The Close of The Year: Winter Reflections, & Wishes For Your Brave Flowering
Someone here writes an end of the year post every November or December, using the inward journeying that comes with Winter to source our hurts and hopes, process what we have learned, and orient in new directions according to our committed purpose. It may be released close to Solstice as an organic reminder of values and sentiments in the midst of a commercial rush, or earlier around Thanksgiving, when there are still some golden leaves un-wrested from the very tops of the ghost-skinned Alamos that us gringos call Cottonwoods, since the post is similarly a final bloom that Winter’s wind cannot shake from our ever reaching branches.
We have been posting at this address for over a decade now, an arc of time from when there were few blogs on the internet, through the years they were all the rage, until today when there are a decreasing number of dedicated readers online, a somewhat regrettable period of rapidly diminishing attention spans, with even facebook gradually eschewed in favor of the however-many characters of a soundbite “tweet.”
We launched it after retiring the ecocentric Earthen Spirituality Project, first as a venue for the nature-informed tales and insights growing out of my work and this special inspirited Anima Sanctuary that we call home, announcing the Wild Women’s Gathering and Wild Foods workshops we held here, and providing a place for the folks we have loved and worked with from all the varied contexts and manifestations to stay connected.
Then, when we ceased hosting events in this canyon, the blog became the sole way for others to get a feeling for the land and its story, and to learn a bit of the applicable lessons it so generously if not always gently provides. The archive indexed in the column at right, is the trove of tales stashed for the intrepid seeker of the arcane but powerful, a tool chest of ideas and understandings with which future readers or even future generations might sculpt change and manifest authenticity, healing, and beauty.
Since then, most of you know we have given much of our attention and finite hours to the shaping and propulsion of an empowered folk herbalist movement, broadening the definition and application of healing and its portfolio of healing assignments through Plant Healer Magazine and events like the upcoming international Good Medicine Confluence. As a result, this blog also became the de facto repository for any of our writings that don’t fit elsewhere: arcane topics that not even I can connect well to the subject of herbalism or the language of plants; incisive looks at history and what it can tell us about the present if only more wanted the perspective; the political and social commentary that exposes both sides of an argument and tends to alienate the most sensitive and “progressive” of our diverse constituency. This is where we communicate the intense struggle, joy an elation of this lifestyle off the grid and outside the norms. And it is where we sometimes share the very personal experiences, feelings, and revelations that only those who have long been our intimates – our readers, students, apprentices, allies, friends and family – are likely to want to know.
The least expected news for many of you is that Elka, our longtime partner and homemaker you may have first known as Loba, made the difficult choice in September to leave the place, people, and role she loves in order to honor her social nature and meet her undeniable needs. Whether you knew it or not, this is something she has felt torn about for a very many years, painfully weighing her attachment to her life in the Sanctuary against her desires for a village. Then, like many folks when transitioning into middle age, she says she been dealing with a “midlife crisis,” re-evaluation fueled by a person’s worry that one may not ever pursue our impulses, desires, hopes or dreams if not acted on before it is too late and the opportunities no longer available. As sad as it made us feel, and as much as we love her and worry about her outside the protective arms of this remote river canyon, it would have been wrong not to support her courageous reentry into the paradigm of civilization from that of a primitive and socially isolated lifestyle.
It is that social component that she has missed most, a hunger for human interaction, a desire to entertain and be entertained, meeting new folks, comforting one another with conversation in a cafe, dancing blissfully and recklessly amongst other unselfconscious spinning dervishes and not just for the elk and birds and a family focused more on creating. We bought her ticket to Southern Oregon, and paid for her first couple months rent in a town I have much history in myself. It is the region that was most supportive of my Deep Ecology Medicine Shows, concerts and presentations that resulted in environmental protection campaigns and direct actions in protest of the clearcutting of old growth forests there. When I thought about all the states that I have performed, organized, or led civil disobedience actions in since the 80s, I could not recall an area and community where the populous is sweeter, or Elka safer, than where she has come to next. All of us – and all of you – who love her, can take satisfaction hearing she has already found not only new jobs and friendships, but also a new relationship, hooking up with a caring vegan who adores her for all her silliness as well as for her talents and gifts.
