An ecotone is a transition zone in nature where two communities meet and integrate. This past weekend I had the chance to watch as my two favorite worlds collided, creating their own marshland of natural law. I live in this ecotone of Plant Medicine and the Dharma. This is my natural habitat. The opportunity to invite other people into it was new and unfamiliar. Strangely, as much as I carry this balance of the two with me, expressing it wasn't as easy as it should have been. Reflecting on the weekend, I am aware of so much missed opportunity to share that which is so familiar to me. Also, I am reminded of how much I can learn about my own ecosystem when others are present. This is of course the benefit of sangha and community. This makes me think of synergistic herbs. Synergists are plants that amplify the effects of other herbs. It's along the lines of the 2+2 =5 analogy that we often use to describe whole plant medicine. The whole being greater than the sum of its individual parts. This is reciprocity and interdependence.
Waking up the next day, kicking myself for not highlighting important pieces of the plant/Dharma connection, something dawned on me. I had been fully aware of certain things separately and as individual concepts. Why did I not point out these obvious parallels!? I should have made a greater effort explaining how the Tulsi we drank on Friday and Saturday opens our hearts, and how Sunday's Hawthorn keeps it protected. I should have verbalized the connection to the Dharani's. I missed the chance to point out that the chicory and dandelion coffee in the morning was intentional food for the probiotics we would eat all weekend. I failed to relay that the walking meditation was in a spiral of pre-biotic plants! I missed too many opportunities to tie together the people and plant connections. Then I understood, that even though I already had the information, I needed a synergist to draw the two together. Knowing two facts separately is not the same as knowing them combined. When the two concepts integrate, they become an ecotone of their own. A whole new biome, and a brand new understanding. It seems fitting that the plant ally of the weekend was Goldenrod. Solidago, meaning "to make whole".
Somewhere in the wildest vines
Are twisted words that needn't rhyme
Lost among the bramble leaves
The berries speak in poetry
Sticking thorns into the sides
Left to right the wrongs they hide
If all of nature would unfold
Under story never told
Would the canopy obscure the places
Where saplings leave the smallest traces
Reaching up beyond the weeds
Rooting for the shrubbery
This past weekend I held a class on the medicinal value of culinary herbs, at the beautiful School House Wellness Center in Lockport, NY. We focused on some "new" old ways of doing things in the kitchen. Culinary herbs are so often forgotten and overlooked as being supportive to our health, when really this is huge part of family herbalist history.
One hundred years ago every home would have had an herbalist. Although we didn't call them that. We called them mother, grandmother, or great grandmother. Healing our family through food and gardens was an every day job, a role fulfilled in the home. Through the use of raw honey, vinegar, and a relationship with herbs we can continue this tradition. During this class we discussed the simple tradition of solar infused herbal honey, making syrups, and infused vinegars. Of course, things are much different than they were in the early 1900's and we now have a broad and solid understanding of phyto-chemistry. Honoring traditions and combining them with our science minds allows for an even stronger relationship with the plant world. Through the knowledge of solubility, we are able to cultivate a deeper connection. When we are mindful and respectful of how constituents of plants best respond to extraction, we enter into an agreement with them. This is reciprocity, a reciprocal relationship.