Feb 082012

“Give me, for my life,
all lives,
give me all the pain
of everyone,
I’m going to turn it into hope.
Give me
all the joys,
even the most secret,
because otherwise
how will these things be known?
I have to tell them,
give me
the labors
of everyday,
for that’s what I sing”
-Pablo Neruda

Herbalism is a curious field, a mishmash of healthcare, botany, plant obsession, counseling, nutrition, ecology, and countless other labels that cross back and forth over the indeterminate borders of what it means to be an herbalist. Listening to students, friends, teachers, and countless practitioners I hear many impassioned definitions and statements about what it means to be an herbalist. Impassioned to the point of stirring up unease, argument, and the drawing of metaphorical lines in the sand about what is and isn’t and how it “should be”. I have my own take, of course, based in my perspective and experience, but first and formost I look to what nature itself illustrates as a priority, which is always and ever diversity. It’s not just a way of covering all the bases, it’s also the most effective approach to adapativity and growth. And so we are as a community: a wild and, at times, unkempt mix of scientists and sensualists, academics and artists, farmers and feral creatures. Sometimes all in the body  of a single person.

This multi-faceted element is part of what makes our community so beautiful, because it’s not just about being a clinician or a teacher, a wildcrafter or a botanist. It’s the many-colored spectrum that forms around the plant-person relationship where each color and tone enhance and improve the overall composition. As humans, we’ve evolved to be in love with the complex and lovely light-eating creatures that inhabited earth long before our own species first knew what it was to breathe in the heady perfume of a wild rambling rose. As herbalists, this relationship is intensified even further. In some ways, it’s difficult to imagine a relationship more intense than the existing one we require to breathe, to eat, to thrive. And yet, we plant obsessed folks do manage to make almost every moment of every day an act of devotion to the green world.

Whatever form that takes for us, whatever trail we follow through the ancient forest that is our territory and temple as herbalists, adds another element of complexity and beauty.

For myself, as a bit of a hermit and deviant in my own right, I find the plants a source of solace and wisdom, and ever the point of connection that brings me back to the earth I belong to. Not only that, but the plants also provide an integral and precious link to others of my own species, and my most intimate and joyous sharings with other humans nearly always revolve around the wonder and effect of kingdom Plantae. The healing therein, not just from the ingestion of prepared herbal medicine, but also from the simple act of being near to the plants themselves, remains a critical catalyst for the ways in which I serve place and people. Whenever I feel lost, bereft of hope or help, shadowed by the weight of world politics and warfare, I find myself with my arms wrapped around an evergreen oak, my face pressed against furrowed bark and soft lichen. Reaffirming this lifeline that exists not only in sorrow but also in celebration under the shade of Alders and Junipers where my family feasts and marks each seasonal festival and  special day.

Sure, plants are made up of constituents that can be measured to have a physiological impact on the human body. This is a part of the medicine, but not the whole of it. While we can name constituents and pathologies, what we cannot measure is the magic that binds plant to person and forms the weave that holds us all together. That creates the cartography of herbalism, and what it means to practice the healing arts.

To me personally, herbalism is an everyday act of devotion. For the people, for the plants, for myself.

  10 Responses to “Everyday Acts of Devotion”

  1. Great and beautiful post. I really enjoyed it. Especially this:

    ‘This multi-faceted element is part of what makes our community so beautiful, because it’s not just about being a clinician or a teacher, a wildcrafter or a botanist. It’s the many-colored spectrum that forms around the plant-person relationship where each color and tone enhance and improve the overall composition.’

    Collectively, we stand for something and are building something.

  2. Kiva….your appreciation, and way of expressing, your love of this wonderful “world” of herbalism we are immersed in…..is more then inspiring. I am in awe of your words of wisdom. Keep up the good work!!!

  3. And again, lovely. Thank you Kiva.

  4. Medicine is in the magic. Beautiful.

  5. I’m in awe. Thank you.

  6. So true. And expressed so beautifully.

  7. Kiva, this is such a beautiful post. Thank you.
    I see more and more how multifaceted our work is and that is such a part of the magic and joy of it. There is always so much more to explore and discover. Wonderful!

  8. Kiva, you again demonstrate the depth of your soul and have a poetic way of communicating it! I also feel this resonance with nature that only the sky above and the earth’s “rooted ones” really provide for me. It is like everything has a healing song and it is us who listen to this song and figure out how to share it with others who need this healing. You don’t just do it with herbs, whether you are gathering them, preparing them or administering them to those in need – you weave beautiful tales during all of it. It is such a creative process for you and I think you cannot help but for this energy to go out in a healing fashion. I for one will stay tuned to more beautiful tales that hint of the mysterious wild places of this world and the otherworld, of ourselves and our planet, solar system and universe! Thank you once again!

  9. Kiva,
    This post is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. You and the plants are such inspiring and generous teachers.

  10. I echo all of the above ~ it is truly wondrous sharing this planet with these wonderful creatures, the plants, and more amazing still to be in an evolving, cocreative, imaginative, at times delirious adventure with them. Keep on your trail, Kiva, as if you could ever stop :-).

    Viriditas ~

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>