and woods, we do love a visit to the city every now and again. Portland tops our list of fun places to visit, explore, and wander and indulge. While the list below is brief and far from exhaustive, these are the places that stuck in my mind. Portland is truly spilling over with fabulous food to delight in, creative folks to celebrate, art to enjoy, and Nature to immerse yourself in. It is a city we hope to continue to cultivate a relationship with -- home to many of the friends and teachers we hold dear. My only wish is that we could have seen and connected with more of the special Souls who make their home here. we promise to be back, sooner rather than later. In the meantime, we hope you'll be inspired to visit and enjoy some of the gems which brought us the most pleasure during our all to brief time in the City Of Roses.
D R I N K
3267 Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard
We recommend stopping in for a cool moment of surrealist refuge on a hot afternoon. This lounge feels to me, like LA in the nineties in the best way possible. Although, I have only been to LA once, and that was in 2008. It is like something out of a Weetzie Bat book -- all dark vinyl and tall windows, surfer types and business men. A dreamy soundscape punctuates the strangeness of an early afternoon cocktail, complete with all of the interesting characters you might expect encounter while indulging in such a thing. Let's just say, they were playing Moby and Air at one in the afternoon. And I loved it. Order the Blood Orange. It's a ruby-hued delicate little drink, complete with a succulent and moist hibiscus blossom afloat amidst its mildly sweet and tart few precious sips. After you've emptied your glass, you'll feel the psychedelic haze of adolescence wash over you, and be re-inspired to continue your exploration of Portland's many wonders. Go next door to Altar for a moment of magic, post-cocktail.
4001 North Mississippi Avenue
There are apparently multiple locations, but the one I am pointing you toward is located on Mississippi and conveniently adjacent to the neighborhood of [relatively] quiet dead end streets where I spent many a night parked in my camper during my weeks in Portland. I love this coffee shop. It feels like a place that has remained largely unchanged amidst the wave of hip that has subsumed most of the city in recent years. I ventured here for quiet moments of internet access and electricity, the opportunity to use an actual bathroom, and of course their Nitro Cold Brew on tap. When I was in Portland seven years ago, I ran into an acquaintance of mine from the Mountains of Colorado. It's that kind of place. Old Austin Vibes and cute baristas whose style may or may not be ironic. Dig it.
E A T
2029 Southeast 21st Avenue
This is, by far, one of the sweetest co-ops I ever did see. They have bulk everything, incredible local produce, an astonishing selection of kraut and other fermented foods, kombucha on tap, and a commendable selection of dried herbs rivaled only by Mendocino's Corners Of The Mouth. Visit the co-op for a full on epicurean shopping experience or stop in for simple trip to pick up some kale and nectarines.
2240 North Interstate Avenue
This is the breakfast spot I have always longed for, but never though existed. Super cozy, it is honey-lit and wood scented, and my ideal spot for a quiet and hearty weekday breakfast. Go here with your lover on a cloudy morning to snuggle up with hot coffee and delicious food. I ordered the corned beef hash with two eggs [perfectly cooked] over easy and some kind of crispy potatoes that I enjoyed so much, I can only assume they were cooked in Heaven.
5202 North Albina Avenue
Everyone will probably tell you to go here. It's simple and very, very good, and it is oh so Portland. I don't have much to say that has not already been said, but Sweedeedee is a sure thing. They offer great coffee in even better ceramic mugs, there are truly kind people behind the counter, and a haze of vinyl sounds warms the already a bright space. This is an ideal spot to admire all of the Portland people. I made it in twice for breakfast, but hope to return for dinner very soon.
I have been fantasizing about the hazelnuts I bought here last Summer -- All Year Long. You may not know how to handle yourself here. It is really, really amazing. Wild mushrooms, fresh salmon, peonies spilling from their buckets, the sweet scent of naan and thai chilis cooking, and -- did I mention? -- all of the beautiful Portland people. This is one of my favorite markets in the country. Make space in your fridge and clear your schedule to spend the rest of the day preparing dinner from the magnificent produce you won't be able to resist taking home.
S H O P
319 Northeast Wygant Street
Maria, the proprietress of this low-key, one-stop magic shop, is one of the most incredible shop owners I've had the pleasure of meeting. As generous as she is knowledgable and intuitive, her shop is an unassuming hub for community, safe space, and radical magical healing. Sea Grape tops our list of boutiques to visit in Portland. A visit to the store offers an incredible opportunity to follow your nose and follow your heart toward the medicines which will serve you best. It is worth a stop for a moment of olfactory revelry alone. Keep an eye on the evolving schedule of classes and events offered by some of the most grounded and gifted PNW herbalists, witches, and generally knowledgable folks. Be sure to carve out enough time to stop in at the other shops on the block, appropriately nicknamed -- the Mystic District.
315 Northeast Wygant Street
Located right next door to Sea Grape, Sugar Mountain Vintage offers a singularly groovy vibe that that I couldn't resist. A desert daughter through and through, Hannah's collection of vintage turquoise, silver, and coral beckoned me inside. The laid back feeling of the shop will make you want to sneak in and camp out on a Sunday morning wearing your favorite gauzy caftan, lounging in the dreamy interior. Oh, and let's talk about the music which fills this time capsule cool space. When I dropped by, Hannah was listening to something I'd never heard before. It was at once psychedelic and folkloric, hauntingly beautiful and familiar though it was my first listen. This is a very magical place to find your new favorite treasure in the form of the perfect pair of vintage levi's, 1970's huaraches, or in my case, the Silver + Coral ring of my dreams...
