dog-dog communication in action

It has been gratifying to see Aster, my catahoula leopard dog, come into her own as a dog communicator. After we adopted her we traveled to New Orleans where she ran with a little pack for 6 weeks or so.She was the youngest of 5 balanced dogs sharing space and they taught her a lot about communication, dog packs, and when to stop driving the old-lady-dog nuts! Helpful for a dog who’d been abandoned, then adopted twice and returned to the shelter before we found her at about 4 months.

She has gained further communication experience in our household showing foster dogs the ropes. I am a strong believer in socializing dogs and also in giving dogs a job if possible, and those 2 pieces, combined with my setting boundaries and giving her a lot of exercise, have helped Aster deal with life as a very intelligent working dog stuck  living in a house.

Aster also thrives on the opportunity to hang with the elements and just be a dog-running, jumping, swimming, mucking about, enjoying wild water and laying near the fire. climbing trees. sniffing poop. ah, yes, that’s the life.

So I present this series of photos of Aster communicating with foster dog Acorn, an intelligent 5-month old mixed-breed puppy who is living with us right now. He is a very fast learner and watch as he gets what he wants by communicating properly with Aster. I would not try this with 2 highly reactive dogs, but keep in mind that I have built a lot of trust with my primary dog and was on standby to intervene IF NECESARRY. Presented in order:

 

acorn!

Acorn has already finished his breakfast. He sees that Aster has not.

aster

Aster asks him what the heck he thinks he’s looking at.

dogs

Aster stands between Acorn and her bowl of food, giving him “the look”.

eating

Aster goes back to eating, keeping one eye on Acorn. Acorn continues to look longingly at her.

both

Acorn advances, submitting toAster. Aster accepts his puppy behavior.

 

Further dance of communication behaviors.
 

“But, Aster! Look at me! I’m wasting away! And hey-I am asking nicely, eh? eh?”

(He knows that she is open to this behavior.)

She checks him out again. Is he really asking politely? Is he really wasting away? (don’t worry, he is not.)

He is obviously doing something here that she likes and accepts.

 

Because here he is, eating from her bowl of food!

Aster is fine with it, she has made her decision.

Hey, kid, you can thank me someday when you are big and healthy and have a wonderful home of your own!

Elemental medicines.

 

aster

 

 

Sometimes my “herbalist-ness” manifests as alchemist, as mad scientist. Tinkering, thinking, combining. Sometimes I am working in tangible materials, digging roots, grinding seeds, composting poop. And I like that, I like getting my hands in my medicines, getting my nose and my heart right in there and stirring. 

But I like the intangible,too. I like to make connections with the elements, tangibly and intangibly,  and I  feel that  this contributes to overall health in ways that taking herbs do not–or perhaps in addition to the ways that herbs do. I have no need to be sure that all of the elements are precisely balanced-I am more concerened that these energies  are in our lives at all. And we can buy something, sure. A magic element balancer, a person to chant over us, wave some shit around and call us “balanced”. There is balancing incense to burn, balancing oil to rub on our chakras, balancing baths and outfits and organic balancing underpants. But you do  not need a product to bring elements into your home. (With 3 kids and a Catahoula I don’t need to put a “crystal cluster ” on my coffee table!)  Earth just comes in-on our boots and paws!

turkey

 

Anyway. It’s a radical thought, but we can get a lot of our elemental medicine for free. It’s called going outside.

-FIRE: Hang out near a fire- indoors or out. Building a fire feeds part of our brain that is woefully underactivated in this culture. Gathering wood,  using fire as a tool, connecting with our source of heat/light/fuel. We have done that for centuries. It’s in our blood. We also formed our relationship with dogs around the fire–they are often attracted to it, too. Oh yeah, then there’s the sun. It’s pretty omnipresent. Find a ray.

primal dog

 

WATER: I bought an alarm clock with “soothing nature sounds”. This included a babbling brook. And you know what? It is a piece of crap. Why are we so attracted to water? It’s like “the source”, dudes.  Turning on a faucet does not contribute to our knowledge that water is a gift. Go in it, be near it, listen to it, touch it, drink it. Respect it.

Earth: According to about.com, not exactly my favorite source on holistic health,  “Natural crystals and stones are the best way to bring the earth element into your home”. You know what? The best source of teh earth element is earth. Yeah, DIRT. soil. compost, sand. stand on it, sit on it, grow in it, put your damn hands on the earth. If you are buying products to bring the earth element into your home you may want to do some serious thinking. 

