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Posts by Gold Root

Reading List: Spring 2012

For us in the North, we’ve made it through yet another Winter. Here, the clouds have lifted and the humble residents of Cascadia have been graced with an abundance of sunshine. The nettles are out, the alders, poplars and willows are budding. Swamp lantern/Skunk cabbage is not quite up yet, meaning that Spring has yet to fully arrive. So as the weather gets ready to get its Spring on, you can simultaneously get your think on. Here are some books I think you’ll enjoy this season. May they inspire you to imagine and grow in new ways this year!

Design in Nature: How the Constructal Law Governs Evolution in Biology, Physics, Technology, and Social Organization by Adrian Bejan and J. Peder Zane

51CrmugxY4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_It absolutely PAINS me to say that I’m on a book diet and haven’t read this…yet. This book came out just over a month ago and has been tantalizing me ever since. Here, the authors focus on a particular aspect of general systems theory (or, constructs and aspects of any kind of complex system) called Constructal Law. It was articulated by Bejan in 1996 as follows:

For a finite-size system to persist in time (to live), it must evolve in such a way that it provides easier access to the imposed currents that flow through it. It basically says that orientation to flows in a system are what governs its evolution. This book elucidates the implications and applications of this concept to social organizations, ecological dynamics, engineering, and many other fields. I literally cannot WAIT to get my paws on a copy.

The Origins of Evolutionary Innovations: A Theory of Transformative Change in Living Systems by Andreas Wagner

51cg6TtrjVL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_This book is a unique one. It sets out to articulate a theory of innovation in living systems. It is a dense read, and the heavy terminology may be daunting for some audiences. But for someone with a working knowledge of biology, this read will take you through a tour of the biological processes that allow organisms to innovate. This book would suit those curious about biological processes as well as those interested in biomimetic design.



The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World by Wade Davis

wayfindersI have yet to get my hands on this as well, and I’m quite excited to read it. Recently published, anthropologist Wade Davis reiterates the necessity for diversity and integrity of our global ethnosphere. The ethnosphere is the complex, collective social web of stories, narratives, structures of thought, language, spiritual constructs. When we lose cultures, we lose a part of our human heritage. Every culture is a unique answer to a fundamental question: What does it mean to be human and alive? This book addresses all these things, and I’d love for it to find its way to my overfilled bookshelf soon.

Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World by David Abram

spell-of-the-sensuousIf you haven’t already, I recommend dropping what you’re reading now and get a hold of this. It’s a must. It’s one of the most gorgeously written, inspiring and insightful books available. It’s a bit difficult to say what this book is about without doing it a terrible injustice. It’s abo  ut many things: the place of humans in the world, about the dependence of human cognition on the natural environment, landscapes of language, interspecies communication. Lyrical, ethereal, philosophical, and important.


Shaming & Blaming: The Adverse Effects of Conventional Disease Etiologies

Constructs of health are complex and multi-dimensional. Similarly, diseases arise from a variety of factors and may include genetic factors, lifestyles and behaviors, environment, and a variety of sociopolitical factors. How we frame these diseases and their causation (etiology) determines their role and function in the larger social sphere. Diseases are socially constructed entities. And sometimes the way they’re constructed can do more harm than good.  Read more

Basics of Herbcraft Booklet (A Freebie!)

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 10.00.31 AMOnce again, the Olympia Free Herbal Clinic is doing a series of workshops this quarter at the Organic Farmhouse of the Evergreen State College. All free and open to the public.

Tomorrow night’s workshop is The Basics of Herbcraft, presented by yours truly. We’ll talk about core principles of medicine making, with a special eye for branching out, being creative and developing your craft. We’ll specifically talk about infusions, decoctions, infused oils, salves and alcohol tinctures. I put together a short & sweet 12-page booklet of what we’ll be talking about for participants. It includes methods recipes, tips & tricks. For those of you not in attendance and want to obtain one, here’s the .pdf file for you to print, peruse and distribute as you see fit. Read more

Bathing with Herbs

I had a great experience last night. Can I tell you about it? I took a bath. A bath with Western Red Cedar–with tea made from the fresh boughs, essential oil, flower essence, capped with a hydrosol and spagyric tincture (via Sean Croke). And it was the best medicine for how I was feeling! See, my own healing journey has been greatly enhanced by regular baths. Ingesting herbs is certainly powerful, but much is absorbed through our skin. And our physical body can hold so much–there’s something about a simple bath that really helps us clear and release. So this is what I’ll share today, along with a bath salt recipe that’s easily adapted to suit your needs.

