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.



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?

headless serpent

I’m going to be 30 this year, and I don’t know what that means in the grand scheme of things, but people keep asking me how it feels. I remember having an existential crisis when I was 25 or 26, but it really only lasted a day where I really freaked & questioned my life’s purpose, the meaning of being, a plan for the future, and all that jazz.

Then I settled back into a flow and grind of work & play. I often think worrying is a waste of precious time,

but really, from a young age, I had a pretty solid grasp on my desire to write & think freely, so all those questions, big & deep, often appear like clouds in the sky- ever changing, yet consistently somewhere (clouds are always somewhere), they disappear, come & go, they produce rain and sleet and snow, and they cycle through so many different forms.

If I had to skirt the whole “life is a process, forever evolving, too hard to pin down” and ground myself in any thought process or philosophy (because, you know, 30 is that adult number when it makes sense to get more serious about your endeavors, and because I have no children but a number of brain heart children like art & books floating & growing in perpetual slumber, I’d say I’m a surrealist. I could go into further detail about dreaming or letting loose the menagerie of imagination or allowing words to flow out & break apart the general rhetoric of thinking, but I could digress for days

I could cover the sky for an hour
and vanish for another
with so many transformations in between,
until one day
I’ll burst
and give all I have to the ground,
a perpetual slumber
like a flower
seeding & blooming
& dying
seeding & blooming
& dying

I have an inkling, or perhaps a fool’s stance, that consciousness lives on. What can I say, it’s the child in me who hasn’t died, who likes to believe in lifelong dreams

So I guess that’s how I feel about the whole thing of aging, so many iterations

Sometimes I romanticize the proletariat revolution. Folks waking up whistling slinging a shovel over the shoulder digging and building. I imagine people working with the earth, closely, sometimes with machines, but mostly with hands & tools. Shovels, axes, picks, hammers, saws. Constructing the world majestically, with the utmost patience & craft, slowly cultivating strength, resistance, and local food-producing gardens. It’s a dream. I know. Maybe that’s what the commies had in mind. Marx, Mao, Castro. But they got corrupted like any man in power, and what’s their lasting legacy?

What does it mean – Workers of the world unite?

I would love for people to wake up voluntarily to build schools, sturdy housing, without argument or shootings. Feed the starving. Teachers teaching without such constraints on curriculum, doctors healing, billionaires donating, and the government doing its job aka handling authority humanely, rotating positions turning over quickly, quit making careers out of politics aka cease & desist warring on the people from perched up on that capitol hill. We are all on the work & grind every damn day. We even got a hustle on the side. Whether it be two jobs three jobs going to college serving food or in an office. It can be sickening. Where is the trickle down? There is none. It’s all bullshit coming from above. Nothing real is happening in the politics of this country. It’s all symbols. A flag got taken down. Great. A relic of the past spitting in the flames.

What about the homeless? And PTSD veterans? Women’s healthcare? Public education?

A mountain gets its name reinstated. Great. Honor the slaughtered. I’m not trying to minimize it. Denali is monstrous. Our apologies should be equally as large.

What about the southern portion of the USA that once belonged to Mexico? Immigration? Should we really expect fictional borders drawn across flimsy paper to withstand culture & time? Shit, America was stolen in the first place.

Where is our common ground in the States?

Guns & prayers.

People want 2nd amendment rights… Quit using The Gun against your neighbor and start fighting those tyrants ruling in the elite. That bastard over at Nestle? He’s stealing our water and selling it back to us for a price. And Flint with lead in their water? That governor is running a filthy regime, disabling whole cities, destroying infrastructure, letting houses crumble. These are crimes against humanity.

We need Unity woven through the hearts of people, siding with one another to fight the maelstrom of media and corrupt politics trying to divide us at the seams. We are the real change. No promise from politicians is going to work. People need to see eye to eye. We need to acknowledge, now more than ever, we live in a global mind, and working all of us simple folks with many cultures is the daily routine. We need to turn our collective eye on those who are corrupt and topple them with our rage.

