The Innate Healer (and what to do when you cannot help)

I shivered in the cold, forced air of the dim hospital room and pulled my shawl tighter around my shoulders.  I listened to the ominous drone of the heart monitor.  He finally fell asleep.  I watched my child, now a man, lay there in the hospital bed with the flimsy covers upon his slight frame, barely covering his tattooed arms.  His dark hair pressed to the side of his face.  His brow still furrowed from pain.  My baby.  I pulled the covers up around him a bit more and held my breath so not to let the pressing tears release.  Breathe.

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I am considered an expert in my field.  I can tell you about hundreds of local plants, their medicinal properties, growing conditions, contraindications, their uses, how to prepare them, and how to heal nearly every ailment there is.  I am an herbalist, a medicine woman, a plant girl, a lover of nature, a great believer in the original medicine, and a skeptic of modern medicine.  And yet, all the herbal knowledge in the world could not help me as I stood on that cold tile floor.

“Help me, Mom!” he screamed over the phone before I got there.  He went in to the emergency room for a fever and back pain and the hospital gave him a spinal tap.  They missed.  Three times.  Spinal fluid pooled into his lower back and created more pain than my child could handle without madness.  But he was in the hospital now, so it was too late, I could not help.  Except to pull the blankets over his arms to cover the goosebumps.  To kiss his head.

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A few weeks later- last weekend- I stood by the bedside of my grandmother, whose tall, thin frame was dwarfed by the hospital bed and flimsy covers.  The drone of the heart monitor and the bustling of nurses outside the door filled the large, cool space.  My beloved grandma had fallen and just had a partial hip replacement.  Again, I could do nothing but watch her sleep.  My children came.  They gathered in the room and talked wildly, trying to catch up on events since the last time they had seen each other.  My new granddaughter was passed around.  Smiles and laughter filled the space as grandma would slowly open her eyes and look around and grin.  So much life that came from her.

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I am a healer.  We are all healers, especially women.  Any of us would take care of an injured frog, or a stranger, or try to bring life back into someone with warm soup or a hug.  Anxiety fills our chest as we feel the pain of others, see their worries, the punched feeling in the stomach when we know we can do nothing.  That is why so many of us become healers.  We have to do something. 

I have learned that the only thing I can do in cases when no one asks for my help, or I simply cannot help, is to release the outcome.  They might die.  They might not be able to change their life.  They may still have lessons to learn.  They are choosing other options.  They are their own decision makers.  They might be paralyzed.  They might…oh the possibilities of tragedy are endless.  And there we are… trying to save the world.  Sometimes we just cannot help.  Once you can release the outcome, you can then breathe and be there to give love and support or to pull the covers up over chilled arms.  We must release what we cannot control or it will control us.  Give it back to the powers that be.  We can only help ourselves and do what we can for others.

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My husband looked so pale.  A colorless sheen crossed his face as he came out of surgery a few days ago.  (It’s been quite a month, y’all.)  I had released all outcomes.  Whatever happened, happened.  But here he was, smiling dopily from the morphine drip, and a long overdue hernia surgery complete.  At home, I help him in any way I can.  He asks me for help.  I can help him.  I give him my own antibiotics and pain medicines along with his prescribed pain pills.  I make him teas for his digestion and tend to his wounds and bruises.  I am so much better when I feel like I can do something.

Sometimes we can help, sometimes we cannot.  My neighbor called me after badly spraining her ankle yesterday.  I took over some muscle healer and she was at the dog park by the afternoon.

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I feel like it is a very good idea to have some basic knowledge of herbal medicine.  Everyone should know what herbs heal wounds, fight infections, handle pain, and heal.  I currently have two books on this subject on Amazon.  The Herbalist Will See You Now; Your Complete Training Guide to Becoming and Working as an Herbalist and The Homesteader’s Pharmacy; the Complete Guide to Creating Your Own Herbal Pharmacy.

They may just give you one more outlet in which you can help yourself and others.

