Friday, December 30, 2016

Today I Made Peace with Raven

     Today was a good day, I made peace with the black raven. Raven and I go back a long ways, raven has always been there hawking, and cawing. He’ll slap his throat and sound like  glass tinkling in the bottom of a deep hole. He’s always watching, looking, seeing what’s going on. He doesn’t miss a trick, nothing goes unnoticed. He’ll be the first to hit on road kill, he enjoys it just fine. He’s not particular, he’s a survivor. He’s not a fine hunter, like the red tailed hawk I seen. Hawk will just swoop down. Drop down out of the sky like lightning, quiet without thunder. The cottontail rabbit knows what’s going on. It’s not life and death so much as always saying yes. “Ok you got me.’, cotton tail says. He’ll just stand still and wait his turn, giving into the moment.
       One time I asked cottontail rabbit, I said, “What’s up man?” Why don’t you run when hawk comes swooping down?” “How come you’ll freeze up, like you’re saying, ‘Go ahead. Eat me.’”? What’s up with that?” Rabbit told me. “You just don’t get it. You got to see it through my eyes. Couldn’t have hawks without rabbits. Can’t have rabbits without hawks. We’re one and the same. You think you’re different. If you’re seeing me it’s because I’m seeing you through the same eyes.”
     Well I had to think on that one for a while, what rabbit told me. Raven though, he’s an opportunist. I’m not sure if he creates opportunities or if he is the opportunity. Or if he’s just always waiting, watching. I’m not sure if Raven makes things happen, or he is what happen.
      Lot’s of times I’d prefer to see a hawk, or even a juniper jay, raven gets the job done though. He doesn’t quit. He’s the first to come back after a fire, and the last to leave. He’s like mullein, fireweed, Ambrosia, he’ll return after the hottest fires. He’ll do just fine. Raven doesn’t need beauty or pristine situations, a garbage dump is just fine.
     I had no plan on making peace with the raven today. I didn’t get up and say, “Well, today’s the day I make peace with raven. It’s the middle of winter, almost New Years, so I better make peace with raven today.” No, not like that at all. I didn’t have any plans at all to make peace with blackie. I don’t even like ravens to be honest. Ther’re kinda disturbing. They’ll keep cawing, caw, caw, caw. It’s loud too. It’s not a woodpecker bom, bom, bom, bom hammering in the morning. You know woodpecker has sense. Woodpecker has a plan. He’s eating bugs. He’s getting those pine bark beetles in the ponderosa pines. He’s doing something constructive, something that helps the forest. Saves the trees. Raven though, he just making racket, making a loud noise.
     If I had my plinker with me, and he would of  kept it up, I might  of took a  shot. Just to scare him off. I was trying to find tranquility, peace. I wasn’t wanting to hear quacking and honking, caw, caw. When you go walking in the woods it’s like that. You don’t always find what you’re looking for.
               So as I kept walking I knew I had to do something. The thing is when you’re dealing with wild creatures you have to take a different approach. There’s a different approach for the tame and the wild. Especially if you don’t have a plinker.
     Now, I could of threw a stone, or yelled. These are wild ravens, these aren’t the kind that hang out at dumpsters. They live in the woods. They hang out with turbnella oaks, emoryi, alligator junipers and ponderosa pine. Twenty five miles from the nearest town. These aren’t the kind of ravens you can scare off throwing a stone. They fly like eagles. They soar. They play in the sky. This is their playhouse. This is raven’s playhouse. You can see them playing around on the thermals along the rim rocks. They fly high. They spin and dance around in the air. They don’t fly for a purpose. They are the purpose. This was a day in the raven’s playhouse. It was annoying. I was in their spot. This is their place not mine.
    So with this type of raven, you’ll need a different approach. You need to engage with these ravens. Good thing I learned how to do that way back when I was a sheepherder for the Spratts up at Lysite, Lost Cabins, Wyoming. All the way from the gas hills near Riverton, to Alkali creek. Up to the Little Big Horns, in back a Tensleep.  Old Basque Joe Aguilar, taught me that. When I went to visit him and his dog Ponchitta.
     We were dropping lambs near the Owl creeks, just a little ways past Boyson. The weather had turned and eight inches of spring snow was turning everything into a soupy mess. So we had to stay put. I couldn’t move. We put our wagons next to each other, real close, maybe a quarter mile away. When you’re herding, your alone except when you’re with the drop bunch.
        These were Columbia Ramboulette cross, and those ewes were good lambers even with snow. We found some dry ground on the south side of Alkali creek. His bunch were on one side, mine on the other. When they came down to water they could get into a lot of trouble if they crossed the creek. Couldn’t get them mixed. So we be up on the hillside counting our blacks, watching the snow melt, eating mutton stew and drinking coffee, talking.
     Joe didn’t talk much, he’d eyeball you. There were a lot of buzzards and ravens eating the placenta and after birth. Circling and with the cow birds eating up the grain we fed the horses.  He taught me how to engage with the ravens. He said. “You gotta talk to ‘em. Tell them what you want them to do. You’re the top hand. They’ll listen to ya. Butcha gotta talk to em’.”
     Now this conversation was over two weeks, eating lot’s a mutton. Drinking coffee. Watching snow melt. So I am speeding it up so you can follow. Now the ravens and buzzards didn’t seem to bother Joe’s bunch like they did mine. They’d be all over my bunch, sqwuaking and cawing, and making an awful ruckus.  You know when you see something like that, it bothers you. “What the heck is he dong, that I’m not?”
      So we’d split up around 10, send our bunches in different directions which was hard looking for grass. Joe always took the best grass, I had to give him that, he was a top hand. Doing this longer than the year’s I’d been born with. So I tried it. Talking to ravens. Felt like a fool but had to do something. I wasn’t sure what kind of voice to use. So I tried whispering. I tried just a normal voice. I sang songs to them. I tried yelling in a loud voice. I tried to talk with a Basque accent, like Joe. Nothing worked. So I was thinking maybe talk to them in Basque, whatever the heck that was. I knew a few words in Spanish and Basque sounds like Spanish, maybe that would work. Nothing worked.
     So after a few days Joe said to me, “Any luck?”, now for Joe that’s a lot of talk. Joe told me, “I’ll be back, going to Riverton,” Joe was going to get laid at a whorehouse in Riverton with some cheap Mexican hookers. One of them was a real fine piece of ass I heard. Her name was Lydia. In fact rumor was she got the clap working at a whorehouse in Pahrump Nevada, but she was clean now, but had to wait 30 days before she could go back to the Cottontail Ranch. She was waiting for a checkup. Those girls are well kept some of them were blondes. She was a Steed from Colorado City and rumor had it she had a falling out with Rulon Jeffs, the head prophet up that way. Lost her kids to the third wife and had been running ever since. Any way she was worse than a jack Mormon. She definitely had strong Neanderthal traits. She had freckles all over her body, they even said down to her back pocket, but I never got a chance to see that.