I’m inspired to write about this because we’re in the season of Water. In Chinese 5-element medicine, Winter is the season of Water–the season and element of cleansing, restoration, gathering reserves for the rapid growth in the springtime. Water holds and conducts energy and intention. So when you need some deep medicine, what better way than to immerse yourself in such a restorative medium? Read more

The Biophilia Hypothesis

“If natural diversity is the wellspring of human intelligence, then the systematic destruction inherent in contemporary technology and economics is a war against the very sources of mind . . . It is impossible to unravel natural diversity without undermining human intelligence as well.” -E.O. Wilson

Articulations are powerful. Good articulations shape our thinking and actions. And many years ago, Erich Fromm made a great one: Biophilia: the love of life or living systems. He first used it to describe a psychological orientation of being attracted to all that is alive and vital.

Edward O. Wilson has been a prominent and inspiring voice for global biodiversity and an advocate for human’s intimate connection with the natural world. He resurrected the idea in the 1980’s and set it free into current Naturalistic thought with his 1984 book Biophilia. He cites it as the force behind human’s inherent affinity for living things. Furthermore, our natural love of life is the very thing that sustains it. It’s a product of our co-evolution with all of the species on Earth.

Biophilia. Do you not feel it as you’re lazily wandering a forest, intoxicated by the scent of conifer needles and cradled by the soft dirt? Or maybe as you’re petting the soft & buttery Calendula petals, or lovingly digging up yellow dock roots? Herbalism is biophilia in action. Herbalists are biophiles. Biophilia’s a lovely word and a terrific articulation of the basic need for humans to have relationships and connections with other life forms.  Read more

Skin, Dirt & Leaves: Herbcraft & the Senses

After the blizzard of last week, the snow is melting and us Northwesters are finally and frantically busting out of our houses. I was especially excited to see what branches had fallen, and was particularly hoping that Cottonwood would bestow some blessings onto me. So I drove out to the wildlife refuge and walked around a bit. And I soon became dizzy and giddy by finding many fallen Cottonwood branches and boughs. I started plucking the fragrant, sticky and tender buds. After a while, my fingers were coated in brown resin and propolis. It brought me back to the importance of touching plants—the sanctity of touch between life forms. I wonder how I would feel to the trees I interact with, how they sense me…and how my touch might help them.

There are so many dimensions of our connection and relationship with our ecological communities. So many physical forms that this symbiosis takes: We ingest local food for nourishment and local plants to maintain health; Nurture and tend the land. There’s another subtle, deep and very alluring dimension to our relationship with Nature and her other life forms: its touch and texture. Read more

Reading List: Winter 2012 (#2)

Snowstorms are conducive to being tucked in lots of blankets on the couch, fire blazing, tea in hand with a book (or 2 or 3). So I’ve assembled for you a list of books I’ve enjoyed that you may find delight in. (And one thing: if you click on the links to the books, it’ll take you to Amazon, but I’d like to recommend that you check your local and/or used book seller first.)

The Lost Language of Plants: The Ecological Importance of Plant Medicines to Life on Earth by Stephen Harrod Buhner

51c2oH9DQUL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Buhner’s a great writer, and I’ve really been inspired about how he’s incorporated systemic thinking and complexity theory into human-plant relationships. In this book, he describes a variety of aspects of the flora kingdom’s role in the greater planetary picture–from biophilia to the ecological impacts of industrial medicine. Thought-provoking and beautiful.



The Genius Within: Discovering the Intelligence of Every Living Thing by Frank Vertosick

416Y9XAK4PL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I just started reading this. I think how we characterize intelligence is a crucial issue, and informs how we order and classify life forms and determines how we treat other living things. So maybe how we define and frame intelligence deserves more consideration. Plant folks, you’ll love this! Read more

Framing Health in a Context of Interconnectedness

It’s a terribly chilly day here in Olympia. I’ve spent most of the day at my desk, drinking puerh tea, brow furrowed in intense contemplation over some aspects of my developing thesis. I’m exploring the question of the contribution of ethnobotanical knowledge & practices to public health and I face a number of challenges. And chief of these challenges is dealing with the conceptual frame and definition of health itself.
There are many ways to define health and the cultural variations are plenty. Here are some:

World Health Organization. 1948. Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization.
The first lines of the Preamble declare, “in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations, that . . . [h]ealth is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Dubos, René. 1959. Mirage of health. New York: Harper & Row.
Health is “the expression of the extent to which the individual and the social body maintain in readiness the resources required to meet the exigencies of the future.” Read more