Violet Lullaby

Today has been all kinds of purple.

Dropping off an elderberry syrup to a friend in the morning. Then finding a large patch of chokeberry which stained up my hands pretty inky. I foraged maybe 4lbs. and there was still so much more.

After that, we went hopping on stones in a creek. I was drawn to a weeping willow, under which I gathered a handful of shiso.

And I met heal-all for the first time.

Apparently the plants with purple leaves absorb more green light, and the green leafed plants absorb more red and blue light.

Seems kind of backwards, but what do I know. I turn 8 shades of pink red and white when I absorb whatever light.

Oh, and last night I made a salve using coconut oil infused with lavender.

Beauty Is Only Skin Deep

I'm having all these plant experiences that I'm finding trouble articulating.

I think it's because I feel flooded with them. Like every time I step into some place of nature, there are all these wild beings tugging at my heart, calling to my feet, entrancing my eyes.

For instance, thistle. It is hella prickly. It's poky. It's sticky not like glue but sticky like it'll stick you like a thorn. But when I get stuck by thistle, the feeling isn't localized to the place it sticks me, it's more of this tingling flush that runs across the entirety of my whole skin. A flashing bash of goosebumps. Like shiver me timbers! Shake me down. Wake me up! And then it's gone.

It's in the name. Thistle. It just momentarily, so sweetly, stings.

Kind of like stinging nettle. With nettle, though, the sting is incredibly localized to the area the plant rubs the skin. There's this constant feel like a bee unleashing a small fury. Unlike thistle again, the stinging nettle sticks around. The acute pain of it dissipates after a few minutes, but a few hours later, if it stang you on the fingertips, and you grab a cool glass of ice, there's that biting reminder of picking up nettle by the stem or leaf contacting skin stinging stanging stung.

The first time I experienced nettle, I went all in. We were bagging it up for half an hour. Granted, it had been in a refrigerator for awhile, so the sting wasn't as fresh as picked right off the ground. At first, I liked it. It woke my hands up with a harsh bristle. And we continued to grab a bunch and bag it, grab a bunch and bag it, grab a bunch and bag it. One after the other. Monotonous, lively stinging, and the workday continued on, we accomplished other tasks, and I forgot about it. The sting flew off. But to my great chagrin, at the end of the day, I pulled out my phone, and as I'm checking messages and perusing social media, my hands start burning a hellfire blaze. I tried to ignore it, but it just welled up and took me over. I put on chamomile and lavender oils. I breathed deep breaths, deep deep breaths. I muttered and cursed. I walked around mad as hell like an inflamed jack ass spewing steam from my ears bursting at the fxcking seams. What in the grand scheme of hell was I thinking? But then it occurred to me, What if I bathed in it? What if it lit up my whole body? It must be some temporary supernatural superpower. Like selling your soul to the devil. To embody the flesh so deeply you feel the pain of plants. But how would I channel it if ever I decided to do it? Where would it go? I imagined the shamans who eat mushrooms, who dance to drumming, who sing their icaros, who dispense powerful prayerful medicines to the sick and ailing, I imagined the ones who eat hot peppers so hot it triggers them into an altered state of consciousness, and there must be someone throughout the history of time who dug so foolishly deep they wound up with a body invigorated lit up driven mad stinging stanging sting stang stung stooged wielding as a ceremonial tool the oft avoided thrashing fire skin of flaming nettle.

I'm reminded of the monk who poured gasoline on his body and meditated into a fiery death in protest of the Vietnam War.

Side not: Where are all the disciplined radicals willing to risk life and limb?

They must be buried deeply within our own skin, perhaps too suppressed, paralyzed, zombified, fascistically dead, too diluted by the drugs of modern society to find expression, the fear of leaving status quodom keeping a strangled chokehold.

Who knows?

We’re not terribly wild anymore. But still, the wild urge is locked away like the ancestors waiting to be honored. Like the plants screaming out to be respected and stewarded.

You ever get wrapped up in Japanese hops? The vines cling to the skin like cleavers cling to the clothing. They leave marks like an animal clawing at your arm. The cuts don’t run all too deep, but they sure make an impression on the body’s memory.

I'm thankful, for one, I've never experienced the poison kiss of ivy. A few close people in my life have been susceptible, especially recently, and as of now I can only experience the second-hand ferocity of painful itching the uncontrolled desire to scratch and rip away the skin to come crawling out shedding layers like a snake growing wings a feathered serpent flying from the burden & the beauty of being human.

It seems we are victims of our own material weight. We are trapped in matter. The slightest plant wreaking havoc on our fragile dermas. We are so unweathered in modern society.

