Whiplash

January 21, 2014

How’s the fall out from the holidays going for you?

Are you feeling invigorated by the new year?  (Gosh I hope so.)  Or are you feeling like  a dull pencil, worn out from the celebrations, the scribblings, and too much togetherness?  Maybe too many cookies?  I must say it all sounds familiar…

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I wanted to do something nice for you to help transition the calendar year, and all of the accompanying thoughts and beliefs that come along with this time.   We are prone to such highs and lows after the holidays.  They are in fact over, and we are the same mostly.  But we have some different feelings too.  Different ambitions and thoughts.

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If you live in Northern California, the weather is a handy example.  The endless days of warm sunshine keep us feeling hopeful (the high part),  but the evenings are even colder than we are used to with the clear dry weather (the low bit).   We want the endless sun of course (it makes us feel so good), but we desperately need the rain and are headed straight for a serious drought if we don’t get it.   You mean it can’t just be sunny forever?  No, I guess not.

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I must confess,  my personal tendency has been not to think about it too hard–to just enjoy the warm sun, this beautiful weather.   I don’t want to think about our lack of rain…the dark side of all that light.  Things are getting darn right crispy out there, organisms are struggling to survive.

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But I know that if I can practice keeping both tendencies (light/dark, high/low)  in mind, I can stay more balanced because I can accept the existence and the interplay of these two extremes.   It will rain again eventually, and we’ll get to feel all that come with that too:  the cold water on our  skin, the difficulties in getting around, the confused traffic, and the collective relief that the green things will feel around us.

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We are the same, but we are a work in progress too.  The sun and the rain are mirror elements of our personal work.  Sometimes we are on top, filled with the possibilities of change.  And sometimes we are so stuck change seems like a distant speck on the horizon.  We are human after all, and this is a very human cycle that we all go through.  Extremes are a part of living.

And so in the spirit of this New Year transitional duality, I am wanting to offer you…

 A Reiki 2-fer:
Two 50 minute reiki sessions for the price of one.  Gift one to a friend or keep both for you!  Unstick the stuck. $95

Herbal chai, a “clean house” tea:  burdock, elderberry, fennel seed, cardamom, ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, star anise.  A wonderful tea for helping to stay on track with that New Year’s Revolution–spicy, sweet, with a “built-in” tea ritual to help you stay rooted.  $15

Message in a Bottle:  let’s chat on the phone and talk about your health goals for 2014 (emotional, spiritual, physical).  Then I will customize a herbal extract for you, $25 for 2 oz.

It’s a good time to renovate the temple…xoxo, kt

(Get in touch if you’d like to order:  415.613.7010, wiseleafherbal@gmail.com)

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Happy Earth Day everyone.   I really mean it.

Because deep beneath the designation of this holiday, the events, the greenwashing, and even the celebrations, is buried a very quiet, very sacred truth.  This truth not sexy, or shocking or hip,  but it’s ours.  It belongs to everyone of us.

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The secret is that we all deserve to feel connected to this crazy living sphere that sustains us so well.  From it (and all the elements that govern it) we receive what we need to be alive.  And so do billions of other beings.  We’re all breathing together as we go round.  And it’s a pretty profound mind-blowing thing when you think about it.

Honestly you don’t have to do anything special to celebrate earth day.  There are so many points of access–take your dog or your kids or yourself to the park, and then take your shoes off.   Remember how good that feels?

Or maybe do something nice for someone or a fellow struggling being (pick up that earthworm from the sidewalk and return it to the dirt).  Little acts of kindness are contagious and the end result is a feeling of interconnectedness.

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This past week was a rough one for our country.   One evening before bed,  my son expressed anxiety about random acts of violence.   I told him that we cannot predict who will be violent or when this violence will show up.  But we can be kind everyday.   We can be inclusive and reach out to someone we know who is lonely.   We can show love.

These simple actions over time can help someone feel less isolated and an increased sense of belonging.  And the simple truth is that we all belong to the earth, and it to us.  Not just some of us.  All of us.  Everyday.  All the time.  Not just today.

What’s next??

May 2, 2012

I just spent a week at my parents’ place in Wisconsin, and there is nothing like the country to lend perspective on all human endeavors.  My city slicker problems melted away as we discussed more relevant matters:  Which recycled materials in the basement were going to become a proper chicken coup?  How were my brothers and partner going to extract a giant boulder from the middle of the garden?  What shape would this year’s deer fence take?  What was for dinner?

