Truth & Claims
by Jesse Wolf Hardin
The intense level of misinformation, paranoia and fear mongering in the news and social media leads me to want to rake away at least some of the B.S. that’s fast piling up in the stall. As usual, it’s not “all good,” as that modern saying goes, and there are definitely things to be concerned about if not prepared for. This Ebola outbreak is going to be yet another extremely tragic event, but it is not going to be the defining tragedy of our time. And tragic is the tendency to tell ourselves and others comforting lies, and our sometimes sad ability to believe them.
The Claim: I hear people saying Ebola isn’t going to be an issue in America because of our amazing health care system, and excellent personal hygiene… what’s the truth?
The Truth: That claim is nonsense for a number of reasons. Of course Ebola will become an increasing problem here as it will elsewhere in the world, and there could end up being cases in the hundreds or even thousands in this country before things stabilize.
Note that the United States health system is far less just, accessible, and effective than that of many countries around the world, including the impoverished and demonized nation of Cuba. The U.S. model has made possible a monopolistic pharmaceutical paradigm where drug reactions and physician error are the leading cause of deaths. And before we think of Americans as superior for being “cleaner” than the primitive Africans in the affected countries, we should note that it is partly the use of antimicrobial soaps, body products and bathroom cleaners in the homes and hospitals of “developed” countries that has brought about the many evolving new strains of antibiotic and chemical resistant pathogens.
Ebola is dangerous, and we can never be 100% safe from it. But then, so it is with the cars that nearly everyone here owns and uses. We are never secure from these multi-ton speeding vestibules or the sometimes entirely oblivious people who pilot them, and yet we regularly drive amongst them at high speeds. Ideally, we make sure that we’re actively aware and paying as much attention as we are capable of, wear a seat belt (if we can stand the constraint), and make certain that our brakes are in good working order, taking reasonable and prudent steps to improve our odds of avoiding a wreck… but without the reported rates of deadly car accidents and their technicolor horrors making us too obsessed and too afraid to get behind the wheel when needed.
The Claim: On the other hand, some say that this could be the outbreak that threatens the future survival all of humanity.
The Truth: Pathogenic microorganisms are indeed the greatest future threat to human civilization, and possibly to the survival of our species as well. Our exploitation and destruction of the natural environment affects our health and could eventually spell our extinction, but not for a very long time – and not before we have laid waste to the Earth’s ecosystems and killed off most of its complex life forms. Deadly confrontation – including between Moslem and non-Moslem populations – will continue to help define the human experience for so long as we walk this planet, and yet, even the bloodiest wars tend to reduce dangerously high world populations by only a relatively small amount, while being almost always followed by a huge spike in births.
That said, it is unlikely to be untreatable Ebola that impacts the average American’s family and lives, let along that brings down the human colossus.
Microorganisms are indeed a far more likely threat to one of two kinds:
1. Antibiotic resistant “super-bugs” resulting from contemporary dirtless, antiseptic lifestyles; the excessive prescribing of antibiotics for nearly every imaginable symptom; and the standard preventive (not curative) dosing of the farm animals most of us eat. If Ebola proves untreatable, at least this deadly disease was probably not a direct product of our negligence, stupidity and greed as in the case of the every more dangerous “super bugs” we as a society beget.
2. Genetically engineered microbes, engineered in labs either to deliberately create weaponized bacteria and viruses for military purposes, or else to study and perhaps predict their behavior, virulence, and possible adaptations. In either case, there is nothing science fiction about the scenario of a protocol not being followed, leading to a pathogens escape. Or of someone unleashing it either accidentally or deliberately, in the commission of a criminally or politically motivated act.
At this point, the odds are far more likely that you will die from one of the thousands of other known deadly diseases and conditions found in the doctors’ books, with cigarette and diet related diseases topping the list… not to mention workplace accidents and getting electrocuted in the tub.
The Claim: So if it’s not likely to be a huge threat to most Americans, there is nothing to fear.
The Truth: We don’t need to act out of fear in this life, but the truth is that there is always much to realistically be afraid of! We often use God, the promises of technology, the distraction of the superficial, or whistling in the dark, to reassure us or take our minds off of that which threatens us. Rather than walk around in constant (and consequently unhealthy) state of fear, creatures in the real, natural world, exist in a state of awareness, in a condition of constant assessment. Unlike us humans, they save their flight response for when trouble is nigh. They appear to have no time to give to distant or extrapolated dangers.
The Claim: But as some critics of modern civilization have said, this outbreak could expand to the point that it brings about the collapse of the established system.
The Truth: Outbreaks initially strengthen the system, as the population seeks to be made safe and secure.
The Claim: What if I say it’s all a hoax, perpetrated by the government?
The Truth: The real hoax is the entrenched idea that our government has our best interest in mind. As for Ebola, if you don’t believe that the problem is real, you could try volunteering at a rural African field hospital without a protective suit.
The Claim: Some say Ebola was actually released or spread by some government agency, in order to create conditions that would justify the declaration of martial law.
The Truth: The reality is that even the most oppressive or nefarious governments are still composed of human beings, who have will likely always prove to be far less effective at provoking and orchestrating events than they are at preparing to exploit events when they happen. The proponents of increased government supervision and control of the populous did not have to arrange for Al Qaida to bring down the Twin Towers in order to have the pretext they needed to gut the Bill of Rights, they only needed to seize the opportunity when events made Americans most insecure and anxious for security and protection.
Likewise, there is almost no chance that ours or any other government intentionally introduced this disease… but various governments including our own will most certainly take advantage of this situation and our fearful condition to sink its claws further into us. Quarantines, whether of individuals or an entire infected city, are the ultimate abridgment of civil rights and personal liberties, confinement enforced by either the police or the federal army. The scariest things about Ebola or any other disastrous epidemic, may be the increased control and oppression that such a situation makes possible and even acceptable.
The Claim: Then before we’re controlled, we just need to get the disease under control.
The Truth: In the truest sense, we don’t ever control disease. At best we avoid it, contain it, manage it, or contend with it and learn from it.
The Claim: I read on a Natural Health site that you won’t catch it, if you regularly eat your fruits and vegetables.
The Truth: Good nutrition is very important to a strong immune system and the overall ability to repel or heal from infections. Depending on our food to save us from all infections is foolhardy to say the least.
The Claim: There must be herbs that can arrest the progress of Ebola.
The Truth: At this point there is no known plant that can cure or halt Ebola. And the anxiousness to believe in undemonstrated cures is in itself unhealthy, diverting us from any realistic measures that we might be able to take to lessen the chances of contracting it, and distracting us from both our important tasks/roles and the enjoyment of each lived moment.
It’s also unreasonable to expect plants to literally “cure” of “fix” what’s wrong with us. The way herbs work is by aiding the bodies own attempts at self regulation and balance, through stimulation, relaxation, modulation, etc. Even when herbs are able to work visible wonders, they do so by initiating adjustments of our various bodily and healing processes, not by “battling” disease. The responsibility for our health should be borne on our own shoulders, and not be laid upon the slender shoulders of the plants. Herbs are allies that we can wisely involve in the work of helping our bodies to heal themselves, just one of many ways that we can tend ourselves as we assume/resume responsibility and make make the necessary efforts to take care of ourselves.
The Claim: What about the common assertion that no good can come from an outbreak like this, no matter what its cause?
The Truth: No disease, challenge or travail is without potential benefits. Whether or not we learn to treat or contain Ebola, it could be instrumental in exposing the lies of officials, exposing the lie that technology and science have the quick fix for all that ails us and our society. We can damn sure learn from it to reconsider the often harmful modern medical system, to question authority, be vigilant against this or any other outbreak being used to justify policies and laws that decrease our liberties and foster greater government monitoring and control of its citizens. We can – by understanding there are things outside of our control – reclaim some of the humility that enabled our ancient ancestors to function in this world without doing quite so much damage to it. Thanks to the issues the emergence of Ebola has raised, we have an opportunity to take further responsibility for our own health and well being, change how we look at the world and how we behave, alter our lifestyles and habits to better serve our fullest and wholest living.
And yes, Ebola – like any mortal threat – can be a valuable reminder of the finite nature of existence, or the preciousness of every second, and the value of our using those vital seconds to good things, beautiful things, loving things.
