I remember walking across a vast meadow between two small mountains in the Yukon. It was June. The meadow welcomed the midnight sun with an ecstatic dance of wild rose, fireweed, flax and sweetly scented sage. Bird song from small groves of stunted poplars gladdened the morning while gophers whistled and ran for cover. Overhead, hawks circled. For all its beauty, life seemed more chancy wilderness.
During the first days in the immense landscapes of the Yukon, there are no fences dividing the land into yours and mine, I was frightened. I was after all raised on land tamed by the straight lines of sidewalks and roadways, land where I did not walk another’s lawn or through a flower bed. The Yukon, with few people and even fewer highways, is fiercely wild and its lack of predictability and comfort made me uncomfortable.
One afternoon, laying in on my back, amongst the blue of flax competing with the blue of sky for brilliance, I let go. The warmth of the earth held me.
My bones are made with minerals harvested from Earth by green plants. My blood runs with water drawn from deep underground rivers. My cells float in an ocean contain in skin. The wind, causing my to pull the collar of my coat closer, is my breath. When the sun rises I wake from sleep. At night I dream under the moon. Every day I am renewed with blueberries, apples and sun kissed oranges.
For years, I sought the place where I belong. I remember an elderly German woman, who ran from the bombing of Berlin and the shame of the holocaust telling me, “Eventually I stopped long enough to discover I am a citizen of the Earth. I belong every where.”
Now, after I have laid amongst the flax flowers in that Yukon meadow, played in the cold waves on the far west coast of Canada, lived in a tree house among the green giants of Sumatra, thirsted in the desert, and held smooth river stones in my hand, I understand I belong here. I am Earth.
I was thinking the other day, about a woman I cared for when I worked at hospice. She was dying of a brain tumour. All day and night, she ate. Watermelon, lemon tarts, hamburgers, olives, anything she could get her hands on. The food she loved the most was popcorn lightly tossed with butter. She devoured it by the fist full.
Her best friend was angry. With a bitter voice, she complained, “She always took such good care of herself. She read all those alternative health books and took all those vitamins and herbs. She followed her diet (prescribe by a nation wide weight loss program) religiously. A half cup of popcorn without butter once a week was all she ever ate. And she looked fabulous. She is too young to be here and eating through her last days.”
At the time I was in herb school. Her lament made me consider deeply my studies in herbal medicine. Surfing the internet, it is not hard to find miraculous claims about plant medicine. So what is the truth? Perhaps the truth was found lying on my back while the flax flowers danced.
We are earth; we are not separate from her. All we have comes from the earth. This includes bull dozers, sky scrapers, nuclear bombs, cell phones pharmaceutical and herbal medicine. Nothing is separate from this vast matrix of life called earth. Every living being belongs here. Knowing this is enough. Being here is enough. This understanding brings contentment. Contentment creates health.
When some inner belief tells us we have to be more than who we are in any given moment, we deny the rich heritage of belonging to this great planet. Trying to do more, be more, have more, we loose our ground. Grasping for answers that will make everything right, herbs that will fix imperfections and affirmations which change who we are, we loose connection to what is right, what does not need to be fixed and the marvellous miracle of who we are. We loose sight of the incredible beauty and power of life on this planet which is not separate from the very essence of our being.
The woman I cared for, loved popcorn lightly tossed with butter. Some inner voice inside did not allow her the simple pleasure of a bowl of popcorn. Some belief told her, she had to be as thin as she was when she was 18, before her babies, if she was to have the right to be loved. And I do not mean loved not by others, but by herself. She took her herbs and vitamins, ate all the “right” foods, not because she loved life, but because she did not feel right in life. Some where along the way, she had lost sight of her connection to earth and her right to be here now.
A wise person once told me, everything your put in your mouth is made by sunlight and sparkling waters. It comes from tender seeds waking in rich soil under the caress of moonlight. Every mouthful of food is a testament to the nurturing provided by generations of mothers and fathers, farmers and any person who has ever loved another enough to offer a carefully prepared meal. This person when on to say, food, medicine, clothing, housing, everything, at its roots, are created from the generous nature of love. This planet Earth is love.
So what is the truth of herbs and their ability to create miraculous cures? I know this is cliché but “Every day is a miracle.” Live it. If you are ill use the best medicine you can find. That medicine maybe a walk in a forest, sleep, water, a good talk, plants or a pill, perhaps a little bit of everything. Do not grasp medicine because with fearful, but because it comes via the way of love.
Except from The Herbal Apprentice: Plant Medicine and Human Body