Tuesday, November 18, 2008
at 1 o'clock when I climbed into the car
hair wet from sweating and even hotter still as I felt the stale car air.
Sixty seven degrees and sky so blue the mountains stood out sharp--
the rocks jagged and broken alongside the blackened remnants of trees holding tight to the horizon.
What is this weather?
The bees gone now for over two weeks may start buzzing around again looking for nectar.
A lone purple aster jetting out from the morphing patch of thyme that is slowly consuming my strawberry patch.
And the sky!
No clouds there, only the vast emptiness that causes a blue so deep it pierces my soul.
My soul that has begun its annual longing for the sky's gift of snow.
A longing that can be soothed only with the darkest gray of snow-filled clouds that continue to provide for hours on end.
A longing that rears up once the skies begin to clear--even if only for a moment.
Where is that snow?
I am yearning to trod through trails laden deep with cover...to feel my heart rate climb while walking at altitude.
To stand at the top of an open run, the trees splayed apart as if beckoning me to fall free.
And yet, I am ever hopeful. Hoping that soon this will not simply be a longing in my mind, but reality.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Today she celebrates her 91st year on this planet, and I think that's just fine.
Of all the people who have influenced me in a positive manner, I'd have to say she was top of the list. A numero-uno.
I'm so fortunate to have grown up with my wonderful grandparents. My grandma took us under her wing many a summer, winter, spring, and fall day. And she sure did haul us around with her. Back then, there were no seat belt laws, car seats, or any of that safety stuff. But we did have Grandma!
The best memories?
Hot dog pita bread sandwiches, with home-made tomato relish while reading Mad magazines and Sunsets, out in the hammock. Tomatoes, corn, and apples. Apricots, peaches, and cucumbers.
Trying to keep up with Jim and Denise riding horses in the pond, coming in to eat, going back out to the pond, and then spending the rest of the day riding horses in the river. Did Grandma ever complain about sand on the floor?
(I think I better recuse myself from that answer, or else I better learn from example.)
Knowing she was making jewelery while I was lounging in the hammock.
Wandering around getting stickers in my socks, nearly falling into the wells I didn't even know were wells until I was on top of them, slinking back into the house to pretend I hadn't been climbing over the wells, and then begging for a snack--usually peanut butter crackers, so that I could cool off and chill out. Until the next time, that is...
Riding in the back of the Ranchero to Santa Fe.
Riding to the dump in the back of the Ranchero.
Ghost stories under the stars.
Sleeping on the roof.
Walking back home after ghost stories on the roof!! SCARY!!!
Listening to stories about driving to Mexico in the Ambulance.
Ghost stories in the Ambulance. SCARY!!!
Going to lunch with your friends.
Rancho de Chimayo.
Going to lunch with my friends. (Remember Julia?)
You rock, Grandma!!!
(Too bad we never got a picture of my head all wrapped up in those bandages the day my ear got ripped open on the playground...I just remember you coming in to the nurse's office to get me, and by some stroke of karmatic luck there had to have been about 22 other kids all bandaged up and broken apart and hoping that the next grown-up to walk in the door was their own...and there you were, which made my heart open wide, and you took one look at the sorry lot of us, shook your head, and said, "what have we here, a war zone?" I couldn't help but beam with joy walking out of there with you. Thanks for picking me up that day!)
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Fortunately, my aresenal of herbs was well stocked, and I began taking Gan Mao Ling right away, along with teaspoonfuls of echinacea ever 2 hours, and a specific tea blend that helped to open my pores and initiate sweating. The tea blend I chose for this particular cold was yarrow, elder, eucalyptis, and mint. I alternated this tea with another beverage of hot water, 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice, and honey. Additionally, I took 4 capsules of olive leaf 4 times a day for about 5 days. I drank no coffee, consumed no alcoholic beverages, and drank only soup for 3 days. By day 2 I felt okay. Within 4 days I felt nearly as good as new, and within 7 days I was back on the pony feeling as if nothing had invaded my body or my previous week. Pretty good! I thought. I have only been successful at warding off a cold so quickly only one other time.
I guess all those hours poring over the chinese herbal manuals and discerning the differences between an invasion of wind-heat vs. wind-cold and internal pathogens vs. external pathogens helped me after all.