(Share and RePost Freely)
Special Issue – Over 80 Pages Long!
The latest issue of Plant Healer’s Herbaria Newsletter is a rather crazy 82 pages long, almost triple the size of most monthly issues. Part of the reason for that is the bonus section featuring attendees’ stories of their experience at this year’s HerbFolk Gathering, a ton of colorful photos and tales to bring back memories for you who attended, and to share the good feelings with any readers who were unable to make it. The classes were life changing, we are told, and the Masquerade Ball enchanting, see for yourself….
The other reason for this issue’s unusual length, is that we promised to publish Rosemary Gladstar’s detailed updates on the fire cider issue, in support of the movement to protect our folk traditions and terms from being appropriated and monopolized by ambitious, self-serving companies. And the fact that we couldn’t stop from adding Juliet’s enticing article about making her special kind of fire cider, and then Melanie Pulla’s piece on The Enchantment blew us away and had to be included, then it seemed important to run Sam’s piece for intermediate students of herbalism on some of the more plentiful herbs of this continent, and then we couldn’t leave out bioregional herbalist Dara’s article and pics. Not to mention all the art and photos! Sheesh… So here is the October table of contents:
Jesse Wolf Hardin: The Healer’s Love
Dara Saville: Alum Root & S.W. Herbal Allies
Melanie Pulla: The Enchantment
Sam Coffman: Some Common Herbs of The U.S.
Rosemary Gladstar: Tradition Not Trademark – An Important Fire Cider Issue Update
Personal Stories of The 2014 HerbFolk Gathering & The Bigger Folk Herbal Mission
Juliet Blankespoor: Hibiscus Pomegranate Cheater Fire Cider Recipes
To subscribe to the complimentary monthly Herbaria Newsletter, simply go to the Plant Healer Website, then enter your name and email in the space for that at the far left of the screen.
Plant Healer’s Herbaria Newsletter is created to provide totally free content to the folk herbal tribe, many of whom cannot afford a subscription to Plant Healer Magazine or the other educational materials they need. It is also meant to be spread beyond the known herbal community, to folks just starting to get interested in plant medicine, to the doubters and detractors as well as the curious and hopeful. You can help with that mission, by submitting articles about what you know best to: PlantHealer@PlantHealer.org… and by liberally spreading this download link on your blogs, Facebook, and more:
(Thank You Much for Reposting & Sharing)
I hear the rustling of Cottonwood leaves through our cabin window, a sure sign that – like departing lovers or children leaving home – they will soon all fly from their place of tether, and many of the annual herbs and other plants we so love will wilt or withdraw for the New Mexico Winter. I dread to see them pale, you surely must know. It is a change that I will never find easy, no matter how many seasons rise and pass… and yet I know and teach the inevitability of and advantages to be found in the comings and goings, rising and fallings, that mark what can be healthy transitions. There are those of you who must extricate yourselves from the security of relationships that you know are not healthy for you. There are jobs to leave, in order to do something that serves our spirits better. Where we live may not be home, and so a difficult move may be in order. Old and unhelpful habits need to drop away, to make possible new growth in our inevitable Springs.
And so, too, the Anima School as we knew it has met the touch of Autumn, and something beautiful touches the ground to fertilize and feed what sprouts from our hearts and this hearty and wild Anima land.
Regular readers of this Anima blog will notice some changes, beginning with a slightly redesigned header graphic. There are 2 new pages found in the blog menu: “Resources/Opportunities” provides a short list of what we offer the public, from free writings to a bookstore, events, magazine, newsletter and more. “Be a Homestead Helper/Caretaker” correctly describes our two programs for on-site assistance here at the wilderness Anima Sanctuary.
Anima Website Closing
We will soon be closing the long cherished Anima Center website (www.AnimaCenter.org), so enjoy it while you still can. We have been so busy seeding the folk herbalism community and writing new books, that the Anima school site has become outdated. At this point, we no longer offer hardly any of the programs and services described there. We no longer have time to host retreats, and the two guest cabins are needed for the rotation of short-term Homestead Helpers and potential long-term Caretakers… without them helping Elka tend this land we could not possibly do all the other work for you that we do. The online courses we taught are currently being completely remade, and will be reintroduced soon beginning with Kiva Rose’s long awaited herbalism course for self-recognized misfits and edge-dwellers.
The free writings will still be available for your information and inspiration, soon to be found on the Free Writing Archive at www.PlantHealer.org, and in the Anima Blog Archives shown in the column at far right.
HerbFolk Gathering 2014 a Delirious Success
We’re back from our 2014 HerbFolk Gathering in Arizona, a coming together of some of the sweetest, most motivated, most dedicated, and youngest people ever. Everyone who comes to a Plant Healer event now, tends to approach herbalism as only one component of a life of healing self, community, and the living earth. Tribe’s alive! Stories and pictures will appear in the next Herbaria Newsletter, releasing Oct. 13th. If you’d like a free copy, be sure to subscribe before then by entering your name and email address at the left of the page on our Plant Healer website: www.PlantHealer.org
You can also purchase the detailed Essays & Class Notes Ebook with tons of materials by this year’s HerbFolk teachers. Order from the Bookstore Page at: www.PlantHealer.org
Know of Any Awesome Event Sites?
No matter how great our venues, Kiva and I are still always on the lookout for other intriguing sites for our herbal conferences each September. Can you help? We need a venue out in nature, with 6 rooms or pavilions for classrooms and Healer’s Market, with lodging and camping… if you have any suggestions for places like that anywhere in the still wild West, write us at: PlantHealer@PlantHealer.org
Your Anima Blog
This Anima blog will continue to be the home for mine, Elka’s, Kiva’s and our daughter Rhiannon’s latest insights, deep sentiments, fervent exhortations and backwoods tales. We will continue to write about current events and historical happenings, rural living and culture shifting, social commentary and lessons learned from a life close to nature, healing and what it means to be whole, taking responsibility and daring to live one’s dreams. For the many of you readers we know and love, this will continue to serve as our periodic letters to you, updating you on what matters most to us. And for all of you whose eyes ever track this blog’s flow of words, we will gladly give away the best of what we can give.
…including our affections, our blessings, and our hopes for your most meaningful and satisfying lives!
Through all the changes,
–Wolf y Familia
(repost and share freely)
We woke up to a flash flood warning, never a surprise during the Southwest’s monsoon season, but perhaps a bit of wishful thinking given how dry things have been. The burned areas upriver from us are subject to erosion when we get the pinpoint microbursts this area is so famous for, but with the mountains no where’s near saturated, if they hit even a single ridge over it means the river will remain low enough to cross in a 4×4. We nonetheless took out much of what we need for putting on this week’s HerbFolk Gathering, so that if by chance we do have to hike and wade out, this time it will only be with a few things wrapped in plastic and held high above our heads. And if so, we will be ecstatic as always, at the exhilarating feel of the water, the veil of mists that hang like clinging children to the sacred Kachina cliffs towering above the river. And whether in a vehicle or on foot, we will look wistfully to the cottonwoods whose leaves have already begun to lighten in color, knowing that we may have already missed the falling of at least some of their leaves by the time we get back home. We will nod in the direction of the beaver dams, wondering where they might build next. And wistfully pass through the narrowing of the canyon that feels to nearly everyone like the opening or gate to the magic that is this place: the Anima Sanctuary. It is the edge, between the wild and the domestic, an edge we cross in one direction in order to affect our species and our world, and then cross again to return to our troth, our home, our venue of enchantment. There are other edges we all face, always the stage surprise and change, sometimes terrifying, often incredibly beautiful, a site for startlingly different blossoms… ever the chance for creative disruption and surprise.
Talk to you on the other side.
