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.

Advertisements

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.

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

Thoughts on War & Voting

I watched part of the “extended debate” on DemocracyNow! with Jill Stein & Amy Goodman. It was pretty good. I liked the way they collaged it together, showing a clip from Hillary & Donald then cutting over to Jill Stein for her two minute response.

Watching the segment really solidified this thought for me: we’re missing & needing the call of third parties in this country. Specifically, restorative justice at home & anti-war sentiment abroad. But so many of us are getting caught in the tabloid culture of Trump. It’s so easy to get lost in the tit for tat. But we could be spending time reading up on the Greens or Libertarians or Vermin Supreme or who’s running for local elections.

Granted, on the large stage, Gary Johnson going blank here & there doesn’t help out. I won’t hold it against him as a person, but as a presidential hopeful, that’s a different story…

And what’s more, he was offered a spot on the extended debate with Jill Stein, but declined. Why? You would think a candidate of his nature would jump at the bit to get on Democracy Now! but I don’t know, maybe MSNBC & Cnn is where he feels comfortable? After all, he is historically a republican.

In any case, I suspect he & Jill could use the practice of a healthy third party debate turned discussion. I think America could use it too. It would bolster the growing interest diverging from the two party system. It would also educate us on different positions, simultaneously, they could work to find common ground. There’s no use having third parties that just fall into the pattern of democrat v republican, this v that, diametrically opposed philosophies.

If we want any chance of seeing new parties rise to the occasion, they actually need to find harmonious space in our consciousness, they actually need to be listened to & understood as thoroughly as we’re able to.

And to be clear, when it comes to this election & future presidency, I’m not looking to sway your vote one way or the other. I’m asking that when you do vote, don’t limit your conversation piece. Please do not just keep one eye on what’s good – & – close the other eye to what’s bad.

Because, for instance, Obama got the Nobel peace prize, but where is the peace? Whether you blame war on him, or Bush, or Hillary, or whoever, the fact of the matter is the US has a history of imperialist military conquest. We remember Vietnam, of course. But how many remember 9/11 in Chile when democratically voted president Allende was disposed of by a CIA-backed coup d’etat? And what about a similar instance in Guatemala? The list goes on. War is, sadly, too often hidden from the general public, or just straight up willfully ignored.

Noam Chomsky has this great analysis of the subversive way propaganda blinds us. He gives the phrase “Support Our Troops” as an example. When asked the question, Do you support the troops? The answer is so often, yes, of course I support the troops. But it masks a bigger question, Do you support the agenda?

$100 million has been set aside for a drone base in Niger. It pales in comparison to the $40 billion package recently given to Israel, but it is an investment in war nonetheless. Rest assured, the powers that be will attempt to sell this as “counterterrorism” for the sake of security. There is a strong likelihood it will wind up looking like Syria & actually spur on terrorism. With the knowledge of the drone base, we have to ask, When the Middle East is so totally devastated & blown out, will the larger sphere of war move to Niger next?

I don’t feign to have any answers, but one thing I do believe, awareness (& the lack thereof) is a powerful tool. It can be the difference between blind oppression and collectively rising.

To use an example from current events, the movement for Black lives & #RestorativeJustice has made its way into many places of conversation. Kaepernick’s protest has helped bring it to new levels of awareness – high school athletes are taking a knee, sports radio & tv are having the discussion too – but with that breach in awareness comes another argument & concern: Disrespect for the military…

And yet again, the question from earlier comes up, Do you support the troops? The answer is so often, yes, of course I support the troops. But it masks the larger question, Do you really support all lives?

How Uncouth: Reverence for the Dirt, the Goddess, a Wild Garden Salad

The rain came in waves. Like oceans of orgasm. Five or six of them. Wet and sweaty and drenched. I lost count.

I stood under a tiny structure. Usually a place of refuge from the sun, but in this case, a safe haven to keep dry from the rain. Or so I thought. Intermittently, the sun popped out amidst thick grey clouds, but those rays only served as a false flag the storm had passed. Every time I saw a bit of blue sky, I walked into the garden & continued weeding. I stayed out for the lighter rains, but for the torrential falls, I took cover. Either way, I wound up soaked.

Throughout the course of the storm, the winds were both chilled and hot, which caused shivers to raise up and roll across my skin. A thunder clap reached so far into me, it cracked my skeleton, and my nerves jumped out of my body. It caught me by such surprise, I laughed at my timidness in comparison to the omnipotence of nature. There were moments I questioned why the hell I would be outside amidst such a storm, but that quickly passed because it all made me feel quite alive & connected.

And then, when the storm finally did pass, I dug right into the dirt. The soil was so soft, the weeds came up with such ease.

Calling them weeds, though, does such a disservice to what is actually growing amidst the vegetables and covering the rest of the lot.

