urban medicine

no filter on this photo. everything is a shade of violet, pink, purple, magenta at sundown. never practiced much graffiti but i appreciate it. always saw growing plants in abandoned lots as a variation, a kinship in practice, a certain kind of art. especially encouraging the growth of the wild ones.

many people question the practice of allowing plants to grow on their own accord. but when we get to talking, engaging, and addressing issues like clean air, deterring illegal dumping, creating a tiny ecology of livelihood, people come to understand. the plants are often here to help us.

with regards to the photo, you can see the money sign sprayed next to the wheat paste. our intention has never been to make money at the garden. but it has been to disrupt the normal flow of capital. developers have had their way with abandoned space in philly. it is long past due that people challenge that. there is a network of gardens throughout the city who are fighting for the land. there is a webwork of people fighting for the rights of housing. we are not the first. we are not the last. at moments it seems disparate, but connections are made strangely in the way that seeds flutter through the air and land down in the most unassumed places. they care not for borders and grow wherever they are determined to grow.

the echinacea in the foreground has historically been worked with as an antidote to snake bites. at a certain point in time, most likely recently when snakes became less populous in populated spaces, echinacea shifted into an immune booster. it stimulates the immune system, so it is recommended only for limited periods. otherwise overuse can potentially push the immune system into allergic reaction. more or less the body starts rejecting the medicine.

sometimes it is necessary to surge and pull back and administer different medicines to complement and continue what has already been put into effect. i’m currently witnessing this with the move from 8th and cherry to city hall. the movement and free flow of people is not only necessary but natural.

it is clear to many of us that we live in dire times. there are moments concurrently happening across the country. from teachers’ strikes to OCCUPY to electoral splashes of DSA candidates. everyone deserves access to education, healthcare, time for family, shelter over our heads, nutrient dense food, paid vacation and extended holiday, paid maternity leave, and the list goes on.

to see the world flourish like the old texts say, what is everyone actually working for

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Honeysuckle

You know those days when you wake up and go outside and you can’t tell if it’s a spring haze or an internal heaviness or a combination of both? And something in the brain feels like a dream and the words are wonky coming out your mouth. And simultaneously everything seems crystal clear, like conversations like the state of violence like the scream of oppression like people worn down like sirens piercing morning dreams like newborns gobsmacked with the reality of breath,

I can’t remember if that first breath tasted like pollution or not. I can’t remember opening my eyes for the first time. I can’t remember if the fluorescent hospital lights hurt or not. I can’t remember if the first rays of sun made me squint. I can’t remember the first human touch.

I used to think I was all alone in this world, but somewhere in my late teens a part of my self dissolved, like the walls of individualism caved, and I realized there are people all around. There are people inside. Voices constantly talking. I realized I am never alone. I try to hide away and find solitude, but there is always someone there, around the corner, walking, running, fighting, singing, what-have-you, in the next room. I love you. I hear you often. Although I can’t remember that first human embrace, I know I came into this world loving people, craving human touch, a strong desire for relationships that extend beyond the conceivable barrier of language.

It can be carnal at times, and base, but I like going to sleep with people. Horizontal, sixty-nine, on the floor, in the bed, ruffled sheets, no clothes, standing up, sweat meshed together like droplets of saltwater in the ocean. And that’s not it. What about handshakes and hugs. Kisses on cheeks. Arms around shoulders. Looks from across the room when eyes palpably touch and smiles perk upon faces. High fives. Shoulder rubs.

We know how precious life is. That’s why we don’t want to get out of bed on rainy mornings. To stay curled up with cats or dogs or humans. Unless it’s to retrieve a cup of coffee and a novel only to get right back under the covers after cracking the window to let in the moisture of rain that accompanies the breeze. We know how precious life is. That’s why we crack the car window and roll it all the way down to let in the salt air of the ocean because it smells like home. We know how precious life is. We do. We fight for it. Because how much time are we able to settle in deeply to appreciate it?

I see sadness in eyes. Especially in eyes that cry. But when I see eyes that don’t cry, I see sadness in shoulders, hunched up, holding the weight of tears like an aqueduct buckling with age. It makes me sad to see such sadness. It sweeps over,

We know how precious life is. It’s crystal clear. But there’s this spring haze. Or maybe it’s an internal heaviness. Could it be the dark moon calling in all the shadows? There are many reasons. Bills. Rent. Mortgage. Mouths to feed. The morning news. 60 dead. Another war. Another friend OD’d.

There’s this dream I woke up to, but I forget it now because I didn’t write it down. The day started so quickly.

White Rabbit Composite

“I got this voodoo. Yeah. You should see it. I went to the voodoo shop. Uh huh. And late last night, like 2 3 4 in the morning. Yeah. You should see their doors now.”