     Well if Joe was going to Riverton, he could be back Wednesday or gone till Fall, could never tell with those guys. He did say he’d show me how to talk to ravens, I took him at his word. I’d have my hands full till he got back with two bunches, no talking to ravens till then.
       Joe did come back Wednesday, I figured he probably needed to go to the bank. He never told me if he went to the whorehouse, he did have a haircut, so I figured he probably did.
     So I said to Joe, “I’ve never heard you talking to ravens.” He said a couple hours later, “you don’t talk out loud. You talk in pictures.” So I figured that was bull shit. I knew Ace was putting out cyanide for the coyotes. I figured the ravens were probably eating it, he just forgot to spread any on my side of the creek.
     Did never find out if talking to the ravens in pictures worked or not because a few days later lambing was wrapping and I left the drop bunch with 1000 Columbia ramboulette cross ewes and lambs and headed up towards Tensleep. I was ready to get out of there anyway, I kept thinking about Lydia Steed and her freckles. It was driving me nuts. Joe Aguilar had a transistor radio, and every time this duet with Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmy Lou Harris came on I kept thinking about Riverton.
     I had forgotten that story with Joe Aguilar until I was walking today in the woods looking for some decent red root. Not the kind I’ve been finding lately which has been yellow on the inside. I hate red root that’s yellow. I mean yellow red root? C’mon. I mean it still makes a decent medicine, but it you compare it to redroot that’s red all the way through it’s just not the same. It doesn’t have that wintergreen. It doesn’t have the bite.
     These ravens were really bothering me, focusing on me. I guess they hungry. It’s just that I didn’t come up here to listen to caw, caw, caw. I hadn’t thought of Joe Aguilar in years. What’s that about? So I tried it, I started talking in pictures to the raven. I saw the raven flying high in the sky. It worked the raven started riding the thermals on the rimrocks. He was dancing in the sky, real pretty to watch. I called him back down and he came back and landed in a big Ponderosa pine that was struck by lightning. Then I realized I had to make with the raven. That’s why I came up here, not for red root.
     Unfinished business. I had to remember, take serious the memories. I had been forgetting. I had been trying to escape the thoughts of my own mind. I hadn’t been paying attention. I hadn’t been listening. I was too concerned with what people would say about me. I wanted approval. I blocked access to my own thinking. I started looking out, or even looking in, but neither looking out or looking in is important- what matters is looking at whatever is there. Seeing it.
    So me and the ravens we were talking back and forth in pictures. Me sitting on the edge of the rimrocks, raven up in the lightning struck Ponderosa pine. Raven was raven, I was myself. We were both listening. I wasn’t sure if were listening to one another But I felt listening going on. I felt more sensitive. I started to notice how my body felt sitting on the edge of this cliff.
     Along time ago there was another raven A raven in a chicken coup. There was a raven bothering my chickens. I got extremely pisssed off with that raven. I would get up in the morning at sunrise, to get that raven. We both had issues with some chickens some time ago. Well not issues with the chickens, issues with the eggs. We both liked that sweet, creamy orange yolk from those little Arcana hens.
     I was living by this time just west of the Paria river. In a little bit of private land surrounded by BLM. I loved those chickens and loved those eggs. Winter was starting to freeze, the hens weren’t laying well. Then it started. This raven started cracking the eggs and eating up the yolks. I wasn’t getting any eggs at all, just broken shells. Raven would sit up in a shred bark Utah one seeded juniper. Wait for the hens to lay. Then hop step into the coup and eat them. This raven was getting the best of me, the only thing I could think of the black raven eating my blue Arcana chicken eggs.
     So raven and I got into this struggle. I’d set out there with my plinker, waiting for raven to land in the juniper. Without fail as soon as I moved, he’d fly off. I tried everything. I set up a blind, as soon as I grabbed my plinker,  the raven would fly away. This went on for some time I did get some good shots, not sure if I winged him, as he took off. I might of gotten him I don’t know.
     As things would have it, it didn’t matter. Not much later a tall leggy bobcat got in the coup. Hop stepping just like the raven. As I was still trying to get raven I had my plinker next to the coup. I ended up shooting the bobcat. Turns out he had a bum leg. Usually bob cats don’t hang around people. Not during the day. Got a decent skin from that cat, which I brain tanned, funny thing after that the raven disappeared. He never came back. Maybe I did get him, not sure.
     That was the unfinished business. So now to day on my hike, all these thoughts of ravens and unfinished business. That’s what I needed to clear up. When I walk in the woods there can’t be unfinished business. I needed to solve the past to embrace the present. The past was holding me back. Unfinished business with raven had to be addressed now.
      So I explained to raven in pictures how nice I thought he was flying. How sleek and black his feathers looked in the grey sky as he was riding the thermals. I was glad I saw him today. I gave him some more pictures. I saw the raven flying way up in the sky. I saw him with his mate, and I hoped she’d be a good one.
I wished them well to have lot’s of raven chicks, lot’s of babies.
    I can’t say the raven gave me any pictues. I did look straight down where I was sitting. I’m not sure the raven gave me a picture to look down or not. The raven took off back to the thermals. I realized I made peace with the black raven. Something changed. Algerita. Didn’t expect to see any Oregon grape up this way. When I looked down I saw two Mahonia, two Berberis repens. I had been hiking about three or four hours and hadn’t seen any. Right there at my feet were two. One was bright green, the other bright red.
     I pulled up a little piece and started chewing on the bright mustard yellow Algerita root. The peace got deeper and deeper. I knew I had been holding on to that for a long time. It was a block.  I was fighting that black raven. I couldn’t see the raven only the Arcana eggs.  I couldn’t see how beautiful he flies. I was disturbed by the ravens honking, caw, caw, caw.
     I kept eating Algerita. I knew it was the medicine I was needing. It was a good medicine. I never felt that from Oregon grape. It was bitter, with a hint of east coast sassafras, hint of wintergreen. I knew deer brought medicine, everybody knows that. Not ravens, this was something new. I was finally feeling better n this, some kind of breakthrough. Then I realized the raven was gone.
    So I sent a picture just like Joe Aguilar said. I called back the raven. I sent him a picture of Algerita. Just a tiny bit of blue sky broke through. The mountains on the other side were illuminated. I felt there was an exchange, good medicine. Finally today I made peace with the raven.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Snow Melting