AIR: Breathe. Overthink stuff.

seeds

 

I believe we must question everyone who wants us to buy their goods and services. I believe that gathering is passed down to us in our ancestral memory and we are satisfying that impulse by amassing tchotckes and playing video games. I believe that we can support our own health by going outside every day. I believe that this will lead us to better sleep, better buttocks and a deeper connection with our homes… No magic underpants required.

smoke

 

“we’re all gonna diiiiiiiiie!!!!!”

fruit!

 

“Mycophobia is a cultural overreaction”-Garl Lincoff

Sooooo-fungi. Mycelium. Mushrooms. What’s up with them? Are they psycho killers? Should we be shaking in our booties at the likelihood that we will die from poisonous fungi? Um…. no.

A recent article circulating on facebook tells of a family who ate destroying angels and “almost died.” (They were saved by milk thistle seeds, which is somehow controversial.)

And the last sentence reads: “His family will only eat mushrooms from the grocery store from now on.”

Ya know, F that. Food at the grocery store is sprayed with all kinds of poison. Pumped up with diabetes-inducing sugars, fraught with blue lake number bajillion and obscene amounts of sodium and “flavor enhancers”.  Food at the grocery store is hyper-preserved, factory farmed and packaged to the high heavens.  And have we not heard of “recalls”? Peanut butter full of rat shit, ground meat full of “pink slime” and everything teeming with “allowable filth”. Yeah, safe.

I feel  frustrated when people tell me to “be careful” when foraging for plants andf fungi. Yeah. No kidding. And should I be careful when driving, boating, drinking, eating peanuts, and ingesting (doctor prescribed!) pharmaceuticals?!?! All of which slay a zillion more humans than fungi?

I believe we can learn about fungi. I believe we can learn about wild plants. I believe humans are not as stupd as we act. Can we identify a banana? Can we tell the difference between an almond and a walnut? Or a poodle and a pitbull? Yes, most of us can. Can we learn to use an iphone, operate heavy machinery, program the damn VCR? Yes we can. So why do we think we can’t identify a destroying angel?

You don’t need to learn ALL mushrooms. Just learn those that kill. A small minority, I might add. Learn the clear sign of a poionous puffball. Learn the skirt of a destroying angel. Avoid LBMs.  Never eat raw fungi. Always use at least 2 ID sources. (and this blog is sure as hell not one of them!!) If you aren’t sure, just don’t eat it. It’s not rocket science.

Often in our society we fear the forest, we fear the dark places, the unknown, we fear our own knowledge, our own hands. We overvalue the invariable. We overvalue the list of ingredients, the nutrition facts, the stamp of approval. And we project all this internalized crap onto fungi. And don’t tell me advertising has no hand in our panic. Don’t tell me big business isn’t eating our panic right up like fungi on a stump.

We CAN learn to recognize patterns. WE can learn basic botany. We are not helpless babies being manipulated by great evil lurking in the forest. And we can ingest stuff that doesn;t come from the supermarket. I have a few choice fungi that I have memorized, that I recognize and feel affection for. And, really, most fruiting bodies are just “eh” in the pan.  (But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy their presence outside!)

Foraging  for wild fungi and wild plants and is a passion, an obsession. It is not inherently dangerous with some common sense and a basic grasp of major pitfalls, patience, safety guidelines and idenitfication skills. People have died from way lamer passions.

fruit!

 

 

 

a deeper view of homeland security

stockpile!

Doomsday preppers. Cybersecurity. “Keeping America safe”. What does it all  mean? As herbalists and holistic health practitioners, or those who care about community health and holistic health,  we need to REdefine what homeland security means to US. The idea that there is currently one idea throughout the entire country of what security looks like is an absurdity. We have seen that many don’t really know what security means to them. The recent increase in destructive storms is an excellent catalyst for this discussion.

this is what security looks like

Because it is not unreasonable to ask–

“What is yor plan?”

” What will you do when your lights go out?”