The old hay fort...remember?

Admittedly, I sat out on most of the physical labor.  My sciatica has been bothering me, and my body needed a rest from the very regular work it does as an urban gardener.  I took a few naps, played with my son, and practiced not doing much (something quite challenging for me, actually.)   But as I observed the projects in action, I felt refreshed from the sidelines.  Country living is more about survival, and there is something both difficult and thrilling about that fact.

Please don’t get me wrong—this city mouse isn’t trying to romanticize “the land.”  I think I was just excited to get back to a tangible Process.  Can you build something from the materials you have?  Will your contraption keep the critters out?  And so on.  It’s almost as if life  feels like more of a process when you are engaged in a practical project.  What can I say?  I’m from Midwest farming stock.

The end results were good.  The boys built a stylish coup for the new chickens.  I did some cooking and with my Mom’s expert guidance, I learned to make a Schaum torte (an old family recipe.)  My folks got some work done, but most importantly we celebrated my Mother’s 70th birthday.  Another poignant reminder that life is a project, best done one day at a time.

Spring has been a little messy this year–not so great for projects.  Here are a few examples from my life (though I am sure you have your own.)

Bay area rains have come very late wreaking havoc on my schedule.

My son’s school is having an administrative meltdown for the second year in a row, and community moral is very low.  More serious conversations are in store, with no resolution in site.  I am feeling very sad about this, and have been looking around for some kind of fourth party perspective to help me understand why people will treat each other like like dirt (back to surviving…)

I’ve not had the stamina to market my business, and have been struggling with how best to represent what it is that I do in the world.   In short, “microcosmic” emotional work is still a very humbling project.

Yet I am still doing this work of herbalim and gardening, even though many don’t know about it and I don’t know where it will lead me.   I can’t stop even though there is some part of me that just wants to sign up for the ‘couch potato’ or ‘I don’t care’ position.  I know they have openings…

I’ve also learned a few things, like:

Some projects just take a long time, even though I wish it were otherwise.

Projects with other people take as many times as long as there are participants.   And some steps in a project are simple, but others are extremely complicated–one must take the long view.

It is good to just start by asking “what’s next?”  What’s my next step in my life’s project?

Happy Birthday Mom.

Journey into deep winter…

February 21, 2011

A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go
To take the time
To bless your going forth
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you …
John O’Donohue

I love John O’Donohue….what a way with words.

I must admit, the winter inner “ballast” feels very heavy indeed after slogging around in the pouring rain this past week trying to “stage” a client’s garden.  (I think it was fine the way it was.)  There is this sense of a heavy cold body, and then there is the actual heaviness of cold wet dirt turning to mud that must be moved across white carpet without leaving a trace.  (I wish I were kidding.)  And the spirit begins to follow suit…sodden!

Where is the compass of my discouraged soul pointing after such work?  Toward my bathtub!!  I could soak for hours to try to recover the warm that was lost and it still wouldn’t feel like enough.  I realize this is a personal problem.  Anyway…


A useful realization occurs to me while I am soaking:  Now is the time for careful resolve~for determination, and grit, and visioning the sunshine again.  All of you who live in “grey-sky-snowed-in-land” you know what I mean.  I used to live there too.  We must go on! We must imagine the equinox on March 20th.  We must treasure how dry we are inside our rainsuits and snowpants.  We must feel grateful when circulation moves back into our numbed hands and feet.  (Ah, feel the literal burn!)  It reminds me of the energy moving back up the tree, promoting bud break and leaf growth.  That too is coming.  For some of us it’s already here.  We must look up, no matter how heavy the winter heart ballast.  As John says, perhaps its weight has measure we should attend to before Spring.

Every once in a while, when you’re really lucky, you go to a place that helps you feel whole again.   It never matters how you get to this gifted landscape.  It certainly doesn’t have to be far from home.  It can even be inside yourself…a lucid dream, a reality check on “what is,” a sense that despite being a fragile human in a weird world, you are not that broken.  Or rather, despite the perceived brokenness/broke-ness/ whatever, you can handle this thing called life.


