Love and Lineage

Have you been feeling raw and strange lately?

I feel like my armor has been flung open and I’m urgently trying to close it again but I can’t get the clasps right.

In the midst of this, though, I feel the love of my ancestors very close to me, whispering words slightly beyond my understanding. I feel their love with me now more than ever. Any doubt I have about myself now is overwhelmed by this sense that people care for me, I care for people, and that I’m part of a great alliance of beings.

Halloween is often thought of as a celebration of death but it seems to me that it’s an affirmation of enduring love and lineage. I’m passing on that love to you and to all that will come after us.

Plants as Home as Self

What brings me back to plant medicine again and again is amazement – plants have an incredible power to allow us to reclaim our story. To take plant medicine or develop a relationship with plants is to take an active role in our health and in our world. Not to nerd out too hard but plant medicine is inherently more complex than, like, taking an aspirin. Like eating, to take plant medicine is to link into the plant, its preparation, the ground it grew in. Plant medicine reminds us of our place among nature, drawing us back to a home we didn’t know we had wandered away from. What happens when we have an intimate connection to our medicine, food, and environment? How do our stories about ourselves change?
Author and biologist Robin Wall Kimmerer wrote that she challenges her students to consider the possibility that Earth is invested in human well-being, that the Earth loves us. This statement blew my mind. How could humans, having inflicted so much cruelty onto nature, be loved and embraced by it? Yet here we are. We’re worthy even though we’ve been stupid and selfish and don’t read as much as we should and have dirty dishes in the sink and on and on and on. We were brought into a world that loves us.
When I feel drained of affection or patience, knowing that I wake up every morning in a community of beautiful living beings restores me just enough that I’m able to pass that love onto someone else. That gives me some agency. And that gives me some place to belong.

Transition Medicine

For about a month I’ve been trying to write about the quiet, often sudden dissolution of certainty many of us have defined our lives with. It’s been difficult to find words to encapsulate it all, especially since every day adds some new horror. It feels like everything is rushing forward at the speed of light and also stagnant and stale. Things can be both, I suppose, though it’s a difficult reality to comprehend.

But like a body fighting a great illness, the best things we can do is nurture ourselves and our communities to build the resiliency we need to weather this time. We would benefit from recognizing that our energy is limited and asking ourselves how we should spend the precious amount of life given to us. Should we spend it fighting with our neighbors on the internet? Or should we spend it walking in the woods? Or walking with our neighbors?

1) We won’t survive anything as a fragmented society. If you can visit with friends by talking through an open window or sitting in a field together, try to fit some of that into your week. Seeing people face-to-face reminds us that we are part of something bigger. We are, despite all our fancy trimmings, just animals who need to be in a social group. Love is the greatest healer and the most revolutionary act.

2) For those of us experiencing heightened anxiety, grief, and depression, rhythm is also a great healer. Having a daily, weekly, and seasonal pattern teaches our bodies and minds what to expect and, in a mercurial world, this is a powerful anchor. Eating, exercising, and sleeping at the same times each day also helps us function with more clarity because we’re not leaping from task to task groggy or wired or restless or peckish.

3) Give your body all the resources it needs like you were tending to a child or a rather complicated houseplant. Stay hydrated, eat a wide variety of foods (including fermented ones), sleep 6-8 hours a day, take at least a half hour walk a day. It seems silly to worry about such simple stuff sometimes but taking care of our bodies makes other, more difficult things seem surmountable.

4) Get your tuchus out into the natural world, or if you can’t do that, buy a houseplant or linger near a tree. When I lived in Manhattan I would stop to look at people’s window boxes or say hello to a weed growing out of a sidewalk. Each small interaction connected me with something larger and more powerful than myself. Eat lunch outside or step into the fresh air for five minutes. You don’t need to summit Mount Katahdin to shift your perspective.

5) Tend to your immune system with tonic herbs like reishi, astragalus, elderberry, and tulsi (there are many more but these are some favorites). Limit sugar, alcohol, drugs, and artificial foods. Sneak bone broths and other nutrient-dense soups into your day. We’re under increased stress these days and that can directly hamper our immunity.

Treat yourself and your community with love and respect. Our world and our bodies can heal, so eat up. There’s work to do.