Today was marvelously warm and docile, and a new carpet of green-- grass of every variety and stripe-- began poking its way through the brown haze of last year's growth. So too was it a day on the tail of the full moon, and on the wing-tip of a new cold snap sweeping in from the northwest. By day's end I realized it was the perfect opportunity, this space-between-times, not-quite-warm and not-quite-cold and not-quite-spring-but-not-really-winter, to set my intention for the coming year.
Rather, the intention seems to have set me for once, for I am all excitement about it, and the fact that this year I can broadcast it from a virtual rooftop? Well. A lot of people seem drawn to this inner exercise of intention-setting for the new year at the turn of the new year; using the quiet introspective nature of winter's chilly hoarding of light, folks like me hibernate a bit psychically, drawing in energy rather than putting too much out, meditating on what is in stock and what needs replenishing. The result buds out as spring's first leaves do, oftentimes with a quiet, "Ah-ha".
So here is my "Ah-ha". I have long wanted to make a serious study of herbalism, but I knew the time needed to be right; I knew I needed to have a few ducks in a row, to be clear about why I was doing so, and what methods I would undertake. I didn't want to learn about it just for another such notch under my belt.
Truth is, I read a lovely story in a Reader's Digest Condensed Novel once, of all places, and one image from that narrative has rested quietly as an inspiration in my mind ever since. I don't remember the tale, nor the author. But the image remains of a large room with old wooden cabinets, thick wooden countertops, and hundreds of gathered, dried herbs of all kinds hanging from the ceiling beams. I must have been all of 20 when I read that passage, and new to a more pagan orientation...and I knew that was the life I wanted-- or at least, the workshop of the life I wanted.
And now, I am excited, for I know a little more of just how I'd like to begin my study, and perhaps even a little more about how I'd like to use its benefit.
First, for inspiration, I treated myself to a copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It is a lucky thing to have a birthday at this time of year, when birthing the ideas of winter's end can well use the energy generated by a birth-anniversary, and not to mention the little bit of cash flow that comes in as gifts. This is a political book, and an almost spiritual treatise to boot, of one family's decision to live off of only that which was produced in the vicinity of their home. I've decided to read this bit-by-bit, drinking in the inspiration and hardship of a life lived locally, and well. Their story begins in that springtime switch, when surprise snowstorms remind one that life is not posey and sing-song; I am determined to meter my goals this time with a pinch of realism, so the raw honesty of this book is called for and appreciated.
And while I was in that bookstore, I grabbed a hold of something completely promising: How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, by Mark Bittman. He lists 15 different tricks for cooking seitan. I am in love with this book. Our daily alchemy with the plant world isn't so exotic and removed; it lives in our kitchens, several times a day at our tables, and I am ready to be moved. It's those basic interactions with the beauty of the living world that deserve the most attention. I am curious to see what new relationships to food might transpire.
Of course none of this would be any fun without a more esoteric exploration, would it? Here my texts of choice are two that I have begun, but not had the time to dig too deeply into: The Secret Teachings of Plants by Buhner, and Healing Threads by Mary Beith. In the former, I'm hoping to recapture something of the magic that I lost long ago, when I chanced to have an amazing conversation with a sunflower, and I passed on it, because I was afraid, and ...well, it was a sunflower, so it felt a little like losing my mind.
Maybe that would have been a good thing.
So, I am eager to rediscover this world-- and this trust for what is in it, which surely lies beyond any thing I could imagine for it. "The world is too much with us," wrote Wordsworth-- too much getting-and-spending, and not enough being-with, and noticing. It is time to stop and not only smell the roses, but learn to converse with them.
I pray it is not too late. Already the sun today felt prickly and searing; the most direct spot on my porch thermometer read near-90*. What wisdom and beauty are we to lose in an era of Global Warming? Really, it makes me cry-- and it makes me afraid. Which brings me to the latter, Beith's book, which outlines the herbal tradition of the Celts of the British Isles, mainly what is now Scotland. I've no claim to be a Scots-Gaelic reconstructionist, nor a recon of any stripe, but what is essential is learning a wisdom that has been passed from generation to generation in my Celtic ancestry.
There was a cr person who once asked me why, if I was ordained in another tradition, weren't the gods of that tradition enough? Well, yes; and no. For there is no "Zen" healing art, and my fundamental belief is that one does not heal as a "healer" per se-- Rather, one heals in concert with the energy of the situation, the salve and spirit the herbs provide, and the co-action of the spirits in attendance. I've had some amazing interactions with one deithe and I feel an invitation by another who is willing to help me learn the tricks of my heritage-- should I be so bold as to just ask.
Along the way, I shall chronicle my efforts in learning relationship to plants here, and of my learning relationship to the deithe here. I welcome any wisdom or encouragement that my visitors might pass along...and I hope to impart something of benefit to those who also may use it when I'm done.
On the verge of my 39th year, as the wind howls and roots grow deeper, Pilar
Oisin G'Dea's mama, wife of an Ruaphok Gaiscíoch; lover of the creative life, nomadship and stewardship; zen priest, gardener, artist, writer, herb-crafter, counselor and dreamer... I've lived in the inspiring high-desert, mountain-punctuated New Mexico & Colorado ~ misty redwood-coated coastlines of Northern California ~ strangely elegant riversides in Southern Maryland ~ snowy, busy Greater Boston ~ lovely and welcoming Hilltown Massachussetts.