Of course, when things wnet south less than 3 weeks later, I thought "oh great! a repeat of last winter!" So, off to the acupuncturist I went, this time for some professional opinionating about my own theories. The stress load I'd been dealing with didn't seem to be helping. Between work, a child undergoing her own extreme anxieties and emotional turbulence, a dog that unexpectedly died, and trying to balance work, exercise, keeping up my home, tending to the family, a few outside projects, and a before winter To-Do list the size of Texas, I was starting to feel as if my body was falling apart.
My problem, it turns out, is that I am an extreme optimist. Not only do I think I can do it all, I try, and I don't slow down unless forced to.
The acupuncturist took one look at my tongue, and in her broken English said "You under too much stress." "Thank you," I said, "for noticing." She gave me a strong dose of a calming formula, put me up on the table, and began treatment immediately, even though she had first said the treatment would come later this week. "I must be messed up," I thought, but felt immediate relief once the needles were in.
"Go home and take naps two times week," she ordered. Knowing better, I still said, "but I like to exercise at lunch...you know, get out and be alone, on the trails, running." She nodded and mumbled, and said "I know. But you rest. You need nap two times week." I promised to try.
And I will. It just hasn't worked out with my schedule yet this week.
But during the strength and conditioning class I enjoy on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I felt like my lungs were sodden with peat moss, and I just couldn't get my legs to not feel like anvils, and my head still felt a bit swooshy and weezy. I don't feel sick. Just...tired.
So, maybe tomorrow, instead of going to class, I'll just go home a take a nap.
The antivirals I'm keeping stocked up on, however, for the kids, as well as the adults include:
Gan Mao Ling and Yin Chiao are two Chinese formulas that are recommended at the first sign of colds. They contain antiviral herbs as well as diaphoretic herbs that help to open the pores and stimulate sweating.
The theory behind diaphoretics is that they help to eliminate sickness more quickly and prevent a sickness from travelling deeper into the body, where you tend to get more of the awful symptoms and a lingering illness.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Waves and Waves of people passed all around us and eventually we made it to the show. I got badged up, and we headed into the hall. "I'm staaaarrrrrvvvving" both girls wailed in absolute pity at the same moment. A hustle-shuffle-buffle-bustle moment ensued, and my oldest somehow managed to boot my youngest from the stroller and stole her spot. We had barely entered the doors, when we decided to turn around and find food. It was straight up noon. All I saw were lines.
Little did I know, but the Venetian offers up entertainment for those strolling and waiting. As we proceeded to take a break by sitting down on a small stage housing a statue, I discovered the statue was a real person.
I should've taken more notes about my youngest child's potential, as she shot straight up onto the stage and stood next to the Statue, and refused to come back down. The kind statue moved gently, probably trying to shoo her away, but my stubborn one stood her ground. After about 17 minutes of coaxing, I convinced her that we were going to eat and she should come along. This is when I discovered that my oldest daughter was trembling in fright about the Statue. White as a ghost with tears rimming her eyes, I found my stomach twisting into knots with one kid on the brink of fearful meltdown, and the other in full-on stubborn resistance.
Dear God, help me through lunch.
I never cease to be amazed at what will turn a perfectly grumpy and hungry child into a sniveling pile of drivel.
The "Siginator" enjoying the second tunnel at Shark Reef.
My nearly 3-year old had found a stuffed sting-ray she named Towel while we were at the 3-story toy store the previous day, so we had fun meeting and petting some real sting-rays named "Towel" like this little guy...
Being a museum exhibit, and not your typical Vegas photo-op, all visitors are asked to turn off their cell phones and put all cameras away. We entered the first room which housed several small Plexiglas displays and one real skeleton. There were probably 30 people or so in the room. Everyone spoke in hushed whispers. The Docent asked if anyone had questions.
I watched in slow-motion stop film as my 2.9-yr old child strolled up to the skeleton, which was not enclosed in any sort of protective case, and knew with horror what was to occur before I could react.
Among the quiet whispers and hushed sounds of fascination and wonder, I saw this child walk up to the skeleton and reach out as if it were all in infinitely slow motion. She clasped the femur of this poor, dead person just as I thrust my arms out in an attempt to prevent the connection. I grabbed my child just as she threw down an iron grip around the femur. As I pulled her away, the skeleton's leg came with us. She released her grip and an amazing crash enveloped the room. The entire room heaved an enormous collective gasp and then there was utter and complete silence.