"Snow melting, trees ice covered, melting along the river, sweet days, water flows, grateful to be alive with you." by Paul Manski

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Medicine Garden Love, original song by Paul Manski

"Medicine Garden Love", an original song composed and recorded by Paul Manski, 12-17-2016. Viola, bass, guitar, vocals by Paul Manski.
Lyrics: "Medicine garden love
Walk in balance, balance love 
Roots on the mountain roots are loved
Art is your suppliance, art is love
Walking on the mountain Mountain you are loved walking on the mountain Michael you're loved 
Walking on the mountain Mary you are loved 
Walking on the mountain Simon you are loved 
everything is perfect now made in 

I believe in oshà and monarda
following tracks
ocotillo and red root
listening to plant teachers
feeding spirit
beautiful moon
walking green earth
medicine is in the roots when 
You walk in love

Medicine garden love
Walk in balance, balance love 
Roots on the mountain roots are loved
Art is your suppliance, art is love
Walking on the mountain Mountain you are loved walking on the mountain Jesse you're loved 
Walking on the mountain Wes and Sierra you are loved 
 everything is perfect now made in love
Walking on the mountain mountain you are loved

Move people feet to begin
Gather the plants sister
dance song begins
mountains are walking river don't end
words make the picture
be your truth ...
Be the truth of love
Be the truth of love

Medicine garden love based in love
Walk in balance, balance love 
Roots on the mountain roots are loved
Art is your suppliance, art is love
Walking on the mountain Mountain you are loved walking on the mountain Only love

I believe in oshà and monarda
following tracks
ocotillo and red root
listening to plant teachers
feeding spirit

Move people feet to begin
Gather the plants sister
dance song begins
mountains are walking river don't end
words make the picture
be the truth of your pictures
Be the truth of love
in the medicine garden
Your words are love

Medicine garden love
Walk in balance, balance is love 
Roots on the mountain, mountain you are loved
Art is your suppliance, art is love
Walking on the mountain Michael you are loved 
Walking on the mountain and the mountain is love"
-by Paul Manski