As a result, Kiva and my daughter Rhiannon have assumed the roles of caregivers and food providers, re-organizing and cleaning the enchanted kitchen, with Rhiannon taking great pride in being able to contribute so ably to our existence, and Kiva freaking herself out with the amount of “earth element” that has arisen within her, a love for taking care of things, places and loved ones that she had since her teens rejected as making her a target or doormat, concealing the tendencies to tend under of the aura of protective baddass attitude. All of us including our on site caretaker James have had many more daily or weekly tasks to fulfill, testament to how much Elka tried to take care of, and to how it takes at least a family or clan, if not a village, to cover all the bases of healthful existence and mission, to make sure what needs to gets done.
Even with the conscientious, gnome-like little mountain man James here, we could use a little more help. We are currently considering under what auspices we could resume hosting resident helpers here. It can be a valuable learning experience for such guest helpers, with a little herbal information along with instruction in the homesteading arts, riparian restoration, and building repair and maintenance. We have frankly been too busy keeping up with project needs and deadlines to even figure out how to reinitiate a program, but there is still a wonderful cabin sitting empty in the woods here, awaiting short term or longterm residents that might love the land enough to serve it as well as get from it.
Thanks to James, the past year has seen the construction of an overhang to protect the Jeep from the sometimes blistering New Mexico sun, improvements of the solar system that turns that sunshine into computer time, a porch lookout higher than our cabin roofs, the splitting and organizing of the wood piles we need for our cook and heating stoves, making sure the vehicles are running, the removal of dead grass that was a terrible fire hazard around the structures, the repair of the fence that keeps the intrusive dog hunters from driving through and getting accosted by an irate Cossack, the planting of more native species and adopting of a fast growing medicinal Firethorn.
If you keep up with our work for the field of herbalism, you know we outgrew our event venue this year, and had to move our annual conference and celebration location as well as move it up from September to June, so that there was only 9 months between our events this time. This, on top of our doubling the number of teachers and tripling the number of classes: 100 unique sessions addressing not only the healing of the body’s ailments with plants, but also the healing of our psyches and cultures in these troubled binary days, and the insistent savoring and celebrating of life no matter what the destruction or distractions. This has meant teachers covering adventurous topics from Cannabis science and radical mycology to free clinics, painting with henna, brewing and distillation, and weaving plants into baskets. If interested in such things, check out the Good Medicine Confluence Website.
Depressing political campaigns and rancorous social media has not gotten in the way of livin’ and doin’. Since this time last year, we have published several new books, and watched the free Herbaria Monthly ezine expand to reach tens of thousands of subscribers as the quarterly Plant Healer Magazine continues its slower but steady growth. Now in Winter’s quiet, we are feeling excited to try something new, some additional ways of sating our curiosities, employing our obsessions, share our discoveries, and fulfill our need to be novel and creative. A second magazine with a related but different theme? Kiva finishing her first book? An online school at some point? Articles and books about traditional cuisine and lovely headscarves on infidels, about music, or new faerytales for tweaked times? Meanwhile, Kiva will be squeezing in some moments with her open backed banjo and Russian and Gaelic language lessons, while pondering her next incarnation, and I will take breaks to create artwork whether it is desired or marketable or even desired or not. Can’t help ourselves. It’s not ambition, you realize, it is great interest and irresistible compulsion, as worthy of social censure or psychiatric evaluation as it is of admiration or praise.
It is, for all of us, a native urge, the inner anima, the vital force or spirit or soul that is forever erupting within us, impelling us to thrive and “look alive!,” provoking us to risk truths and adventures, agitating as much as supporting our intrinsic propensities to manifest and fulfill, to take the best of what we are and have to offer and “make it real,” and to get up off our butts at the close of Winter and germinate a diverse, exciting, sense-filled, purposeful, flowering of a Spring.
It is that which we wish for you, at the close of this and every year.
Encouragement and affection to you from the Anima Sanctuary, and the canyon family we hope you feel a part of.