“…enchantment will survive. Like the Earth – the ultimate source of enchantment, I believe – it does not need us but we need it; so it will continue to animate, unpredictably and uncontrollably, our relationships with each other, with other animals, with nonhuman nature, with places, with art and artefacts, with food, and so on.”
– Patrick Curry, The Third Road: Faërie in Hypermodernity
“Folklife is part of everyone’s life. It is as constant as a ballad, as changeable as fashion trends. It is as intimate as a lullaby, and as public as a parade. In the end, we are all folk.”
—The American Folklife Center, Library of Congress
Folklore and folk traditions have been insistent inspirations and influences since I was a child and can be credited in part with my initial interest in herbal medicine. Fairy tales and wildflowers are my earliest memories, and the rhythm of the old stories has rocked me to sleep since babyhood. Myth, story, and lore have reminded me of my roots, taught me that magic is immanent, and that enchantment awaits with every breath. It has always seemed to me that plants are portals, doors into the otherworld that is all around us. The mythic image of the door in the tree fascinated me as a little girl, and I still dream myself opening it and falling into an impossibly green land where I understand the speech of singing animals and murmuring roots.
I came to the herbs in search of healing magic and a refuge from a troubled childhood. And I found it.
My mother’s folk came to this country from the towering Alps and the great forests of northern Sweden and Finland. They brought with them song, story, and food that has been passed down over the generations. Fractured, but still useful, still needful in a world that topples rootless in the storm of these times. What is handed from mother to daughter is often flawed, skewed by the demands of the greedy and the powerful, and the painful experiences that irrevocably change who we are… but always there are kernels of nourishment and beauty that remain at the core. From my mother I learned foraging, the music of my people, the art of brush and pencil, the wisdom of wildness, and the everlasting importance of story.
I am a traditional herbalist. By traditional, I mean that I work with methods and knowledge passed down from generation to generation. Yes, my work is informed by scientific research and recent medical findings but the core at the center of my practice is not only old, but ancient. For as long as humans have walked forest and desert, jungle and tundra, prairie and plain, we have learned from the plants and worked with them for food and medicine. While those of us with a mongrel European and African American heritage may not have a single, solid tradition to call our own, our perspective is nonetheless rooted in the places we live with and peoples that have come before us. My knowledge is rooted in my adopted home here in the American Southwest as well as my family’s homelands in Wisconsin, the Delaware Valley, and Appalachia… before that, of Scotland, throughout the Alps, Western Africa, and Scandinavia. I have learned from people who call themselves Abuelas and those who call themselves Phytotherapists. The input of each and every one has offered me unique and irreplaceable knowledge.
I am also a storyteller and a writer. My love of the plants finds its way to every tale I spin. Whether herbal monograph, essay, or the novel I’m currently working on, leaflets and tendrils, rhizomes and cambium all find their way into my words, their stories born into this world from my obsessive love for their ways and windings.
The land where I live is one of the most biodiverse and wild areas in all of North America. The plants here range from desert succulents to monsoon dependent ephemerals to high elevation coniferous forest wildflowers to alpine marshland roots.
With an overriding passion for the preservation and restoration of land, wild plants, and biodiversity, I am actively involved in the healing and growth of our 80 acre botanical sanctuary and wildlife refuge. Through my work in the reintroduction of indigenous plant species, propagation of existing species, and an ongoing biological survey of the land, I continue to fall ever deeper in love with the unique beauty of the Gila bioregion of New Mexico. The riparian canyon I live and work in is surrounded on all sides by the Gila National Forest and is seven river crossings from the nearest road. Our rustic homestead is built beside thousand year old Mogollon ruins, the last people to live in this canyon until us. The ancient song of this special place is clear to all who listen.
In addition to my teaching work and clinical practice, I co-organize/direct the Good Medicine Confluence, an international event held each Spring in the mountain Southwest. The Confluence is focused on providing a celebratory venue for recognizing the enchantment of plant-based healing while providing experience-based knowledge to students and practitioners. I also co-edit/publish Plant Healer Quarterly, an online periodical that includes columns, articles and artwork by some of the English-speaking world’s most compelling and knowledgeable practitioners and artists.