Friday, October 28, 2016

Herbal Medicine Road and meditatating on the Hippocratic Oath

Further meditations on the talking point, Hippocratic oath and the plant medicine road:
An oath is a promise that we make privately & publicly and in this case with the plant medicines on the plant medicine Road. Hippocrates is the talking point because his concept of ethics has been part of a 2500 year old talk. It is worth revisiting this conversation. Hippocrates speaking to the people of his time 400 BC Greek, related there must be an openness to sharing the teachings, an openness to follow through with that openness. Hippocrates  was himself bound by his cultural envelope and in his Oath spoke of passing on the teaching to males and male heirs, this i do not condone or in anyway seek to emulate. The plant medicine Road is not a female only clique. It is not a Male only club. It relates to our greater participation in the environment beyond our own personal birth and death. The plant medicine Road is a trans personal endeavor. It crosses culture, political boundaries, and social stigma. For in what we have gathered, within that is a commitment to share. It is also within the realm of that sharing, that there is a quality of danger. What we share can be misused, misinterpreted, and in addition to a perfect transmission laden with danger, there is also the imperfect transmission, whether originating in the student or the teacher. There is danger of a person approaching the plants directly. Plants are powerful living creatures. They are often tricksters and they exist in a world outside of our own making. Plants themselves have a myriad manifestation within their ecological niche. One plant that comes to mind is Estafiate, Artemesia ludoviciana. Although in no way a dangerous plant, it is a plant that morphs with regards to it's environment. Estafiate can grow along a water course, it can grow in a Alpine mountainous environment, the low desert, in a multitude of environments. Within each of those environments Estafiate is somewhat of a different plant. Presenting  itself in different ways. It presents itself differently both physically in its appearance and also medicinally in regard to its constituents. Plants present themselves in the pollen highway and there is often hybridization of the plant, plants combine with other plants of the same species often times revealing different ways of expressing themselves. In addition to this hybridization which occurs within nature as part of the multifactorial interchange of genetic information on the pollen highway there is also plants that are look-alike plants. Some of these look-alike plants although in the same genera may possess completely different characteristics, poisonous qualities. It is much different when buying a plant from a reputed source compared to going out into the plant gardens and interfacing yourself with them. The Safetynet of trust on the plant medicine road is contained in your own willingness to go deeper, to dive deep into the plant medicine garden visiting it time and time again throughout the seasons, throughout conditions and knowing who is who, what is what, and where is where. The danger factor can only be mitigated by a careful study throughout time, a discipline to commit to the plant Medicine Road. Luckily for us on the plant medicine road the power of the plant is contained in The stored vitality, stored in root. The leaves are very much part of an exoteric, open tradition where as the roots are part of a more esoteric tradition, and inner tradition passed on face to face directly from person to person. The plants themselves have been identified and re-identified by noted plant persons in different ways at different times. One such plant is Baneberry, red cohosh, Actea rubra.
The noted herbalist Michael Moore, if you follow the pathway of his books, in one of his initial books he identified Actaea rubra as a poison through and through from top to bottom, with no appropriate medical use. Even a warning not to use or engage with this plant. In his later books he took back this warning and re-described Actea rubra as a legitimate medical plant which could be used, gathered, and harvested safely. With Actea rubra it is a legitimate question to ask, did the plant itself change? It takes great courage to revise an understanding and to say, I was wrong about this plant, I didn't understand it fully, and my understanding now has changed. It is important that we continually engage with the plants and revise our understanding according to what the plants have given us. This can be what part of the plant is used, there is a growing movement in the body of herbal knowledge to go away from the distilled powerful root of the plant and go more towards the aerial above ground portions of the plant for medicinal use. This can also be how the plant is used, methods of preparation and what the plant is used for as a remedy. Disease states and disease processes change and morph within our human community and whether the plants themselves have changed in their medicinal quality or not is a legitimate question, yet it is obvious that the way that we use plants will change. While it is clear that books, online courses, and new methods of communication will arise, there is no substitute for the actual face-to-face transmission along the face of the plant medicine Road. Both the sharing of information and the growth that occurs within community, and direct relationship with others along the plant medicine Road cannot be underestimated.
     It's within the nature of the face-to-face transmission between plant, place and person that we need to continue that face-to-face transmission outside of ourselves, outside of our personal comfortable container. Part of the oath of the plant medicine road is to engage with others in the community with the sharing of information regarding plant person and place. In the nature of plant person and place there is a human dimension. When ever we step out of our personal container and engage in community we meet with the other. The other is by its nature different from ourselves. On this level we relate to other people with different values, different backgrounds, different political and social perspectives. There is a tendency with human beings to create a litmus test of, are you with us? How do you stand on this issue? For this we must maintain a neutrality with regard to who is with us, and look at the existential value of a persons intention to engage on the medicine road as the sole litmus test of sharing. Hippocrates spoke of the need for a sexual morality in relationship to the transmission of knowledge. The sharing of knowledge from expert to novice implies vulnerability and often youth. Vulnerability, youth, and innocence, have their own benefits and power. It is the responsibility of the teacher on the plant medicine road to be aware of youth, vulnerability, and innocence, and not use these for personal gain. It is important that within the transmission of this direct face-to-face knowledge that there is a respect for the vulnerability of the novice on the part of the teacher. It is perfectly reasonable to expect that people will gather together based on their common interests sharing the gifts that they bring from their unique place. That relationships will form along the plant medicine Road is an obvious fact of our human existence. What is required is that both the novice and the more experienced on the plant medicine Road acknowledge the sacredness of the journey and do not take advantage of that vulnerability and innocence for personal gain. 