I have previously discussed the false binary between herbalists and survivalists and suggested that there is a wide spectrum of people out there combining weaponry,  Berberine and mad skillz into a force to be reckoned with. And now we need to move ahead on that concept–in what tangible do-able ways can we form alliances in our communities? How do we plan to work together in disaster situations to provide for our basic needs? Can we look past political party affiliations, religion,race, gender, class to give mutual aid, to distribute care, knowledge and supplies as needed?

official wild water inspecrtor aster

For example, currently many people fear wild water. Though we have no idea where bottles of water come from we seem to trust them implicitly. We often fear fire and prefer to heat our homes with oil products from a bajillion miles away. Though we have seen over and over recalls of industrial food products we often trust them more than a plant with dirt on it. Though  significantly more people die from pharmaceuticals than herbs (yes, I know this is a skewed statistic due to usage) we trust them more than our own handmade medicines. Cause, ya know, some government inspector stamped it. We spend a lot of money protecting our food supply from “terorists” while poisoning it ourselves. We guard our water supply from terrorists then dump pharmaceuticals, oil, poisonous roundup runoff and hogshit into it.

Up until recent history most people felt that they had a role to play in their family, in their community, in their country. Land to love and protect. Service to a higher good.  Now our “role to play” is in Farmville. In service to what? I believe that we should re-embrace the acknowledgement of positive roles in our culture. We can see this concept at work  in first-responders, firefighters, medics, some teachers, leaders, knife sharpeners and of course herbalists. Who are the real rockstars in our culture? Where are our priorities?

it’s a daikon!

When the storm came I had my herbal first aid bag ready to go by the door, with flashlights, extra batteries, natural and not-so-natural first aid supplies, water purification supplies, sturdy shoes and a chainsaw. Visualize a world in which  all who are able have provided for their own basic needs and are then able to go out and help those in need. A world of service, preparedness and basic knowledge about safety and health. Imagine how we would be happy if the National Guard came by to help us dig out, but would be OK for a bit if they are otherwise occupied. How a power outage doesn’t make us scramble for a generator to run our TV but gives us the opportunity to TALK, to dance, to build a fire, to reconnect.

power’s out? make your own damn music!!

Achieving this world would require forethought, talking to others, building skills, valuing humans and the earth  and a can-do attitude–all of which happen to make great herbalists and first responders anyway! What if, instead of teaching our kids how to download apps, we taught them how to build a fire? What if, instead of teaching our kids how to microwave macaroni and cheese we showed them how to ID plants? What if instead of strong thumbs we had strong bodies and sound minds, connected hearts and a willingness to help others…..and a shovel. Cause we are going to need one to dig ourselves out of this hole.

eat lots of baloney now cause yer gonna miss it when it’s gone!

pain is a gift. pain is not a gift.

Some people say  “Pain is a gift.” others say “Pain is NOT a gift.” And then we have those who say “Don’t tell me whether or not MY pain is or is not a gift, dammit!” OK. So I see your point. And I think that pain is, in fact, a gift. A gift from the universe. But maybe it is not the gift you wanted. Maybe it is not what you asked for.  It wasn’t on your list. It’s like getting another ancient dried-out fruitcake from your drunk great-uncle Stan in the mail, and your mom claims you have to write a thank-you note.  Ugh. “I asked for an axe and a leather thong and I got this stupid bottle of Jean Nate and another pair of Isotoners!” I know.  You don’t even have the receipt.

green stuff.

 

But we do not get to choose our gifts. We don’t get to register with life. That is why it’s called “gifts”—because it is given to us. It may not be the right time. But it is not like shopping at the mall, where you can pick the right size, the right color. Where you can choose from 30 different flavored salts, all of which kinda suck.

Pain is a gag gift. Illness is a flaming pile of dogshit left on your doorstep. A stupid psychic booby prize. A yankee swap full of Neanderthals.And we must be alchemists and turn our gag gift into, if not gold, at least a tool we can use. We may say “if that’s all you’ve got, universe, pain and suffering, just don’t give me anything! Skip it this year!” but the universe HAS to give you something. You’re third cousins. On your Mom’s side. And the universe is obligated. She agonized over catalogs. She abhors a vacuum.

So until the universe employs a personal shopper who can sort out who has “more than they can handle” and who does not we are going to receive these cursed packages in the mail.  We are going to have to pay the rent on self-storage units to put all of our gifts, our amazing gifts and our cursed gifts, in until we can rehome them. We are going to have to build a first-aid kit to treat the fucked-up universe. And we are going to have to write a thank-you note to our creepy uncle. Even though we’d prefer not to.