Corporate welfare is taking our money one tax season at a time. Places like Walmart need to pay their employees a living wage, i.e. education through college for their families, full coverage healthcare, vacation time, sick leave, and maternity leave should all be normalized for employees who work full time.

From there, we can start talking about working fewer hours on a weekly basis. Providing We the people with the American Dream. Extended leisure time. What was the Industrial Revolution all about? And the Tech Boom? There are machines and computers that can do and should be doing a whole lot of our work for us. What is the point of Being, if we are just coerced into endless days of labor with no reward? When do we have time for actually living? And I’m not talking about the weekends. Or that token of two weeks vacation.

I used to have dreams I was sitting on the moon looking down at the earth. Our green and blue planet was always on fire, looking more like a raging sun. It would implode in on itself, and start growing anew.

I think it’s an apt image for what’s occurring in the larger collectivity of consciousness. Our world is burning in more ways than one. Ideologies that once made sense are now dissolving rapidly, and people are desperately grabbing onto anything to stave off the fire.

But, what is so scary about getting licked up by the flames and becoming ash & dust? After all, it’s the source of life & power for the phoenix.

We’re human though, not some mythological creature. We have to get real- There are people dying, there is mass oppression. What of the continuous violence?

People are still being abused by police. And police are still getting off without being held responsible. It’s madness. It’s both infuriating and sad. I’d venture to say, it is important to shed light on police brutality, but, it’s a catch-22: Does sharing videos of police violence proliferate it in both our imaginations and reality too?

It’s important to maintain awareness, but at what cost? Is this the old metaphor of growing from the muck like a lotus? We ought to maintain a finger on the pulse of reality, but if we cease to dream, if we have no vision of utopia, we are lost to a ruthless system. I am not asking for outright ignorance as a means to bliss. What I’m saying, with all the corruption we see today, it’s necessary to stay on the creative side of destruction.

The Mayan prophecy swept through the consciousness of people like a great tide flooding biblical earth in the early 2000s, destroying old thoughts and out-moded paradigms. Remember Katrina? El Nino? The tsunami in Japan?

When the Europeans invaded South America years and years ago, the indigenous quite literally absorbed the customs & language of white people only to spit it back out with their own flair & anger. Guerrilla warfare. Che. The Sandinistas. The Zapatistas. Picking up spare shovels, hoisting up their guns, shaking raging fists at warhawks & imperialist pigs. We can relearn; we need to protect the land and build community with heartfelt visions of the future.

There is so much lust in the city, so much desire. Billboards, posters, and advertisements. Women half dressed revealing skin, backs, legs. Hair flowing in fake wind. Lips pursed in nonchalance. Sexy postures. Men wearing underwear with bulging abs giving everyone those eyes, “Let’s undress.” An ever-present, subconscious pulse driving people to consume, consume, consume. Hitting people at the root, confusing what we need with what we want.

Did you see the news? There was a fire. People burned. Did you read the headlines? There was a war. People killed. I didn’t see it for myself, but I heard.

There is a sign on the subway urging passengers to keep their eyes peeled for anyone who looks suspicious. Warnings. Be on your best behavior or you will get locked up. The punitive system, keeping people in check.

That’s why she found herself going to the woods, where trees don’t differentiate between skin tone and politics is a language unknown. Only the leaves rustle in poetry like the pages of a book turned over by the wind.

She didn’t care all that much to indict society. Humans will be humans, lost and misdirected. She was no savior, no humanitarian. She was no one. Not even a ghost. She ran to the forest because the moist soil was in her blood. Her bare feet spoke lullabies to the earth, making tiny footprints and pathways of massage.

The imagination of vegetation left her spellbound. The fauna of the forest painted the inside of her brain like the walls of an ancient cave. She sat for moments on end, unfolding with the passage of the sun. Breaths moving in and out. Acorns falling to the ground. Her hair grew into the branches and pine needles tickled her neck.