    From what I have understood of the plant medicine Road there is no place for race, ethnicity, color, or tribe. While some have tried to encapsulate plant knowledge with regard to race, to place plant knowledge within the boundaries of a safe container as a ethnic group,  or inner circle, i think there is a strong judgment upon this. It's not a judgment within the human realm of judging it has to do with the exchange loop. The exchange has to do with an open movement, within the promise and oath that we make is a promise to be involved with the openness of this exchange. Within our promise is a commitment to the dynamic quality of this exchange outside of our own specific birth and death. We are making a promise to participate within this exchange that is an ongoing process with the plant place and persons. The exchange process that we are committing to is no other than the process of life and death. Both our own life and death and the knowledge body of plant materia medica that is passed on along the plant medicine road. Time is shown to be harsh with those who try to bind herbal knowledge within the confines of ethnicity, of a certain racial group and present a barrier to this knowledge in the sense of not sharing freely openly in the sense of an open container, it seems that  people who trapped by this belief system or exclusivity, will with time gradually lose, and diminish the herbal knowledge they seek to protect. They have chosen to withdraw themselves from the exchange process, the continuum of exchange between plants, person and place which is the basis of our medicine road. This is not to say that there is not an aspect of protection in the sense of ethics with regard to the plant's themselves medicine road. There must be a careful stewardship of those medicine gardens that exist especially in the open West and what remains of the great American wilderness. The fundamental quality to this protection has to do with love, love of the plant medicines, love of the place, and love of the people who will benefit from this plant medicine Road. The fundamental quality of this protection has to do with the oath to the plant medicine road, the promise that is made, to share freely without regard to sex, age, without regard to particular creed or political affiliation, and without regard to ethnic background. The fundamental quality of the plant medicine road has to do with dynamism with the extreme life force that is present in the plants that demands an equally dynamic approach to sharing. The plants themselves are seeking to relate within the realm of plant person and place. There cannot be a native American herbalism. There cannot be a Latino herbalism. There cannot be a White Caucasian herbalism. There cannot be a feminist or gay, queer or transgendered herbalism. There cannot be a male or a female herbalism.  There can only be the herbalism of herbalism.  It is a fundamental quality of openness. With regard to the plants themselves there is an obviousness of the willingness to share their medicinal songs without regard to tradition, person or background. The plants themselves have a rather harsh judgment on those who over harvest or share information in such a way as to be grandiose and point to the person sharing the information rather than the plants themselves in their environment. To those who are seeking there must be a corresponding movement towards sharing. Sharing outside of personal gain and sharing based on the promise and oath of resiliency within the plant medicine Road. 
      Sharing medicine and sharing knowledge can relate to selling only if the primary basis of that selling is based on sharing with out regard to the ability to pay in terms of finance. Finance and money have a symbolic aspect within our human interaction yet finance is limited to our human interaction, when we relate directly to the plants we must move outside of the realm of money and finance into the heart. There is payment to be made. There is payment to be done. That payment is rooted within the plant person and place and relates to the quality of commitment and intention on the part of the student. The teacher is a conduit, a voice for the plants and is a spokesperson and translator of the subtle nuanced message of the plants on the plant medicine road. The plants themselves are the teacher and it is a mistake to idolize or in someway focus on the particular conduit for that knowledge on the plant medicine Road. It goes without saying that the person who is seeking medicine or teaching within the medicine road has a whole hearted desire, and centered purpose. It is only within the fullness of time that this tenacity to learning can be judged or evaluated. The exchange is based upon the purity of intention, not upon the ability to pay or repay, The exchange is based upon a greater whole within the plant person and place. For this reason Hippocrates made it clear within the oath that payment for teaching was not to be the basis upon which teaching is done. It is not that the student does not pay, or the teacher does not accept payment, but that the primary fundamental objective is the loyalty within the medicine road and the transmission of this knowledge from generation to generation. We are here for a short time, the plants in the plant medicine road will be here after we are gone, along with the needs of people to make use of this medicine way. The oral tradition and the direct transmission of the plant medicine road with the presence of the plant person and place in a face-to-face encounter is the best method of relating to teaching in the transmission for future generations of the plant medicine Road. There is no substitute for the subtle nuances of learning other than the face to face direct transmission within  plant person and place. That this face-to-face transmission is problematic, has no doubts. Yet the face to face transmission is the journey we must make and prepare. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