Where ever it is, you can feel it~your senses come alive and a silky peaceful sense drops in…you are home.  Sometimes the landscape is far away, martian territory.  Sometimes not so much.  Either way, the place has hopeful words for you.

Maybe the landscape looks austere and washed out, punctuated with the occasional really bright pink cactus spine.   Maybe the charred remains of a yucca beg you to reconsider your take on “how life is.”  (Fire is strange and dramatic like that.)

Maybe you visited Joshua Tree during the winter like I did.  Now I know why my friend Jacks makes an annual winter pilgrimage to the desert.  I get it now.

I hope you have a beautiful New Year, filled with feelings of home.  May your heart be the oasis.

Words can be fertile ground…(a garden fairy tale come true.)

Some of you will remember a post about my friend Marion.   Marion and I were planting a medicinal herb garden at her home in Piedmont, CA this spring when she passed away suddenly.  This was a very sad happening, and her family wondered what to do with the herbs that she had planted.  There was much consternation, and then her husband Zafiris said the magical words “Take them away.  I don’t know what to do with such things.”  Really?!?  (Tears watered the soil beneath Marion’s oak tree.)

And so I bravely dug those happy plants out of their home dirt, and ferried them across the Bay Bridge to land in their new location–an under-utilized garden in the Inner Richmond.   A vast landscape of quick-draining soil, amended with homemade compost.   Hip hop music blasting in the background.  Old relics of the past garden lying around.  Woodchips from the trees that used to stand on site.  In other words, a blank canvas, a new beginning.

Forgive for a moment a narrator’s interruption:  I want to be clear.  I’m not the hero of this story.  I’m just the dopey sidekick.  The plants are the brains.  And despite all the unpredictable variables of their new destiny, and in spite of the gardener within that keeps saying “we’ll see…” they are looking really good!  Like sticks of a plant, with brand new basal growth where dirt meets aerial parts!  New growth!

And this gardener is so happy I could spit.  Honestly.  I’ve been waiting for this moment for such a long time:  sunny San Francisco location meets herbal medicinals.  An herb garden of my own!  To share with others, eventually.  First we’ve got some growing to do.

Sticks and stones get moved around to host Solidago, and Chamomile, Blue Vervain, and a ton of Grindelia…

Take a peek.  It may not look like much, but come next Spring and Summer, these baby plants will be usefully engaged in soothing your sore throats, calming your fried nerves, and pepping up your tired bones.

For now they look like sticks among the stones.  We are moving toward the winter solstice.  It’s cold and dark, it’s raining.  But eventually the rains will stop.  And then the plants will be lush.  And I’ll pick some of their leaves, and make you a tea.   See?

A deep thank you to Mary and Ted

 

I’ll miss you.  It was too much fun and and work as usual.  But who’s complaining?  The pictures speak for themselves.

The summer began with a hay fort house. Stick becomes art. Men become boys.

In July, the wild fields of my parents’ new land on Washington Island, Wisconsin are filled with Queen Anne’s Lace, Red Clover, Evening Primrose.  Turns out it’s an herbalist’s paradise.

One of my favorite medicinal tea ingredients...a big part of the healing is in its beauty.

Did you know that Queen Anne’s Lace is an old herbal remedy for dropsy (edema), chronic kidney disease, and bladder infections? (It’s a diuretic.)  Also good for breaking up kidney stones.  The seeds help with digestive distress, farts, and chronic cough.  But before you go harvest your own, make sure you aren’t trying to get pregnant, as it’s historically been used to (effectively) control fertility.  Also make sure you have the proper plant, as it’s sometimes confused with Poison Hemlock, the plant by which Socrates met his end.

Steve with Queen Anne's Lace

And then there’s Camp Mather.  We are all so addicted to it’s jumble of beauty and dusty fun.  What could be more amazing than a mountain-watered swimming hole?

I Love this picture of Uncle Jessie’s hat-it just kind of sums up summer…

And who can forget the sun washed landscape of Hetch Hetchy?

Destined for drinking...

Autumn brings it’s own special blend of soft light and crisp nights to the the Bay Area.  It’s actually sunny and hot and nice for us this time of year, and it tricks us into thinking that summer will indeed last forever.   And yet the rains have mysteriously started.  And so have the fall colds…I suppose it’s time to talk about a whole new set of herbs to get us going on staying healthy for Fall and Winter.  Next post.