Mugwort reigns in these parts. That creeper of a plant with her silver undersides & risqué name. Artemisia vulgaris. That enchantress of dreams. I pull up mugwort for days. I pull up so many plants for days, there are moments I wonder why the hell I would pull up plant after plant after plant knowing they just keep coming back, but that quickly fades when I see pretty red clover and pluck the flowers to add to the collection in my pocket. I like taking them apart, separating the tiny flowers from the flower head and adding them to salads. The tiny tubular flowers nearly disappear amidst the larger green leaves, but regardless, they are packed with nutrients.

Off to one side of the garden, along a fence, grows a patch of melons. Before we planted the melons, morning glories grew there. They still do, and it’s apparent they don’t care for uninvited guests. So I’m pulling up what feels like hundreds & thousands of morning glory seedlings. Despite this, I like them. As the name indicates, you have to catch their flowers early. They grow mostly along the edges where they are free to roam and climb, like a witchy coven of vines and flowers just radically doing what they do.

There’s so much natural spontaneity.

I met one neighbor at the garden who is half Puerto Rican & half Hawaiian. I saw him before the start of the rainstorm. He said he likes to get wet. I laughed, I do too. We chatted briefly, but then it really started dumping buckets. He went home, and I took cover under the tiny structure.

After the rainstorm, he came back around, so we chatted some more. He rattled off so many stories about his kids, his wife, his life in the military, his upbringing, his grandparents, where he’s been, the police, the neighborhood, everything. He’s lived a full life.

He offered a blunt to share, but I don’t smoke all that much, so I said no. He said no I’m offering it as a gesture of peace like a peace pipe. He smiled. I smiled. I couldn’t say no to a peace pipe.

We walked over to a mulberry tree where he likes to sit, smoke, and reflect. I took one puff and passed it back to him, but he said it’s mild weed it’s not that heady shit that makes you sit there STONED it’s homegrown by a friend there’s no paranoia it just makes your eyes click makes you aware. So I took a few more puffs and we passed it back and forth a few times and I got a nice mellow stone.

I invited him into the garden, because wild edibles kept catching my eye so I darted back and forth showing him the flowers of this and the leaves of that & it sparked that urge to keep playing in the dirt.

To both our delight, he speaks three languages: Puerto Rican, Spanish, and English, so we traded words. I gave him some plant identification & names, and he gave me some Puerto Rican. I was feeling stony baloney and goofy and my memory bounds along like an elephant; but it was worthwhile to readjust my tongue and vocal chords and practice what he was throwing my way. He kept calling me a green man and was trying to figure out how to explain it all to his wife. Like, this white nigga in the garden, you won’t believe what he’s growing, you will love this shit. I tried to give him some herbs to take home to his wife, but he said he wanted to bring her so she could see and learn.

It really struck me how amazed he was at the plants. Like we were on a foreign planet. He imparted to me as well, a renewed sense of amazement. Like wow, look at that corn. The way it sprouts tassels. The way they blow in the wind and shake off pollen and fertilize the silk that grows from a lower portion of the stalk. Maiz. It’s bisexual & voila, the male tassel and female silk birth ears of corn.

It’s so complicated, yet so simple.

I tend to relate gardening to zen, especially when it comes to weeding. Weeding a garden is both active and challenging. There is a focus required to make sure you pull gently enough so you don’t snap the stem and firmly enough so the roots come up. There’s also a letting go involved because I know I’m not going to get all of them. It teaches me to be content with the silence of equilibrium.

Like certain thoughts that come up in the mind, weeds can make you mad as hell. There are so many of them. And they just keep coming. So it’s good practice to weed, simultaneously, the madness from your mind.

I often leave a number of weeds, because often, they aren’t weeds. Purslane and lambs quarter are good examples of this. They pop up on their own accord, and they taste great in salads.

It’s wild.

There are so many plants who just grow because that’s what they do. They don’t need your attention or care, yet they can add flavor and nutrients to your life. They also impart that wonderful spirit of growing wherever the fuck.

Like the dandelion who will sprout from the cracks of the sidewalk AND detox your liver.

Here, there’s something to be said about soil quality or lack there of, & potency & poison. We don’t want to just willynilly eat any old thing that looks green. Educate yourself. Talk with people who are willing to share knowledge.

Also, if you’ve taken prescription drugs your whole life, just trying to shift to a more natural diet might be a bit of a struggle, especially if those prescriptions are psych meds. If we look at the body like a culture, how hard is it for people of an ineffective, racist culture, how hard is it to let a dead horse die and subsequently grow into the future? It’s difficult. The body is similar; it’s not going to change over night. I imagine there are people who specialize in those kinds of transitions, because, needless to say, the body is an intricate webwork of biochemistry & a wily, ineffable spirit that is impossible to box up.

There’s also something to be said about fear, lack of trust, and lack of confidence. How many people would rather buy a neat little package they find in a store vs harvesting something growing wildly in their own backyard? I understand there is hesitance that has been built in; too many of us grew up being taught that soil is dirt and dirt is dirty and dirty is nasty, disgusting, and just plain bad. Well, in one way, shape, or form, it’s true: the sacred mother is bad as hell. She is more powerful than we give her credit for.