To think, our protective layer is so thin.
To think, we construct judgments based on color.
To think, are we really all so shallow?

On the flip side, isn’t it a wonder we are blessed with the temple body in the first place? Is there not pleasure in being touched by a loved one? The way it flutters our insides and arouses heat across the skin. To embrace, push, and press. To want to know the body of another through the experience of our own embodiment.

Clearly, I feel that way about plants too.

My friend was telling me about magic mushrooms, how we ingest them for many reasons but especially because we long for a sense of blissed out interconnectivity, a pure flooding of awe and understanding, and how, really, it’s reciprocal, because the mushrooms want to experience the carnality of being human too.

Under the Spell of Nervines

It’s soupy outside. Like honey and molasses. Like hot mud. The sun keeps crushing me. It turned me into a puddle like the wicked witch of the west. I melted and the sun sucked me off the ground. Through the air I flew straight pass the moon and pass those inner planets. Now I’m burning in that fiery goodness. That fiery goddess got me in a spell of wordy worships.


We went for a hike today in Wissahickon. I took off my shoes. Touched the ground. Sole to soul. It was relieving to feel the earth underfoot. The compacted soil absorbed my steps, and the networks of fungi heard me coming from several if not hundreds of feet away. Ghost pipe popped out into my vision field. I immediately sat with it, and it asked to be harvested. I’ve found it growing a number of times, but haven’t up until this point lifted it from the ground. It felt right. It felt full of mystery and intrigue. That’s usually how I know it’s time. When I’m on the edge of falling in. Right on the precipice. When I can sink my mind in easily and absorb what the plant has to offer. There’s some kind synergy at play. Cross specie telepathy. I left a good bit of the ghost pipe alone. Ethical harvesting always in the back of my conscience.

The ghost pipe looks just like that. Like an opaque pipe. They grow in what I’d like to call a village. Clumped up together like a band of little huts. It’s a plant, but it doesn’t produce chlorophyl, so it never gets green. Since it doesn’t produce its own food, it feeds off of the mycelial growth of mushrooms, and the mushrooms feed off the roots of trees. So in a sense, the ghost pipe is an epi-parasite. A parasite of a parasite. Which is really interesting when considering its medicinal action: It helps relieve pain, but it doesn’t get rid of the pain. It allows you to “feel” the pain but ignore it. Like getting outside your body to witness what is happening but not partaking in it. Like an out of body experience. Like becoming a ghost. And it has this similar action on emotional pain: It allows the person to see & engage the pain instead of turning away from it because it so deeply hurts.


Disclaimer: I’ve not experienced this for myself with regards to ghost pipe, I’ve only been reading about it. But it makes a lot of sense to me, like I’ve known it for years, because I’ve worked with psychedelics and meditation. That sense of “being beside one’s self” is all too familiar. Ekstasis. It’s where the word ecstasy derives from.

But what I find really curious is that these similar plants are coming into my life right around the same time. Plants that work on deep hurt. Deep wounds. The wounds that are forgotten about because they seem so long gone, but out of nowhere, or so it seems, they give rise and ravage the sleeper from passive dreams into conscious action to heal.

St. John’s Wort is one of those other plants I found recently. Hypericum perforatum. I found it growing wild for the first time ever. It was alongside the railroad tracks in my hometown. It jumped out at me like, “Hey! Would you like a helping hand? How about some of that fiery golden sun absorbed & redistributed into my bright yellow flowers! And when you crush my petals, I’ll bleed a maroon blood on your hands…” It works in that way, on the nerves and on the metaphorical blood. The life force. It helps lift one out of mild depressions, re-directing one’s inner fire, re-aligning the will. I harvested it under the full moon, the gusting wind and rainstorm that blew in beforehand still wet on its leaves. I let it dry out into the next day, then bottled it up with apple cider vinegar and honey. I’m planning on waiting until after the autumn equinox to crack it open in hopes that it crushes me like the sun when the darkness of days is full tilt in the winter valley.


I also bottled up the ghost pipe, but instead of acv, I used one hundred proof vodka. I don’t plan on using it. But I’m sure I will. I guess I’m already working with it. I don’t know why I took it home with me in the first place. It just called on me to save its spirit. Perhaps I need it more than I realize, like I’m entering a deep searching and realization of my own traumatic experience growing up in America. It’s heavy when so many people fly the flag ignoring the war machine that devastates both the home front and the world stage. When I walk downtown, I see all these people wearing flag shirts and other propaganda paraphernalia. When I walk around the suburbs, everyone has a flag marking their home like it needs to be stated: “I am a nationalist and this is America!” That seems to be the lynchpin for patriotism. It’s the forefront of discussion, how complicit are you? The more complicit, the more American. Apparently.