El Empacho Remedio: Nebada, Poleo, Hinojo, Menta de Lobo and Hinojo

     Understanding El Empacho:

   Empacho is a term used in the south west and refers to stomach distress, Empacho is when food gets stuck in the intestines or accumulates around the stomach. It often manifests with a blocking in the epigastric area. I was wanting to make this formula for a while now.
Today while walking along the river the herbs came to me. Our recent mild October weather brought up new growth of Bugle weed, Poleo and Catnip- the 3 ingredients along with fennel seed which are the basis of this remedio.
    In empacho the food becomes stuck and digestion suffers. This can lead to bloating, gas and constipation in dry empacho, or loose stools in wet empacho.  There is dry empacho with constipation and wet empacho with diarrhea. It can occur for several reasons including:
eating fatty foods, eating outside the normal rhythm; eat faster or slower than usual, eating foods that are not well prepared; They may be raw or eating foods that are difficult to digest like too many beans and not enough vegetables. In anglos empacho can occur from eating too much bread, pizza, eating on the run, eating with strangers.
     In traditional south west teaching, eating should be done with friends and loved ones.There should be harmony with the cook, and the people eating together. Food must be balanced. Balanced in relation to the hot and cold intrinsic characteristics of the elements consumed. It's best not to eat too late, the last meal should be finished near sunset.
    There is a special type of emapacho that occurs with nursing mothers and their babies. Women and girls are often nursing, feeding babies and both their state of mind and what they are doing influences their milk. This can create colic in the baby drinking the mommas milk. Therefore fruits that are "cold" like oranges and watermelons, should not be consumed by pregnant women whose nature at that time is "hot". Likewise they should avoid windy places because the wind can enter the milk. In this sense, the ingestion of "cold" or "hot" food in the nursing mother can cause milk "curds" and harm the infant, just as if being in the sun too much she in excess or suffers a "cooling off" when wash or take a bath. Consequence of this is the "enlechamiento"  a variety of 'colic' that occurs when the child eats breast milk under the conditions listed, or mom offers her milk too frequently, too much,  or Mom nurses her baby after suffering a surprise event (shock) or a stressful event. In all cases, the milk is in lumps, and produces colic in the baby. The baby will be filled with gas and crying, if it progresses the baby will lose sleep and lose weight.
     If the Mom is frightened, or mistreated by her husband, if there is a lot of yelling in the house, this can spoil the milk. If the woman is angry or jealous she may spill bile into the milk, creating empacho in the baby. Empacho can also be caused by older women beyond child bearing years who is jealous of the Mom with her baby. Jealous of her youth and beauty, she may intentionally or unintentionally stare at the Mom or kiss the baby and create a special type of empacho which can be helped by this remedio, but it may require a cleansing by someone able to do so.
     Recently I was with a woman who had some how been exposed to this type of 'susto' or fright. She was a bright, attractive and well educated, yet she was living in her car. Moving continuously from place to place she wasn't able to accomplish her goals. Then I noticed she was drawn to some herbs I had on the table, some traditional Remedios. She was drawn to the Espiritu de Poleo I had made and some yerba santa smudge sticks. In another south west tradition this is called moth sickness. Moths are drawn towards flames. Someone with moth sickness is unable to remain in one place. They are continually coming and going. Often seeking romantic relationships of a transitory nature, they may leave their partners unexpectedly seeking to hook up for one night stands. They go again and again towards the flame, eventually burning in the flame. Something outside of themselves is compelling them to run around. Leave their loved ones and family and go tramping about. It's not like they enjoy this running around. They are suffering. She agreed to try a limpia, which I did with yerba santa, and tincture of osha, Ligusticum porteri. It was a great help to her. In this type of susto, it's often necessary to use herbal formulas and techniques to resolve the condition.
     (left to right)  Poleo, Menta de lobo, Nebada

     El Empacho Remedio is a traditional remedy for treating empacho. I use the following 4 herbs together in a formula called El Empacho Remedio:Nebada, Poleo, Hinojo, and Menta de Lobo. Nebada is catnip Nepeta cateria. Poleo, is our native bit Mentha arvensis. Hinojo is Foeniculum vulgar or Fennel seed. Menta de Lobo is Lycopus americanus or Bugle weed.
    The first ingredient is Nebada, or catnip, Nepeta cateria. I prefer the catnip which grows wild along the river. Nebada relieves stomachache, cramps, and spasms of the intestinal tract. The second ingredient is Poleo, Mentha arvensis. Poleo is a sweet and spicy mint growing in riparian areas. It relieves stomach pain, and settles the stomach along with dispersing heat. It is used as a colic remedio for infants. The 3rd ingredient is Menta de Lobo, Bugle weed, Lycopus americanus. The traditional name Menta de lobo refers to Lycopus refers to the greek 'lyco", wolf and 'plus'-little foot, referring to the plants leaf shape. Michael Moore, in Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West, states, "Bugle weed is specific to nervous indigestion, being both tonic and nervine. As a sedative and tranquilizer it is strong but not druggy, producing few symptoms other than relaxation...much better than something like Valerian...", this combination of equal parts Nebada, Poleo, Menta de Lobo with seeds of Hinojo makes an exquisite remedio for empacho. I encourage you to try it.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Bear House, Rio del Oso, the Bear river

