I"m back from the Traditions in Western Herbalism conference and still processing the experience of my Woodstock. Gladly it lacked many things from the original Woodstock, but had the healing and transformative qualities to make it something I will always remember and cherish. It wasn't just the conference and the tremendous amount of information that was available. It was the landscape and the people. No cliques and every type of age, sex, color, background and knowledge level were there. Many grandmothers and young families. I saw amazing couples where the husband came with the wife and hung out in this beautiful place with the kids, playing; while mom and sometimes another child took classes.
My husband says he wants to go next year and just hang out at Ghost Ranch. I saw spouses and kids during the day as I walked from class to class or took a quick break at camp; playing ball, Frisbee and drawing in the dirt. There were beautiful young people with bright faces, Grandmothers with long silver braids, hippies and homesteaders. All knowledge levels were represented by people who knew nothing and came after seeing the flyer and grandmothers and grandfathers who had been teaching for years. People were cooking at their sites with passers by stopping in for hot water, a bite to eat and conversation. We didn't have a huge time between classes if we wanted to take all of them possible, so we sort of made friends where ever we happened to be for break. I ate with different people and felt free to walk up to any table either at camp or dining hall, sit and join in - even the "cool" table ;-) I think everyone said Hi and smiled as we passed on the trails. I kept doing it on the road as made stops on the way home - how fun!
There were huge cottonwood trees that you couldn't get your arms around and all the adobe structures I could inspect to get ides for my upcoming adobe project. As I walked up to the the adobe bathhouse at night, I could feel a noticeable warmth from being in the sun all day. Their camp ground was full with our large conference, other campers and a teen group. I never had to wait for a shower or toilet though, the accommodations were nice. I met a cool artist, Hannah Shook and her husband that I thought were there for the conference when I asked to sit at their fire and warm my cold morning toes.
Breakfast was one of my favorite times hanging out with my site neighbors, four awesome ladies of every age group. Next year, if I'm able to go, I'll eat more, if not all, of my food at the campsite. It'll be much more fun, more affordable and will taste better ;-) The walks to the classes were lined in huge beautiful trees, a breathtaking view, a grassy field with an old horse munching, abobe buildings, and sometimes groups of people laying outside in the grass under the trees at the dining hall. The people! Smiles, laughter, debate, conversation, pointing, thinking, painting, writing, documenting, hugging and studying.
Almost all of the classes I took were amazing. Rosemary Gladstar is a rockstar goddess and taught me more than I have even processed yet. Howie Brounstein and Jim McDonald are hysterically funny and kept us interested the whole class. Someone mentioned on facebook that the two of them and Sevensong should go on an herbal comedy tour. Each speaker and the musicans that performed at night were taking classes and hanging out with everyone else. I met all of them just about and got Rosemary to myself twice! I had imagined things I would ask her if we met and not one of them came to mind on our walk to our next class. Many of the classes were outside on the lawn under a tree, it was so beautiful out there.
The music was incredible and these woman played everynight. I remember once looking around and noticing several people drying their cheeks. Saturday night though they rocked the house!! Rising appalachia from New Orleans are amazing and their harmony vibrates into your bones. From their site:"Rising Appalachia is a genre-bending force of sound that uses vocal harmony, lyrical prowess and diverse artistic collaborations to defy cultural clichés and ignite a musical revolution". The band "Tina and her Pony" also played and were really good too. "FlamencoWorldCompany" was incredibly moving. The Grandmother's traditional dancing was so beautiful, I had to ask her for a hug when I saw her next.
Rising Appalachia started playing some rythmic banjo music and we all wanted to dance. It was hard to sit in your seats when your feet wanted to move, especially after having sat down a good part of the last two days. So they said if you want to dance move the seats - it didn't take long! Some of the teachers and grandmothers were on the front row from the presentation just before and were now suddenly in the middle of the dance floor. Everyone was dancing, claping and singing and large doors to the long house were open to the outside so the wind blew through and danced with us too. They announced that it was getting time to shut down, so I left before the last song to walk back by myself. I wanted to process my day on the walk back to the camp.
I walked off in a bright moon and could hear the harmony ringing out from the long house, bouncing off the canyon walls. Then riotous laughter from a large group of children and adults so far away I couldn't see their lights through the trees on the other side of the field. The laughter of the children in my right ear and harmony in my left. I thought how happy the trees and mountains must have been at that moment.
The most amazing thing were the children herbalists. Little kids wanting to go to the classes, taking notes and asking questions. I think some of the kids there knew more than me. One little boy around 4 was waiting with his mom for our herb walk. He kept showing this yellow flower, sort of dancing around and saying "Duck Duck Rubber Duck Rubber Duck". I thought he was being cute. The herb walk started and that plant was named Duck something - don't know where my notes are right now. Another cute 7 year old little girl in my class gave the thumbs up and huge smile to the lady next to her when her "favorite plant" cat's tail (I think) was being discussed. The same little herbalist cracked us all up later when she was hamming it up with our teacher Sevensong on our beautiful and educational herb walk. He runs a school in Ithaca very close to where I used to live and I wish I had taken his classes, what a great teacher.
I got the new book by Timothy Scott "Invasive Plant Medicine" and met the author. Very nice man and great book so far. There is a chapter in there on the amazing things the South could be doing with Kudzu! It's edible for livestock and humans and it helps clean petroleum contamination and other toxins from the environment. There is certainly plenty of it. I look forward to reading the rest of the book.
I learned so much and still have so much information to go through. The notes from most classes were provided since there were 3 or so classes to choose from at one time slot. It was almost impossible to choose sometimes and in one case I changed my mind three times on the way to the next class. Kiva and Wolf from the Anima lifeways and Herbal school did an incredible job organizing the days and were both so friendly and available.
When I left to go to the conference I felt like we were sort of alone in what we are trying to do here. One of the reasons we bought this place is to plant a large medicinal native herb garden and also return them to their habitat throughout our property. A college within 60 miles has a native species herbal plant garden and I'd really like to work with them. Ater listening to Rosemary's presentation, I learned so much about United Plant savers and never thought of them as a resource. I looked through their critical plant list before, compared it to a native species list to find Black Cohosh as a match and that was about it. I need to spend some time reading through thier site, but it sounds like I'll be able to learn a lot. Herbmentor was there filming and I had never thought at using them as a resource either. The president/ cameraman gave me some great tips about a camera and computer problem I've been struggling with. I really want to check out his herbal videos though! I left feeling like we have a support system in this project, more information and more resources.
I can't get pictures to post yet but maybe tomorrow. Tonight I go to sleep and dream about my week.