–Jesse Wolf Hardin
Now Available, Plant Healer’s Newest Book:
THE HEALING TERRAIN
Coming Home to Nature’s Medicine
by Jesse Wolf Hardin
with Kiva Rose, David Hoffman, Phyllis Light, Robin Rose Bennett, Juliet Blankespoor, & Dara Saville
Foreword by Judy Goldhaft (Planet Drum Foundation)
309 pages, 8.5×11” B&W Softcover – $29
Click here to Order: Healing Terrain Book
“Rightfully at the core of all Natural Healing is nature, from the herbs it provides to the positive healthful examples it offers. By deepening our conscious relationship with the land, we create the opportunities and conditions for increased sensual engagement and creature awareness, empowerment and self-authority, uninhibited pleasures and fun, and greater effectiveness at nearly everything we might try to do in life.” –Jesse Wolf Hardin
I’m excited to announce the release of the third book in our healing trilogy, “The Healing Terrain,” written with my partner Jesse Wolf and our Plant Healer allies Phyllis Light, David Hoffman, Juliet Blankespoor, Robin Rose Bennett and Dara Saville. I’ve watched for the past year as Wolf searched out the most amazing photographs and art, and placed them in the most visually pleasing ways, illustrating inspiring content about the art of wildcrafting and growing herbs, biorgional herbalism, plant natives and “invasives,” the healing powers of nature, becoming more native, rewilded and empowered as healers, and connecting with place. Those of you who know my personal story, know how crucial my canyon home and its native medicinal plants have been to the healing of my body, mind and spirit. Along with the other two titles in this trilogy (“The Plant Healer’s Path” and “The Enchanted Healer”), “The Healing Terrain” strives to provide insights and tools for your own deepening connection with the source of all medicine and healing: this living earth.
We’ve been blessed to have Forewords to our other books written by herbalists like Matthew Wood and Phyllis Light, but this time we reached out a little further, and are thankful to have one penned by Judy Goldhaft. Judy and her life partner Peter Berg have been two of the greatest influences on what we have come to know as “bioregionalism”: the practice and art of living sustainably in place. Back around the time the pioneering “Whole Earth Catalog” was featuring the first photo of our planet taken from outer space, San Francisco was coming alive with social and eco activism, and Judy was busy using dance and theater to raise consciousness and inspire change. From her work with the Diggers to directing the wonderful Planet Drum Foundation, she has lived a life and done the work that makes her the perfect person to introduce our book. Her complete Foreword follows, along with the table of contents. Your order will be shipped direct from our printer, CreateSpace, sparing us storage and shipping. Hope you love it!
Thank you. –Kiva Rose
Foreword to The Healing Terrain
by Judy Goldhaft
It’s always amazing to pick up a book and discover it is not the book you expected. Jesse Wolf Hardin said he had put together a book about using plants in healing and healing the places plants live. Sounded simple, interesting and very bioregional. But the book is a deeper more inclusive investigation than Jesse’s brief description. The book is a journey for those who have forgotten how important place is, and a handbook for developing an awareness to relate to a place while becoming a more balanced and whole person.
The Healing Terrain recognizes the importance of a life-place (bioregion) to our beings and our health. The book begins with a deep exhortation to the reader to discover his or her own place as the first step in healing oneself, becoming a healer or becoming a complete person. It challenges the reader to recognize their personal place and to refocus for a more meaningful life, and then provides the tools to do this. There are lists throughout the book to help actualize practical manifestations of the abstract ideas, helping the reader travel beyond the philosophical discussions of place and rootedness to actually experiencing and delighting in their bioregion.
The word bioregion represents a deceptively simple idea. The concept realigns priorities so humans are contained within the place (bioregion) — not governing or exploiting it. This simple notion opens up the possibility that the whole interdependent ecosystem could become the basis for a society’s decisions. This deeper understanding of a bioregional outlook is reflected in the importance that “Rights of Nature” are being given in South America. New social mores are emerging which are entwined with the natural world.
Living with the planet requires diversity, adaptability, creativity, and self-regulation. Within this book difficult questions are dissected, examined, and considered from a multitude of perspectives. There are bold in-depth discussions of the tangled questions about living with other species and the authors are fearless in considering all topics — including wildness, bodily functions and sex. The tone of the conversations is always balanced and inviting, never preachy or judgmental.
The voices in this book come from people who have been putting bioregional sensibilities in the center of their lives for years. The community presents a series of personal approaches to universal ideas. They are deeply rooted where they live and encourage you also to become aware of your bioregion, in a very deeply understanding way. They provide guidelines to reconnecting to the earth and personal heightened awareness while welcoming diversity and recognizing how difficult it is to do this. The two main voices balance and fulfill each other. Jesse Wolf speaks poetically yet in-depth about historic, social, scientific and political considerations and analysis; Kiva Rose weaves a fabric of personal experiences and direct observations that she shares openly with ingenuousness and heartfelt warmth. They provide different paths and explanations to access the information and heart of this work. From the section “The Healing Roots of Home”:
“On a practical level, to live bioregionally is to acknowledge and participate in the ecosystem we are a part of, rooted – in a very literal sense – in the land that we live on. What this means will vary according to the needs of the land in a particular area, whether it is establishing trees or restoring the soil… or simply helping maintain the diversity that already exists with careful harvesting practices and a prayerful attitude towards the spirit of the land.”
The book itself has been thoughtfully put together, its format a manifestation of the ideas being expressed. The pictures and quotations are intrinsic aspects of the book. Each reiterates the ideas and could be the subject for meditation or rumination. This collection of philosophizing, musings, experiences, graphics, epigrams, and quotations reinforce each other and produce a balanced whole. It doesn’t just encourage “a vital return to balance,” the book itself is a balance—of head and heart, scientific and experience, words and graphics — a truly accessible set of information on many levels.
The Healing Terrain is like a long love poem to a bioregion — water is treated as a lover, there is a love affair with the geology, plants are longtime companions, etc. Be prepared to fall in love.
Click here to Order: Healing Terrain Book
The Healing Terrain Contents
I. Nexus: Grounds For Healing
Jesse Wolf: The Journey Home: The Call to Stay & The Call to Roam
II. Rooting – Where We Are, & Where We Most Belong
Jesse Wolf: Tips For Cultivating Sense of Place
III. Grounding – A Geology of Place
Kiva Rose: The Weedwife – Coming Home, Weedy Ways
IV. Healing Waters – Sweet Medicine, Hydrotherapy & River Tales
Jesse Wolf: Creating an Organic Calendar
Kiva Rose: The Ripening Fruit – Living With The Seasons
V. Bioregions – Defining, Being Defined By & Drawing From
Dara Saville: Place-Based Herbalism – Practicing at The Crossroads of The Southwest
Kiva Rose: The Healing Roots of Home – My Journey Into Bioregional Herbalism
VI. The Landed Healer – Finding, Purchasing & Restoring Land
Jesse Wolf: 15 Tips For Wildlands Restoration
Jesse Wolf: Strategies For Land Protection
Kiva Rose: Reading The Leaves – Learning The Names & Ways of Plants
VII. Building a Relationship With a Plant
Juliet Blankespoor: Planning Your Healing Garden
Dara Saville: Gardening Natives – Reflecting the Wildlands in Your Medicine Garden
Kiva Rose: Deep As Root & Song – Wildcrafting
VIII. Plant Adventuring
Jesse Wolf: Herbaria: The Importance & Joy of Plant Collections
Kiva Rose: In The Pines – Pleasure & Healing From an Ancient Tree Ally
IX. In Balance – Invasive Species, Natives, Healing & Wholeness
Jesse Wolf: Guidelines & Reminders
Robin Rose Bennett: The Terrain of Home – The Healing Land, Commitments of Love
Kiva Rose: Sustainable Wildcrafting & Foraging – Tending The Wildest Garden
X. ReIndigination – The Necessity of Learning to Become Native Again
Phyllis Light: The Geography of Healing
XI. An Ecology of Healing – Treating The Body As An Ecosystem, & The Ecosystem As A Body
David Hoffman: Deep Ecology, Deep Healing – Herbalism’s Place In The Living Whole
Kiva Rose: The Cartography of The Heart – Finding The Road Home
XII. ReWilding – Unleashing The Wild Empowered Healer
Kiva Rose: Spiraling Deeper
XIII. The Blooming – Growing, Thriving, Spreading Our Seeds
Click here to Order: Healing Terrain Book
(Thank you for reposting and linking to this announcement!)
A beautiful day to you! This monsoon morning it is misty damp, and the whole canyon sings with the memory of rain, blessed, beautiful rain!! How Rhiannon and I rejoiced as we transferred our first buckets of the season, running to and fro, soaked to the skin! Just in time, too, as our barrels were getting quite low.