PLEASE NOTE: this essay is meant to be humorous. also, YES, i live with a chronic condition. ok.

random beautiful earth-y photo

 

resins for climate change

so, climate change. first, i don’t give a rat’s ass if global warming is “real”. OR what/who is causing it. the extremely obvvious reality is that humans are causing parts of the Earth to be un-inhabitable through our use of toxic crap. fact. we are all complicit. re-usable bags won’t help. and we are making ourselves vulnerable to climate events and disasters by overbuilding, living completely dependent on fragile power grids and food systems, destroying wetlands, paving every damn surface and destroying plant life. we can’t feed babies without formula, can’t stay warm without electricity and haven’t purchased flashlights, batteries, or extra toilet paper.

but wacky preparedness rant aside, after the flood comes the mold. let’s say polluted water impregnates our home with toxic oils, sewage, mold spores, garbage, nuclear waste and dead rats. what do we do? break out the resins.

my sample post-disaster toolkit:

-propolis. it is a resin that comes from honeybees. a specific for mold exposure, it can be used as a tincture or raw, frequently, to treat those who have been made ill by short or longterm mold exposure.

propolis

 

-white pine and other conifers. bark and resin can be tinctured or decocted to treat deep lung affliction. i used it for a nasty bronchitis i picked up in post-flood new orleans that had me coughing-hacking so hard i would vomit and tear up. for a month.   i had tried everything. it worked within 48 hours. use high proof alcohol to tincture raw resins.

white pine

 -cottonwood/poplar. the resinous buds make an intense tincture to bring stuff up and out. warming, sticky.

-ground ivy. for congestion, metals exposure, and hearing loss.

-goldenrod. also helps move sinus congestion and supports kidneys.

-monarda. for circulation, burns, infection. a polychrest, kinda for everything.

-burnables. i love to clear the air with some homegrown sages, maybe some mugwort, natural incense or a pot of aromatics simmering on the woodstove. not only does this clear the air physically but it can contribute to emotional clearing.

-seaweed. contains iodine for thyroid protection. though an end to nuclear power would probably protect our thyroids even better.

-lymphatics. the body needs support in processing the toxins that are challenging us in these times. cleavers, calendula, alder, mullein, redroot, violet.

alder

 

-liver support. burdock, dandelion, milk thistle, blessed thistle, artichoke to help our favorite detox organ process this crap.

sticky burrs

-deep immune support. feed yourself! bone broth, garlic, astragalus, mushrooms such as chaga/reishi/shiitake/maitake. use nettle tea, oatstraw and greens daily–especially for exposure to dangerous metals like lead. cleaning out an old house? lead.

turkey tails

-emotional support. get grounded with motherwort and sage. move your emotional pain with scullcap. relax and de-stress with passionflower, vervain, california poppy, linden. rebuild your frazzled nerves with milky oats tincture.

-moisten irritated sore throats with herbs like propolis, sage, monarda, slippery elm, mallow, plantain.  it’s lovely to make a spray and use often throughout the cleanup process.

– heal the skin. white pine salve is my favorite for drawing, protecting, and healing chafed and dry skin. constant exposure to wet junk can be drying.

usnea

also, it helps have  some  herbs  on hand for non-emergency wound treatment and basic cold and flu issues  such as boneset, elder, usnea, elecampane, barberry  and alder. if you don’t have a water filter, keep a bottle of bleach or iodine around to purify drinking water. box up some matches, your family’s  medications and a bunch of ammo*. and for crying out loud, spend a couple bucks on a flashlight.

*OK, ammo is optional.

 

birch, past present and future of the forest.

birch

people, i’d like to introduce you to my friend, white birch. you may have seen birch before, but have you ever looked very very closely? have you seen the scars, the mycelium, the underside of the polypores, the chaga, the bark?

bark
inonotus
scars
decomposition
still life with leopard dog
baby tree growing in decomposing trunk of elder tree
webs
woodpeckers

LOVE!!!