     Today I spent the day along bear river, Rio del Oso, Bear House. At the Bear House we have different medicines than say at the Deer House, or the Elk house. Each of the different houses will offer different medicines. I'd like to share with you some of my insights from this house. This little known river begins and ends in the same place which is very unusual with rivers. Because it begins and ends in the same place, it isn't well know. Yet it is famous, the plants like Aralia racemosa sing loudly here. In the spring Lycopus americanus makes it clear this is Bear House. Of course the plants along the Rio del Oso are tended and planted by the Bears. I've noticed there can be big differences with medicine plants planted by the bear versus those plant by the Deer at Deer House. The Poleo here is more sweet because the bears enjoy it this way. The deer, their poleo is more like a Salvia, slightly bitter, resembling acorns from Gambel oaks.
     Most rivers begin in the mountains and then go into the valley. Often times rivers begin as small streams in the high high country, meet other streams in a downward flow. This is called a downward moving river.  This river is different because it remains in the mountains and really doesn't go anywhere. In fact if you try to follow this river you'll find yourself going in circles because this river begins and ends at the same place. The reason this river remains in the mountains is to preserve the essential teaching of Bear House. 
      Rio del Oso, unlike many rivers that referred to something that is no longer there, this river actually has bears and today I could see, they're wandering along the river. The bear was walking through the poleo, the Mentha arvensis, our beloved native mint,
     The bear was close enough that I could smell his footsteps sweet, musky, tangy fragrance and warmth. The smell was slightly sour like an apple after you've eaten it, and several hours later  you press your lips on another's and you can still taste the Apple faintly as your tongue touches hers. I could see the bear was walking deliberately with somewhere to go slowly but each step was measured and was carefully placed through the poleo, unlike the river which goes in circles and begins and ends in the same place and really goes nowhere. It would be wrong to say the river goes nowhere, the river is moving in it's own way and seems satisfied to to be a meandering river. 
     Also along the Rio del Oso is oregano del campo, monarda. When the bears establish medicine gardens along this river they often place monarda as an indicator species. The bears prefer to work with monarda to balance their tendency towards stagnation. Monarda is a mover, it moves and uplifts and energizes, especially the lungs. Moisture is always an issue in wet moist damp places and monarda mobilizes and fortifies the lungs. Bears have a tendency to sleep a lot so you'll often find these warm, quickening herbs along the Rio del Oso.
and oregano de la sierra, another monarda. You'll find the bears work with these two types of monarda all along the Rio del Oso. The bears do their teachings with plants they grow along the river. It's best to spend time with this plant and look at differences between these two monardas. 
    It would be right to say that both of these are mints. They are said to be in the Mint family,  Lamiaceae or Labiate, in general warming, aromatic plants. It would also be right to say that they are not mints. These plants are like trees and if you look at them closely you can see them waving in the wind just as you would see a white fir waving in the wind, it matters little to the wind whether the oregano de la Sierra 
or oregano de campo move, or don't move in the wind.  Wind is a bit much like the Rio del Oso,  neither moving or coming or going, like the river the wind begins and ends in the same place. The only way to know if the wind is blowing is to look at oregano del campo and oregano de la sierra and see if it is moving. There is a difference between something moving and something going some where. Oregano del campo and oregano de la sierra are rooted in the ground, they move though they arrive and depart from the same place. Even so they create movement in the body, in the digestive system and in the lungs, they produce warmth and perspiration on the skin.
They are moving yet they rarely travel. The Rio del oso likewise moves yet the river remains within it's banks. 
     Poleo and monads of all kinds, appear along the river. You may wonder who it is that plants these wonderful flowers and medicines that grow on the river, that grow along the river that begins and ends in the same place? Well it's clear that these flowers don't grow on their own and I can tell you because I've watched the Bears planting these flowers along the river as they walk through the Poleo, oregano del campo, and oregano de la sierra, ox-eye daisy, yerbal del lobo.
The Bears carry bags of seeds in a little pouch around their neck. You can see the Bears gently tapping the seeds with their back paws and putting a little bit of dirt on top of them so that they can grow.
    I noticed the same thing with small medicine deer at Deer House. There the deer are in charge. There the deer plant the seeds and order the seasons. At the Deer House the deer are the keepers. Here at Rio del Oso, the bear do the planting. This is a bear's garden, the other a deer garden. It's important to know whether you are in Deer House or Rio del Oso.
      It is extremely common during the summer rainy season, when the bears are walking through their patches of polio, to meet plant teachers who inhabit these places. Some of the plant teachers are plants, others are places, still others are persons. These are the plant teachers that hold the world together with the depth of their understanding. Sometimes the plant teachers are rocky black lava rock cliffs, in those places you approach those teachers. You study and listen to rocky skree slopes. You may stay there learning from the rocks. This is called studying rocks. At other times and other places you may meet teachers that are trees. So in that situation you would greet the tree. You study and listen to tree lectures, songs and do tree learning. This is called studying trees.
    All the plant teachers  come to this Bear river precisely to gather insight into the nature of poleo. Poleo and the oreganos, campo and sierra, are known as Harmony inducing plants. These plants when they are seen almost immediately produce a sense of harmony. These then are balancing plants and they balance the lives of the world around them whether those lives are rocks, trees, birds, the elk, the bear, the deer, or the plant medicine teachers who gather together on the banks of this and other rivers.
      Gathering together is the real work of making medicine. Gathering with rocks is rock gathering. Gathering with trees is tree gathering. We are always gathering together and finding ways to do this medicine work. 
     Often when you find a plant teacher walking along the bear River you also will find an apprentice. Sometimes a rock teacher may have a plant apprentice. Often lava rocks are teaching Aralia, they seek each other out for learning, sometimes just companionship. Sometimes a tree, an aspen for instance may have a plant apprentice. The Aspen may be teaching Alta misa or giving insight to bane berry, Actea rubra. Sometimes a bear may be instructing a turkey. A stellar jay may be working with a Ponderosa pine. These different relationships of student and apprentice are important on the plant medicine road.
     These apprentice students are often teachers in their own right and sometimes it's not clear who is the teacher and who is the student. These days the herbal apprentices are mainly making flower essences. In the past they primarily made teas with water. Regardless of who is the teacher and who is the apprentice there's no question that deep study and learning is going on along this bear River.
     As we walk along the Rio del Oso, the Bear River within the Bear house, the medicine gathered there is distinctly bear medicine. The relationships between the plants there are organized by the bear gardeners, who also send out their animal friends. This experimental, experiential relationship of student and apprentice at the Bear House quickens herbal learning. Often times questions arise on how to enter into a deeper understanding of herbalism. The plant schools set up along the Rio del Oso are recommended for this study. Multiple schools of long standing are available for students wishing to deepen their understanding of herbal medicine.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Herb for Depression: Faith, Hope and Charity

Herbs for Depression 

Recently I had a chance to hang out with a very sweet informed and high being his name is Thomas Easley and he's noted herbalist and he was at the Western Traditions In Herbalism Conference in Cloudcroft, New Mexico, put on by Kiva Rose and Jesse 'Wolf' Hardin. This is a great gathering of herbal teachers held annually. Next years conference will be in June 2017 in southern Colorado.
     Thomas was a well received and respected presenter there. I on the other hands was on the periphery at this conference, I was more or less a peddler with a table hawking, selling some of the herbs and plants and tinctures that I had gathered from around my home, my place, my bioregion of The Southwest desert mountains and sky islands of the Arizona New Mexico border.

