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.

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.

Under the Spell of Nervines

It’s soupy outside. Like honey and molasses. Like hot mud. The sun keeps crushing me. It turned me into a puddle like the wicked witch of the west. I melted and the sun sucked me off the ground. Through the air I flew straight pass the moon and pass those inner planets. Now I’m burning in that fiery goodness. That fiery goddess got me in a spell of wordy worships.


We went for a hike today in Wissahickon. I took off my shoes. Touched the ground. Sole to soul. It was relieving to feel the earth underfoot. The compacted soil absorbed my steps, and the networks of fungi heard me coming from several if not hundreds of feet away. Ghost pipe popped out into my vision field. I immediately sat with it, and it asked to be harvested. I’ve found it growing a number of times, but haven’t up until this point lifted it from the ground. It felt right. It felt full of mystery and intrigue. That’s usually how I know it’s time. When I’m on the edge of falling in. Right on the precipice. When I can sink my mind in easily and absorb what the plant has to offer. There’s some kind synergy at play. Cross specie telepathy. I left a good bit of the ghost pipe alone. Ethical harvesting always in the back of my conscience.

The ghost pipe looks just like that. Like an opaque pipe. They grow in what I’d like to call a village. Clumped up together like a band of little huts. It’s a plant, but it doesn’t produce chlorophyl, so it never gets green. Since it doesn’t produce its own food, it feeds off of the mycelial growth of mushrooms, and the mushrooms feed off the roots of trees. So in a sense, the ghost pipe is an epi-parasite. A parasite of a parasite. Which is really interesting when considering its medicinal action: It helps relieve pain, but it doesn’t get rid of the pain. It allows you to “feel” the pain but ignore it. Like getting outside your body to witness what is happening but not partaking in it. Like an out of body experience. Like becoming a ghost. And it has this similar action on emotional pain: It allows the person to see & engage the pain instead of turning away from it because it so deeply hurts.


Disclaimer: I’ve not experienced this for myself with regards to ghost pipe, I’ve only been reading about it. But it makes a lot of sense to me, like I’ve known it for years, because I’ve worked with psychedelics and meditation. That sense of “being beside one’s self” is all too familiar. Ekstasis. It’s where the word ecstasy derives from.

But what I find really curious is that these similar plants are coming into my life right around the same time. Plants that work on deep hurt. Deep wounds. The wounds that are forgotten about because they seem so long gone, but out of nowhere, or so it seems, they give rise and ravage the sleeper from passive dreams into conscious action to heal.

St. John’s Wort is one of those other plants I found recently. Hypericum perforatum. I found it growing wild for the first time ever. It was alongside the railroad tracks in my hometown. It jumped out at me like, “Hey! Would you like a helping hand? How about some of that fiery golden sun absorbed & redistributed into my bright yellow flowers! And when you crush my petals, I’ll bleed a maroon blood on your hands…” It works in that way, on the nerves and on the metaphorical blood. The life force. It helps lift one out of mild depressions, re-directing one’s inner fire, re-aligning the will. I harvested it under the full moon, the gusting wind and rainstorm that blew in beforehand still wet on its leaves. I let it dry out into the next day, then bottled it up with apple cider vinegar and honey. I’m planning on waiting until after the autumn equinox to crack it open in hopes that it crushes me like the sun when the darkness of days is full tilt in the winter valley.


I also bottled up the ghost pipe, but instead of acv, I used one hundred proof vodka. I don’t plan on using it. But I’m sure I will. I guess I’m already working with it. I don’t know why I took it home with me in the first place. It just called on me to save its spirit. Perhaps I need it more than I realize, like I’m entering a deep searching and realization of my own traumatic experience growing up in America. It’s heavy when so many people fly the flag ignoring the war machine that devastates both the home front and the world stage. When I walk downtown, I see all these people wearing flag shirts and other propaganda paraphernalia. When I walk around the suburbs, everyone has a flag marking their home like it needs to be stated: “I am a nationalist and this is America!” That seems to be the lynchpin for patriotism. It’s the forefront of discussion, how complicit are you? The more complicit, the more American. Apparently.

But, come on. We have a problem with healthcare.

Really though. It’s absurd. It’s got that clownish quality to it. We have a major healthcare problem. You don’t know if it’s laughable or so sad you just want to burst like a cloud. So you do both. All of it too real. It’s surreal. All the feels right in the gut. Right in the heart. You want to love everything to death, and death everything to life. Start it all over. Revolutionize the whole damn thing.

And none of us are untouched. That’s for sure. And because of that, it’s nice to have plant allies along for the journey, especially when it gets so treacherous or too much to face.

In my younger years I often walked a path of escapism while calling it freedom, and I see that pattern arising here and there in my adulthood. Don’t get me wrong, I think we all need some rest and relaxation, restoration and rejuvenation. We need to take care of ourselves. Time to slowly experience the intricacies unraveling. To sip sweetly the cup of life. That’s why I take to the woods. Take off my shoes and commune with the plants. So when I come back to the city, I’m a bit more ready to deal with the oppression of brick and wires, the concrete hard like the weight of jack hammers in the early morning, pounding sound in the ears, cramped up density of people stressed out & worked to the bone, which goes hand-in-hand with the constant, drastic change of the climate, politically speaking, environmentally speaking, socially, culturally, and spiritually. The streets are in heat. The war isn’t that far away. It’s a click away for some. It’s a step out the door for others. And if we have a pulse connected to the source, we feel the pain that too many endure.

Like, it’s hard to believe, but not surprising at this point, so many black people are still getting brutalized & murdered by police, and at the same time, so many people are still going about their days like the American dream is supreme.

It’s a broken record.

A broken record that needs repeating until the masses are moved. And there are too many broken records in this country.

But all that being brought up, the change is like this heat. Soupy. Running like molasses. Slow like honey. Insufferable. Thick and swampy like you just want to sit home naked in front of the fan with a cool glass of cucumber and ice. But you can only do that for so long. Because there is work to do. Because the plants are calling. Because people are taking to the streets and calling for simple things like sanity. Caring. Love. For politicians to get their hands out of their greedy pockets, to take a minute to stand outside themselves, to see what’s going on in the world, to give a fuck about the planet and people. But until that happens, we’re making waves in little ways, organizing ourselves, rooting deeply together, growing like little villages of plants and mushrooms. Feeding one another. Inspiring. Nourishing souls.