"Mister! He said with a sawdusty sneeze,
I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.
I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongues.
And I'm asking you sir, at the top of my lungs"
~The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss
A kitchen table conversation.
This past week I've collected wonderful questions from all of you - thank you!!!
It's so much fun to hear what you are curious about and what kind of support is desired among us. Below I do my very best to be candid and thorough and helpful with my responses, and I've exchanged the time to proofread with my time to write, so be gentle with me if I've made grammatical errors or spelling errors. :)
I enjoy walking this earth with all of you - may you each find a way to prioritize yourselves, and that which you most love, today and every day.
Q: How and in what language do the trees speak to you?" - Susan M.
This is a little bit like the moment your lover asks you "what do you love me for?"
My love for trees is somewhat undefinable but also completely animal. And definitely unrequited.
Growing up in Fairfield, Iowa, I didn't grow up with a forest. I had a favorite apple tree I affectionately climbed, and other oaks and maples and patches of trees that I hung around.
Every so often we'd go to places that did have woods or forest, and I was always lit up inside by the magical feeling of walking through them.
My mom, being from Connecticut, always talked about how much she loved and missed the trees. We moved back to CT when I was 16, and since then I've been able to bond with the forests here in New England. (I'm in Mass now.)
So, how do the trees speak to me? In all the languages except words. So to translate them into the one tongue they don't speak is always a challenge for me. But my human brain does indeed translate my feelings into thoughts and words - and so how they speak to me really becomes my subjective experience.
What I feel and hear in the forest is a sense of belonging. I notice that all the important stuff in life is occurring all around me but in a peaceful and synergistic manner. There is a wonder in the tiniest thing - a half eaten nut on a rock, little baby tree sprouts, and an expansiveness of all that is alive and sentient in the world. I 'hear' the trees settling my worries, reminding me that all things grow and change and cycle. All beings are unique, and all things require an ecosystem to thrive. I both free and anchored, alive and yet calm. I feel intrinsically connected.
When I'm in the forest, I feel the trees speaking to me in the language of time, trust, beauty, and prayer.
Perhaps you're wondering if or how trees speak to me in terms of medicine? Well, I'm not sure - sometimes like any plant journey, I just get a feeling clear as day, as if someone is saying it to me. Sometimes I get a sound or a vibration. And sometimes I get nothing at all besides an overwhelming curiosity for what that tree is, and I learn from texts and field guides and friends. I think time and repetition are what generates a sense of communication with trees (or any plant or land for that matter). You're nurturing a relationship, and the more you consistently listen, pay attention, and are present to the changes, blossomings, withdrawings, textures, tastes, and rhythms your partner is sharing with you, the more you feel spoken to.
This past year I've been particularly affected by the Catalpa tree in front of my home. The delayed output of spring leaves, and orgasmic summer explosion (and equally fast falling) of their huge iris - like flowers simply moves me. It has a crescendo like a good dancer. I think I identify with it's struggle to come forth, and then its reckless surrender to ecstatic blossoming.
It's a moody tree and I like that.
Q: Do you have a favorite resource on the medicinal use of trees? –Val
Disclaimer: My book wish list is obscenely long.
Yes - I've got ones I use regularly, and ones I don't use as often but wouldn't be without.
In issue 4 of Plant Healer Magazine I wrote an article on Tree Medicine, and the list at the end of that article is a list of my favorites and I recommend all of them!
But alright - I'll narrow down a couple for you :)
Tree Medicine Tree Magic - by Ellen Evert Hopman
Mountain Medicine, The Herbal Remedies of Tommie Bass, by Darryl Patton, Bernard Feld, Jim C. Poole
Opening Our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs, by Gail Faith Edwards
and because you can't use tree medicine without good ID -
The Tree Identification Book, by George A. Symonds and Stephen V. Chelminski although you may need a different book for your region.
Consider finding books and websites that are geared towards survival skills, wilderness education, and medicine of the native tribes, as these are the people who really use tree medicine more than many of the common herbals on today's bookshelves. Also look for a balance of medicinal use with harvesting and preparation information.
Q: I believe you mentioned that you are introverted. How do you balance your work with a need to refuel after putting yourself out there? - Val
Often times I don't.
I just do my best, and I work everyday to listen to my needs and also challenge myself to be centered and consistent with the work I want to do and accomplish and be the role model I hope to be for my children.