Eyes pierced through my skin from every direction. In astonishment, I stared wide-eyed at the Docent and she stared wide-eyed back at me. "I'm sure we can fix it," she stammered at me, and I prayed that they could. Thoughts of being ushered away, casino security, payments in the thousands all ran through my head. But suddenly, the skeleton was made whole again.
Back to the pool for some serious swimming and meathouse-watching before the pool closed. The slide was fantastic, but I sure do wonder how those half-asleep lifeguards deal with all those drunken swimmers. Between drunk grandmas, drunk frat boys, drunk old men, it was astonishing to see that no one had biffed it and cracked their heads open.
Now, I need a vacation to recover from my vacation...
Monday, September 22, 2008
In the mean time, it's off to Vegas...the land of my birth place, tortoises, tarantulas, and wild burros. Maybe we'll see some!
The 15-acre pool oasis at the Flamingo ought to be tops for the girls. What is Vegas if not an exploration of absolute consumerism, wastefulness, and enjoyment all wrapped up into one tidy, pretend-we're-not-in-the-desert package?
Interbike festivities, and climbing at Red Rocks. Looking forward to a long-overdue vacation.
Perhaps I'll be able to post some while there.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Family: Labiatae (Mint)
Description: Up to 3’ high, 2 ft diameter. Leaves oval and serrated and come to a point. Flowers are small, white, tube-shaped, approximately 1/3 of an inch long. Whole plant smells strongly of lemon.
Melissa, in Greek, means Bee. The name seems fitting. Each morning for the last several weeks, I’ve woken up to the gentle buzz of bees working their magic from the Lemon balm flowers growing immediately outside my bedroom window. Lemon balm has a lengthy herbal history, and has been cultivated in the Mediterranean for well over 2000 years.
Lemon balm has historically been acclaimed as an herb “to make the heart merry,” according to Avicenna. Paracelcus called it the “elixir of life” and it was called the “heart’s delight” throughout southern Europe.
Lemon balm is considered to be cold, dry, sour, and slightly bitter in energetics. It’s actions are considered to be sedative, anti-depressant, diaphoretic, antiviral, antibacterial, carminative, antispasmodic, a restorative nervine, and a digestive stimulant.
Lemon balm has been indicated for a variety of uses that run the gamut from skin care to respiratory to digestive to circulatory to genito-urinary to nerves and emotions. It is especially useful for asthma, bronchitis, colds, and flus—and even more-so in children. It is helpful for indigestion, nausea, vomiting, and flatulence. It has been prescribed for painful menses and other menstrual problems—often as a result of emotional imbalance. It is often used for anxiety, depression, hypertension, insomnia, migraines, nervous tension, shock, and vertigo. Lemon balm is said to help one to revitalize the inner self, assisting in promoting calmness and centeredness. It helps to dispel dejection during times of grief or bereavement, engendering a state of quiet peace.
In Chinese medicine, Melissa is said to be sour, spicy, and cool. It affects the lungs and the liver. Its primary action is as a tranquilizer, however it is very gentle, albeit effective. The hot tea helps to bring on a sweat that can help to relieve colds, flu, and fevers. It has been prescribed for mumps, cold sores, and other viral conditions.
Ritual uses of Melissa have primarily been the pursuit of romance. It was often made into a charm to help bring a lover into one’s life and is said to attract romance.
I’ve got more Melissa officinalis than I need, so much, in fact, that this year, I’m going to experiment in every possible way. Apparently Melissa is quite useful as a culinary herb. I’ll include a few recipes to tantalize the taste buds. The French employ this herb in custards and both green and fruit salads. Just a few of the young leaves chopped and added over the top. It is also used to enhance the flavor of fresh steamed or sautéed vegetables, light grains, roast chicken and fish. It can be added to cooked rice, or in the dipping butter for artichoke leaves. Mmmm….Another suggestion is to stuff a handful of fresh leaved with minced green onions and garlic under the skin of chicken breasts, sprinkle with lemon-pepper and olive oil, and roast, bake, or grill. Fresh leaves can be chopped and added to yogurt with fresh berries, or added to a tall chilled glass of white or rose wine. Melissa is known as a traditional wine herbs, and is often used to flavor liqueurs and cordials. It can also be added during the brewing process for flavoring wheat and lemon-scented beers.