Kiva drove us all out to the nearby Black River recently, what a lovely day we had together! Even with Rhiannon getting so grown up, what a blessing that she still loves to be tossed around in the water by all three of us, and enjoys splashing around. We harvested rose petals that were still in bloom, and a few spruce tips. We had a delightful picnic, too, with grape leaves, olive paste and homemade crackers, deviled eggs, and leftover pie! But thankfully we didn’t eat too much to dissuade us from going out to the Bear Wallow Cafe for fish & chips (and Mexican beers for me & Kiva ☺)
Our last homestead helper, Jason, did a ton of work getting brush cleared out in the three weeks he was here, and very much enjoyed learning some things about bread and woodstove cooking I love it when people can be so open minded and willing to learn and experience new things! Thanks to you Jason, for all your willingness, hard work, and needed help!
The Bee-Plant has shot up so fast, even before any rain, and I’ve been harvesting many leaves, drying some and probably eating at least as much as I’m managing to preserve! I’m the only one in the family who really likes it, so it always feels like a sweet indulgence to spend time harvesting it, watching the amazing parade of bees and butterflies of all shapes and sizes, from flower to flower. My favorite butterfly is one I don’t yet know the name of. It may actually be a moth, I always forget what makes them different! But it’s an orangey brown color, with the most incredibly patterned wings, and the edges of the wings are so dramatically curvy that they tend to appear a little ragged from a distance, at least to me. This particular butterfly (or “flutterbye”, as I like to think of them, especially if I’m not sure if they’re a moth or not) seems to have a stronger attraction to humans than many other species, and whenever I see her in the woods (it’s almost always on a particular stretch of the woods on my walk to the river, strangely!) I always feel very, well, accompanied.
I’ve been reading lots of John Muir, and some of his wonderful letters to Mrs. Ezra Carr, and a wonderful cookbook Irene lent to me, the Nourished Kitchen, and a 30 year old Paul Prudhomme classic Wolf just got me, “The Louisiana Kitchen”. Kiva got us a fun little book on sushi which makes me want to go fishing!, and Pati Jinich’s very inspiring book, Patis’ Mexican Table, full of homey Mexican-American cooking by a woman raised in Mexico City. I’ve also been revisiting Magnus Nilsson’s amazing book about the restaurant Faviken, a favorite one now for at least a few years. This 30 something year old chef runs a crazy restaurant out in the middle of nowhere, in a Swedish forest, where he hunts and fishes and sources almost all of his food locally, and cooks in an old log structure that must be very hard to heat in the often -30 F days of their very long winters. It has all been further inspiration to get my own cookbook written, hundreds of recipes I developed over the years in this wild canyon home. It’s hard to know where to cut it off, as there always seems to be just one more recipe that I have to write and include! Plan on me covering whole foods of all kinds, organized by the season. I’ve lately been making lots of cold meals full of fresh wild & domestic produce, summertime pies and other fun treats (see pics!) and lots of wonderful yogurt from the abundant milk we’ve been getting from Helen James’ goats (our nearest neighbor, a full two miles and seven river crossings away).
Wolf made a great painting to decorate a thank you present we gave to our dear Trail Boss, and it was fun to be able to show our appreciation for all the ways he’s become indispensable around here over the years. We don’t know what we would’ve done without him, especially lately with other helpers being gone and it seems like everything has been having technical difficulties all at once! Rhiannon and I have been having way too much fun slurping watermelons and going for walks to the beaver dam and playing epic Scrabble games! She’s been really into the BBC “Robin Hood” DVD series lately, and has been cosplaying as Maid Marian in between looking quite a bit more goth with the blue anime wig Wolf gave her recently!
Still unable to get food frozen in the “green” chest freezer we traded for, partly because of the higher ambient temperatures this time of year, but maybe due to needing a high elevation gas orifice which Kiva hasn’t had time to research and figure out yet. Anybody have any ideas? The new SunFrost solar powered fridge is finally all hooked up and working great, however. I have my own panels separate from the office/den power now, on racks that Rhiannon and I swivel several times a day towards the shifting sun. I’ve been enjoying SO MUCH having a reliable way to keep our food cold, without having to deal with all the hassles of messy and fast melting ice from town! Yay for the new continuing improvements, really making my life easier!
I have more WWOOF homestead helpers due next month, it will be great to have the assistance and new company again. Still no one picked to manage things, take care of firewood and tend the land, fingers crossed that we will be able to trade a lifetime home in this paradise for the loyalties of the right person or people.
Wolf and Kiva have been crazy busy with projects that all have deadlines about now, including finishing the next 270 pages long Plant Healer Magazine due out Sept. 1st. Final preparations for the upcoming HerbFolk Gathering we host in Arizona in September. Finishing the event book for this year, in time for the printer to get it printed. Finishing a Class Notes & Essays book for the attendees. Posting on the Medicine Woman Roots blog. Planning a new online herbal course. Putting the final touches on their latest book “The Healing Terrain” (with all kinds of stories from and about this wild sanctuary), you will be able to order yourself a copy in September. And releasing the August issue of our free newsletter for herbalists (Click Here To Download).
Wolf and Kiva are also writing regular posts about medicinal plants, nature and homesteading on the popular Mother Earth News Blog. You can do a search for their writings there, if interested. We are hoping that this becomes a way to reach folks who have never heard of what we teach and offer before, inspiring them to take responsibility for the important healing of our selves and this planet.
We celebrated Kiva’s birthday recently with a beautiful homemade cake that we made together, and she decorated, and a chanterelle cheese pie (with chanterelles that Kiva special ordered– they were soo amazing!!), and homemade orange blossom ice cream, which was soo yummy! We made her some lovely drawings and other handmade things and had fun doing our best to spoil her all day long! We all
pitched in and bought her a banjo for her birthday, and it’s amazing how fast she’s been picking it up! I can’t wait to sing with her! A big part of the reason she wanted to learn banjo was as a gift to me, which is so very very sweet I can’t hardly stand it!
Kiva’s sister Missy has been visiting for the past few days, and we’ve really enjoyed her! Missy’s husband offered to take care of their kids while she flew into New Mexico and explored our wilderness home. It has been great to get to know a sibling of Kiva’s who also survived and learned to flourish after suffering an abusive childhood. Missy is healing, and growing, and planning to live and garden on some land. We can’t wait to see the drawings she is making for us!
The mornings and evenings have been soooo beautiful, all the monsoon clouds lighting up in so many gorgeous shades of orange and pink and purple. Rhiannon and I have gone on a few trips up and down the river harvesting nettles, grape leaves, and currants, and we try to get out before the morning sun gets hot. Soon we’ll go and get more grape leaves and field mint and clover, and after all that, it’ll be time to get the epazote, and maybe some wild olives.
For now, I’m busy grabbing as much time as possible each day to enjoy the clouds and the light, and the rain, and the bees and the precious butterflies. And when I can tear myself away from all of that, I’m dancing in the kitchen as I cook, baking outside in La Cocina (my second, open-air kitchen), and piecing together the cookbook, plus taking lots of food pictures, and counting my blessings, every single day! I hope you will take time to count yours as well.
Have a great late Summer season, until we talk again!
Live Your Dream Now:
Setting An Example of Striving Instead of Resigning
by Jesse Wolf Hardin
Admittedly, it can prove unhealthy to stake one’s enjoyment and satisfaction on getting exactly what we want in life. Extreme examples of this could include finding no pleasure in a meal just because it didn’t come out perfect or lacked a coveted ingredient, if we’re miserable because we can’t be a famous singer even though we can’t hold a tune, or if we go decades without a loving partner simply because none meet some glorified image we’ve turned into an unattainable standard. It could cost us the food on our plates, to quit a boring but paying job to seek out a way to do what we love.
Far more prevalent and more insidious, however, is the human tendency to let a powerful dream die that might that have otherwise been realized… shortchanging a goal that might have been possible if only we believed sufficiently in its meaning and value, in ourselves, in the power of courageous impassioned effort and personal persistence, and in the magical alignment of circumstances that can result in the highly unlikely sometimes coming true. Far too often, we may find our greatest and longest lived dreams being dismissed by others as frivolous, impractical or out of reach. Judging by some of the reactions we get, you’d think that we’re supposed to be satisfied living lives that we neither dreamed of nor planned for, obeying rather than discerning and initiating, conforming in order to function as part of a machine, rationalizing our dissatisfaction, suppressing our wild desires and settling for less of what we need and desire most.