 

 

further musings on porosity of the mind

interspecies

 

blessed are the snail-hearted. yes,  the oozers who thrive on contact with the soil, who look up and see the underside of all the world running in circles above. blessed are those who can abide a bit of slime, who are using that slime as a catalyst for sensual input. slime  transmits, you know. for the sensual and the tactile are actual tools for our body, yes touch is medicinal of course and wellness without touch does not exist.

skin to skin contact is medicinal. skin to soil contact is medicinal. skin to fur, skin to stone, skin to bark. this input is nourishment that humans need to truly thrive. and in our culture we seem to be SO focused on the visual. most of us are overstimulated visually, with near-constant rapid- image-change and a barrage of billboards blocking our view of the sky. with headphones blasting digital beeps and boops while the CAW! of a crow, the PEEP! of a chickadee, the COO! of a pigeon go unnoticed, unrecognized. (or, perhaps, only recognized on special days devoted to birdwatching, with special binoculars, an id book and pants tucked into socks. )”yup, i’ve checked off another species on my to-do list.”

the sense of taste has been burned off by bleached food, by fake tastes (grape, my ass!) and in connection with the sorry state of our schnozzes–inundated with the horrors-the horrors! of “spring breeze” and “lavender fields” and “holiday bullshit” plug-ins, scented candles and dryer sheets.

TAKE IT BACK!!!!

people, our senses are all we have.

texture

 

our nose is an etremely important survival tool. it transmits signals to our brain from people, plants, animals, fungi, fire, decomposition, saltwater, breezes, poop, food, honeybees. culturally, we have disrespected our nose, treated its ability as an inconvenience which we can manipulate with chemicals in order to “catch a man”, create a “holiday mood”  or sell products.

moist

our worship of the visual comes at the expense of the nasal.

our worship of the fake comes at the expense of our hands, of our sense of touch, of our inborn drive for tactile contact with the world around us.

our worship of rock stars comes at the expense of knowing we are all rock stars.

our worship of pills comes at the expense of what our sense of taste can tell us, of how taste IS medicine.

building a fire is medicine, immersing ourselves in water is medicine.

take it back.

fluffy

 

altared consciousness

(yes, my friends, i can spell. it’s a play on words.)

“i contend that the planet’s health actually depends on our respect for fungi.”-Paul Stamets

traci + chaga 4-eva

ah, the futility of recycling. we carefully sort our stupid soda cans, cosmos and bath salt jars into blue and green bins while completely disregarding the entire amazing process of decomposition going on below, beside and all around us.

yo, where do ya think that shit’s going?

we open cans of slimy-ass button mushrooms and horrify our children with them, never realizing that those stupid cans end up in the aforementioned recycling bins.

we spray poison on the fungi, bacteria and wrigglers who are our only hope for long-term survival on this planet. then recycle the containers.

spore-riffic!

we humans are much better at naming things than loving things.

fungi are powerful warriors. they can be our allies, and we can be theirs. yet we resist, choosing to ally ourselves with products. for that IS what we are doing. we are very much telling the fungi kingdom, telling the plant kingdom how we feel about them, what we think about them-if we bother to think about them at all–by our actions. they may not be writing about it in their journals, they may not be making tv shows about it, but don’t think they have no idea. animals know we dumo them off by the milions in so-called “shelters”…to be gassed to death in heaps. don’t think non-human life hasn’t noticed how we feel, what we are doing, and how we’ve repressed it all.

windfall chaga

and the point here is not to induce “guilt”. guilt paralyzes us. f that. the point is to toss guilt into the fire and find our core, find our action, find our calling.

i very much believe that other living things wish to form alliances.

i very much believe that plants can form symbiotic relationships with each other and with other beings.

i very much believe that a relationship with a plant or a fungus is a “real” relationship.

i believe that ALL natural substances have the potential to be psychedelic, “mind manifesting”, heart manifesting, relationship-forming, alliance forming, to pass through us physically and otherwise, to bridge the massive gaps between humans and earth. we should be sick of merely being ON the earth, floating coolly above it all, we are OF the earth. and we are sick.  we are.

“i’m ready for my close-up!”

and what are we going to do about it?

bittersweet

well, i’ll tell ya what. this blog sure isn’t going to save the world. my wandering around in the woods tripping out on “the colors” isn’t going to save the world. voting isn’t going to heal the earth or stop the obscene amounts of garbage from piling up.

but plants, animals, insects and fungi do have the potential to help humanity shift the way forward from steamroller to watering can. from dumpster to garden.from sewer to compost. and from a culture of rape, abuse and addiction to one of mutual aid, reverence and connection.

plants and fungi  have the ability to show us that we ARE all connected. that an injury to one IS an injury to all. that our walls are NOT serving our souls. and, finally, that absolutely everyone has the ability, at any time, to at least START to make a change in their body, mind and/or soul that can help contribute to the future we want to see, that we must see if there will be any tomorrow what. so. ever.

 

it ain’t all fluff out there.