Mountain Medicine, The Height of Roots

I kept dreaming of birds chirping loudly at sunset. It made sense. I was flying across the country. Traveling through the air. The wind brushing my feathers. In flight, ungrounded. Right into the mountains.

The air up there is fresh and thin. The lungs & circulatory system have to work a bit harder, or perhaps just in a different manner, to pump oxygen to the extremities of the body. It’s easy to get light-headed and lose your breath.

I felt pretty fit hiking through the mountains though. At one point I was spirited enough to run ahead of my fellow saunterers and scale a rocky incline as fast as I could. When I arrived at a precipice, I sat in meditation, breathing lightly, praying with the mountain. My mind in relative silence. The air was so thin I remember feeling as though I might float off like a balloon, but the power of the mountain surged through me. A flow of energy cycled unimpeded from head to toe, keeping me present.

It’s pretty different experiencing the occurrence of world events in that space too. I can’t say I felt far removed, or unaffected in the least, for instance, reading about Puerto Rico made my heart tear open in a way I’ve never felt before. I mean, it was torn wide to where it felt opened outside my body. A rush of suffering flooded in and images of the devastation just sank me like an anchor at sea.

It certainly wasn’t a depression. I didn’t feel paralyzed. It made me wrack my brain and alter the course of my future decisions.

I was affected by the altitude in other ways too.

I remember when I traveled to Bogota, the highest elevation I had been to at that point in my life, I felt an intense poking pressure in the bottoms of my feet. Spending time in the southwest brought back that bodily sensation, but it was less painful and only in my right foot.

I don’t know what that’s about, if that’s altitude sickness, or altitude discomfort, or dis-ease, but for that reason, when I’m hiking in the mountains, I like to step on the jagged edge of rocks and hop one to the next like that. It helps me practice balance, but it also gives me a sense of physical relief.

I did find, also, I was hacking up all kinds of nasty mucous. I think the lack of sleep on the bus ride to New York and hopping on the plane at La Guardia, getting barely any solid rest, in and out of fleeting dream space, probably lowered my immune system. I wouldn’t be surprised if a bug crept in too. I imagine it was a combination of all these factors that played into that expulsion of crap from my lungs.

And now that I’m back to sea level, the mucous is nearly nonexistent (or seemingly so), and I feel light as a feather. Buoyant, as though I’m floating.

I don’t feign this high will last forever. But I think the goal is to integrate what I can, and allow that to move me into the future.

Coming home and grounding is proving to be more difficult than I thought. Perhaps that’s a lesson I need to learn though, because every time I leave on a flight and come back, every single time, it takes a couple days to touch down. Perhaps even a week to feel like I’m on the same page as most others. I’ve been called arrogant more times than I like, but it’s true. I return with new understandings that I want to share, but people don’t necessarily want to hear that, because they are revelations mostly personal to me. I wind up trying to project my own individual growth patterns onto others, which is essentially selfish; my own desire to share replaces the compassion and empathy I usually make space for when interacting with strangers and loved ones.

There is most certainly a balance to strike. I’m still a work in progress.

Despite hacking up my lungs, and the pressure in my foot, I maintained my energetic levels throughout the trip, and thankfully, there is a root for respiratory nourishment and antiviral activity. It’s also said to be spirit medicine for the warrior who wishes to dive more deeply into the darkness of her own depths. And what do you know, it thrives specifically at about 9,000-10,000 feet.

I never met osha up until this point. But I had caught glimpses of it in my studies, especially right before traveling to the Taos Mountains. Plants seem to work in that way. They teach in the dream-time. The osha was already entering my field of vision, preparing my mind and body to absorb its spirit upon arrival.

Osha is unlike most of the roots I’m used to working with: burdock, dandelion, and yellow dock are all rather hard and fibrous. Whereas osha, especially when wet, gets soft and mushy.

The root packs in the love hormone oxytocin too.

Oxytocin does not only affect humans. Bears love it as well, which is exactly how it gets the name. Osha means bear in an Indigenous language (I believe the original language is lost, but the word has traveled through time). Apparently the bears like to dig it up for medicine themselves, and take to cuddling each other after eating it. From what I’ve read, male bears give it to females in courtship, and they also chew it up, spit it out, and use it like a poultice to clean their faces and protect themselves from parasites.

Even the tops of the roots look like little paws.

So we took to the mountains to say prayers and retrieve the bear medicine. We kept repeating it over and over like a mantra, like an orgasmic release of language. Yipping and yowling with each harvested root OSHA ooosshhaaa oooOOSHAAAaaa. It’s better than saying the word fuck. This feeling. It’s intoxicating. Like an aphrodisiac, Ligusticum porteri, a guttural botanical howl, oshaa how the linguist cums, digging in the moist soil, fluffy mycelium, leaf matter, so deeply felt, grunting, praying, digging with tools, with hands, the root comes up from the fertile earth bringing with it an invigorating force. A whoosh of life. The heart unloads. A grounded lightness is sensed. Love. That which makes the heaviness of material existence feel weightless. How fecund. Breath upon breath of freshness.

