“Trees were our first teachers,” Bruce Miller used to say. Bruce (Subiyay) was a Skokomish elder, teacher & leader behind the Salish cultural renaissance of the last few decades. Bruce continues to be a powerful inspiration. and many continue his work of revitalizing Salish culture and rekindling the connection between plants and people. (For more information, see links at the bottom of this post.)
A resonant aspect of his teachings is the consideration of tree as teacher. There’s something about trees that stirs something inside us. Humans have long felt a unique kinship with the trees, and their medicinal qualities represent a vast & untapped potential in the health & ecological field.. Read more
The Wheel of the Seasons is turning, and we’re entering the Season of Water here in the Pacific Northwest. The light and warmth of the Sun has waned, and the plants have drawn their energy downward into their roots. The leaves are brown, the clouds and rain have turned the forests into misty, secretive cathedrals. And the rains have returned, cleansing, restoring and nourishing the life that will spring forth when the Wheel turns again. And this is the gift of Water.
In herbal practice, the water element shows up in a variety of ways. But one of the most important applications of Water is in teas and brews. This practice entails the interaction of all the elements: fire heating the water, water meeting the plant (Earth), infusion meeting the Air and warming the Heart. It’s elemental art at work.
There’s something so alluring about making beautiful teas & brews. The simplicity and tradition of the practice is so nurturing to the soul. It’s just about hot water and plants. Unlike other botanical preparations, my tea and brew-making activities are very informal and casual. I don’t like to fuss or worry about amount of this or that or exact times. Read more
The more time I spend in the apothecary, the more I begin to notice its structures and patterns as a system. And the more I muse about apothecary and medicine design itself. So I began diagraming the parts and particulars of my apothecary.
For example, let’s look at the tools:
- jars (storage)
…and all the energetic functions they represent. That’s one layer.
Now the materials:
- …and the plant bodies themselves (not just physical)
Now the list of the preparations most commonly made:
- frozen herbs
- dried herbs
- flower essences
- infused oils
- water extractions (teas/decoctions)
So there are the subsequent layers. I also had to look at plants’ origins:
- locally wildcrafted,
- cultivated in my garden,
- purchased at the herb shop (or ordered from Oregon).
And the plants themselves can be analyzed in a number of ways…we did origins above, but we can look at part, gathering place, what preparation, celestial influences, etc.
With these basic components in place, we can get a brief picture of if and how the apothecary and a medicine practice can be a microcosm of the all-giving Whole. Does it create a vortex by which a person can obtain healing?
So, I ask: does this system increase resilience in the people that interact with it? That’s where the design portion comes in. If there are gaps or imbalances in the structure, they would inhibit the overall energy flow. In most traditional apothecary designs, I do see some gaps. Firstly, medicine preparation primarily centers on extracting constituents from plants. I’d like to explore other motions.
And then we can look at where the person/patient fits into this. What are the interacts of body systems and disease when they interact with this system? What are the systems’ capabilities of dealing with different constitutions? Where is this person “from”, and where is the plant they’re interacting with “from”? All these delicate complexities. And this is where the art portion comes in–flexing those boundaries.