Blueberry Lemon Balm Muffins
12 lemon balm leaves
1 cup superfine or powdered sugar
6 Tbsp fresh lemon balm, minced
1 ½ cup fresh blueberries
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup milk
1/3 cup safflower oil
Bury the 12 lemon balm leaves in the superfine sugar in an airtight container. Let stand overnight. Combine all ingredients, waiting to fold in the fresh blueberries until last. Divide batter into muffin tins. Sprinkle each muffin with a little of the lemon-scented sugar. Bake at 400 for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden. When cool, sprinkle lightly with additional lemon-scented sugar. (An Herbal Collection)
Herb and Vegetable Stir-Fry
1 head cauliflower, cut into florettes
5 carrots, peeled and sliced thinly
1 bunch broccoli, cut into florettes
1 White onion
(OR ANY COMBINATION OF STIR-FRY VEGGIES OF YOUR CHOOSING)
1 tsp ginger powder
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dillweed, snipped fine
6 fresh lemon balm leaves, cut small
2 Tbsp oil
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
4 Tbsp Tamari
4 scallions chopped fine
1 Tbsp brown sugar or honey
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 cup cooked rice or vermicelli noodles
Prepare sauce of oil, vinegar, tamari, scallions, sesame seeds, and brown sugar or honey. Set aside. Mix vegetables and herbs and sauté at medium heat in oil. Continue to stir slowly until tender crisp. Mix in the sauce and simmer slowly for a few more minutes and spoon over cooked rice or noodles.
Tropical Smoothie with Mint and Lemon Balm
1 medium banana, peeled and slices
1 medium mango, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 medium papaya, peeled, seeded, and chopped
3 cups skim milk
¼ cup fresh mint leaves
¼ cup fresh lemon balm leaves
2 Tbsp honey.
Combine all ingredients in a blender,
puree, and serve immediately. Garnish with
sprigs of fresh mint or lemon balm, if desired.
(The Herbal Palate)
HERBALPEDIA™ by The Herb Growing & Marketing Network
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
While swimming the other day I found myself lost in deep thought. I find this happens to me frequently while swimming, which I suspect is better than being lost in the deep end. So, there I was, counting my laps, and mulling through this ever-perpetual, consistently annoying confliction that has been plaguing my brain for the last 21 months. “Why can I not resolve this issue?” I asked myself for the seventy-seven-thousandth-three-hundred-fifty-second time. And thus began my memory replay of important people and good friends, acquaintances, and friendships turned bad; as well as a reflection upon myself as a human, colleague, acquaintance, enemy, woman, and a friend. Deep thought in the shallow end!
I thought all the way back to my first really close friend. Sarah was 1 year older than me, a brunette with big front teeth, and she lived with her dad on a hill above the ancient adobe house my parents were renting. That was the first stunning revelation I had as a child—that some kids didn’t live with BOTH parents. Divorce was seemingly uncommon, and the fact that my friend’s mother lived more than half a continent away was difficult to swallow. “She didn’t want me.” Sarah would say bluntly, while smacking chewing gum between her teeth. But given the tone of her voice I knew that was just her 5-year old way of showing off in a convoluted and sad kind of way. Apparently it was much more complicated than that, but I’ve never been told the whole story, and thus I’ve been left to my own fabrications.
Sarah and I, however, had a long and tumultuous friendship that had many periods of extreme joy and elation, and definite periods of difficulty. We played together a lot, and we were fortunate to have an ideal childhood set-up of ponds, a ditch, massive amounts of space to roam in, hundreds of trees, a gaggle of dogs, a smattering of chickens, and a couple of ducks. Given the large acreage of all the houses surrounding us, our absolute remoteness away from the real world, tucked in as we were in El Rancho, New Mexico; as well as our minority status as Anglos in a community that was largely Hispanic, we stuck together like glue.
Sticking together saved our gringa butts a few times as kids, like the day the bus driver decided he didn’t feel like driving the extra mile to our bus stop when I was 6 and she 7. We held hands and trembled most of the way, fighting off mongrel dogs and hiding from a number of high-school-aged cholos driving their lowriders along the dirt road. The first one we didn’t hide from scared us so silly we were sure would end up knifed in the river, like in the stories my brother told on occasion. As we made it closer to home, we could hear her dogs barking, and she wisely said, “They’re barking to let us know they can smell us and they are waiting for us.” This seemed somehow comforting, although I did wonder why they didn’t just run down the road to greet us. They chased cars all day long, anyway.
