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.

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Osha.

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