Deep rootedness, part one…

November 17, 2011

Lately I’ve been thinking a ton about being deeply rooted..being planted, really.

Secret:  there are days when I long to actually be a plant.  It seems to be a more peaceful, predictable experience.  But when sense starts talking again, I realize I am personifying the phyto-experience, and that is the wrong thing to do.  Both humans, plants, and all species are in the same boat when it comes to control.  That is, we have very little.  We respond to our environment, and respond again.   Leaves move to greet the sun and are literally shaped by lack of water or other extreme conditions.  Roots grow directly into sewer pipes when necessary.

While I am a bit fragile in extreme conditions, I can at least water myself.  I won’t forget and die of thirst, thank goodness.

This fall has been full of lots of harvesting and chopping…Yellow Dock, Skullcap, Blue Vervain, just to name a few.  I am learning how to be an herbalist, and  to remember the deeper cycles of things.

For instance:  Guess what?  You have to harvest when the harvest is ready.  You can’t just put it on your to do list and get back to it.  I am reminded of my mom putting up food (tomatoes, green beans, peaches) until the wee hours of the night.  As a child, I was always so amazed at how late she would stay up to get the job done.   Close enough to being a farm girl, she would fret about picking the peas and what to do with all that zucchini.  Poor dear.  I get it now.  Even though I am tired, getting the herbs chopped up and soaking in the alcohol (to make the medicine) is very important to me.  They receive a lot of star energy as I work late at night after my family has gone to bed.

So as I am dwelling on rootedness, and how I am not so good at it, I am cooking up roots.  Pots of them.  Because I’ve had a bad cold, and now I must make medicine for me.  (Roots for rooting.)  I like this…

Hey folks…I’ll be giving an herb walk on Sunday September 18, 2011 10:00-11:30 at the fantastic Alemany Farm, San Francisco:

We’ll be talking about all kinds of nice plants,  most of which are easy to grow in your own backyards.  Learn a handful of simple remedies for enhancing the health of you and your family.  Herbs can be powerful allies in keeping us well as we move into autumn and winter.

We’ll walk and talk about the medicinal plants in the garden and have picnic afterwards.  Please bring a potluck dish to share.  Come discover this amazing urban farm.

Inspiration steeped in fog

August 22, 2011

Well, it’s been ages.  The title of this post is a dead giveaway that my own inspiration seems to be coming and going with the fog here in Northern California.  In and out, not always burning brightly until 3pm, and then only for an hour or so.  Inspiration is a thin, smudged-up hard to open window these days.  Still, it’s a window.

After a frantic early summer, I have literally been head down in the garden, working the dirt and working it some more.  Learning these lessons again and again:  beginnings, leavings, plants gracefully growing and sometimes tragically ending.   Mildewy bud upon mildewy leaf.  Such is the way of the garden, and it is not always easy to accept.  (Like the fog.)

Still, there are glimmers of loveliness and some clear blue skies (which are always a guaranteed inspiration for me.) And of course the fog itself has very important things to offer:

First of all,  a deep and lasting, quiet.  I love how it becomes a buffer for city sounds.  Instant auditory insulation.  Amen.

Then there are the soaked bumblebees early in the morning.  There is something so dearly vulnerable about their damp, slow bodies.  They are a metaphor…we must move slowly through this dense blanket.  Buzzing is for warm days.

With the fog we don’t need to water our gardens as much.  And topical moisture is very nice for the skin.  I know you are appreciating my optimism here, but of course there is a cold side…

When it’s foggy, it feels to me like the world has been turned inside out and we are surrounded by our inner lives.   No more turning from the shadowy side of our existence.  It’s damn foggy.  The fog is in (us)!  It can be spooky sometimes.  Grumbly.  Nurturing.  Either way, it’s always a teachable moment, asking us to take a closer look at ourselves, as we can’t see the nearest (any)thing.

And so, while I work on developing my patented “Fog Suit” (No, I am really not kidding),  I thought in the meantime I would make a fog serum.  Because it never hurts to have a little help from our (plant) friends.   A lovely extract of Lemon balm, St. John’s Wort, and Ashwagandha.  Stamina for the fog, in a bottle.  One ounce is $10.00.  Available in fog-sized quantities, whatever that means to you.  To order call 415.613.7010 or email at   Shipping available.

Photographs by the wonderful Daniel Norris.  Thanks Dr. Dan.

Happy Spring everyone.  This winter seemed especially long, so I’m grateful that we’re transitioning seasons.  But before all common sense flies out the window, it’s time to remember to take care of the body.  First tea, then tank tops, if you know what I mean.  You don’t?  Well, have you ever noticed how many folks get sick around seasonal transitions?  Or how an unnaturally beautiful patch of weather in early spring leads to lots of extroverted behavior which leads to a hacking cough and calling out sick?  Right.  Here is your remedy…

Find these dry herbs at your local herbarium.   Put them in a pot, and boil the love out of them. I mean it.  One small handful of burdock root (Arctium lappa), one small handful of dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale), one smaller handful of orange peel (citrus sp.), plus 5 tongue depressor-shaped sticks of Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus).  Add some leftover elderberries (Sambucus nigra) that you find in the back of your cupboard.  Or perhaps you need to sweeten your mix up with some licorice or some cinnamon.  Channel your inner herbalist.

For each teaspoon of herbs, use 1 cup of water.  Once you have your water and herbs in a pot, bring the mixture up to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer away.  For the maximum medicinal benefits, cook these herbs for at least one hour.  Two hours if you’re nasty.  Strain, and drink hot or cold.  Sweeten with honey or another natural sweetener if you must.  Stash your leftovers in the refrigerator and drink throughout the week.

Why should you do this? Well, Astragalus mobilizes the immune system (kicking out lingering winter bugs), dandelion and burdock refresh and renew the liver (think of wringing out a washcloth) and perk up digestion in general.  (Remember the holidays?  So does your liver.)  Orange peel balances the formula and provides a Vitamin C kick.  This tea is your spring tonic.  Let these herbs literally “clean house” for you.  Your body will be ready for Spring in that classic “out with the old and in with the new” sense.  In Northern California speak, this tea will shift the energy of winter (1st gear) into second gear~the energy of early spring.  (You can’t go successfully from 1st to 3rd, can you?)

Enjoy the unfolding of the season…

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.

Here they are–your last-minute Hanukkah gifts and Stocking Stuffers…

Flower Power

Solstice Survival Flower Essence: I have customized this blend for the holidays, as they have a knack for bringing unresolved emotional drama to the surface.  Let this be a tool in your toolkit to help you handle the holidays with grace and authenticity.

1/2 oz. for $10.00

Elderberry Cordial: My family’s favorite for keeping the colds and flus at bay.  I use this delicious syrup as a preventative.  Elderberry’s immune properties are widely known and in combo with some other very special herbs this formula is a literal virus stopper.

2 oz. for $15.00

Elderberry Immune Tonic

Herbs meet Water:  Custom Herbal Infusions are lovingly blended for you to give as gifts.  Something special in mind to stuff that stocking?  Honey likes citrus but isn’t a fan of mints and she needs an energizing tea…no problem!   I absolutely love creating a tea for a specific person or purpose.   1 oz of custom tea is $15.00

Hands make tea...

Gift Certificates for Western Herbal Consultation and Reiki are always available in any dollar amount.

Please call 415-613-7010 or email me at to place your orders before December 20th, 2010.

May you have a very blessed, very loving holiday season.

Happy New Year!