My family, both sides, came from the Appalachians, and before that from Scotland and before that from Northernmost Europe…. there’s something of those people still in my blood. A bit of melancholy, a lot of storytelling and a deep love of forest and river. My mother played the fiddle, and sang those old sad songs so filled with longing and love, all underlaid with the haunted feel that my wandering ancestors carried with them from land to land to land.
Here in the Gila, I’m the farthest piece of my family’s roving migrations. The only one who’s made it West, who’s made it, once again, to the edge of civilization and story. And though I feel at home in these cave-riddled mountains unlike anywhere else, I still have a few of those songs, and many of those stories in my bones.
My love once told me I must have been birthed from the moonlit flowers of the night blooming Sacred Daturas, and I am indeed born from this land of red dirt, crystal studded cliff faces and rambling red hipped Roses. Still, I smile when I hear an old song about the hollers of the deep hills, or a soaring Sami joik that reminds me of blood and bone, my ancestral mothers and all the knowledge that has passed through their bodies into mine. Wisdom of plants and wildness and healing. And though so much of these knowings have been scattered to the wind, just as my people have been, still a few roots have been left to my basket. And to these, I find myself adding newfound knowledge inspired by direct revelations from the plants and also the old teachings of the people I know live among, the recipes and ways of the Hispanics and the Native peoples, as well as the generous stories of the many healers, wise women and plant people that pass through this Sanctuary.
My mother knew the magic of Mulberries and Shepherd’s Purse, my first teacher passed on to me the nourishment of Dandelion and the land itself spoke to me through the clear voice of the Stinging Nettles. The prairies of Missiouri, the ridges of Virginia, the seaside hills of the Northwest, the valleys of Pennsylvania and the canyons of New Mexico have all given me the insistence of Yarrow, Violet, Watercress and Wild Mint, teaching me the common language of weeds and wild things.
The thread underneath all this rambling is that healing with plants is, if not a birthright, at least a birth blessing from the Earth, our ancestors and the plants themselves. In every generation of human and flora, the ground gives a new call to the herbwives and rootsmen, birthing them into the community healing and wholeness. As I teach our daughter (who incidentally seven today) the names of each herb and show her how to get to know them, she blooms with memories of always “knowing” how to grind dried berries on the metate or how to gather the seedpods of Evening Primrose. She sings to the plants on the river bank, and carries the remembering of woman, plants and healing a generation further, renewing the sacred bond and promise we each hold.
Today, Rhiannon and I will take a long walk downriver to play in the surging muddy water, to gather Nettle Seeds and Sage from the forest edges and to listen to the way the sweet song of the Canyon intertwines with the melodies or our bones.
note: I’ll soon be in the process of re-labeling each of my many posts and re-organizing a bit in order to make cross referencing easier for everyone.