In reflecting upon my current conflicting emotions, I wondered if my ability to interact with people was influenced by these ups and downs with my childhood friend. Perhaps at the root of it all, I mused. There is no doubt that Sarah and I taught each other a lot about relationships. We had a remarkable ability to cause our whole world to explode around us, and then minutes later clamber up a big cottonwood tree, or wade through the ditch as if nothing bad had happened. “Why can’t it be like that now?” I pondered.
Thich Nhat Hanh is a Zen master whose work I’ve become very fond of. If only I could maintain all his teachings in the up-front region of my brain so that every one of my interactions with others could be maintained with a positive, smooth, outflow of awareness and without reaction and the subsequent negative thoughts that may arise when communications head south. I’ve never U-Tubed any of his talks, but I imagine that he’s a calm and collected person whose awareness, joy, and centeredness is contagious.
In his understated book, Peace is Every Step he has a chapter titled “Internal Formations.” When I first read this chapter I realized how perfectly it described my recent conflicting events. Such a simple concept-- that knots are being tied up inside me, and all the thoughts and communications, emotions and feelings I have only seem to make them stronger and more complex.
Mr. Hanh is simple in his statement, “When we have a sensory input, depending on how we receive it, a knot may be tied in us.”
“If we practice full awareness, we will be able to recognize internal formations as soon as they are formed, and we will find ways to transform them.”  and finally,
“If we know how to live every moment in an awakened way, we will be aware of what is going on in our feelings and perceptions of the present moment, and we will not let knots form or become tighter in our consciousness.” 
It sounds so graceful and simple and I understand fully what must be done. But I am simply a mortal human, and not a Zen Master. I work and have kids, and I focus on my personal goals and priorities, as well as maintain the health and well-being of my family and household. I’m not seeking out excuses, but what am I to do? I’ve been struggling to untie these fetters in my soul for over a year now!
The convoluted intertwinings of friendships and acquaintances that take place in a small town cannot be adequately explored within a few paragraphs. I’m hoping that this, too, shall pass…
Now, back to the plants.
Hawthorns are a widespread group of shrubs, which in our area are quite indistinct...that is you probably wouldn't notice it if you tripped over it, and even then you would be likely to mistake it for something else, namely a rose, even though it has nearly no thorns and really doesn't look like one.
I found my first Hawthorn last summer, while exploring a lovely section of the East Fork of the Jemez River. I had mistaken it for a rose. And then, upon inspecting it closer, my heart, so to speak felt drawn to it. Look at it's lovely purple fruit, I wondered to myself, taste it...Mmmm...sweet, yet tart, Yes! This is the lovely herb I'd been hearing so much about the previous year amongst my herbal classmates.
It is a notably small shrub, although I suspect it could grow to be about 10 or 12 feet in height. It has small, coarse-toothed leaves, hairless twigs that appear almost mauve in color behind the typical brown bark. The flowers are small, white, and in clusters, and the fruit are small, and range from red before they are ripe to a nearly purple-black, and they appear apple-like and very similar to rose hips--but with a much more delicate skin. It is a genuinely attractive little shrub, but has no airs about it.
Medicinally, Hawthorn is considered to be an excellent nutritive tonic and a restorative tonic for heart and blood vessels. It dilates the coronary artery and improves blood flow to the heart. It strengthens the heartbeat and regulates its rhythm. It normalizes blood pressure. Additionally, it is considered a connective tissue tonic. Hawthorn is safe during pregnancy, and can be used during the later stages of pregnancy if the blood pressure tends to run slightly higher than normal.
Hawthorn has been indicated specifically for degenerative heart disease, arteriosclerosis, aging heart, smoker's heart, heart weakness due to debilitating or infectious disease; weak or irregular heartbeat, and high blood pressure. It has also been prescribed for injured connective tissues such as injured ligaments and tendons, arthritic joints, varicose veins, and degenerative diseases associated with these. 4
Hawthorn may potentiate the effects of Digitalis. Patients taking digitalis heart medication should seek consultation with their Dr. before taking Hawthorn, or supplements containing Hawthorn.ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Hawthorn has long been associated with the heart, both physically and metaphorically. Many herbal cordial recipes include hawthorn amongst the primary ingredients, especially for romantic cordials--aphrodisiacs among them!