I had no idea what he was talking about, other than voodoo, or who he was talking to, but it piqued my interest. I only caught snippets of the conversation as he rode his bike by. I didn’t catch a face to gauge his expressions. I only guessed he was talking on the phone. It brought so many questions to mind. Like, what voodoo shop? What magic supplies did you buy? Who are you? Can you tell me about your goddesses and gods? To be honest, it sounded like he was proud of a hex. Can’t be sure though, like I said, I only caught part of his story.

Communication is like that sometimes. Like dreams. Like memories. We fill in the gaps with our own imaginations, delusions, and ramblings.

I stood on a ladder, painting the side of a row home. My thoughts generally caught in the wires, sometimes traveling with the clouds. It’s odd. These days, for extended periods throughout the day, I feel like I am a composite of people. Like, I’m in there somewhere, but others are in there too talking their talk and sharing their memories. It comes with living in the city I suppose. And probably the collectivity of the internet too. The rapidity of messaging. Memes. Pictures and captions. The viral ripple of snapshots and hot takes. I often wonder how we get anything across at all. It’s a deluge.

When I get a moment, I like to sit and see how long it takes to reach a place of silence, and then, of course, I start hearing neighbors talking through the walls.

I had a dream last night that I went to the psychiatric ward of a hospital. I went there of my own volition. I sat for a while, writing down conversations. No one bothered me or asked me why I was there. It felt inspiring, like I was exploring the collective unconscious. Taking important notes. Studying the undercurrents. My mind started blending with the minds of patients and doctors, which triggered a different dream sequence:

I was at the house I lived in for 4 years. In a large park. The sun was setting so I laid down in the tall grass and watched the stars come out. Very suddenly, snow blew over head. I thought it rather beautiful. The snow intermingling with the twinkling of the stars at dusk. It had this As Above, So Below quality of experience to it. I wanted a photo, and tried to capture it, but the moment lasted so briefly. I sat up, and when I did, I saw the house had burned down and the shed was on fire. I went into a panic thinking I had caused the property to go up in flames. “I’m not even supposed to be here. I don’t even live here anymore. They’re going to think I came by and set the place on fire out of revenge. What have I done?” I flashed back to the psychiatric ward where I was now talking with someone. “The house is still there,” they said. “You just had a schizophrenic episode. It’s okay. You’re okay.” I flashed back to the house. It hadn’t burned down after all. A wave of relief washed over me.

I wonder about memory. How true to life our memories are. How colored in they can be by all sorts of various outside and inside stimuli. By dreams. How people can influence one another. How propaganda affects the reconstruction of our memories into misleading myths about the way things are. How rapidly the internet slings thousands of stories and narratives. It often feels like the general consciousness is falling apart. It’s on overload and bursting at the seams. Like everything we once believed is collapsing and people are picking at phrases and empty rhetoric to keep themselves afloat. Like people take to social media to be reaffirmed that their construction of language, their semblance of memories, is real and valid. And it’s true, you exist. All of you in your wondrous unfolding. All of the thoughts and images that arise into your expansive consciousness. But deep down, there is still that panging truth. It’s a losing battle. The ego can’t survive as it once did. The foundations of our story-telling, the way we understand society and how we belong in the world, are being swept up and drastically shifted. This, we know.

And yet, there’s always absurdity; I still sit here and write longhand.

Before the word apocalypse came to mean judgment day, it described the uncovering of a vision. A hallucination, rich with meaning, brought to light. The fault lines cracking and the spirits of the earth arising within our minds bearing prophecies.

It’s not like that anymore. Apocalypse connotes catastrophe.

There’s this other phrase. Folie a deux. It literally means madness of two. More generally, it means a shared psychosis. I think about that a lot in our given culture.

“You think the paint will dry before the rain comes?” A woman hollered from across the street. I didn’t turn around but caught a glimpse of her from the corner of my eye. She pushed one of those fold-up laundry carts, the klinky metal ones.
“That’s the hope.” I responded.
“Supposed to be what, 6 7 8 when the rain comes?”
“I’ve got my eye on the sky.”
“It looks nice.”
“Thank you.”
“The clouds are coming,” she said.

I saw the mailperson down below. I didn’t see his face, but it looked like he was smiling.

It was a pleasant day. The calm before the storm.

As we sat down for lunch, an old guy drove by with his window down. Leaning out the truck, he hollered, “It’s not going to finish itself!” He cracked a boyish smile that reminded me of my grandfather. He laughed at his own joke.

The radio kicked in every once in awhile, interspersing the sound waves. “When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead. And the white knight is talking backwards and the red queen’s off with her head. Remember! What the dormouse saidddd! Feeeed your headdd! Feed your hhheadddd!”

City Intimacy

Wandering downtown, on the lookout for the moon, but she is nowhere to be found. The buildings obscure the rise up. Instead, I find so many people, and emotions, the blur of city busy-ness sweeping up the wild instinct, cajoling the primal pulse of heart and erotic nakedness of thought.

