I've opened this 'new post' page quite a few times in the last week. The theme for this month's Blog Party is 'What is your first ally'. I've thought of about seventy. There is just no way to narrow it down. So I've taken the old fashioned writers block route and am just writing exactly what I am thinking and feeling without too much purpose. Perhaps that will reveal itself by the time I finish. Or not.
You see, I grew up in an Ashram, basically. Fairfield Iowa to be exact, the belly of the Maharishi movement, Transcendental Meditation and Ayurvedic Medicine in the Western World. Leaving my bad memories out, I have pages of memories containing plant medicine of some kind. And although I didn't really ally and journey intentionally with one plant until I was older, these imprints are just as lasting and profound, if not more.
At my favorite park, Hempstead Park, my girlfriend Corrina and I used to collect pillow-cases full of sourgrass. Chewing on this sour delight all the while, I remember the carefree, self-sustaining bliss of this bountiful, giddy harvest. And the power of a pure friendship with a female friend which has been something of a rare treasure in my life. This beautiful, clover leafed Sheep sorrel was my insurance that should I be lost like Ayla, I could get by.
Honey. I love honey. My mom bought me honey shampoo when I was just learning how to bathe myself. I loved smelling like honey. When I walk past my sweet honeybee hive today, I still feel the innocent wonder of the first smells of honey. I know Mother Earth holds bounty. I know she provides medicine.
Grass. My favorite picture of myself is of when I was about four or five, laying deep in the throws of a meadow green as can be, long, willowy grasses. Running through a meadow had to be one of the purest joys of childhood in Iowa. The sunkissed smell of hay, the wavering silver, green, silver, green, as the wind changed. And there I lay, smiling as Mona Lisa, contented in my neverland of green grass.
Mulberry's. My Mother and Father owned a ten acre parcel of unbuilt land. We would go there on weekends to plant fruit trees and my mother would mow sky clad. They would put a hay bail staircase up to the Mulberry tree for me. This tree had to be a hundred feet in my child eyes, raining with sweet berries forever. I would eat until my heart turned purple. For free. With no time limit. With no manners. with no limits. I was free!
Green Beans. My father is a Taurus. In other words, a master gardener. He grew the best organic green beans ever. I remember just sitting in the garden eating these little morsels all summer long, when I was about six. Yeah, I'm only to age six, sorry.
Then I started getting chronic bronchitis. This was around school age, and in hindsight I think it was a communication glitch. I was too shy too tell all the rotten people to fuck off. And I got it baaad. That spasmodic, gasping, barking cough, pain all down the sides of my neck, burning face, just miserable.
So Mom took me to the Vedic doctor. After taking my pulse, told me that I needed to take turmeric and honey every day, and that I had a week bladder and to watch that when I got older. The latter didn't help my bronchitis but I still remember that.
To this day I adore Turmeric/honey paste. It's lovely and soothing going down and great for the digestion. Even better if you can get fresh turmeric root! The taste is exotic and wonderful. I take it still if I get a bad cough. That was the first medicine I remember where I was aware that it replaced taking a pharmaceutical drug. Wow, I thought, I can eat roots and get better without poison. "There will always be an option" I remember noting - and this is an imprint that effects my philosophy today.
Chaparral. Sitting across from my Mom, some afternoon around age 8, I think. We sat at a small, round, card sized table, surrounded by the heady smell of Earth's depth. Slightly dry, slightly putrid, slightly burnt, and mildly sweet the way a spent goldenrod smells after a fall rain. Her fingers worked deftly, pushing the fragrant green-brown powder into clear capsules. I worked to match her. "They are taking this off the shelves". She said to me. "So I'm stocking up now, as much as I can."
"Why?" I asked. What 8 year old wouldn't ask that?
"Because people are taking too much of it and getting sick, and they are blaming the plant. So I am stocking up before they ban it."
"Oh." I reply. "But isn't that the humans fault, not the plant's? I ask.
My 10 year old daughter said the same thing to me, nearly word for word, a couple weeks ago in a conversation about Comfrey.
"Yup." She responded. "People have forgotten how to respect medicine and how to use plants for healing. So they are getting sick from it. This plant is Chaparral. A powerful herb that should be used with care, and when done so, can help heal a wound, a flu, and bad viruses. If you take too much, it is too much for your liver to manage."
"Oh" I answered. And my insides feel as though a portal has opened. I realize my Mother is ............. something.
A medicine woman?
A secret healer?
Now I know she is just a Mom. Equal to all of that by birthright.
The smell was intoxicating, like a journey through the wet roots of a California river bed. I notice the iron patterns of the table beneath the glass cover where our fingers work. And up from the table is a corridor of old wooden shelves and packets of herbs hanging from racks. The shelves have jars and jars of herbs. I am in an herb shop, I remember. The bags are brown with a clear window in the front. And the bulk herbs are beautiful, magical, present. We brush our stained fingers off, trickle every last capsule into the packet, and bring our medicines to the old wooden counter, and check out.
Brahmi. Better known as Gotu Kola, is a child's dream come true if you have a parent willing to rub it into your feet. Being that I was a gymnast, my mother had ample excuses to massage me. And the Brahmi oil was my favorite - besides the creamy almond, honey flavored massage lotion that I later found out was a Kama Sutra cream (nice one Mom:). I loved the dark green glass bottle and the fancy sanskrit writing. I loved the thick, sweet green oil inside. Brahmi has a deep nervine quality, apparent when smelled or rubbed into skin, it soaks in like a warm cloak of serenity. Indeed my memories are embedded into my smell-memory as much as anything, but perhaps this particular unguent was one that brought me to one of my closest allies; Oil. I love to infuse herbs in oil. Olive oil, almond oil, coconut, jojoba ..... give me an oil and I will find herbs to immerse in it.
Those Ayurveda people you know like a LOT of oil. They like to drizzle it on by the gallons! So I was around a lot of folks walking around in oiled hair wrapped up in white turbans. And they all smelled so good! The vatas wafted a hearty Rose-Sandalwood .... the Kaphas smelled peppery and minty, and the pittas smelled light and cool, like roses and lemon drops. And the rosy glowing cheeks were shiny with fresh oil. I identified oil with nourishment, healthy touch, and radiance. And comfort.
Apple tree. It was my favorite climbing tree. The one who's branches I could reach and the closest to my house. The elevated wonderland where I first learned the word 'booty' from a neighbor girl and that it wasn't a small sock. Where I sat and ate powdered cinnamon from the spice cabinet and pretended it was my 'Medicine'. Where I sat and watched each season change. Where I could see over into the park where the sourgrass grew. Where lover's stopped to kiss not knowing there were eyes watching. I loved her knotted strong hands and sturdy arms. Her apple pie smell. My apple tree, my love tree.
And there are so many more. My inner books of beloved smells, tastes, healings, and mother made potions. Rose whipped cream. Four things soup, potpourri joints, and tonka bead necklaces. Horseradish/Osha tincture. Fresh Basil on everything. Damiana love elixir.