But, come on. We have a problem with healthcare.

Really though. It’s absurd. It’s got that clownish quality to it. We have a major healthcare problem. You don’t know if it’s laughable or so sad you just want to burst like a cloud. So you do both. All of it too real. It’s surreal. All the feels right in the gut. Right in the heart. You want to love everything to death, and death everything to life. Start it all over. Revolutionize the whole damn thing.

And none of us are untouched. That’s for sure. And because of that, it’s nice to have plant allies along for the journey, especially when it gets so treacherous or too much to face.

In my younger years I often walked a path of escapism while calling it freedom, and I see that pattern arising here and there in my adulthood. Don’t get me wrong, I think we all need some rest and relaxation, restoration and rejuvenation. We need to take care of ourselves. Time to slowly experience the intricacies unraveling. To sip sweetly the cup of life. That’s why I take to the woods. Take off my shoes and commune with the plants. So when I come back to the city, I’m a bit more ready to deal with the oppression of brick and wires, the concrete hard like the weight of jack hammers in the early morning, pounding sound in the ears, cramped up density of people stressed out & worked to the bone, which goes hand-in-hand with the constant, drastic change of the climate, politically speaking, environmentally speaking, socially, culturally, and spiritually. The streets are in heat. The war isn’t that far away. It’s a click away for some. It’s a step out the door for others. And if we have a pulse connected to the source, we feel the pain that too many endure.

Like, it’s hard to believe, but not surprising at this point, so many black people are still getting brutalized & murdered by police, and at the same time, so many people are still going about their days like the American dream is supreme.

It’s a broken record.

A broken record that needs repeating until the masses are moved. And there are too many broken records in this country.

But all that being brought up, the change is like this heat. Soupy. Running like molasses. Slow like honey. Insufferable. Thick and swampy like you just want to sit home naked in front of the fan with a cool glass of cucumber and ice. But you can only do that for so long. Because there is work to do. Because the plants are calling. Because people are taking to the streets and calling for simple things like sanity. Caring. Love. For politicians to get their hands out of their greedy pockets, to take a minute to stand outside themselves, to see what’s going on in the world, to give a fuck about the planet and people. But until that happens, we’re making waves in little ways, organizing ourselves, rooting deeply together, growing like little villages of plants and mushrooms. Feeding one another. Inspiring. Nourishing souls.

Absorption Into The Ocean

If I could wake up
every morning so peaceful
so many people still sleeping
the silence of waves
crashing
arhythmic meditation
a briny thickness
hanging heavy
opening up the lungs
deeply breathing
the heart swelling
like the spray of sea foam
crashing
in the distance
a flock of sea birds
splashing
in flight
the horizon lights up
a brackish pink
the receding waves
catching violet
reflecting salt
and purple rays

The way the sun engenders vision…
And gives birth to the morn…
It must be so easy to drown…

I get a cup of decaf coffee
with a splash of regular,
a small dose of pick-me-up caffeine

and the ocean feels less
like a womb and more
like an old crone
dispensing wisdom with each
ruffle of wave

arhythmic meditation
packed into the push
and pull of crashing
waves

I want to jump in
but only get my feet wet,
for now

It must be so easy to drown

like falling asleep
or jumping off a moving boat

This is what I think about
when I think about absorption,
little deaths,
the facade of self
crashing against sand and rocks,
the stubborn ego
holding on
to a capsizing ship.

I always wanted to be buried
naked in the earth
My dead old body decomposed
by the passage of worms
But I can imagine
being thrown overboard
at the edge of a dark, dark moon,
maybe a star will shoot off
and you’ll know I’m gone to the sky
the way a bird takes off and flies
a fleeting memory swallowed
by the unanimous nature of time

It must be so easy to drown

Last night we walked out to the ocean
to catch a glimpse of the setting sun,
but a heavy storm cloud
met us instead.
It brought with it
a deluge of thunder and rain.
We hid under a pier
at a vague attempt to stay dry.
Maybe to wait it out,
but there were dark storm clouds
covering the sky.

We were only delaying the inevitable.

So we ran out
into the storm
small acceptance
and shrieks of joy

Allowing Nature To Impress Its Gargantuan Self Upon My Tiny Mind

Keeping up with the on-goings of the news, the rubber bullets and bruises, the dead bodies and excuses, the anger and swirl of militarized states, the paranoia, seeping like poison, and here I am, taking a moment to speak from a place of ignorance and bliss, preoccupied with unknowing.