I can’t find where it originates, but it’s also called the empress of the dark forest.

.

Osha.

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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.

The Hidden Uprising of the Sacred Mother

When we cut through the noise, when we read between the headlines, we know the world is experiencing a radical transformation. There is a spirit that will not be shackled. The thing is, you have to consciously tap into it (or it will smack you in the face), because resilience is cultivated. It doesn’t just happen smoothly. It’s a practice.

I feel it when I walk down the street. It’s in the way people make eye contact & give a nod of the head. Maybe a word is said in passing, or a fist is held over the heart.

Being not depressed in the face of oppression is a courageous act of resistance.

It makes me especially happy when people collect together spontaneously. It makes me even happier because I see it happening more & more, from working in the garden to families hanging on their stoops to the swinging door of our house. People are joining together as if by a magnetism, a desire to lend support and be supported.

That’s why it was a great surprise to come home to a house full of people for the dark moon.

Throughout the day, I painted by myself, & rode my bike over the bridge in the evening. When I reached Philly, the bells of the St. Augustine Church banged & echoed a solemn, yet joyous tone. It felt lonely, like a precursor to a night of solitude, but how wonderful it was to arrive home to a house full of people.

We made dinner. We talked about plants, about the spirit of the earth, about protecting the land.

We started a metheglin to celebrate the new moon cycle. A metheglin is a mead infused with herbs. We added slippery elm, rose buds, and peppercorn. It’s already starting to bubble. The yeast is just chomping away at the honey. It’s so alive.

We started a couple tinctures too. Mugwort for one, which smells so potently vulgar, & echinacea root for the other. I let the plant material dry for a few days, then crushed it up with a wooden mortar & pestle. I love being so intimately involved with these medicines. It gives me a unitive feeling, a direct connection to the surrounding environment.

The more often I go to the garden, the more people I interact with. From neighbors to strangers to storeowners, people want to grow their own food too.

I think the deeper you go, the more relationships start forming, the more alchemy you start discovering. There’s metaphorical fire occurring just about everywhere. There are minute processes of change occurring every step of the way. Sometimes, just sometimes, you get clued in to the means of catalyzing these wondrously mysterious transmutations.

I keep finding ganoderma on oak trees. It’s really spawning a belief in the intricacy & grounded reality of magick.

I’m slowly learning the scientific names of plants & fungi too. I don’t know why, but I was uninterested in learning them at first, & now I find them wholly intriguing.

Red clover, for instance. The scientific name is Trifolium pratense, which translates roughly to- three leafed flower of the meadow. It’s so accurately descriptive & so accurately pretty. Getting to know the scientific names for plants is just another means of acutely getting to know their spirit. As plants grow roots in the mind, they take on a stronger life of their own.

This is a peculiarity of language that I find fascinating. There’s a hidden expandedness, an invisible unfurling; words contain worlds like seeds contain the blueprint for life.

There are nights I go to sleep and all I see are fields of foxtail & chicory & morning glory lightly dancing & swaying in the darkness of my closed eyes. And because I’ve been eating from the land, there are nights I can’t help but dance around with my own sway of wild presentness.

Life is better when it is nutrient dense. As is the body, so is the mind.

When I was in college, I took a class called Existentialism. The professor told us we were making a mistake by taking the class because we would lose a lot of friends. A lot of us laughed at the notion of it, thinking it was a novel prompt. But on the first day of class he wrote the word “journal” on the blackboard and asked us to shout out definitions. Someone recorded what we came up with, I think it totaled to 116 some odd number of meanings. The next class he talked about the word “they” and questioned, Who are “they”? Every time you use that word, ask yourself, “Who are they?” Really, truly, who is this group, this omnipotent, organized “they” we keep referencing? And class after class he just broke down language in such a way, it made me feel like I was having to rebuild my tongue one bud at a time. Communication became somewhat difficult, but also fresh & new. For a few years afterwards, I stopped using a dictionary to find the meaning of words and went straight to the origins. Was it Greek or Latin or Arabic? Did it come from German or Middle English? How was the word used back then? How did it evolve from its roots?

At the same time, I was doing research for a professor writing a book on the divine feminine. One little piece of information at a time slowly brought into view a hidden history. It gave me the sense that the practice of magic has never actually disappeared (despite years & years & years of persecution). It’s remained stirring in the shadows, deeply studied by the flickering light of a candle. And why wouldn’t it? We’re talking about the occult, after all.

Not only are there hidden histories arising from the crumbling ashes of our modern scrabble board of rapid communication, there are latent energies in the body just waiting to be jostled from their slumber.

There’s this really beautiful word that comes from Latin & it means “to bind back to the source.” Of course, there are a number of different translations, & it’s been corrupted over the centuries, so I won’t even mention it because it’s like saying the word God; it evokes so many varied feelings & potential arguments & misunderstandings. Regardless, I think binding back is important. & There are so many ways to reconnect.

Like gathering & digging in the earth.

Like making a tea from roots.

Like cooking & sharing a meal together.

Like conspiring… If you reach down far enough, it’s another way to describe simply breathing together.