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a sense of place
posted on Friday, November 26th 2010 3:48 pm

(this is part 1 of a 10-part series, a life’s journey to become an herbalist observing gail faith edward’s article on the subject),

gail’s first step in the ten-fold path is to build a sense of place:

The cultivation of a deep sense of place is invaluable for an herbalist. We all emerge out of an eco system, a bioregion, we are all connected elementally, as well as ethereally, to our surroundings, to our place. Understanding this sense of place and how it relates to plants and people is an important part of the herbalist’s path. It is often overlooked, as when a woman in northeastern America is offered an herb that grew in South Africa as a remedy for her ills. Cultivate a sense of place, its critical to understanding the actions as well as possible effects of combining individual plants and people.”

this one is dear to my heart but for a different reason. i completely believe in using herbs from my region but i more have considered it because of 1. teaching people to be self healers and confidence starts with being able to show them herbs that grow in their own backyards and are easy to recognize and 2. if the end of the world as we know it were to happen, we would not be able to get an exotic herb so instead of trying the latest and greatest, i feel it’s better to stick with what we have at our fingertips.

being able to take advantage of the abundance in our own back yards, local parks, woods and wild places is one of the best things we as herbalists can do and teach. during the summer, my herbal study group includes herb walks so i can show plants that i cultivate in my garden and plants that grow on their own in the wild. this includes natives and invasives. invasives are here to stay whether we like it or not so we might as well take advantage of their medicine that they offer and use them. it will keep them in check as well.

taking daily walks is a great way to have a sense of space. i try to take note of what i discover growing in the wild, where it is growing (shade, full sun, near water, along fence row, in pathway), what the conditions are like (spring, summer, fall, winter) and what stage of grow it is in (flowering, fruiting, dying back) for future reference. i have finally dedicated a watercolor spiral bound book just for my walks to keep note in and hope to fill it with my notes, sketches and possibly even a few photographs as time goes on. this will allow me to track the changes of plant species growing, what comes, what goes, and when. i’ve lived on this land for 6 years and already i’ve seen big changes to the flora.

while i view this home as a temporary place, a sort of transition to my future forever home, my roots go deep into the earth in this area and for now, this is my place in life. i love to nurture and urge plants to grow here and teach me all they can. for now, my sense of place is here and i will continue to offer what i can to the plants and people of my community.


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