I can’t help but ache to this day, thinking about my own mother’s relentless desire to be an interior decorator, but never having the self confidence to act on it. I hurt, sensing the longing of all those who dearly wish they were someplace else, dreaming of opportunities in New York while failing to notice the pleasurable aspects of a Springfield or Tucson, or dreaming of settling in Alaska or Hawaii instead while thinking they’re settling for the state where they’re at. I am disquieted… by the quiet desperation of anyone who grew up hungering to be a writer or an artist, a dancer or a rodeo star and then opted for a safe career that actually holds no meaning for them. It’s sad when the impoverished fantasize about having electricity, so they can see at night to read. But it’s just as terrible when a person grows up wanting to live a life close to the land whether as field botanist or straw-hatted vegetable farmer, then ends up spending his or her adulthood commuting in a car, shuffling papers in an office or teaching plant curricula under a university’s flickering fluorescent lights.
What matters, is that whatever your most precious and significant dreams are, you keep them alive, doing all you can to bring them to fruition, feeding them, growing them, and most importantly living them! And this is true whether your dream is being a teacher or a researcher, a helpful healer or world changing revolutionary, a birth-tending midwife or family-tending housewife. Whether it involves soothing stillness or stimulating motion, traveling the wide world or leaning how to become a responsible native in a single special place. Remaking society, or devoted to making the most wondrous meals. It’s stultifying to slip into default mode, unquestioningly repeating old habits and patterns, meeting outside expectations without responding to inner wants, or an inner calling reflective of a larger purpose. There is more damage is done to one’s self and kids by resentful or unenthusiastic mothering than by turning children over for adoption, and every relationship we give to is improved as a result of our making sure our dreams are acted on instead of relegated or sacrificed for their sake. Little that’s inspired can be expected from jobs we stick with only because we were once trained for them. Yet at the same time, even the most uninspiring source of income can be devoted to enabling and funding our desires and dreams… if only we make it so!
It’s up to each generation to help the children to identify, define, develop, and then fully live their most meaningful dreams – those that define, excite and motivate them the most. We may not always share their hopes and aspirations, but we need to support their pursuit nonetheless. Some youngsters may want to finish college so they can qualify for a certain enticing career, others may end up leaving the university or the high paying job because they hunger for a simpler life back on the farm or ranch. Maybe their most fervent wish is to raise horses, work with the handicapped, or design gliders that soar effortlessly through the sky. But whatever it is they’re reaching out for, what helps most is to see the parents and adults around them stretching at the same time. We’re the best example for others not always when we’re doing the convenient or practical thing, but when we’re demonstrating the kind of determination it takes to really pursue a vision. We probably all wish the young’ns we know will be able to make their dreams come true… and one of the best ways we can help with that, is to show them that we’re fully given to our dreams, too.
Give yourself to that important cause that needs your dedication. Don’t let any obstacles stand in the way, push forward and watch for every opening. If you get fired from work, it could be the opportunity to create that innovative business you always wanted to. If they cut your hours, it’s more time to do the things you’ve so long been missing. It can require a failed relationship, for us to insist on a more healthy one the next time. Deep unhappiness with any aspect of our existence, can be our chance and our inspiration to change them. Being burdened with challenge, is our opportunity to insist and continue, persevere and prevail, exceed and excel. And it is the very difficulty and improbability of fulfilling our dreams that makes the our efforts in that direction so commendable, our results so prominent, and our satisfaction so profound.
Climb that mountain that you said you would one day. Pick up that musical instrument you hanker for, even if it might take years to get good at it. Move to that city you can’t stop thinking about. Go broke if you have to, buying and sailing that dream boat. Give your all to the difficult but purposeful task. Do what’s required to pay for and facilitate the projects and causes you most care about. Sign up for the important correspondence course that you’ve been afraid you don’t have enough time or talent for. Start that business or practice, organize that demonstration, stand up against that clear and grievous wrong. If you find yourself alone, hold out for a supportive mate. And however you envision your purpose – and whatever you imagine might bring you contentment – remember that it’s never too late.
(Share and RePost Freely, thank you)
Intro: For the release of my partner Wolf Hardin’s newest book, Pancho Villa’s Motorcycle, I asked our friend Becca if she would interview him about it and its creation. The following first appeared in the locally loved Glenwood Gazette, and is excerpted for you here. Both this book and others of interest to rural folks, history lovers, outdoorsmen and women, can be found on the new website I made for him. –Kiva Rose
with Catron County Author
Jesse Wolf Hardin
Interviewed by Becca McTrauchle
Q) You write about events in this area in your book about the people and the firearms of the historic West, called Old Guns & Whispering Ghosts. Your novel The Medicine Bear takes place in Arizona’s White Mountains, the Gila forest, and Columbus, New Mexico in the early 1900s. Now we have your collection of short stories set in this area, Pancho Villa’s Motorcycle. You may be the most prolific writer hanging a hat in this area since Zane Grey. What inspires this obsession?
A) The region of Southwest New Mexico and Southeast Arizona has a unique flavor all of its own. When a person is likeably odd, standing out from the generic crowds of the day, and interesting in an exaggerated way, we might call them a “character”… well, this land here is not just the stage and backdrop to our mortal play, it is itself a character in a very similar way. It may look like other parts of the planet, but it feels different… with a rough edged authenticity, an almost magical or spiritual ambiance, and enough hardships and inconveniences to attract only the hard headed and self-reliant. It’s mix of Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo cowboy culture provides an increasingly rare example of the libertarian thinking, community spirit, and backwoods values that once characterized all the so-called Wild West. On the other hand, this area is emblematic of rural America in general, from the love of nature and wide open spaces to the determination to do things one’s own way. In Pancho Villa’s Motorcycle, I write about a countrified sensibility that family farmers in Maine and swamp-rooted Cajuns in Louisiana can relate to. And for my many city dwelling readers, the Western ethos in this book can be inspiration to live a more authentic, adventurous, enjoyable, honorable, purpose-driven, and even heroic life.
Q) What caused you to settle here, and how long ago?
A) I moved here from Taos in 1979. It’s been nearly 4 decades now, since I was vehicle-less and having to walk the 10 miles to Jakes’s Grocery for supplies. That’s over two-thirds of my life, enough time to be tempered, and tested, and time for the place to help sculpt me into what I am today. I arrived with a passionate love for the land, and over the decades I came to find many of the same qualities in its people. Whenever I celebrate wild animals, un-dammed rivers or western history, I am also celebrating every man or woman today who dares to be different, refuses to be bottled up and controlled, and stands up for what they believe is right.
Q) You write for a lot of different audiences it seems.
A) I want to reach and affect as many kinds of people as possible, and one does that by relating to folks through the ways that we share in common, and in the ways that each best understands. Important concepts like awareness, critical thinking, healthy wildness, our liberty, and taking personal responsibility can all be expressed in the language of gardening or in terms of balanced ecosystems, in the metaphors of attentive down-home cooking or using the example of riding a rodeo bull, good parenting or resisting a government’s injustices. For another thing, I am a complex person, and I’m not fairly represented unless I express my loving father, sensitive cook, and inner wrangler sides… as well as my commitments to land conservation, and my determined resistance to onerous government regulations and invasion of our privacy in the name of security
Of everything I’ve ever written, Pancho’s comes closest to me talking off the cuff, showing all sides of myself and all sides of the issues, uncensored, unguarded, and unrestrained. This is the “Straight Shot,” to quote the title of my first Catron County newspaper column. It hopefully features enough focus on sentiment, beauty and enchantment to make some crusty ol’ boys squirm, while equally discomforting any “politically correct” readers by my making fun of a trippy New Age visitor and extolling the logic of the .50 caliber rifle. Many of my friends and fellow residents consider this a simple case of telling it like it is, while my detractors at least have to concede that I am an equal opportunity offender!
