Relevance,discomfort and what are we actually doing here?


“It’s much more about an approach than it is about a topic.”-Brooke Gladstone

I’ve been writing this blog for a long time now. Years. It’s interesting, slightly painful, for me to look back on some of my earliest posts. I see them as naive, poorly written. But I have decided to leave them up because it speaks to the evolution of my voice, the path I have taken is clear and transparent to anyone curious enough or bored  enough to read every single post.

And I leave these posts up because this says “people change”.  I’m not afraid to say I was wrong. I see this as valuable, the idea that we evolve as practitioners, as writers, and as a community. My biggest issue around herbalism is the incurious– those who cling tightly to what they learned once, read once, to their lists of this-for-that, their binaries and first impressions.

“Measure this, add that, shake once a day, I read somewhere that ____cures everything.”

I prefer to kill and eat my old ideas for breakfast. It is interesting to me, seeing how herbalism has evolved since I first got into it, both in my own life and in the broader community–and also how it has not.

Recently I wrote a post about sex-positive herbalism and the reaction of a few people was telling. My favorite feedback was “I see no value in the subject matter, it’s not necessary in terms of medicinal value of herbs.” (I’ll let the author remain anonymous)

Amazing! I love to hear things like this because it drives me, it lets me know I am in exactly the right place, asking the right questions. It tells me I have a role in creating the evolution of herbalism. And so do you. What is relevant to herbalism, anyway? What is necessary to be a healer?  Do I need to leave the fact of my sexuality out of it?  And yours? Should all writers and teachers stick to creating dry, factual  lists of herbs they have used to treat health problems?

I’d freakin die. This might be the most boring path I can personally imagine.

Because this doesn’t excite me, but also because herbalism isn’t happening in a vacuum. It’s happening in a living system. Herbalism is not “plant + disease”. It’s just not. Herbalism is human+ their life experience+their cultural beliefs and practices+their movement, nutrition, rest+their class, occupation, gender+environment+disease+standardized medicine +plant medicine.

And maybe some other stuff, too!

“A lot of daily reporting and news commentary just reinforces everything we already think about the world.”-Ira Glass

And this is true of our social media circles.

A trained monkey can hand out tinctures to people. A robot can dispense this for that. Marketers generate shitty “factual-ish” memes and blog posts to sell their product every darn day. But my mission is to spark a different medicine–the medicine of asking WHY are we doing this, the mission of helping to create more, better, more interesting and more challenging paths for all kinds of healers and plant lovers. I’m 5 feet of why, all night long.

We talk a lot about finding our voice, finding our “calling”, and I am not sure I believe in any one right path. Sometimes the right path is the one you can actually get done, the one that pays for groceries, the one that hangs their help wanted sign out when you need it. But within that calling, we may carve out space for ourselves, slowly and methodically, one action at a time, with  the sharp spoon of our words and actions, until our voice finally emerges.

Every time we say WHY, what are we actually doing, what is the goal, where did you get that information from, let’s think that through, let’s try it, let’s look it up, how, how, how. Every time we say please stop reducing this beautiful complexity to a meme. Every time we say correlation is not causation or my body is not a petri dish or just because it’s written down doesn’t mean it’s truth.

In other words, people may say that challenging  ideas are irrelevant, not necessary, uncomfortable, inappropriate. And I guess I don’t know who is reading this, and maybe you are indeed full of crap. But on the other hand, maybe those that cling to narrow ideas of herbalism, those who cling to binary thinking and easy fixes, who avoid challenges and get up and give the same spiels over and over again forever, are the ones who need these irrelevant and unnecessary words the most.

So rock on with your questions, you sexy little body-owning, messy and complex non-binary, neuro-queer, differently-abled, weed-loving, obnoxious, traumatized, foul-mouthed, fat-ass, skinny-ass, heathen, non-conforming, too-much-or-not-enough askers and seekers. Find your voice and don’t let anyone tell you it’s not relevant to herbalism.

“It’s about challenging people who know.”-Jad Abumrad




15 thoughts on “Relevance,discomfort and what are we actually doing here?

  1. I love your voice and am stirred and moved by your work. At 61, I’ve held quite a few things and let even more go. This was an inspiring read this morning. Thank you!

  2. I too love your voice. Your post calls to mind this…

    “Do not mistake acquirement of mere knowledge for power. Like food, these things must be digested and assimilated to become life or force.”

    Learning is not wisdom; knowledge is not necessarily vital energy. The student who has to cram through school or a college course, who has made himself merely a receptacle for the teacher’s thoughts and ideas, is not educated; he has not gained much. He is a reservoir, not a fountain. One retains, the other gives forth. Unless his knowledge is converted into wisdom, into faculty, it will become stagnant like still water. ~ J. E. Dinger (Lyte, Clyde Francis., ed. Leaves of Gold. Coslett Publishing, 1948. pg 59)

    Thank you for the inspiration as well as the reminder.

  3. I thought the herbalist sex post was awesome, as well as all the others. Your blog rocks my world. Thank you for doing what you do…

  4. I thought the sex post was awesome as well. And I love your willingness the stir the Pot.

    I also tend to agree with the person who said it doesn’t matter. Not that the herbs are gender-neutral, but that if you are my client, it doesn’t matter how you identify yourself. You are you – in all your goodness. You aren’t male/female/white/black/orange/artistic/yadayada. You are YOU; and there is no one else like you. My job is to see the all that goodness of you. .

    But for it to really not matter, I have to have my own house clean. I have to confront my own feelings around how you identify yourself and leave them outside for those precious hours you and I spend together.

    Confronting those kinds of feelings seems to be something you have no problem with. And that is why I liked your post so much.

  5. I keep staring at my own blog wondering where on earth am I going with it. Contemplating my herbal studies – what am I folk herbalist, community herbalist, environmentalist, eco-feminist, educator, healer, nut job in need of professional assistance? Then I decide to see what you are up to (easier than writing something and more entertaining). And bam, you sum it up nicely – we are complex so our blog is a messy sampling of all we are. I’m all of the above and then some. Love, love, love your blog – thanks for writing!

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