We were at a cafe and it happened to be Science Night. There was a lecture on “flat crystals” and it so totally lost me in a labyrinth of carbons and graphenes and the thickness of atoms…

Taking to the forest instead to learn from the trees, staring at the utter enormity of redwoods, the majesty, the trunks swaying, creaking in the wind, groaning with age and laughter. Hundreds of years old, one hundred plus feet in the sky. It wipes the mind clean. For a long, ecstatic moment I’m left questioning, What is politics? What is this election? Running and jumping and climbing, following a creek, a trickle, making our own paths, pushing back ferns, skunk cabbage, ducking under fallen trunks, stopping to appreciate tiny caves, discovering miniature waterfalls.

Why am I seeing dinosaurs in my mind’s eye?

The forest floor, soft and moist and alive. Banana slugs chugging along… Slowly… Mushrooms popping up in plain sight, forever a reminder of villages and families and the underlying connections we have but hardly see.

Taking time to sit on a fallen trunk for a moment’s breath. The sunlight shifting behind trees. Recalling earlier, when we read aloud from a hidden history of paganism and witchcraft. The ravens caw-cawing overhead, unseen, but heard, amidst the denseness of trees.

We were at a Halloween party the night prior and there was so much straight sexuality, it had me wishing for something other, transcending, an element of the spiritual, beyond the binary. A woman walked over holding a basket of thin branches woven into circles. “Look,” she said, “You can change your perception.” She held the woven branches in the air, peering through them as if into another world. She threw them in the fire and invited us to pick one and do the same. “This is Samhain. The new year. Let go of what’s burdening you.” She explained she had surgery on her neck to remove cancer cells, but we couldn’t see the scars because she drew a vine over them to give them new life. The vine covered her face too. “This is my pain,” she said. “And this is my medicine.”

She inspired me to feed the fire. I took scrap wood from the piles and walked around placing each piece on top of the already burning mass. It was piercingly hot. It kept me at bay, but slowly, I grew a rapport with the flames and made my way closer and closer until I felt inside the flicker and burn. It made me feel insignificant like ash, like I’ve been crumbling in transformation, blown indiscriminately by the wind, and returned to the earth. I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling, because currently the social climate of the country is experiencing breakdown and upheaval. Thousands have been taking to the streets, and now thousands are traveling to Standing Rock. To align oneself with the movements is to feel the structures shift beneath your feet, which is indeed returning folks to community action and protecting the earth.

As much as I get wrapped up in the mindset of the zeitgeist, I’m humbled by the world, how much there is to know, how many pathways there are to take, the grand totality of perspectives at play.

When I walk into bookstores, I’m swept away by the thousands of little worlds stacked on shelves, and the knowledge therein, held together by the thinness of pages. When I hop on the internet, I’m in awe of the way people string words together to create so many clashing realities. So many bubbles that build up and eventually burst. Communication is a wonder. And it goes beyond alphabets… Eye contact, art, the brushing of bodies, the touching of minds. When I walk in the woods, I’m dumbfounded by the number of species of flora and fauna I cannot identify. All I can do is stare at the mystery. And study. And study. No wonder the earth is said to be Goddess. She is both exhilarating and terrifying in sheer complexity.

It happens often when stepping out & into the world: To know so little, but to see so much.

Passage

The sun has yet to rise above the horizon. Stars peak out behind branches. A transparent cloud eclipses the quarter moon creating an effervescent glow. I want to stare at it for days. I want to swallow the moon and feel the mystery nourish me like a sumptuous meal of meat, wine, cheese, and fruit picked fresh from the trees. I want to embody her spell. I want to breathe it in like air.

I find a dead raccoon and snap a picture of it. I find a dead possum, withered down and eaten to the bone. I poke at it with a stick. It looks like a snake the way its spine stretches out resembling the letter S. I’m struck by the aliveness of it; at any moment, I feel as though the skeleton is going to pop up and sink its teeth into my skin.

It’s that time of year. The veil is thin.

We’re camping next to a creek. Each morning I stare into the water’s surface searching for nothing in particular.

For three days I sit with the creek, leaving only to walk or eat or sleep. I don’t realize I’m spending so much time sitting and listening until afterwards when the ravens echo in my ears and the babble-babble of water returns with a memory of silence transporting me from the noise of a crowd.

One night, before sleep, I make fire and speak love with the flames. The embers betray darkness. The smoke wafts like incense.

