My father, who planted trees and who believed that nature heals, made our home in the woods and the Pennsylvania forest became my first teacher, molded me onto my spirit/nature path. When young I worked hard to build a bird-watching station in the woods with old doors and scrap lumber. The birds came – but not to the feeder – they came up on my side of the blind to watch me! I learned early the limitations of science, of the detached observer’s position, of the fallacy of separation; I saw that life is a playful interaction between beings who are all part of a relational web more spontaneously harmonious and supportive than the wounded families we tried to draw sustenance from.
I played magic in the woods as well as botany, and as an early teen saw god from the top of a tulip tree on the top of the highest hill around, at sunset. Did I notice then that when I cried the clouds would darken and drop rain? I did see on the way to school that the rising sun made the buffalo grass glow red and sparked an excited rebirth in every day. I learned how the rolling of the seasons pulled me inside in an energetic breathing that found place for death and made space for birth. It was the beginning of getting it, that the fire of the sun, the stirring of the wind, the soothing flow of water in the woods all make healing – it is an alchemy from which no one is excluded – it is free for every creature, it is our birthright.
After college (BA art, BA english) in Iowa, I was drawn west and spent the next seven years in the northwest where I again lived most of the time in the woods and began a practice of early morning meditation. Wounded, unwell, and looking for the way, I apprenticed with women healers and native medicine women, learning what each had discovered to say “no” to a fatal diagnosis. I studied botany, herbalism (the herbal revival in this country had barely begun), acupuncture, polarity therapy, and poured through ethnobotanical texts. I worked in an alternative clinic in Seattle where I had the opportunity to help Joy Gardner collect herbal information and clinical experience for her little book Healing Yourself,some of which appeared in her later book Healing the Family. The most important part of my education at this time was the six hours I spent nearly every day in the woods, collecting edible mushrooms and plants, as well as making energetic connection and practicing communication with the plant kingdom (and often with rocks, rivers, mountains, etc).
Then I was pulled again – this time to the southwest (introduced by the talking lizard, the life-saving chia, and the stern but supportive saguaro) – where my career has centered around plants and an herbal practice for over 30 years. As I left the northwest I was looking at two holes in my plant medicine knowledge. First, what my teachers taught did not convey a clear understanding of constitutional types, and second, I realized without a doubt that the best physical medicine in the world could not cure a deeply traumatized person without addressing the emotional body and the spirit – that this was the key to a true and lasting healing.
In southern Arizona my husband and I bought land and built home living spaces of adobe, straw-bale, and wood. There I bore my three strong and beautiful daughters and raised them along with various dogs, cats, hundreds of chickens, and many gardens. Here I was first called to make essences of the flowers in the desert around me and in the sky island mountains. I learned about constitutional types (first missing piece) from Michael Moore and began illustrating his books, as well as other books including some native ethnobotanical texts, a local newspaper, made logos and letterheads for various healers, learned to use Jin Shin, studied Reiki (2nd level certificate) and dance movement. Tai Chi became my discipline.
My primary work was with flower essences, looking to heal the psychological roots (second missing piece) of the physical diseases of my clients, and I became co-founder of the essence company Desert Alchemy, as well as of the Passage Essences used in the awareness training of Sacred Passage. I made medicines of local plants, though traveling for some, formed a tincture company, presented slide shows on desert essences and on local medicines (“SW Medicine Chest”), and did many plant walks, lectures, and some extended field trips and field studies (SW Conference on Botanical Medicine and several colleges for the healing arts, worked with the students of the SW School of Botanical Medicine).
Living one mile from Mexico, I sought mexican and native uses for locally abundant plants from across the border, visiting herbalists and native medicine people there. Partnering in more recent years with a curandero from Sonora, I learned in greater depth of magical as well as herbal plant uses and began dreaming with plants, seeking with their guidance to close the gaps between conscious and subconscious processes. I worked 2 years on a botanical survey team in the Huachuca Mountains, did some botanical inventory for the Nature Conservancy and for individual land-owners seeking conservation easements. This has given me an opportunity to find and do energy work with rare, special, or hidden plants or places, and has deepened my understanding, from an ecological perspective, of the responsibility in making medicines from local plants.
I encourage students to take plants as teachers and put themselves into a challenging therapeutic process which stretches at the limit of the usual scope of flower essences. My drive has been to find what we, as a community, need to heal ourselves in this territory, how to find harmony with place and recognize those spots in our region where we can access various energies for fine-tuning our internal balance. Most of all I have been trying to live in the grace of gaia, recognizing and feeling the support of synchronicity and connection within our habitat, and to help others to feel this connection as a primary sustenance and security. In the flowers, which reflect all aspects of human experience, one can find and heal the lost mother, the absent or abusive father. One can learn to knit body and soul, and call back the lost parts of the self.