It doesn’t surprise me people are scared.

headstones anonymous as barcodes

row homes flash tv screen luminance
entertainment & news

sidewalks covet used needles
& scratched lottery tickets

empty beer bottles pile up like bullet casings

trees loom large and cast shadows

a murder of crows
a murder of

American flags
& police sirens

in a neighborhood park
people gather to praise Jesus,
his image on a banner
bloody & crying

we put our faith in so many dark places

in the dead of the night,
the junkies move like zombies
& the crackheads move like ghosts

fireworks bang in the sky

there’s a reclaimed lot burning a bonfire
the sparks fly into the stars

Mulberry trees scatter the outskirts of the lot. There are no gates to keep people out, only fences bordering two sides to denote other peoples’ properties. The place is overridden with mugwort, and on any given weekday, birds and random litter occupy the space.

It feels wild & gritty.

The Philly Socialists built the garden, an effort headed by an organizer from Colombia. Her name is Mara. There are five raised beds, a picnic table, a wooden archway, a large sign, a rain barrel, discarded tires, and a small, open-air roofed-over area.

Somehow Mara got into contact with Cesar and his family, who are from Mexico. They do Aztec dance-performances donning full regalia: loincloths, tribal face paint, medicine shakers, and headdresses made from feathers, feathers, feathers, and more feathers. One headdress even incorporates a stuffed deer head. It’s truly a sight to behold.

I was pleasantly surprised when I showed up at the garden and they were there to bless the grounds. Drums, whoops & yells, chanting, and conch shells resounded the air. They brought corn to plant as well, so I went back home to retrieve the extra vegetable plants at our house.

When I returned to the garden, Mara and I borrowed a truck to take a trip to Home Depot to pick up garden tools and extra soil.

It amazes me how fluid & trusting people can be. Here is a group of strangers coming together, more or less spontaneously, to accomplish a common goal. Namely, building up a garden. & Everyone’s sharing resources. Not only that (and this is kind of a separate tangent because I saw a couple folks at Home Depot), it amazes me how many friends I run into on a regular basis. I haven’t lived in this area for like 6 years, but it’s like I never left. A few weeks back, a friend was picking up food at an Indian place we were walking by, and he yelled from down the street, “Jozef Maguire, Philadelphia welcomes you back to the neighborhood!” It warmed my heart. & Granted, my dad lives in the area, and I have friends who throw art shows and poetry readings around town, so it’s not like I’ve been completely absent or on the other side of the world, but still, it’s heart warming & unexpected.

I guess this is community. I say it loosely, because that’s how it is. There are core groups who grind together & create more intimacy, but at the end of the day, there are so many people living in the city, and the loose connections that reoccur on the outer edges and slowly strengthen help to create the larger picture. The myth of a city is important. It gives everyone a story to connect to & explore.

The interesting thing about America is (and this is ever present in her cities), there are a variety of myths.

The next block over from the garden, a Puerto Rican festival was taking place. They were bumping music & the smell of BBQ drifted in the air. The whole atmosphere was one of celebration.

There was a PBS film-maker there too. He shot video. He’s been following Cesar around to document his life & work. Most recently, Cesar painted a mural dedicated to Pope Francis’s visit to Philly.

Cesar is a sturdy, squat, unassuming man originally from Mexico. He has long hair and a greying mustache & goatee. He expresses his appreciation & gratitude more often than most people I know. And he does so in such a way that it feels natural and humble. There’s no bravado involved.

It’s a good reminder.

After the dancing, we collectively planted the vegetables & Cesar lit a chalice of incense and swept the smoke over the plants as he said a prayer to the rain, to the earth, to the seedlings, to the corn.

IMG_1523

I don’t know how I find these happenstances in life, but it resonates with me deeply. I don’t know what my role is exactly, but I often feel like an agent of change, and if the transformation has already been kick-started, I often feel like a silent force, like a wind that helps push the ship across choppy, unpredictable seas.

To be literal, I’m a gardener tending to the growth of plants.

There was a clay pot that held a special significance. We transferred water from the rain barrel to the pot. Right away it felt different from what we usually use: a tiny, plastic watering can that is most likely a toy meant for kids. The bottom is yellow and the top is pink. It’s playful & practical, but it feels less ceremonious than the clay pot.

When everyone left, there were a few of us who stuck behind: Jeff, a punk & carpenter from West Philly, Mara, the organizer from the socialist group, and Cesar, the artist. Jeff told us about a Latino punk festival that occurs in NYC midsummer, and perhaps, when they pass through Philly, he’ll get to work on organizing a mini festival. That excited everyone. The conversation spurred on, and we talked about reaching out to neighbors who live in adjacent buildings, and perhaps, we can paint murals on their empty walls.

I get the feeling these folks are dreamers & activists. Like the seed that turns to plant that turns to flower that turns to fruit, there’s a grounded-ness to the whole chronicle.

CCQM7177