Q) There’s 107 stories in Pancho Villa’s Motorcycle, about everything from the democratic system to Elfego Baca’s shootout, the wisdom of onetime local character Sammy Giron, and heirloom treadle sewing machines and the important mending of our lives and our communities. That’s quite a range of topics. So tell us how you decided on the title you did. Pancho really had a motorcycle?
A) The cover photograph shows Villa admiring a bike that he was being shown for the first time. While most comfortable astride a spirited horse, this famous revolutionary and ex-bandit was quick to accept the offer to take it for a spin. History does not tell us if he dumped it or not, though he certainly fell hard when he was ambushed and assassinated in his touring car not very many years later. Curiously enough, it was an Indian brand motorcycle, an interesting fact given Pancho’s Native American ancestry, and his raiders use of bows and arrows against the machine guns of the U.S. army when, in 1916, he ordered the first military invasion of this country since the War of 1812.
I think that this iconic cover photo evokes the twists in this region’s poignant history, the clash between technology and land-based lifestyles, between modernity and the old ways, between the fear and lies of our age and an ageless, honest, free, courageous, and plumb-enjoyable way of being.
As a personal aside, I can tell you that I owned some kind of motorcycle from the time I was 12 and riding a Tote-Gote mini-bike, including Harleys and a 1946 Indian Chief during my biker outlaw phase… symbols and tools of my independence. And yet I gladly sold my final motorcycle, a classic Triumph Bonneville 650, to my friend Tuffy Jones who co-managed Uncle Bill’s Bar in the village of Reserve… anything in order to make the semi-annual payments and hold on to my treasured home.
Q) What else is on the plate for you?
A) I have two more books coming out in the next year, first The Healing Terrain about sense of place, the importance of home, connecting to the land, gardening medicinal herbs, gathering wild foods and so on. And the second being Lawmen of The Old West Unmasked, exposing the real lives of some famous badge wearers like Billy The Kid’s murderer Pat Garrett, and Wyatt Earp, the con artist known in his day as the “fighting pimp.”… while bringing to light the deeds of some lesser known but truly admirable and heroic lawdogs including local characters Arizona’s Bucky O’Neil and Ranger Burt Mossman, and Reserve’s own icon of oversized huevos, Elfego Baca. Then maybe a book on the traveling Medicine Shows that provided health care and entertainment to the rural people of the 19th and early 20th centuries. And I’ll continue coediting Plant Healer Magazine, providing information on healthy herbs of all kinds and breaking our dependence on federal health care and often harmful pharmaceuticals. Herbalists have a few things in common with the finest of frontier men and women, in keeping tradition alive, and in taking risks to do good.
Q) Last question: I see that the illustrations for Pancho Villa’s Motorcycle include some of your drawings, photographs of old time Western movie actors, images of the region’s varied landscapes, and even a photo of the Men’s Room door of Uncle Bill’s Bar with its wonderful painting of a cowboy and his horse stopping to relieve themselves at the edge of the trail. Is there maybe some consistent theme that you planned?
A) You gotta be kidding! (smiles)
Q) OK, good enough! Thank you much!
(share and re-post freely)
Pancho Villa’s Motorcycle: Wild West Sentiment, Backwoods Humor, & Outlaw Wisdom For a World Gone Astray
$14.99+6.50 Priority Shipping
Intro: The following is a chapter from our newest book The Enchanted Healer, by my partner Jesse Wolf Hardin. The Enchanted Healer is our only full-length book with all full-color pages, covering the topics like herbalism and shamanism, medicines of the enchanted forest, body/mind balance, the heightening of awareness and the senses, plant spirit and intelligence, vision quests, places of power, cabinets of wonder, and much more. “The Healing Arts” makes the case that our efforts to heal ourselves, others, and this earth, is beautiful – and that beauty matters! To order your own copy of The Enchanted Healer, please go to the Bookstore Page at: www.PlantHealer.org
The Healing Arts & The Art Of Healing
by Jesse Wolf Hardin
The Living, Healing Arts
1. the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, producing works appreciated for their high level of quality, particularly their beauty and emotional power
2. works produced by such skill and imagination
3. (the arts) the various branches of creative activity
4. a skill at doing a specific thing, improved through practice
The term “healing arts” can be used to refer to a collection of holistic, noninvasive fields, traditions and techniques, generally expected to include such things as herbalism, acupuncture, chiropractic, counseling, and massage therapy. These practices and any other forms of healing people and planet are “crafts” – carefully learned, practiced and applied – that then become “art” at the point where we:
1. We make our work a creative process and apply our own imaginations.
2. Strive to maximize our skills, and do the highest possible quality of work.
3. Seek to touch/affect people at the deepest emotional and spiritual as well as physical levels.
4. And try, as a matter of both course and principle, to do that work as beautifully as we possibly can.
These days a stark line is often drawn between conventional medical care and alternative or holistic therapies, between phytotherapy and folk herbalism, between hard science and folklore, between the necessary growing of food crops and the nonessential raising of ornamentals, as well as between the supposed florid Artist’s life and the sober existence and sensible priorities of the “normal” woman or man. Not so in many ancient and tribal societies, nor in the attractive land-informed cultures that we are together working to create. For them and us – from nourishment to remedy, from planting to harvest, birth to death – is an opportunity to meld ritual and necessity, substance and gesture, artfulness and practicality, working to make every act and result not only productive but evermore meaningful, beauteous and satisfying!
There is little doubt that a healthy psyche is an integral component in the healing of the body, and that any healing of the collective/cultural psyche is essential to any last remedy of the current ecological and psychological imbalances. As the pioneering psychotherapist Carl Jung wrote, “An Artist is a vehicle and moulder of the unconscious psychic life of mankind.” And I am not talking about the Artist as a rarified elite. My sense is that the Anima, the vital life force of this living planet seems calls upon us each to serve others, the planet and ourselves by consciously participating in the ours and human kind’s evolution, as the crafters of our society and artisans of our lives. It is what the sacred indivisible whole/holon wants and needs to seed, and what I in my own personal role am devoted to grow.
What we hope to sow and water in this modern un-landed culture is not only more artistic and meaningful form in our day to day existence, but also the sprouting art of life: the art of conscious, responsive, celebratory relationship and mission. Mine and my partner’s intent with Plant Healer Magazine and books not only to help preserve and nurture branches of the endangered traditional healing arts, but to reclaim and showcase the many graphic styles, potent symbols and aesthetics… not only to help inform and inspire effective Healers but also to encourage – with all our deeds and hearts – ever more artistic manifestations of the active art of healing.
Living Arts: Art that lives; and the act of making an art of our every act and moment.
Healing Arts: Art that heals; and making an art of our every healing act.
Examples of Artfulness
Just as there are different styles of art, there are different styles of teaching, of restoring the land, of practicing herbalism or the healthful laying-on of hands. It is the herbalist community that I have been most closely associating with over the past decade, however, and it is my fellow lovers of plants and their medicines that I can quickest site as examples of what I’m talking about. While no two herbalists are alike – exhibiting a very wide range of tastes in clothing and lifestyles – the vast majority I’ve known all demonstrate a very personal, individualized art of living and healing.
Notice how folk herbalists of any culture find hidden patches of desired wild plants largely by their form and color, as in tune with the patterns and hues composing the land as is a painter with her visions of forms and palette of endless chromatic possibilities. We can see surely the art in their purposeful ascertaining of patterns and composing of response, in their deeply partnered dance of natural healing and allied plants… and in what they collect on their shelves, hang on the wall and wear on their bodies. Each of these herbalist’s clothes express their particular persona, the decorating of home and clinic to reflect their particular values and beliefs, preferences and desires, hungers and callings.
On their desk may be a collage of the tools of inquiry, alongside the frivolity of plant deco. We may note the curving lines and brass sheen of a vintage druggist’s scale, a hand-me-down magnifying glass, a surreal earth goddess or primitive carved crucifix, the predictable vase or Mason jar with flowers long ago having died and dried into twisted shapes too amazing to throw outside. On the window sill, colored glass of some sort that’s sure to refract into the room its enchanting morning lights, Arkansas crystals and sun hungry potted sage. And on their persons, dress and accoutrements that communicate something about the kind of people and practitioners that they are, their character and interests evident in a display of threads… whether modest but attractive skirts singing out their roots in the rural South, or loose fitting clothes from Thai pants and Guatemalan wapil blouses suggesting globally acquired wisdom and a relaxed demeanor, or sculpted shirts and ties that function as statements of health care professionalism.