The moon rose high in the sky, a temple of craters and rocks. Shadows hiding her silence and worship. The forest floor scooped her up in a cradle of moss and she prayed long and hard for nothing in particular. She cried little tears, amazed at birth. Thankful for death. Unsure really which was which. The starry night looked like funeral pyres of untold myths.

She awoke with a chill. The crisp air of October wrapped her up like a blanket. Was romance in the atmosphere? Or had she fallen into a dream? The city called her name. It wasn’t intuition, it was work. She got out from under the sheets, put on her outfit for the day. Professional, straight laced. She walked to a coffee shop, passed the downtown hustle and bustle, blew through cigarette smoke. People walked their dogs. Homeless slept on steamy grates. She dropped a dollar in a cup, and went about her day navigating perspectives. At times overwhelmed by the urban trudge, at times inspired by the density & vastness.

From dreams to reality and back again

I woke up this morning to the cry of a screech owl. They have such a distinct, baffling call. It was dark out, and a mist covers the morning, so when I hear the whinnying, yes, a shrill whinny coming from the trees, I picture a miniature flying horse. He’s been my alarm clock a number of days this summer, making all kinds of racket before the sun comes up. I don’t have a rooster, I have a screech owl. It’s not a terrible way to greet the morning. The bird flies off and the crickets take over, chirping and strumming their little legs like cellos and banjos. 

Before waking up, I dreamt of a house full of people. Everyone was working. It went from work to a meeting. I kept getting critiqued for my DIY style and non-professionalism, but it wasn’t harsh or lasting. I think the critics realized that’s exactly what gives my work character. I split with the gathering, and walked with a couple co-workers along a concrete pier into a large expanse of earth and nowhere. The scenery, quite fantastic & Dalian, distracted us. After turning a corner into a completely different dream, I fell into a creek. I thought it must have been a mirage, this new dream, but when I looked back to see where I came from, the old dream was gone. The only thing that looked familiar was right where I stood. All around me, a beautiful ever-changing scattering of matrices.

I rolled off my couch where I often sleep, and stretched and breathed under the burn of incense. My grandfather always poked fun at my sleeping habits. Whenever I slept at his house, I chose the couch instead of a bed. He thought this was ludicrous. He always gave me a little kick too whenever I fell asleep on his floor. He grew up in a generation when naps were lazy. What can I say, I’m a cat.

As I sit and breathe and continue to wake up, memories from Planned Parenthood start rising up. The first time I went into one was in Center City. I was re-hanging the poster art, calendars, and medical charts after a paint job and doing touch up work on the walls. I remember the place was so drab and clinical. Machines and swivel chairs, white walls and desks. It was so normal. It made no sense to me this was a place for health.

It occurred to me, what a sharp contrast it was to my own view of life and well-being. From the time I smoked my first bowl, my body started rejecting things like fast food and meat. It wasn’t out of angry rebellion, I simply didn’t want it. I didn’t want to work in an office, I didn’t want to find myself in mechanistic, tiny boxes. I didn’t like white walls. I found it all boring, gross, and full of poison. As I grew older, I started seeing my health in terms of spirit. I always imagined a good doctor’s office would be a shaman’s hut, filled with bones and feathers and dried herbs, crafted leather and carved sticks. Spirit materials found around the house or gifted by nature and life. That’s how I imagine it.

Now, just to clear things up, I understand the chemical implications of the physical world, how it is part and parcel to our well-being. I am not rejecting the reality of human sciences. In fact, I find it fascinating what vitamins, exercise, herbs, and food can do for the inner-workings of the mind and body. Furthermore, I understand that Planned Parenthood provides very real life services for people. I’m not about to ask their facilities to go through a burning transformation into the world of witch doctors. What I am interested in, is what Planned Parenthood would look like if it expanded itself from where it is now. In other words, I’m curious what it would look like if they linked up with, let’s say, the marijuana field, all the research that is going on there, all the money that is being generated by that business, all the boost marijuana gives to the imagination. How would our health change? Like I said, it’s a stretch, and really just an exercise in brainstorming, but the thing is, Planned Parenthood has been put in a position where creativity may be necessary, whether it be through striking and protesting, or finding other sources of funding.