Camping out, the body hardens over night, yet how strange it is, because as I fall asleep the earth feels soft and supple, a welcomed embrace. The woods are both cradle and lullaby for the magic child who’s alive in all of us, but forgotten, covered over by years of headlines and institutionalized education, buried in jadedness and dashed expectations. In the woods, freed from the confines of buildings and politics, dreams run rampant, winding with the feralness of rivers.

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I waver between staying in tune with nature and staying in tune with the news of the day. It’s an odd balance establishing ground in both. They whisper little lies about one another. “The world is falling apart,” say the newspapers. “Everything is in perfect order,” say the cycles of the sun and moon. So I listen when I can to the earth, who speaks of both the hardships and the marvels.

There’s an absurd humor at play, seemingly always.

One day prior to camping, we’re driving along Highway 101, when all of a frightening sudden, there’s a loud BOOSH!! and the hood of the car flies up and smashes our windshield. I quickly pull over to the side of the road. Cars whiz by. Horns blare and honk. Out of the corners of the windshield, where there is a sliver of visibility, I see roadside plants and yellow flowers brushing the sides of the car. We come to a complete stop. I get out, shook. I can’t believe there is no other damage done to the car, and more importantly, our bodies. We nearly smashed through a vineyard. A local guy pulls over and runs to our assistance. He gives us a ratchet strap to re-secure the hood. We take a moment to collect ourselves, make a few phone calls, then drive off to the nearest campground to await the morning when we’ll have the windshield replaced.

What a trip.

There was a good bit of wiggle room in the latch of the hood. Initially, we secured it with a zip tie. Two years ago, we drove like that across the country. Every now and again the zip tie would break from either heat or pressure, and the hood would rattle, so we would pull over and replace the zip tie. It worked until it didn’t. The latch must have bent back just enough, and the hood nearly wound up in our laps.

As I’m driving along the curving roads of Sonoma County, passing picturesque landscape after landscape, the rows and rows of grapevines neatly lined up flowing with the rolling hills, the sun reaches its golden hour and filters through the trees. It’s my favorite time of day (that, and dawn), because everything appears so animate. I feel a moment of peace wash over me and thankfulness. Every now and again the rays catch the webwork of cracks in the glass, refracting the light, and tiny rainbows spread across the splintered windshield. It reminds me of a cracked iPhone screen, and I can’t help but feel inverted, like I’m inside the phone looking out, like I’m inside a dream being woke, like I’m inside the hands of death musing at the spectacle of life.

It’s All Happening

When I was in Valparaiso, Chile a few years back, I had the chance to witness & participate in some of the protesting happening there. It was wonderfully rampant. It took over the streets like morning glories take over an empty lot. When I saw the huge numbers of people marching on a weekly basis, from professors to students to shopkeepers to your average citizen young & old, or walking around seeing chairs thrown in the doorways of schools to protest for free public education, or people creating beautiful graffiti murals midday or simply tagging the wall “policia sucia,” or the organized pillow fights in the middle of an empty square, I felt as though I was amidst a widespread culture of protest.

Yes, I was an outsider looking in, but the spirit swept me up. It was all so joyous & empowering.

On any given night I could hear people jamming, singing, clapping long into the sunrise, and when morning woke, the workers who drove through the winding, hilly streets to pick up empty propane tanks would bang a little rhythm that echoed pang pang pangity pang. It put a smile on my face. The liveliness was ripe. I couldn’t help but join in the marches &, of course, dig my hands into the dirt. 

I find I am forever digging in the earth.

I started a couple plants from seed, and before we left, planted them on the side of a hill where people had occupied the abandoned land. (After we left, I had the chance to build a garden for a woman in Argentina. She owned a restaurant & fed us so much tasty food in exchange. Gardening has been a constant in my adult life, & for one reason or another, only now am I really starting to share that).

That was all 5 about years ago.

As I sit here now, reflecting, sitting in the community garden, taking in the growth of plants, thinking about the past few years living in & around Philadelphia, I can’t help but feel a similar coalescing of culture. Protesting has become so widespread, from the streets to the prisons to the sports arena to the sacred land of Native people, it’s difficult not to feel like we are living amidst a massive uprising.

People are congregating in so many ways.

I remember being at Occupy Oakland a few years back & someone gave me a pamphlet that read at the top in bold letters, THE JOY OF REVOLUTION. The theme of the pamphlet stuck with me. It was so simple. It read like this, “There are a number of righteous causes to take up, and we should give our time to that which our hearts are called, & never forget, the sheer happiness that exists alongside these troubling times. Rebellion in the face of oppression comes in many forms. When the spirit can rise up & laugh & dance & sing, remember that, remember you are alive.”