In the vast world of plant medicine, which is difficult to define and harder still to contain, indivuduals must find their own roles. To be an “expert” on all plants is like being an expert on every single planet in the entire solar system-absurd! Impossible! Yet one could seek to be very very good at first aid, nutrition, botany or teaching. I, however, am not. I am not particularly good at writing monographs or nutritional counseling. I suck at making formulas and keying out species. So what’s my niche? Questioning everything.
I did not become an herbalist to sell stuff, to make friends or to be nice. I got into herbalism becasue a giant green hammer was pounding in my brain, leading me outside and into the arms of the plants. I am a fly in the ointment and I have learned to stop fighting that role and embrace it. I am the drunken bridesmaid of herbalism, the elephant in the room, knocking stuff over and crying at inappropriate times.
I question becasue I believe herbalism is an explosion, a compost pile, hot inside, constantly growing and changing, expanding and making a mess. I believe herbalists are red wrigglers eating crap and giving back black gold,and I believe the transformational possibilites are endless.
We can choose to embrace this or not, and neither is right or wrong for everyone.
But should we give simple answers to simple questions? That is up for each to decide, but I believe mostly no-we may do a disservice to others by asnwering oversimplified “what’s good for x” type questions. This fly wants to teach you HOW to learn, not what to do. I do not want to make a sale or make friends, I want to push people a little, to make folks think–I myself have been offended by words that later, upon reflection, changed my life.
Often we are taught to never rock the boat, to give short answers, sound bites and polite euphemisms. School, work, institutions, “check this box!” Well, fuck that! Are we trying to spark people, to change the world? Or are we more concerned with offending someone? Are we more afraid to challenge others and ourselves?
Herbalism is not an ossuary. There is no one master list where we look up this for that. Herbalism is a bullet train full of green revelers, hurtling through space, a dynamic and evolving force. herbalism is resistance, resilience, evolution. We are artisans practicing a craft-practicing for life-never mastering. For an artist can master painting a still life, over and over, 3 pears and a vase of flowers until it’s perfect. But every single living thing is different and awesome and every herbal interaction is a dance between herbalist and plant medicine, between client and herbalist and between plant emdicine and client. We are painting a volcanic explosion not a still life.
This is beautiful and exciting as well as sometimes frustrating, but we must accept that there is no easy answer, there is no box to check off. I reject the marketing schemes and the lifelong indoctrination that we can fix things easily and simply with pills.
So our craft needs the cheerful, the positive, the nice and the linear. Our craft needs all of you wonderful people who choose not to alienate or offend others, all of the different styles and all of the choices. But herbalism also needs the obnoxious, the questioners who poke at life with a stick to see what happens. Herbalism also needs to get shaken up sometimes, to crack our minds open and see what comes out, even if it is messy and challenging, hilarious and painful. That is one of the ways we learn.