Framed and hung are photos of not just kids or grandkids or aged sepia portraits of unsmiling great-grandparents, but images of treasured places as well, from topographic maps marked with one’s favorite spots for gathering wild herbs, to snapshots of significant spots on an oft visited wilderness trail. Paintings of flowers, or goddesses, or faeries, or vine covered cottages that invite us to world of veritable magic. Historic drawings of Yerba Mansa or flowering Mullein, or voluptuous Victorian era mushroom porn. The deep greens of Mormon Lake’s forests may draw the eye to the words centered on an HerbFolk Gathering flyer, wreathed in images of medicinal plants and some of the teachers that champion them. Competing with glowing gallon containers of precious tinctures, are likely books chosen for not only the valuable information they contain, but for their illustrations as well.
Art can be seen not only in the objects they surround themselves with, but also in their gestures, acts and tasks. Just watch how they customarily acknowledge, empathize with, speak to, ask for the collusion of, and somehow express their profound gratitude to those medicinal plants that they kneel before in acts of humble connection or unplanned ceremony. See, also, the deft movements of hands and blades as leaves are separated from flowers and roots, not unlike the sculptor removing elements of stone or wood to reveal a focused and refined purpose within. Their creation of formulas can be in some ways like the art of cooking, with brilliance, intuition and adaptation augmenting tradition, evaluations made with alert taste buds and noses that know. The rhythms of their interchanges with clients and patients can be like practiced choreographies with room left for on-the-spot improvisation – in what I think of as the herbalist’s song and dance. Inspired and fueled by not only necessity and compassion but impassioned aesthetics and taste, theirs is a practical trade made into something complexly personal, focused on a vision and purpose, intent on increased excellence and effectiveness – a point of service and connection that is art at its most relevant. Important. Magical. Sacred, even.
The work of the Artist-Healer could well be considered sacred work, in that style and symbol can not only decorate and communicate but also educate and consecrate, helping us to perceive the connections between all forms living and non, the relations between all elements and beings, and the inner heart, soul, spirit of each and every thing. And as with any sacred endeavor, their work is most numinous and powerful when the Artists are themselves transformed in the process of its inception and creation. This ceaseless falling apart and being remade is characteristic of the Artist as it is of the Seeker, the Shaman, the spiritual Adept.
Whenever we artfully work, employing symbols and energies, inspiration and intuition, there is an energetic threading between us and those who participate in the experience, between the viewer and the viewed, and the viewer and the Artist, between the Healer and the client or society or place. Through the art we make and experience, we’re each transformed into an agent and component of creation, our sense of mission fueled, our senses and dreams heightened, our emotions stirred, pierced by an overwhelming sense of the inseparable unity of all things and the timeliness and importance of our healing, helping, beautifying efforts.
Creatively giving shape and form to the underlying energies which animate our species in a “container” that can hold the experience allows for a shamanic, holy, and whole-making ritual to be made real in time. The act of participating in the creation of art is a magical, ceremonial rite, a sacred liturgy, a higher-dimensional form of communion, a kind of “performance art,” which simultaneously transfigures the unconscious energies in both the Artist and the surrounding field. The act of art-making partakes of the nature of the divine, in that the entire universe, which is itself a living work of continually-unfolding art, becomes infused with endless-inspiration as we consciously realize our relationship with our ever-evolving and never-expiring, creative spirit.
There can be no doubt that modern industrialized medicine can help mend serious wounds and successfully treat some conditions. It is generally not, however, a craft since it there is little hand work and most diagnosis is based on a computer generated template/model of symptoms and prescriptions. It is hardly ever an art, since it is a relatively rare M.D. these days who has gone beyond the trade’s impersonal practices to a place of passionate dedication, or who sees and treats a whole person rather than symptoms and organs. They avoid getting to really know their patients, avoiding getting too close, eschewing “messy” emotions. Their offices and hospitals are institutional and uninspired, usually only slightly less ugly and conformist than a prison. While sometimes proficient within a limited model, they are often lacking in the earmark of artisanship: creativity! To the contrary, alternative Healers of all kinds tend to be more creative and adaptive, looking beyond the assumptions and conventions, acting out of a passionate sense of mission, and doing their work in a deeply personal, empathic and artist way. With personal aesthetics. Honed sensitivity. Engaged emotions. The involvement of their spirits as well as minds. Intentional style. A strong sense of calling. And practiced flair.
Healers outside of institutions and norms tend to be mistrusted, undervalued, discounted, even legally harassed precisely because of their Artist’s ways, because they serve a calling and fulfill it authentically and stylistically, daring to bypass conventional dead ends, and to be creative in the ways that they instigate and support healing. We unconventional artisans are denied official accreditation, and when we do seek professional status it comes only from groups themselves outside the “credible” norm. The Artist-Healer, however, will not be satisfied walking the beaten path, needing to follow the inner creative urge instead, being self-empowered to make choices and make turns based on insights and experience. And they work not only to heal a person or community, but to be a container and conduit for the expression of the creative thrust, intent and direction of the Anima, of the life force, the dynamic natural whole.
Christian, Moslem, Buddhist, Pagan, Pantheist, Agnostic or whatever… the work of the Artist-Healer is to serve something larger than themselves or a client. It is to serve a larger purpose and aim, to serve something akin to “spirit” no matter what we choose to call it. And to do it in the most loving and lovely ways.
1. an activity involving skill in making things, usually by hand
2. demonstrating a high level of skill in carrying out one’s work
We’re each connected to one another, to self and home through blood and bone, magic, history, need, service, touch, caring and love — manifest through the moving force of our crafts. Craft is one way in which we express our inner spirits, serve our planet and our purpose, and make both real and physical our seemingly magical co-creation of our world. Craft is our deliberate and potentially artistic manifestation and effect, as opposed to that which we unconsciously cause or create. At one level it is our practices, our applied skills, our trade. At a deeper level it is every conscious way that we make our visions visible, respond to the needs of the people, culture and land around us, and otherwise share our dear gifts.
All things, all beings are at once both creator and the created, the influenced and the influence, the actor and acted upon. It is the option of the Healer – and the Seeker, the Activist, Teacher, Shaman, or Shifter – to be fully, vividly aware of the effects we have on the world… to make every act as intentional, and as beautiful, as we’re able.
In the present dominant paradigm, craft is often thought of as something one purchases or is an audience to, instead of inhabits and embodies. But it was not always so. Not so for the pale villagers of ancient Europe who left us the sculpted body of the archetypal Earth Mother, the bearer of all of life. And not for the first hominid inhabitants of this state called New Mexico either. The ancient pueblo people left behind shards of painted pottery that continue to evoke the Great Mystery, fired clay fragments of a life of honoring, picture-puzzle pieces still vibrating with the energy of years of reverent touch. They spoke their fealty for the land in rock art carved out of their collective and individual souls, lightning bolts and the seed-carrier Kokopelli painted on the sides of caves. Here too are the forms of the crafters’ fingers and palms, their signatures, the marks of their self-aware beings, in painted hands reaching out to descendants and heirs alike across the chasm of time. They gifted enduring images of their priorities and loves, deities and dreams. They left behind for others their holiest expressions of wonder and communion, the evidence of a marriage with place and spirit consecrated through timeless craft.
It is no less true in the case of contemporary arts and crafts, in the painting the fantasies and mythologies that enliven, share and extend our beliefs. In the making of jewelry that are talismans meant to empower or mend, the fashioning of clothing that not only covers and decorates but reveals something about us and celebrates what we love. Drumming that’s ever improved, enlisted to communicate with primal visionary self and the “Great Spirit” that informs us. Massage, that not just relaxes but helps to heal. Words, too, are craft when formed with care, delivered with rhythm and design, woven into ceremony, employed to inspire courage or heal a broken heart. Poetry that stops thought and inspires a more intense living of life. A novel that moves the reader to tears, to change, to action. Correspondence and diary entries, as honestly and lyrically and one can make them. Words that can evoke the smell of rain on the fur of a wild creature , the taste of lightning, the warmth of man or woman’s flesh and the feel of the ground where they lay in lust. Careful conversation with friends, with words invested with meaning and mission. Words not blurted out or spilled from lips, but formed like a stone canyon elegantly carved by a flowing river. A child reminded of her intrinsic worth. The ill consoled, informed and encouraged. An endearment whispered in a willing ear. Even our most mundane daily labors rise to the level of craft, art, even ritual, when done consciously with all our heart, awareness and skill, for more reasons than the simple making of an income. And even the most repetitive chores, whenever they’re executed with both intention and panache.
