“It's still magic even if you know how it's done.” ― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky
I came to plants and stories by the same route, as a child, in a fevered quest for magic in a frightening, cacophonous world. Not everyone comes at it from that angle, but it worked out well for me. From the plants that I studied with endless curiosity even before I had words, I learned to tell stories. From the stories I read later, I learned that plants have been spinning stories from their roots for as long as humans have had words, and very likely much longer. The tales of Berchta in her forest, guarding the ancient healing knowledge of the plants and Baba Jaga in her mortar intrigued me, and I looked for every detail of the herbs and magics laid down in that old lore. I was fascinated, and although I was certainly interested in the healing aspects, I was most drawn in by the interaction between woman and plant, person and place. Even as a child, I gathered Strawberry leaves for my tea, grew Thyme in my tiny garden and then tinctured it in vinegar. I learned about the styptic properties of Yarrow from an elderly neighbor in the barrio where I lived and was astounded yet again by the power of the green things growing all around me.
It took me until my early 20’s to find my way to this enchanted canyon in the mountains of New Mexico, and just as long to formally (in as much as I ever do anything formally) begin my herbal studies. Over the years, I have studied with the late great Michael Moore of SWSBM, Jim McDonald of herbcraft.org, Charles Garcia of The California School of Hispanic Herbalism, have mentored with 7Song, and been influenced by such varied sources as Guido Masé, Maria Treben, Juliette de Baïracli Levy, and the healing traditions of my ancestors.
Learning about plants while living in the roadless wilderness of the Gila only enhanced the magic of a process that is inherently filled to brimming with the mysteries of the green world. This place and my nearly 15 years here have irrevocably changed me, and taught me as much about healing as any of my human teachers. I’ve now been practicing herbalism for over 16 years, and it has been everything that my early childhood fantasies of a witch at the edge of the woods promised, from the gnarled roots that can heal the nastiest hacking winter cough to the sweetly scented flowers that can send you intensely vivid dreams to the silver bark that can clear up dangerous systemic infections. Back then, I imagined it must be some kind of elven enchantment for an herbal compress to be able to speed the healing of broken bones, and now that I know exactly how it works, it’s still magic. In fact, it’s even more magic.