You ever walk by a person and get a whiff of their life, little glimpses at where they awoke in the morning, what books their noses are stuck in… ?

It happens here and there, the stories. But more so, it’s a quick emotional sense, a drive-by connection, fleeting

Like a pedestrian passing, rushing with tinged anxiety, maybe late for dinner, trying headlong to be on time.

Another person, eyes wide in an attempt to repress fear, perhaps unused to the city, unsure what lurks in the saturated unknown. He’s probably watching too much cable news.

There’s youthful excitement emanating from those going out for the night, dressed to impress, feeling good, reeking of desperation and cheap cologne, unaware of their surroundings, loud as can be, ready to drop bills and gulp shots.

Homeless folks bundled up, broken down, begging, or just sitting, talking to no one in particular. One man slouched against the cold concrete of a building, he’s crumpled like his cardboard sign, fast asleep as people bustle by. I can’t imagine how tired he must be.

But there’s a lot of that in general: People tired, ready for a couch, a bed, ready for a vacation, a holiday, anything. And frustration. There’s so much frustration in the city. Furrowed brows, confusion, impatience, existential crises deeply expressed in far-off looks, wordless stares into the void of everywhere.

I stop to listen to a man on a loudspeaker. He stands with a small group out front the municipal building downtown. He speaks about dealing drugs, using drugs, finding God, encouraging the youth – and, I catch a wave of sadness. It echoes off the city walls, the faceless windows. The street lights absorb the words in fluorescent indifference.

I thought God might come through with unbridled lifeforce. Ecstatic dance, joy, unrecognizable movements even. Not every time, I suppose. In the fractalized everyday overwhelmingness of kaleidoscopic urban reality, sadness figures in prominently.

When I was younger, and still to this day, a curiosity of mine finds a home in mythos- gods and goddesses presiding over parts of life representing human behavior, personalities, archetypes, feelings.

I learned about Weeping Buddha when I was given a wooden statue by my mom. His story stuck with me.

He was a “great” warrior full of hubris. He fought everyone and anyone to prove his mighty strength. All his challengers fell before him, dead. Until one day, a masked man challenged him. They fought tooth and nail, evenly matched the whole way.

Blow for blow. Viciously.

And finally, the masked man got caught off guard, and they both tumbled to the ground. But not before a near death blow was made. The masked challenger fell limp.

To ensure victory, the great warrior slit the challenger’s throat. Blood stained the sword. With sweat dripping in maniacal laughter, he reached down and pulled off the man’s mask. To his great dismay, it was his son.

The great warrior began to weep. And he didn’t stop weeping. How could he be so caught up and kill his own son?

Right then and there, he gave up the life of war.

He continues to cry and cry, day and night, to this very day. People who find a terrible sadness visit him, and shed tears alongside him, and so, he is known as the Weeping Buddha. Sharing the world’s suffering.

I take a pause as I’m writing. Feeling as though I’m wrapped in a memory, getting off track, wondering how I’m going to return the writing to the city landscape.

At this point, I’m in a bar scratching up the blankness of paper with pen mark after pen mark. People leave me be, but through experience, it’s only a matter of time before someone barges in.

The bartender comes over and asks if I’m writing a book. We smile and flirt.

How many times have writers sat and stirred a particular feeling? Swiping pen to paper like a wand across a canvas, the ink trails a fleeting mark of romance. “By chance, dear writer, what are you writing? I don’t really want to know, though. You’re just piquing my interest. Tantalizing my creative sparks. I want a piece. A fleeting glimpse.”

And I let it happen. Why not? Part of writing is living the story. Giving over to mystery.

A trio of folks plop down next to me and the one guy almost immediately reaches out and says, “Hey, hey. My friend here is from Toronto and she’s loving the vibe and didn’t want to interrupt you writing, but she wants to know if she can trace her hand on your paper?”

I say “Of course, sure thing, why not.”

And just like that, we’re intermingling, chatting. Within a few moments, I realize I know the guy who first said what’s up. We share experiences. He’s showing both the woman and her husband around town, giving them a taste of Philly. We get to talking about mutual friends, free spirits, disappointments, and the complexities of relationships.

All this, in passing.

The woman who traced her hand chimes in a bit more, and we break off into our own little conversation. She says, “I saw you writing. I saw spirit. You know, I’m a believer, but not like that, nothing crazy, but I just saw SPIRIT, and oh my god it’s making me cry. I just saw you spilling your soul into that paper,” and she tears up and wipes her tears, sniffles.

I tell her what a happenstance. Look at what I’m writing.

It all makes so much sense. Weeping Buddha, the despondency of urbanity.

Before long, they take off, and we a hug a long hug. What warmth in a chance encounter.

Two people
in a big city
longing for connection,
something loving
and human
from a stranger.

xoxo

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.

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