My journey with plants began a long time ago and I plan to continue it as long as I live. Even as a child I had a deep connection with them. Some of my fondest memories take place high up in the Chestnuts around my childhood home in Vienna and in the New England forests.
I dabbled some with herbal teas in college, but my study of herbal medicine began in earnest in the summer of 2007 when I was drawn to Tryon Life Community Farm to learn fermentation from Sandor Katz in his Wild Foods and Fermentation workshop. Little did I know that his co-teacher Frank Cook would totally steal the show, at least for me.
Frank took us on a plant walk. That kind of magical journey where you go out and meet the neighbors. For the first time I was introduced to plants by name, family, taste and smell and I was totally enthralled. Sure, I expanded my knowledge of fermentation that day, but I was totally hooked on learning and meeting more plants.
The following year I studied Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification in an online course with Frank and 2009 I traveled through the jungle and mountains of Peru deepening my connection with the ancient plant knowledge, traditional uses of plants and the vast consciousness of plants themselves. I have a little website dedicated to the journey in Peru. After three weeks immersed in plant medicine, I knew when I returned to Portland that I would need to find a way to stay in contact.
Through the lovely twists of fate that life brings there was an email waiting for me from a friend who though I might enjoy Scott Kloss’s Tuesday night Plant Teacher Circles. It was just what I needed. Each evening we would gather in a circle to meditate with a plant which was presented in an unmarked tincture bottle. I spent the next two years deeply engaged in this discipline. There was so much beauty in my own opening as I connected with plant after plant and gained confidence in my ability to hear their wisdom and receive their healing. But the uncanny and mind blowing part was truly the way my experience so often mirrored that of others in the room. When I enrolled in the year long School of Forest Medicine I knew I had come home to my people and the truth of life. We spent days at a time in remote wilderness absorbing the energy of the plants and the wisdom of the land. I felt veils of pain and confusion about being a spiritual being in this material world wash away and my heart open profoundly to the beauty of life.
In the course of these years I learned to ethically harvest the wild growing plants and to find stands of medicinal plants throughout town that were grown with love and without chemicals. I have turned them into tinctures and oils, salves and smoking blends. Once my shelves started overflowing and more people asked to have some I created my own small line of herbs to share with the community. Mahonia Medicinals was born.
As folks started to come to me for herbal advice I found myself at a juncture where I realized I had a significant understanding of the psycho-spiritual aspects of the plants I work with, but often lacked the basic knowledge of how these plants had been used traditionally to cure colds, digestive complaints etc. To round out my education I am now a student of the School of Traditional Western Herbalism in my second year of study. The school is based on the teachings of Matthew Woods who is a pioneer of presenting ‘lost’ European herbal knowledge including the concepts of Tissue States with Native American wisdom, early American herbalism and intuitive plant knowledge. Throughout the year we also study with Scott Kloos, Debrah Frances, Howie Brounstein, Jim McDonald, Paul Bergner and others.
With each new plant I read about and write a monograph on, with each client whom I support with an issue, with each time I spend communing with a plant being my base of understanding is expanded. I am so grateful to live at this juncture of the heart, mind and body and to be able to share what I learn and gather with those who can benefit from it.
Some writings about my plant friends are here and more to come.