1 Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace is Every Step, page 64
2 Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace is Every Step, page 65
3 Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace is Every Step, page 67
4 Ed Smith, Therapeutic Herb Manual, page 44
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Summer, though…summer is it. The scent of chlorine saturated towels and sunscreen, the sound of flip flops and the buzzing of bees. The flowers waving in light breezes, and the coolness of the evening as the sun slowly disappears behind the mountains…these things satiate my summer satisfaction.
Six years ago today, my first baby was born—without pain blockers, medical interventions, or being taken away to be placed in some plastic container down the hall. Having kept several people awake all night long, I was left on my own with my new baby while everyone else went home to sleep. I, however, was buzzing with energy, despite my 31-hour marathon. Additionally, I felt about as motherly as an acorn lying in the dirt—what was I supposed to be doing? Thinking? Saying? Singing? I wasn’t quite sure. And nothing miraculously came into play once I was an actual Mom, and not just another pregnant lady. The motherly instincts didn’t suddenly come “on-line” like my satellite TV did once hooked up.
I was amazed, however, at how remarkably beautiful this teensy-tiny baby looked, at how long her fingernails were, and that she had not one, but two sets of dimples on each tiny cheek. I did feel remarkably better to have space around my abdominal organs, and I certainly knew that it felt great to finally be done being pregnant. I guessed that I would be able to figure most things about being a parent out, and that whatever I couldn’t, there would be books, other mamas, and grandmas to consult with.
Looking down on that remarkably perfect little face, I really didn’t know how I would change in the future. None of us can forsee the future anyway, whether we are parents or not. I had adamantly said that becoming a Mom wouldn’t change my lifestyle or interests, and for that most part that has been true. I did not, however, expect the deep realization that comes with knowing that should something happen to me, I would certainly decide to become a ghost so that I might have some influence on my kids’ day to day lives.
Reflecting back a short six years ago, I certainly never anticipated how much more motivation I would have to pursue my own interests, while nurturing the interests of my little ones. I didn’t realize that kids can be so remarkably goofy without anyone teaching them how to be, and that they come up with creative ways to say things through nothing more than their own working brain. My favorite? “I have a monster in my foot,” is what this oldest one says when her foot falls asleep. Who would’ve guessed?
Birthdays are special days for most people. A time to reflect on the past and to hope for the future. Perhaps a time to receive a welcomed gift, or to splurge a little on oneself. When I think back on the day that I brought this particular child out onto the planet, I am in awe of the magic of a growing and developing life. SO much to look forward to, and so many potential possibilities!
Happy Birthday, Honey Bee!!
Saturday, June 21, 2008
The section of the book that caused me to again consider the origins of plant knowledge had to do with the late Harvard Ethnobotanist Richard Schultes, who is reknowned for his extensive studies of the Amazon flora and who lived amongst many different indigenous tribes during his time there in the first half of the 20th century. Dr. Schultes had already been living amongst the Amazon peoples for well over a decade, and had already identified and collected thousands of species of plants that were commonly employed for food, crafts, and intoxicant use. He had undergone a multitude of different ceremonies during which a vareity of different psychotropic plants were consumed or otherwise and made remarkably scientific observations about each of his experiences. A hippie of the 60s he was not--this man was all scholar and science. After having recently discovered the Amazonian beverage yage, Banisteriopsis caapi, and learning that a variety of different plants were used as admixtures to alter the effect of the original blend, Dr. Schultes began to ponder what most botanist don't often write about:
"The Amazonian flora contains literally tens of thousands of species. How had the Indians learned to identify and combine in this sophisticated manner these morphologically dissimilar plants that possessed such unique and complementary chemical properties? The standard scientific explanation was trial and error--a reasonable term that may well account for certain innovations--but at another level, as Schultes came to realize on spending more time in the forest, it is a euphemism which disguises the fact that ethnobotanists have very little idea how Indians originally made their discoveries.
"The problem with trial and error is that the elaboration of the preparations often involves procedures that are either exceedingly complex or yield products of little or no obvious value. Yage is an inedible, nondescript liana that seldom flowers. True, its bark is bitter, often a clue to medicinal properties, but it is no more so than a hundred other forest vines. An infusion of the bark causes vomiting and severe diarrhea, conditions that would discourage further experimentation. Yet not only did the Indians persist but they became so deft at manipulating the various ingredients that individual shamans developed dozens of recipes, each yielding potions of various strengths and nuances to be used for specific ceremonial and ritual purposes."
