YEAR IN REVIEW
The past cycle of seasons has been as rewarding as challenging, with myself confronted with painful personal loss and humbling health issues as well as significant choices, with Kiva tripling her already prodigious output, with important new herbal insights and our responsibilities to a revitalizing herbal community. 2010 was yet another year of growth, working hard to keep a tight focus while still increasing the ways that we are able to teach, help and affect. This meant the scaling back of some notable projects, and the development and launching of others.
For the first year I can remember, the Rio Frisco running through the Anima botanical sanctuary and retreat center failed to flood. This made getting in and out to town over the seven river crossings much more certain, but is also an indicator of less overall precipitation. The canyon continues its path of fervent rewilding even without the constant tending we once gave it, 32 years of fencing, reseeding, monitoring and inventorying. We finally retired our U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service grant, that had helped pay for many of the indigenous plant species that we reintroduced. What was once part of a denuded grazing allotment is now a sanctuary with a truly amazingly diverse number of medicinal herbs, attracting waterfowl, elk, mountain lion and bear. We were surprised, in fact, to wander into a Forest Service office in search of topo maps, and discover among the various brochures one with a photo of our rewilded river right on the front! Anima Sanctuary is the “poster-property” for the newest U.S.F.W.S. brochure about the Partners in Wildlife Program that we continue to be a part of.
There simply hasn’t been time to promote or host the usual round of small workshops at the sanctuary, no matter how powerful it can be to teach here in such an intense place. Instead, our energy has gone in part to the further development of our herbal, nature awareness and herbal Anima Home Study Courses, with Kiva’s expanded Foundations of Western Herbalism series of courses expected to be released a few months from now. These courses are way to majorly equip and inspire folks from afar, as was the successful multi media (including video) Energetics course of Kiva’s that John Gallagher and HerbMentor produced and released (for those of you who missed it, John expects to re-release it for another limited time later this year, stay tuned to the Herb Mentor Site).
The majority of our attention, of course, had gone to creating and producing the TWH Conference, tasks that begin with site logistics and contracting a year prior, and requiring at least a portion of our every day. Work towards the 2011 event is predictable and practiced in comparison to 2010, when what seemed like an insane idea (launching a novel new event during the worst financial recession in 70 years) somehow coalesced into a rule-breaking, tradition boosting, spirit stirring experience for a sold-out crowd. We were pleased and surprised to find that our sometimes unusual backgrounds and experiences were actually just what was needed to accomplish the range of things required, like Kiva’s holistic/wildlands/bioregional/steampunk brand of herbalism and the kinds of incredible people it curiously weaves together; her herbal knowledge, connections and expertise; even the hard edged and deeply felt experiences of troubled youth and childhood abuse contributing to her determination to encourage both healing and empowerment in others. Like the earth-based nature awareness lessons Anima provides; my years of wildlands restoration as well as activism; my art and layout skills previously expended on painting to sell and fundraising t-shirts for government-harassed organizations I believe in; the now helpful observations made while giving 300+ presentations at other people’s conferences and rallies; even the concerts I organized and performed at as benefits for causes I supported, proving to be experience that TWHC needed… my multi media concerts/talks having been prophetically named the “Deep Ecology Medicine Shows.” We’re thankful for the unexpected but undenaible “juju” that attracted the most amazing teachers and least typical participants from the get-go, for the evolving purpose of not only promoting herbal education but acting as a catalyst for a folk herbal revival. (Go to www.TraditionsInWesternHerbalism.org)
From out of the conference, rose the new magazine Plant Healer, featuring the same degree of diversity and depth, spunk and spice as the event, in-depth botanical and medicinal material balanced by activism and heartful story, interpreted with an artistic rebel sensibility. There’s no way we would have added all the work such a magazine entails, if not for the wonderful way that it augments, expands and extends the spirit of the conference and continues its community building, information sharing mission. The first 135 page, full color issue of Plant Healer has been made available in several digital formats to anyone subscribing, from high resolution files for printing to low res for those with slow servers, and even a 3-dimensional magazine format whose pages can be turned right there on the personal membership pages on the site. Advertising is being accepted from only the most respected businesses and schools, and writers are encouraged to submit to any of its 16 different departments (www.PlantHealerMagazine.com). For a free sample with short excerpts, photos and art, dowload the: Plant Healer Magazine Sample
To a luddite like myself, coproducing a digital publication is in some ways uncharacteristic and discomforting, my aesthetics calling out for real paper that can be touched and held.
This method is far more ecologically sustainable, however, requiring none of the virgin tree flesh that print copy does. Text can be magnified for easy reading on screen, though the option remains to print out some or all of its pages. Printed magazines of all kinds have been going out of business one after the other, coincidentally reducing the number of venues for our writings (in 1996 I was able to find 27 publications happy to print a total of 34 of my articles, in 2010 only 11 pieces of mine saw print, and in only 6 different magazines). It is this trend towards online reading and pdf subscriptions that makes our websites, blogs, e-books and even this digital newsletter all the more crucial, and that led to our decision to release Plant Healer in pdf format.
Future books by us will in most cases be available in both digital and print versions, though elaborate full color versions may be sold as pdf’s only. Next to be released will be the collection of my collection of essays with rural and bioregional sensibilities, a blend of backwoods wisdom, irreverent humor and sentiment, with seditious deep ecology and libertarian undertones. It will titled “The Straight Shot” or “The Town That Waves” or some similar folksy lines not yet to be determined. Next will be my historical novel The Medicine Bear, complete with herbalist and wise woman characters alongside real events surrounding the formulation of Aldo Leopold’s groundbreaking land ethic, Ben Lilly’s biblical bear hunting obsession, and Pancho Villa’s retaliatory raid on the United States town of Columbus with what were essentially Indian warriors! Resolute will be expertly proofing both books over the coming months, with the hope of releasing them this Summer.
Anima teacher Loba will be releasing the first of many long awaited cookbooks beginning with one focused on wild foods, and Kiva will inevitable release an amazing book on herbalism if she can ever stop adding to her accumulating material long enough. My first book for children, “I’m A Medicine Woman, Too!” has continued to sell as more people become aware of it and its lessons of empowerment and herbal medicine.
It is Rhiannon, like the Summer swelling and flowering of the canyon, that may best define what we here are referring to when we talk about the meaning of accomplishment and satisfaction, and the best measure of our efforts and days… our gifts to the world, rooted in this giving earth.
We value your alliance, assistance and affection, and value the opportunity to be of service or inspiration to you. Warmest regards throughout 2011, from all of us here.
-Jesse Wolf Hardin