I spent many years, most of my life, really, struggling with deep, dark, frightening episodes of depression. Times when I was most alive and joyful were the times when I had artistic outlets that made me feel alive and free (my background is dance) and when I was in nature (my background is also being an earthling ;)
And out of the blue I would 'crash' into darkness, unable to interact with anyone with any kind of happiness, hope, or clarity. It wreaked havoc in my life as you may imagine.
In hindsight, I can't say that one thing magically healed it. In fact, I don't know if it will ever be eradicated from my being - but I've been able to understand myself more and more over time, and have cultivated a slew of tools to support myself and help interrupt the pattern when I sense it coming on.
The four main tools for me are:
1) Traditional, nutrient dense foods
2) Time ALONE every day - writing, meditating, being in nature, or the shower. However it is, it's crucial.
3) Freedom. I simply cannot be under any one else's direction or I go nuts. I do like to serve - and I do have commitments I'm devoted to and am consistent with - but they are my choices alone and I never have to answer to someone else about them - only me.
4) Self development. I'm a work in progress - and I keep learning. I use all kinds of helpful books and programs to strengthen my mindset and my ability to manage stress. I use daily gratitude affirmations, and The Four Agreements are never far from my reach. Always do my best. Don't take anything personally. Be impeccable with my word. Don't make assumptions.
And I communicate to the best of my ability. My husband is incredibly loving, supportive, and honest, and has helped me to feel ok about saying "I need to shut down for a little while". Sometimes he sees it first, and sends my to my room for a break :)
Q: Do you have any recommendations for teeth/gum/mouth health and/or what is your dental health regime ? - Rose M.
This is a great question and one I've been thinking about a lot lately.
I've always had good teeth, and for that reason I've been wondering if it's time to make sure I'm not taking them for granted. I don't go to the dentist often and sometimes when I want to go it's when we don't have insurance.
I grew up with a general love around my teeth and my mom always complimented my smile. I enjoyed brushing my teeth and liked to see how much foam I could make with my yummy tasting Pepsodent toothpaste :) I also grew up with a tongue scraper, which I am hoping to acquire again.
My regime at the moment is brushing with natural toothpaste, flossing when I remember, and not chewing gum.
I rarely eat any kind of candy at all, but I do take a spoonfull of unrefined sugar in my coffee in the morning.
Often times have a gum essential oil blend around, which I take with me on trips like the woman's herbal conference, where I might not get to brush my teeth when I want to. It contains clove, tea tree, myrrh, peppermint, basil, and cinnamon. I'll massage a tiny bit into my gums and teeth with a clean finger, then swish with water.
When my kids were little, I added this blend to a mix of herbal tinctures and distilled water for them to use as a mouthwash. I like tinctures of St/ Johnswort, Chamomile, horsetail, and mint for a base. Grown ups might like to add more powerful ingredients like Sage tincture, neem oil (yuck, though) and a little tiny bit of bloodroot tincture. Yarrow is also an excellent choice, and a plentiful plant.
I haven't yet gotten to the point where I can use an herbal tooth powder. Ever since I got pregnant with my first child, I have had a wicked gag reflex when I brush my teeth - and the taste of baking soda or salt just puts me over the edge.
I also think gut flora and the immune system play a huge roll in our dental health. Eating fermented foods is helpful, and in general keeping our bodies mineralized with foods like seaweed, fish, organ meats, and copious amounts of cooked dark leafy greens, plus mineral rich herbal infusions like oats, red clover, and nettle, are dynamite ways to care for our teeth from the inside out.
And don't forget to eat BUTTER. Butter is very good for your teeth.
Which brings me to oil pulling. I plan to make a teeth oil soon for this purpose, and imagine it infused with sage, mint, and various other fun plant allies. I used a teething oil on my children and in my herbal line when they were little and in worked wonders!! I do think oil is wonderful for our teeth and gums and look forward to trying oil pulling. (Basically swishing with oil for a few minutes, to nourish the teeth and gums, and dissolve oil soluble stains)
Oh - and munching on birch twigs and wintergreen while hiking always does the teeth good!
Q: how do you find the balance between your business life and your home school life? How do you give your best to both without burning out? The homeschool moms that I know do not work in addition, so I’m kind of in the dark about that. Any nuggets of wisdom are so appreciated! – Camille L.
Well, again - Every day is different. Some days are blissful and some days a struggle. Balancing is an art of acclimation and one that requires constantly calibrating, adjusting, sensing, focus and sometimes falling down and getting back up.
My parenting has gone through several cycles, and the hardest ones have hands down been the times when I didn't have support. And the times I didn't have support, were actually the (few) years my kids were in school.
Homeschoolers seems to have an innate sense of community, in my experience, yet many of them are busy and or isolated.
