I remember the first time I went on an “herb walk.” This event coincided with my first herbal conference, one of the most healing and transformative events in my life. The herb walk held a kind of magic too. For one, we progressed through the wooded lane at an infinitesimally slow pace. While I was a fiend for exercise that made me sweat, something about moving slowly through nature captivated me. My eyes opened to the details of the plants and I greedily absorbed all I could about identification and how these plants were traditionally used for medicine. The idea of making my own medicine from plants, or even buying some that an herbalist had made, was new to me. And intriguing.
A new sort of world opened to me. And it felt like coming home. I never looked back or stopped to wonder why. Something about the herbal world felt so deeply familiar to me, as if these plants were long-lost relatives. And the people who studied them felt just the same.
Two decades later, I am pausing to look back and wonder what exactly happened in that moment. In my work as a natural health practitioner, I have observed over and over two distinct human longings: 1. for a sense of belonging and 2. for a sense of life purpose. I marvel how my early plant crush grew into a passion and then settled into a life-long love affair. Whenever I feel I am losing my sense of self, perhaps from too much time on the internet or too much stress in my work, it is the plants that bring me back. The plants and prayer. And yoga. And laughter.
I can see the trail clearly, now that it is behind me. I went on an herb walk and fell in love with plant medicine. I voraciously learned all I could on my own. Then, when that didn’t satiate me, I studied at David Winston’s and Center for Herbal Studies. After two years and two giant notebooks full of notes, I developed an herbal dispensary in my clinic and worked many long hours helping others find their healing path. Some years later, at the New England Women’s Herbal Conference, hanging out with Rosemary Gladstar I had the epiphany to start a “granddaughter” conference in the MidAtlantic region. At first my incentive was purely selfish. I had a new baby daughter and the ten hour drive to the nearest conference just wasn’t feasible anymore. Why not just bring the entire conference to my backyard, literally? Then I could just waltz out my back door and, viola! It would be so simple!
I hadn’t really counted on the amount of work and stress it takes to host a conference, especially when you have no clue how to go about it. But it seemed as if the plants a plan. So many women have described similar experiences to the one I had on that first herb walk. Each year as I hold space for these women to grow, learn and connect, I am filled with a stronger and stronger feeling of home, as if the plants and I are working together to create a beautiful cup to hold the amazing spirits of the women who attend.
And now I get it. Truly the plant world teaches us, or maybe I should say reminds us, about community. About staying connected. About how community is essential to healing. That was what I bumped into on that first fateful herb walk: healing. And the miracle of that healing is how it stretched far and wide to touch those in my community who needed it. I am truly grateful to be a conduit for that magic.
Does your heart long for something deep inside that you can’t quite hear? Take a walk. A slow walk. Be quiet. Listen to the stillness and the sounds of nature. Leave your cell phone behind. Go barefoot if you can. And if you are walking with someone you love, hold hands.
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