3731 North Mississippi Avenue
This small shop offers most of my favorite things under one roof. Salt + Chocolate + Bitters + Fresh Flowers. This place really does speak for itself. The people who work there are very knowledgable and samples are available. Go. Buy your mom something nice.
3279 Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard
When I walked in to Altar, I immediately understood why so many folks had pointed me toward it. These ladies get it. The aesthetic is dark + sparkly, smelling of moss and old wood and quartz. I loved the in-house clothing and jewelry they design as well as their enchanted collection of crystals and lingerie. Definitely a sweet place to indulge yourself and get lost in a moment of shadowy fantasy. Stop next door at Gold Dust Meridian before or after, to complete the experience.
1005 West Burnside Street
This Portland Institution seems to me, such an essential part of the city itself, that I almost neglected to include it here. But duh y'all -- go to Powell's! Go to Powells and turn off your phone and don't tell anyone where you'll be for the next four hours. Go to Powell's and drink in the scent of wisdom + pages beloved. Go to Powell's and listen to where you are drawn, a sort of divination practice and bibliomancy. I don't think I could ever get tired of being ensconced in the shelves of this heavenly place.
801 North Killingsworth Street
You will straight up wish you lived here. Alea Joy and her incredible team of radical babes have conjured some photosynthetic magic that is a force of nature all its own. This place is House Plant Heaven. Floral Valhalla. All your Botanical dreams will come true at once as you step foot inside the spacious shop which seems to glow from within, and you'll know you have arrived somewhere wonderful, indeed. Verdant as can be, this lovely corner serves as both a retail shop and workspace for the epic floral beauty these incredible folks are known for. It was such a treat to offer our Medicine Of The Rose workshop here during our time in Portland and we look forward to more collaborations still to come. Be sure to venture the few blocks toward Peninsula Park after you visit the shop and go have a heart to heart with the Roses.
707 Northeast Fremont Street
I haven't actually been here in many years, but not for lack of trying. On this trip I seemed to be forever arriving just as they closed, or driving by when I really, actually, had to be somewhere else. I still remember the dress I bought here eight years ago though, and periodically grieve the fact that it vanished into thin air. Re-Run is a totally great and affordable place to find used clothes, furniture, and stuff. You know, if you like that sort of thing. Located conveniently across the street from Irving Park.
R E L A X
3525 Northeast Martin Luther King Boulevard
Treat yo self. Löyly is one of those places where no detail goes unnoticed. You will feel instantly soothed upon entering the space. However, it is not a spa where the staff is stiff or judgmental in the least. Rather, it is a welcoming place where I felt totally comfortable showing up just as I was -- a bit road weary and most certainly overdue for some self care (and let's be real y'all -- just overdue for a shower in general). I opted for their monthly special which included a foot soak, face mask, hour long massage, and up to two hours enjoying the sauna. It was really, really lovely. The space is delightfully simple and clean, warmly lit, refreshingly spare. If I lived in Portland, you'd find me here often. Hydotherapy y'all.
2917 Northeast Everett Street
The Everett House is a great low-key place to take a steam + sauna and lay in someone's backyard naked while you pet a cat in the afternoon sun. Or something... We recommend going during the daytime hours to take full advantage of the bare skinned, sunlit opportunities which await you. Sip a seriously subtle and spot on Soma Oak Cask Jun after you've sauna-ed, soaked, sunned, and showered.
N A T U R E
North Rosa Parks Way + North Albina Avenue
I basically lived here while I was in Portland. Portland is a city rich in parks and green spaces to sprawl out, move your body, and generally get weird. This is my favorite of them all. A Rose Lover's paradise, if come during the Summer months you will not be disappointed. There is also a certain kind of sacredness which resides in the places where the paths intersect and a tree grows on each of the four corners. Go there. Drink it in.
Council Crest Park
Also called The Bluffs, this is the perfect place to watch the sunset and reflect on the goodness of the day. Bring a blanket and a friend and a bottle of hard cider for best results. Be respectful of the residents who live on the street leading up to the park and leave your vehicle further back in the neighborhood.
Y'all -- this place is amazing. I rode my bike to the top and sat in an ancient Maple, my heart afloat with love and levity. Then a woman wearing purple fairy wings situated herself at a big white piano nestled in the trees just down the hill and started flawlessly playing Yann Tiersen's scores from the film Amelie. I almost cried from the sheer perfection of the moment, as the familiar sounds filled the forest, and whispy fluffs of some faraway seed drifted through the shafts of light which poured in through the leafy limbs above. Also, literally everyone who was not me or my companion or the woman playing the piano was glued to their phone, looking for Pokemon, I think. So, there was that...
7th Avenue + Fremont Street
This is the best place I found to stretch and move and generally work it out. I'm also pretty sure I saw the dad from Actual Conversations With My Two Year Old on the playground with his kids the first time I stumbled into the park. On a separate visit, I was at once delighted and perplexed to find a casual kind of festival happening amidst the maple shade, complete with incredible DJs spinning vinyl and beautiful folks dancing on the verdant lawn. The music was really, really good. It sounded as though it was emanating from the trees themselves, pulsing up through the grassy knoll beneath me as the day faded to dusk and I stood triumphant and calm in Natarajasana, my body settling ever deeper into its recently remembered sense of strength and balance.