Finding groups, learning cooperatives, homeschool classes and programs, and friends is what my whole life has hinged upon in terms of keeping my kids growing and learning and happy. And they cue me - they speak their needs and display their restlessness. My job is to pay attention and the facilitate.
My job is also to teach them to seek and find resources, and not to wait until it's served up to them, and my job is also to model being a curious and perpetual student. I'm delighted when they teach me something, and in turn I think they appreciate the essence of discovery in general.
But there are times when I don't feel I'm giving my best to either, and perhaps do not. But it doesn't mean that I'm not trying, and it is always a lesson in compassion, and a return again to the Four Agreements (above).
My kids are teens now, and it's easier than when they were little, yes. I had to stop making products for a long time because I simply couldn't juggle it. It was a war over the kitchen space, a war over my time and attention, and a war over energy and money. Mind you, at the time (2003 - 2007) I was also a professional touring dancer and co-choreographing dances and shows and travelling. It was way too much and put an enormous strain on my family. So I ran off with the circus.
Just kidding - I immersed myself in the homeschooling world and took a job running the homeschool wilderness programs at Great Hollow Wilderness School - so my kids and I could live more in alignment. So, we spent 4 years in the woods and that was a good thing. Hard work - but more cohesive as a family then we had been in quite a while.
So..... balance. It's about making sure you're holding the right bean bags first - and the rest waits its turn.
It's also being able to stop and shift gears when I might want to push through a task - in order to address my kids. This is tricky for me and requires practice. I tend to get lost in my projects and not want to come out for air or stop to do something playful or help them with something I think they can do for themselves. - but I must!
I'm back to making my herbal goodies now, and writing, but I'm not in the woods as much and I'm not dancing. But my kids have an awesome community where they derive most of their "homeschooling" education from (North Star Self Directed Learning for Teens) and we as parents are once again the navigator, facilitator, and reference point for them, along with their ever expanding sense of the world.
If I were single, I honestly don't know how I might choose to do something differently. My guess is that I would find myself a wife! Well you know - someone who I could partner with for mutual support or shared responsibility.
my daughter, rock climbing
Q: What is your favorite plant to wildcraft and your favorite medicine to brew from it and why? – Darcey Blue
This is always THE hardest question. Pick ONE??? sigh.
Well, In this moment I will pick Yarrow.
I'm picking this based on the sense of satisfaction I get from harvesting it every year, and because I can't live without it. I use it all the time, for all kinds of things, and I feel very supported by the plentiful availability of it.
Yet it feels like a jewel - a plant more magical and powerful and special than commonly known, and I adore the sensation of gathering the sweet blossoms and chewing on the tongue numbing leaves in the summer sunshine. I know, it's not a tree or in the forest - but I had to pick one! (My favorite tree medicine is cherry, which I talked about in my poppyswap interview, followed closely by birch, elm and sassafras. Oh, and the conifers with their glorious resin!) sigh.
I like to tincture it, oil it, and dry it for teas or washes. I save the stalks for crafts or for prayer offerings, and I often times call on Yarrow (along with mugwort) as my spiritual plant healers and guides. Yarrow powder also makes a very good styptic and is a useful addition to the hiker's backpack especially for blisters.
I've used yarrow a lot for my daughter who gets springtime nosebleeds, and also gets a lot of minor wounds from her various rough and tumble activities. In fact, my bottles of yarrow are probably all lost in her room at the moment. :/
Q: What do you like on your pizza? - Val’s son
Pepperoni! (Nitrate free - if I can get it!)
Thanks for sharing this Plant Journey with me!
All of you are such an important part of my support system - you inspire me and enable me to continue living my life with curiosity, passion, joy, even imperfection. Thank you. I hope I serve you well.
and on facebook! Where I've uploaded some video for you! Come into the forest with me for a little walk, a gaze into trillium, and meet a purple fairy orchid!
Let the beauty of what you love be what you do. --Rumi
Chocolate Rose Whipped Face Cream
I still have a few Chocolate - Rose face creams left! These are freshly hand made - don't wait if you want one.
Click on the photo to enter the shop!
Chrysalis & Catalpa Allies
Chrysalis & Catalpa
Allies in transformation
I've lowered the price on this one! If you like earthy, smoky more gentle (not floral) aromas and need portable herbal allies to ground you, calm your nerves, and fortify your sense of safety and security,
THIS is the pair for you! Click on the photo to enter the shop.
If you're not harvesting your own yarrow, feel free to stock up on the ones I offer!