"The Indians naturally had their own explanations, rich cosmological accounts that from their perspective were perfectly logical: sacred plants that had journeyed up the Milk River in the belly of anacondas, potions prepared by jaguars, the drifting souls of shamans dead from the beginning of time. As a scientist Shultes did not take these myths literally, but they did suggest to him a certain delicate balance. 'These were the ideas,' he would write half a century later, 'of a people who did not distinguish the supernatural from the pragmatic.' The Indians, Schultes realized, believed in the power of plants, accepted the existence of magic, and acknowledged the potency of the spirit. Magical and mystical ideas entered the very texture of their thinking. Their botanical knowledge could not be separated from their metaphysics." (pp. 217 - 218)
Truly, the real question of how these native peoples learned of the variety of uses of a multitude of plants will most likely never be answered. The use of a few intoxicating plants may have lead to the knowledge of thousands of plants is the unstated premise. Now, as the rain forest is razed, and the individual native cultures and their millenia of traditions are being lost or westernized, I find only sadness. The fact that only a few students of the botany of South America have had such a short span of time to do their studies (far less time than is necessary for such a magnitude of botanical treasure), and that the jungle is now being destroyed faster than could have been imagined even a few decades ago is just stunning.
The sadness at the loss of habitat is overwhelming. Therefore, I plant my own habitat to surround my domain. Plants for food, plants for medicine.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Friday, May 23, 2008
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Friday, April 25, 2008
I am remarkably overdue in creating a new post. This is due to the fact that I finally was able to steal away and leave the regular realities of home behind for a few days. After bathing in red desert sand for six days, I'm feeling a bit more centered, calm, and refreshed. Some of this sand came in the form of a sand shower--that is when the wind blows so hard, the very finest sand penetrates every fabric possible (including metal), and scours away the surfaces of skin, hair, teeth, and eyes and you are left feeling as though you visited a fine spa for a whole body scrub, only you didn't have to pay anything at all. And the sand doesn't come off when you're done. However, given that when the wind slowed to a minor squall, and we could hear eachother talk again, it seemed that the coating of sand was just another fine aspect of camping in the desert. After a couple days, you don't even notice it in your drinks and in your food!
Regardless, I've been busily trying to catch up to all that needs tending to, and this blog is one of those things.
I had to jump right back into the training fire this week, especially since I've signed myself up for the grueling Atomic Man Duathlon's Fat Man Course. Ack!! It sounded good three weeks ago when I was feeling very good about my training schedule, but now with nearly two weeks off save for a couple beautiful mountain bike rides, a short desert run, and ZERO time on the road bike, I'm feeling a bit nervous about my whole choice of endeavors.
Plus, thinking I would have some time to ride the long lonely road into Canyonlands while on vacation, my poor road bike endured the sand showers as well, and is likely containing an abnormal amount of sand in places it should not be.
It is quite likely that after Sunday's race, I'll be in dire need of some of the following topical preparations!
EXTERNAL HERBAL PREPARATIONS
There are a variety of commercial liniments that are extremely effective in relieving sore aching muscles, strains, and bruises:
Po Sum On Oil
Zheng Gu Shui Liniment
Tiger Balm salves, liquids, and oils
Dit Dat Jiao Liniment
Other non-Chinese preparations include:
Arnica gel or spray
Our kitchens often contain all we need to heal ourselves. An easy compress to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and warm cold or painful joints is a ginger compress:
Grate a 2-inch chunk of fresh ginger into 2 C hot water. Cover and let stand until the water turns yellow, or about 5 minutes. Soak a towel in the tea and wring out gently so that the towel is still saturated, but not dripping. Apply to the affected area, cover the wet towel with a dry towel, and place a heating pad or hot water bottle over the top towel. Repeat as many times as needed.
This is a pain relieving plaster, it increases circulation, and reduces swelling.
½ Cup ground mustard seed combined with just enough water to make a thick sticky goo. Spread a fairly thick layer over painful area and cover with a warm damp towel. Allow to set on skin just until you start to feel it burn and then remove the plaster using warm water and soap. Don’t leave on too long, as blisters will form!