We are all potential crafters, of course, in that we are born with a chance to craft every aspect of our lives. Craft is by it’s very nature proactive. We craft medicines, craft a practice, craft a strategy for how we want to influence our world. We craft a home out of a mere house, craft family and community, craft our futures to the extent we can. The word “craft” is first and foremost a verb of great power, denoting direction, activity, process, effort and purpose. It is only secondarily a noun, referring to an association of activated individuals, or the creations, effects and outcomes of the active Healer.
Part of our purpose as sentient beings on/in this planet, is to make an articulate contribution to conscious, responsive, celebratory relationship, to true encompassing health which is wholeness. In our ecstatic revealing, bridging and healing, we have the opportunity for a further dissolving of any boundaries between us, the living land, the Anima, or spirit. Between the creator and the created. The Healer and the healed. The crafter and the craft.
The Artist-Healer’s Responsibility
Being responsible for the form and effects of our actions can be daunting, and staying on the sidelines, avoiding being a force, trying to remain unseen and out of the loop might be tempting… but it is simply not possible. Even if we were to try to avoid responding, initiating, confronting, creating, or in other ways taking any responsibility, we would still leave some imprint on the world. We therefore may as well make it a true reflection of our authentic selves, serving our caring purpose. At best, we can make that imprint evocative, inspiring, instigative, aesthetic, excellent and exciting. Every awake act, every motion or gesture of our hands can be the craft and art that communicates who we are, who we strive to be, and what we hope to give and achieve.
The pencil for the writing of ours’ and world’s story – for the creation of our art – is in part in our hands, ready for us to make the changes that are needed. We have an entire chest of colors to choose from, with the now and future our unlimited canvas. We have the pharmacopea botanica for most of our bodily healing needs. All the necessary materials, it seems, are at hand for whatever project we might launch, awaiting only the actual sweep of the painter’s brush, the slice of the sculptor’s knife, the swirl of the kitchen ladle, the gathering and processing of the herbs, the pouring of the salve of tincture, the purposeful and ceaseless reaching out to help.
The result of such graceful deliberateness – I repeat – is our connection… including connecting with the proactive practice and craft now weaving us back into both the literal and magical material of our experience and existence. Together we co-create the living fabric of our reality as well as of our culture, assuming some response-ability for how it turns out… jointly painting on that billowing fabric the story of our missions, our struggles, our miracles, and our beautiful, beautiful hope.
You are at once a Healer and a person still actively engaged in your own healing. You are the subject and creator, witness and participant, viewer and doer. As such, this kinetic relational process that we call “art” involves – even requires – not just the illustrator’s pen or paint, writer’s keyboard or gardener and conservationist’s shovel and seed, not just the activist’s manifesto or massage therapist’s table, cotton bandages or healthful herbs… it needs you.
See what you can do.
(RePost and Share Freely)
Announcing a New Book by Jesse Wolf Hardin:
Pancho Villa’s Motorcycle: Wild West Sentiment, Backwoods Humor, & Outlaw Wisdom For a World Gone Astray
$14.99+6.50 Priority Shipping
Order from the new website:
You readers of this Anima blog are a diverse lot! Some of you have recently taken an interest in Anima Wilderness Sanctuary and projects like river restoration or Plant Healer Magazine, a few hundred others of you have been around since the beginning. Somewhere around half of you tend to be liberal, alternative types, pantheists, anarchists or pacifists, activists and conservationists whom Jesse Wolf has written most of his books for in the last few years, including 3 titles for those into herbalism, natural healing, and nature’s enchantments. The other half of you readers, however, are a more of a mix of rural libertarians, politically incorrect homesteaders and back-to-the-landers, primitivists, traditionalists, survivalists, old-timey folk, kitchen sink medicine makers, cowboys, mountain men, and wild women.
It is for you latter folks that Pancho Villa’s Motorcycle was written.
Warning: You shouldn’t even think about reading this book if you are 1. PC or easily offended, 2. uncomfortable with strong or unconventional opinions, 3. disinterested in history, 3. turned off by sentimentality, or 4. can’t take a joke.
When Wolf first came to remote and conservative Catron County, New Mexico 35 years ago, he was a biker/philosopher/artist seeking the “real world”, wildness and roots. He arrived in a hippie looking school bus with a mean Harley Davidson, promptly selling both the bike and the engine out of the bus for the down payment on what became the Anima Sanctuary. To introduce himself and his ideas to the community, he wrote 107 articles/essays for a number of regional newspapers, a number of which have also appeared on this blog, and all of which have been compiled for you now in this unique new book.
Nearly 300 pages long, Pancho Villa’s Motorcycle provides a healthy balance of unusual insight & Old West history, natural history & controversy, sassy commentary & sweet sentimentality, good humor & bad attitude, packed with ideas meant to awaken you to the depths & the dance of life. Wolf’s tales not only tell us about the way things used to be, but how they can be… a clarion call for us to live more awakened and meaningful, responsible and purposeful, adventurous and satisfying lives.
You can read a review by our friend Becca below, and order your own copy now at:
(thank you for re-posting and sharing)
Review of Pancho Villa’s Motorcycle
by Becca McTrauchle
Pancho Villa’s Motorcycle is a unique collection of 107 thoughtful, humorous, colorful, inspiring, and attitude-filled essays describing the more fascinating experiences and perspectives of the rural West, leading to insights for even the most urban reader about our difficult modern times and the “fullest living of life.” Author Hardin draws from over 35 years of astute observation and reflection, rooted as he is in the backcountry of the incomparable American Southwest.
From the Introduction: “Deep in the mountains of southern New Mexico lies the self proclaimed “sovereign county” of Catron, one of the largest and least developed counties in the entire country, and a place with far more elk than people. It seems to exist in its own time zone, at the frontier edge between a moseying past and rushing future, present reality and infinite imagination – a community in open resistance to both the dictates of the federal government and the boring normalcy and conformity of our times.”
Hardin moved back to his home state of New Mexico as a young man in the 70s, searching for the Wild West of his childhood movies and books, a place that would be as authentic and interesting as the suburbs seemed artificial and generic. And he needed look no further than the opinionated, strong willed, old-time community of Catron nestled in the Gila wildlands, and his riverside homesite seven river crossings from the nearest pavement.
In Pancho Villa’s Motorcycle he brings to life for you “the fast disappearing world of small towns and uncluttered vistas, of knowing humor and countryfied wisdom, and a more authentic and enjoyable way of living. Herein you’ll find a world of wild animals in the kitchen and wild-foods gathering, unbroken spirits and unbroken horses, lives vigorously lived and promises kept, cowboy hats and ‘thank you ma’ms,’ a backwoods view of politics and a non-typical, backwards glance at authentic Western history.” Chapters cover “the problem with authority and the absurdity of airline safety manuals, the ramifications of Pancho Villa’s Indian brand motorcycle, and the importance of really paying attention whenever tasting your biscuit and jam. The value of authenticity and resistance, country dialects and the honoring of tradition, the real meaning of the word“wild”… and taking time to look at the world through the eyes of a child. Curious true stories about eating packrats, pondering the significance of bear poo, how to alienate vegan pacifist guests, and many other eruptions and realizations of a backwoods life.”
For the residents of the rural West, reading Pancho Villa’s Motorcycle must feel like a homecoming, or pulling up a chair in the general store to hear a well told tale. But for city folk like me, it feels like being transported to a strange and wonderful place, timeless, stunningly primal, filled with curious sights and a chance for real adventures for anyone with the spunk and follow-through. In the course of learning about the history and ways of this unique place and its residents, I learned a lot about myself and what I really want out of my life, developing some of that strong will that that seems to sustain those people insistent on living a free, exciting, genuinely Wild West existence in these trying futuristic times.