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  D e s e r t   E x p o s u r e   July 2010


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Healing Traditions

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And along with this need can also come an unusual degree of receptivity to natural and so-called alternative healing methods. Folks become inspired to avail themselves of the medicinal and edible plant varieties thriving all around them, predisposed against the excessive or automatic use of pharmaceuticals, resentful of what they view as an increasingly expensive and depersonalized medical industry, distrustful of any kind of official certification, and characteristically leaning towards what they consider the deliberate gifts of nature and creator.

The province of the democratized, self-empowered healer is the home and neighborhood, town and bioregion, whatever nearby community constitutes what we once called our village. It is in such places all over the world that one comes to know not only the names but the histories and lifestyle habits of those whom we seek to assist. These people learn to expect from us not "cures" but insights, tools and aids, an opportunity and means to regain balance and wholeness, the knowledge and help of the beneficial plants growing in the nearest mountains and deserts, in their backyard gardens and wily weed patches, and laced through the wild unkempt edges of neighborhood streets.

While it has always been wise to be able to at least partially diagnose one's self and family, it is increasingly prudent and crucial. Having a good grasp of the rudiments of herbalism and healing — knowing how to understand energetics, read symptoms, narrow down possible causes of illness, identify medicinal plants and process them for the best results — can bolster anyone's self-confidence, overall health and survivability.

It can also become the means of taking on a larger role, that of consciously serving the health of the community and the earth in the form of a village healer or urban practitioner, teacher of the healing arts or clinical herbalist, scientific researcher or field botanist, plant conservationist or committed restorer of essential botanical habitat. The means for such self-empowering learning is available to everyone with a strong desire, through respected books, local programs like Julie McIntyre's "Earth Medicine Apprenticeship" in Silver City (call Julie at 575-538-5498), in-depth programs like the Anima online herbal foundations course ((www.AnimaCenter.org/courses), asking questions of knowledgeable practitioners at regional shops like Bear Creek Herbs in Silver City, and information-packed events like the Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference.



Attendees of the conference in September will include experts with their own longstanding practices — eager to hear of the latest clinical discoveries and cutting-edge approaches from the likes of Howie Brounstein or Paul Bergner. There will be mothers desiring hints for household health care, and folks excited to take Kiva Rose and Jim McDonald's inspiring workshop on energetics. Those wanting to learn about the plants of the high desert Southwest can join in a plant identification walk near the site, with the esteemed 7Song.

Evening entertainment is scheduled to include the nature-inspired "psychedelic folk" of the husband and wife duo, Arborea; the impassioned dance and guitar of FlamencoWorldCompany; and the uplifting, African-tinged tribal grooves of the banjo- and fiddle-wielding women's group, Rising Appalachia.

Through those Appalachian hills, as along the shores of Cornwall and down twisty Amazon rainforest paths, in the forests of the Northeast and Northwest as across the mesas and down the canyons of the American Southwest, we walk in the footsteps of the ancestors, working to bring together human and plant tribes at a time when such efforts are more urgent than ever.

As I close this piece, I turn to watch the herbalist and instructor Kiva Rose deftly sorting the leaves and flowers of various plants, evocative of our species' long and satisfying journey as hunter gatherers, bringing to mind a vision of those ways of living close to the land that marked the vast majority of our existence on this planet. As she shifts to grinding seeds with an antique rock mano and metate, one can see in the way she presses rock to stone the rhythmic, repetitive motions of those countless Native American women who have for so long tended the health and needs of their tribes and homes. Her small hands sort, tie and grasp just like those of the Spanish-speaking "Abuelas" of frontier New Mexico, deftly wrapping medicinal herbs and tying them to nails along the ceiling's exposed log beams.

Before stopping for the night, she carefully sets aside any fertile seeds that she finds — the same as have forever done some of the most caring, conscientious and self-empowered of our kind.



For information and to register for the 2010 Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference near Santa Fe, Sept. 17-19, go to www.TraditionsInWesternHerbalism.org






Jesse Wolf Hardin is a backwoods Catron County scribe, author of seven books and acclaimed teacher of the Anima nature-informed practices. He and his partners offer empowering online herbal and nature-awareness correspondence courses, as well as online counsel and healing consultations. Readers are also invited to the riverside Anima Sanctuary, an ancient place of power, for wilderness retreats and study. Anim Lifeways & Herbal School, www.AnimaCenter.org



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