The High Price of Wellness

I’m not incredibly wealthy, but I am well-aware of my privilege as a white, college-educated woman. I grew up very middle class and thanks to the Texas Guaranteed Tuition Plan (which I wrote about here) I am debt free.  Because I am training to be a clinician I have invested quite a bit of money in health and health education and though I dislike spending lots of money I look at it as a business investment because who wants to take advice from an unhealthy clinician? I also am fortunate to live in a place where I’ve been able to barter, use high quality sliding scale services and get very reasonable payment plans and even then all of my money is going to classes, herbs (building an apothecary), cooking supplies, water filtration (dude, getting fluoride out is expensive) and the occasional functional medicine appointment. Is my health worth it? Of course, but I could not justify the expense if I did not also think it would eventually lead to financial gain. Is that screwed up? Yea! Gah…capitalism…but let’s leave that rant for another day.  Continue reading

The Moody Blues

Outside there is sun.
It is only sun
But men stare at it
And afterwards they sing.

I don’t know the sun.
I know the melody of angels
And the hot sermon of the last gale.
It screams until sunrise
When death poses naked
In my shadow.
-Excerpt from “The Cage”  (my translation)

The above is an excerpt for one on my favorite poets, Alejandra Pizarnik an Argentine Jew who killed herself in the 70s at the age of 36. I am drawn to these lines because I feel it captures the particular type of sadness that can creep into your body in early spring when everything is coming alive again and you are stuck. This time of year, historically has been tough for me, but today as I prepared the earth for planting I realized just how far I have come. Continue reading

The Poetry of Science

Growing up I was always told that my gift was my ability to use words. In vocabulary and reading tests I nearly always scored in the 99th percentile while my math scores hovered above and below mediocre. In the fifth grade I wrote an essay about playful grass, streaming sunshine and how alive spring made me feel and my teacher showed it to my parents and told them he thought I would make an excellent writer one day and as their only child (together, I have a half-sibling) they delightfully agreed. It was in that moment that writing became a part of my being and I am still grateful to that teacher for pointing it out, but it was also around that time that science seemed to close off to me. I was a humanities person and not a math and science person. I read voraciously, wrote poetry and short stories, excelled in literature and foreign language courses and went on to get an undergraduate degree in Spanish and Portuguese. In college I took basic biology, nutrition and history of science courses which I loved, but those were considered “easy” and I didn’t think I’d ever be able to handle a chemistry or physics course. When I began to venture into herbal medicine I realized that I had missed my calling and this was  mainly because of the way science had been presented to me. Now, at 25 I am slowly taking steps to reclaim it.  Continue reading

Chaparral Lavender Lotion

I’ve been pretty absent from this blog due to months of frantic travel, but now I am back home in West Texas to recharge for a month or two and hope to get back in the swing of things. We have a full house: there are three senior citizens, one nearing senior citizenhood, three teenage girls, a doofy dog and me! It can be challenging at times, but you are definitely never lonely or bored and there are lots of people to try herbal recipes on. Continue reading

Eulogy to a Dying Town

I stand at the edge of a desert cemetery watching the impressions that my feet make in the sand. It is a cool, sunny, mild winter’s day in West Texas. I look up at the ominous cypress trees and blink away the sun and then scan the graves that are brightly decorated with silk and paper flowers. “Even the flowers are dead,” I say to myself under my breath. And as much as I’d rather be anywhere but here, I have to admit that this is a victory, which is a horribly depressing thought. It is easier to mourn the dead than wonder about the dissappeared.  Continue reading

Talking to Plants

I learned A LOT in herb school, sometimes there was so much information that I thought my head would actually explode, but there is one simple thing I feel you must learn before you can even consider being an herbalist. You have to develop a relationship with the plants you work with. Developing that is what turns it into an art; you wouldn’t call a house painter a muralist or a bricklayer an architect so I hope you wouldn’t call someone who puts plants into useful little categories an herbalist.  Continue reading

Emailing Shamans, Critical Thinking, and Retrieving Souls

On Tuesday I emailed a shaman. That is a very bizarre sentence, when I say it aloud to myself I can’t help but chuckle, but the 21st Century is a very bizarre time and you can indeed contact them through that medium. I was interested in doing a soul retrieval, something I had first read about in Elena Avila’s bestseller Woman Who Glows in the Dark: A Curandera Reveals Traditional Aztec Secrets of Physical and Spiritual Health. The basic idea is that when you suffer a trauma or susto (fright) a part of your soul leaves your body leaving you disconnected or lost. This is very similar to psychotherapy’s concept of disassociation, but the difference is in therapy the focus is why and in soul retrieval it is where. Both interpretations seem valid, but from personal experience in psychotherapy, the constant rehashing of wounds and wrong doings can become rather self-indulgent. It seems that the shamanic practice is less concerned with why and focuses more on the practicality of bringing those pieces back together. It is difficult to say if analyzing the hell out of why we are dysfunctional facilitates the process. I don’t think in my case it hurt, but I also feel that most people who seek out therapy have a fairly good idea of why their lives are falling apart and maybe a soul retrieval would save a lot of time and grief. Continue reading

Magic is Realism

I’ve been playing around with these ideas for sometime now and this post has sat on my draft list for months, but tonight I met with a bunch of magical ladies so it seems like the appropriate time to explore.

A few years ago I took an intro to Latin American Literature course and on the first day of class the professor said she did not like the term, “Magical Realism.” She did not expound on this and no one asked, but this observation stuck with me. I suppose it stuck because intuitively I have always felt the same way, but at that point still did not have the vocabulary to voice it. Continue reading

Alive They Took Them

She is small for her age with delicate features and a soft voice whose words seem to come out very quickly, “what about my mother?” she asked. “I don’t know if she is dead. She could still be alive. I can’t build an alter for her if she isn’t dead.” We were meeting to discuss a community Day of the Dead alter for people who had lost family members to the War on Drugs. This young woman’s comment left me dumbfounded. A middle-aged man who had lost several siblings spoke up, “we will make a separate section for the disappeared … you are right, it isn’t the same.” I watched the group watching her, most had lost everything to the violence that had ravaged their hometowns and yet they looked at her with pity in their eyes. Continue reading

Lessons from my Grandmother: Little Voices

Somebody I know believes that your soul decides where it needs  to go before you are born. I’m not sure if I believe that, but if it is true I think I came into this body to gain wisdom from my amazing grandmother. If you haven’t already gathered we are extremely close as I was at her house nearly every day for the first twelve years of my life. We live in a sick world in need of healers and I was lucky enough to be born into her apprenticeship. It took me awhile to figure that out especially since I was sick myself, but now I realize that that is a tool rather than a hindrance. Continue reading