In his forward to Pam Montgomery’s Plant Spirit Healing, Stephen Buhner writes of people who attend herb gatherings:
Those who gather there do so because once upon a time a plant saved their life. And once that happens, nothing is ever the same again. Something has entered inside them, something invisible, something that changes their lives and how they, in their lives, perceive and relate to the natural world around them. They have connected the most primal survival part of themselves to the wildness of the world. They have eaten the Wild Redeemer.
That is how I would sum up the last six months of my apprenticeship at Heartstone. My beautiful teachers, Kris and Tammi, offered up the Wild Redeemer each time and we tasted it’s divinity. The wildness of the world touched my heart and I am forever altered.
The changes have been both subtle and startling. There were moments in lecture when I was so disturbed by what I was learning — about our bodies, our lives, our world — that I felt compelled, compulsed ((Moved to the extreme of emotion so that the standard rules of language are no longer adequate.)) to action. Over the last six months I gave up shampoo, unfermented soy and Advil. For good. Other differences I only noticed secondary. When I would reach for an oil I had infused over a hand lotion I had purchased. Or when I could administer a plant directly to a scraped knee at the playground, instead of scooping the little ones up and trucking them home to clean, bandage and kiss their boo boos.
There’s a confidence I’ve discovered that comes from knowing who is growing around you. Like knowing who your neighbors are, the plants are there to watch over us as well. On the very first weekend of my apprenticeship, back in May, Kris told us that the medicine we most need is always right outside our door. And I see the truth in that statement whenever I survey the backyard, saying hello to friends, as has become my habit.
At the Sacred Fire on Saturday night, we were (however unwittedly) entrusted with passing what we know, returning to center, for seven generations. And returning to center, knowing what that place was, also became a theme for me. As we walked over the land, in every changing season, I became more and more aware of where it is I find myself.
It’s so easy to get lost at home — I don’t live an idyllic life with my children in a cabin in the woods. We work to pay rent, we miss the bus, we forget to plan dinner, we don’t get to the laundry, someone pukes. And we do it, more or less, without a community of supporters.
But nature doesn’t work that way. And seeing that, feeling that odds between my muggle life and my Heartstone experience, showed me where my center was. And knowing this is salve for tired spirits. The field, the forest, the pond, the stream, the hill, the valley, the fire and the rain exist because of their intricate connections to all other fields of energy. And we can not divorce ourselves from that equation.
On Sunday, the morning before our graduation ceremony at Heartstone, I sat in a quiet spot near the pond and watched the heavy dew from the pines press ripples onto the surface. The ripples extended and connected, catching whatever light they could through the heavy morning clouds and sending it out across the dark water. I had a vision of my cohort around the fire. People that I had confided with over the past six months, that I shared this journey with — and that tested me; showed me my limits. And in that moment, I came to understand that my apprenticeship was as much about people as it was plants; that I could no more hide in the woods from human company than the goldenseal; that we all are endangered in our ways.
When I picked up my kids on Sunday I told them that I finished my last weekend at herb school. They were immediately thrilled, of course. Sullivan asked, “Are you a MASTER OF HERBS now, Mommy?” (he knows the phrase Master from our Reiki Master and my other teacher, Diane). Sort of, I tried to explain. It’s closer to truth say that I am now charged with serving the plants, and the gifts they share with me, I will spend a lifetime receiving and regiving. And that this experience was an initiation, rather than a graduation.