What’s more, and I’ll say it time and again, the government needs to quit behaving in such an authoritarian way. Your job should not be self-stylized with concern to religion and belief. Just because you made it to Congress, doesn’t make you all that much different than Kim Davis. You are a civil servant. Do your job. Workers of the government have a duty to serve people, all people, not just the ones who fall within their realm of fantasy.

I remember learning about Martin Luther King Jr. in high school, and did some of my own reading in college. I knew he was a leader of the Civil Rights movement, a powerful speaker and organizer. But I didn’t realize the extent to which he practiced civil disobedience. In a way, at least for me, his legacy was kind of whitewashed.

Now, I’m about 3/4 of the way through reading a book he wrote called “Why We Can’t Wait,” and I’m struck by the number of quotable gems dispersed throughout his writing. I shouldn’t be all that surprised because I see so many memes spreading his words around the internet… I guess what I find interesting, those gems that people quote, they kind of miss what he’s actually talking about. Don’t get me wrong, the quotes are good, but they don’t really drive home the fact that he was waging a crusade for freedom. The man was militant. He spoke of revolution and sparking radical transformation in society by uplifting the spirits of the oppressed and downtrodden. And he didn’t just speak about it, he did it. He made an army of nonviolent protesters. I’m not being hyperbolic. This is the kind of language he used.

What’s more, he had his fingers on the pulse of oppression; he knew its history so well. The way in which he described the lingering effects of slavery, it’s not all that much different than what I hear about the prison industrial complex today. We hear it all too often, “If people only obeyed, they wouldn’t get put in their place.” It recalls a slave/master mentality.

He also writes poignantly about tokenism. To boil it down, he describes a token as a way to keep people under the illusion that change is occurring. For instance, when people say, “There’s no racism, look, we have a black president.” That’s a token, or a small offering to placate the restless masses. It’s an attempt to convince people that equality exists across the board. It doesn’t amount to sweeping transformation though, it’s only a symbol that says, “Look, we gave you this, so calm down and be happy.”

The title of the book is worth repeating here “Why We Can’t Wait.”

Right wing propaganda jumps on tokenism very quickly. So be wary. Any time there is a black person who says something, for instance, to derail Black Lives Matter, they jump on it right away. This is dangerous, because it is exploitative, divisive, and creates a sense of complacency for those who still subconsciously support oppression. It says, “Look, this black person agrees with us, why don’t you?”

I’m also curious if this book is taught in high school? I imagine it would create tension, but King Jr. speaks to that too, that tension, especially within a community is ultimately necessary, because it so often serves as a catalyst for constructive thinking, conversation, and most importantly, a breaking point for direct action.

In the past, I wanted to be a leader in some way, shape, or form. I’m not so sure I have it in me in the same way that so many prominent leaders do. Rather, I’m convinced that I don’t. I think that’s why I’m drawn to reading books about rebellion & revolt, whether it be the Sandinistas in Nicaragua or the student-led protests in China. It’s an important history to keep alive. All too often, we forget how radical change really is. It always happens at the root, and we usually only catch it on a second or third wave, when it’s been somewhat diluted and regurgitated for the faint of heart. We have that privilege, to sit in our ivory towers and be critical of those who are fighting tooth and nail for progress and basic civil rights, without realizing that change looks exactly like that- radically different, and maybe even offensive, because it’s so new to our senses.

Just some impressions.

One last thing, MLK’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” is brilliant in its own right. Another piece of writing everyone in our country ought to read, and it’s framed out so well in “Why We Can’t Wait.” The context provided helps to bolster and illuminate his words. Same goes with all those quotes and memes. They’re important, and for those who are interested, a little research helps them truly come alive.