Homeopathic Remedies and Flower Essences can be very useful if injured. I highly recommend keeping on hand the following preparations:
Ruta grav 30c – Indicated for sprains, broken bones, and trauma. Especially useful for more chronic conditions like sprains that are difficult to heal.
Friday, April 4, 2008
Nervines are used to treat a variety of conditions including neurological disorders, hypertension, restlessness, insomnia, anxiety, nerve fatigue, nerve pain, numbness, and muscular aches and pains. Some nervines work to relax muscle tissue—alleviating spasms and cramping and pain. Others work by supplying specific minerals to the nerve tissues, such as calcium and magnesium, which act to counteract the debilitating effects of stress and pain. Many nervines are calming and sedating, helping to relax nervous tension, easing feelings of stress and anxiety, and assisting in relaxation. Fortunately most nervines have none of the side-effects of typical sedatives or narcotic pain relievers.
1. Scullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) – Considered to be a restorative nerve tonic, is useful in preventing muscular spasms, and is a mild sedative. I call this my Grumpy Mama herb—the one I choose when I start feeling like the Mama I don’t want to be…works quickly! Scullcap is effective for a variety of personalities and constitutions.
Monday, March 31, 2008
· Tonics – increase energy, increase endurance, and stimulate the immune system.
· Nervines – resolve pain, nourish nerve tissues, relieve muscle spasms, and calm and relax the mind.
· Topical Preparations – formulas used to relieve strains, sprains, soreness, and
However, excessive exercise is considered to be taxing to the body and may lead to “deficiencies” within the body. Rest is considered to be the primary method for preventing deficiencies and to ensure the body has time to rebuild and maintain Qi and Blood.
The concept of Yin and Yang is the foundation of TCM. Yin is considered feminine, fluid, cool, and nourishing; and Yang is considered masculine, drying, warm, and stimulating. Running, is considered to be a Yang activity, and should be balanced with Yin activities such as Yoga, stretching, swimming, easy cycling, or Tai Chi. Cross-training with Yin activities will help to promote balance within the structural body.
The use of herbs as medicine and food has been occurring as long as humans have walked (or run!) the Earth. Ideally, our food should be our primary medicine, and we can supplement our food with specific herbs to enhance the tonifying and nutritional value of food. A diet consisting mostly of whole grains, legumes, steamed or sautéed vegetables, and moderate amounts of protein will help to maintain our health, and support our body—especially during periods of high intensity training. Supplementing our diets with specific herbs can be useful in maintaining our immune system, supporting and tonifying specific organ groups, and enhancing endurance.
Additionally, the use of external herbal preparations can help to alleviate sore muscles, strains, and sprains.
Most people are familiar with the tonic herb Ginseng (Panax ginseng), which is widely used around the world to increase energy, strength, and endurance, as well as to stimulate the immune system. There are actually six kinds of “Ginseng” used in TCM, and only two are actual Ginsengs. The other herbs share similar qualities as ginseng. Ginsengs are considered to be the Kings of all tonics, but each type has specific actions on the body, and not all are appropriate for everyone.
As athletes, we are exerting stress upon our bodies during periods of heavy training. In using tonics, we can help to counteract that stress, and maintain a strong, healthy body.
Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus)
One tonic that is very useful for most athletes is the Siberian Ginseng. This herb is considered to be a Qi tonic, and counteracts stress and fatigue. Additionally, it is prescribed for rheumatic conditions, and is considered to be antispasmodic—helping to reduce muscle spasms. Siberian Ginseng can be taken daily by athletes to increase stamina.
Cordyceps (Cordyceps spp.)
In China, Cordyceps is considered to be virtually essential for athletes who rely on strength, speed of foot, and endurance. Recent Research has shown that Cordyceps is restorative after excessive exertion, and it may improve physical endurance. Cordyceps helps restore cellular energy levels during times of high stress. It helps boost functions associated with the adrenal cortex that aid in the adaptation to stress. Cordyceps increases respiratory capacity and efficiency. Cordyceps is also an immune-stimulant. Cordyceps has been shown to benefit the vascular system, improving the function of circulation at the capillary level. According to TCM principles, Cordyceps is used to tonify Qi, replenish Yin and Yang “Essence”, (which is thought to be the very foundation of our life-giving energy), strengthen the body and mind, and is said to be “anti-aging” and have rejuvenative capability.