      There was a break one morning and while most of the attendees of the conference were busy learning attending classes from some of the top amazing plant teachers at the conference, the rest of us were down there in the basement talking plant story.

     Thomas Easley in his very easy-going relaxed way of being sat down directly on the floor and we proceeded to talk about things like liver stress, acetaminophen, birth control pills, pain relief, sleep, stress and addressing those topics within the framework of our understanding of herbal medicine. I had some plants there that I had wild harvested things like silktassel, oshá, Aralia , monarda and also things and bottles. The topic shifted to good herbs for sleep for producing restful sleep and hops came up, Humulus lupulus. We all came to a loose agreement, a gathering of the minds, sort of consensus that, "yes, some of these herbs would be helpful for a person with insomnia." Then Thomas dropped a bombshell as he does with his matter-of-fact, slight drawl, Alabama born and raised,  sweet soft barely detectable southern accent and said, "Hops can help promote sleep, yet in my clinical practice I've never met a person with a hops deficiency." 
      And it's of course, no one has a hops deficiency. In the sense of someone may have a B12, reduced hemoglobin or protein deficiency, there's no such thing as a hops deficiency. Hops can help a person get to sleep yet there is no such thing as a hops deficiency. So in a sense the purpose of an herbalist is to get some one to a point where they no longer need The herbs that the herbalist provides.
      I started out wanting to talk about depression  specifically what herbs or herbal treatments may be helpful for a person with depression. A legitimate question would be, "what do you know about depression?", "about treating depression?", "what do you know about herbs?", "what do you know about herbs for depression?"
"Paul, what do you know about anything really?"

   For 12 years, 5 days a week 8-16 hours a day, I had an opportunity to meet and greet people in crisis, working in an acute psych facility in America's fifth biggest city. They had decided to jump off a bridge.

They had decided to swallow bottles of pills.They had decided to fire a loaded handgun into parts of their body. They had decided they were going to stop eating, and now were experiencing kidney failure due to their inability to supply their body with the nutrients necessary to support the vital organs. They had decided to lay down on the railroad tracks and sever the limbs of the body, and in a sense they were successful in that now they had one arm rather than two. Most were at the end of their rope both literally and figuratively in that they were helpless hopeless and not wanting to live anymore. The basics like eating drinking water, bathing your body, talking to other people, working, engaging in any type of activity that might produce joy happiness peace, they were no longer interested. All sorts of stories presented themselves to me during these encounters.
And if depression,  self harm, lack of interest, lack of feeling, lack of action are the north side, shady, yin side of this dilemma, I was also presented with the Yang. The people who slept 18 hours a day and the people who didn't sleep at all. The people who wanted to kill themselves and the people who wanted to kill other people. The people who would say nothing for weeks on end and the people who wouldn't stop talking. Who would eat standing up, constantly pacing. The person who wouldn't get out of bed in the morning and the person who might walk up to you and sucker punch you in the jaw and then walk away laughing. The constant stories of speculation and conspiracy, the government out to get you, implanted devices in our bodies controlling us, incredible fear of the world. Fear of microwaves and computers, fear of water, fear of listening, fear of trust, waves of fear, anger, hate, self loathing. 
     Besides the various issues that people presented in this environment there was also the drama of the caregivers. Their own wounded egos presenting themselves. In short it was a powerful place for learning growth, Learning how to grow. And it led me myself to seek out ways of healing myself in a sense of maintaining a neutrality where I could respond to the needs of others yet not be overwhelmed in the process. I had in front of me in the DSM5, a way to see into the minds of people in the sense of an allopathic medicine construct. Yet I also had the learning model and system of the plant person and place- herbs and herbal medicine. 
     My introduction to herbal medicine occurred in my late teenage years when while still in high school I decided to walk across the state, a northeast deciduous mountain rolling hill state. This backpacking trip was crucial to my development now and then. One of the most important parts of this trip in terms of learning, as a young teenager was that the world that I lived in, the world of schools and friends and family was very much an urban experience. Yet the world just outside my door was in a sense wild and untamed and I made a vow then and there on Sugarloaf Mountain, during a lightning storm that no matter how long it took, no matter what it took,  I would learn about the place. I would learn about the plants. And I would learn how to use them. 

    Economic circumstances of the times let me away from that deciduous mountain cherry maple forest kingdom to come to the western United States, where I have lived since the 1980s continuing my study on the plants. I was able to work on a mobile drilling rig up and down the continental divide from Libby, Montana down to Silver city, New Mexico. I worked as a sheepherder in the middle of Wyoming. I worked for the park service,and forest service and state parks, often in very pristine beautiful places and during this time I always had my plant books always learning about new plants. I also lived for 14 years on the edge of a wilderness, 30 miles from the nearest gas station, or city of any size, this area which later became a national park on the Arizona Utah border. Again during this 14 years I always had my plant books my wife and family would be wandering around always with the plants. Michael's Moore's books always accompanied me on my journeys and eventually I came to the point where I needed to study and meet with others.
     That led me to John Slattery and Michael Cottingham both advanced in herbal ways and willing to take students. I continue on that path even in the present moment informed by their gracious teaching.