 

Balancing Health and Life with the Four Directions

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Life can be hectic but it is nothing short of a beautiful winding journey.  What are we to learn on this journey?  We struggle to understand ourselves, those around us, our children, our jobs, our circumstances.  But through all of that, flowers begin to flourish in the cultivated areas, even in the seemingly destroyed crevices of our experiences.  What are some ways that we can maintain balance?  Balancing the spiritual, physical, and mental, and emotional aspects of our lives takes some conscious effort.

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The four directions in Native tradition demonstrates a visual path for us to follow.  In the east the sun rises and another day has come.  We find ourselves thankful for another day of life.  The Creator resides in the east.  Life begins in the east.  Our spiritual strength begins there as we enter this world and look to the rising sun for new beginnings.

Opposite is the west, the darkening way, looked over by Grandmother moon, where we go when we pass over, where our ancestors reside and look over us.  Our physical selves are focused here and the plant medicines in the medicine wheel in the west are able to heal the body of diseases and ailments that prevent us from living our human life to the fullest.  Sensory and rootedness are focused here, where our connection to Spirit resides in the east.

Over in the south we find fun and childlike laughter as we run through the woods and play with animals, plants, birds, and fish.  Where we find our teachers, where we are young and joyous.

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In the north a colder, but not harsh, mountain rises and we become the teacher and wisdom is attained from lessons.  It is also the way of rest and recuperation.

If we find ourselves pulled or “stuck” in one area or another we simply change our focus to its opposite and therefore keep balance.

Experiencing all of the elements can aid in this.  When I think of Mother Earth, I think of the forest.  It was powerful looking out into the ocean and seeing her in all her power.  It is humbling and makes me relook at my priorities.  Going on a hike can reset your whole outlook.  Getting up and watching the sunrise, or taking some quiet time during the sunset can help improve calm.

I have trouble meditating.  If I focus on my breath I will start hyperventilating!  I can barely touch my toes but I do yoga anyway.  Everything can have a variation that is specific to you.  Walking and yoga, eating nutritious food, whole foods closest to the earth, using plant medicines, all these things can balance the physical self.  Whereas meditating  on a word or phrase can help clear your mind enough to rest for a  moment, prayer, smudging, connection in quiet to your Source is the way to balancing the spiritual.  Finding time to play and doing only what brings you real joy balances the emotional self while being mindful of your lessons and getting plenty of rest balances the mind.

Close your eyes and meditate on the bus, sit on a park bench, go swimming, be thankful and as we continue to learn on this journey we will find that we are calmer, wiser, and more mindful.  There is a lot of beauty out there in the world.  Capture as much as you can!

Grammie School

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It used to be referred to as “Mommy School”.  That is what Andy used to call it.  He loved workbooks and extra reading.  We loved to visit museums, art galleries, and book stores.  This was when he was five or six.  He would tell his teacher all about Mommy School.

But time found us getting busier and I with three little ones and Mommy School was limited.  When after a year of high school and Andy struggling out of lack of interest I decided to homeschool all three of them.  We visited the teacher supply store and went crazy buying workbooks and educational toys and various items like stickers. (Gosh, who doesn’t like stickers?)

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Andy was fifteen, Shyanne was twelve, and Emily was eleven so their interests and levels were different so as we made our way through we became more of “unschoolers”.  Unschooling is when each kid devours every topic they love, whether it be cooking or pirates.  In each topic they learn valuable skills such as reading, writing, spelling, history, science, and math.  They also have time to indulge in arts and music.  Because they were home with us they also learned what we deemed important, not the slanted school system’s ideas.  They learned about herbalism, animals, agriculture, our ideas on spirituality and they were left to fill in the blanks for themselves.  They were able to make their own paths with a well rounded base.

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Andy went off to college and the girls felt amiss.  They wanted to try the small high school in town.  Shyanne, my socialite, loved it, thrived in it, and graduated.  Emily went back briefly but found herself unhappy in the school system and then learned she was with child so she reverted back to homeschooling pretty quickly.  I enjoyed homeschooling my children and I believe they are intelligent adults that were more realistic about the world out there then children just graduating from traditional high school.

Now, I have my first grandchild here four days a week while mom and dad work.  It is my greatest honor and profound joy.  In many cultures the grandmother is put in charge of the children’s well being, growth, and education.  These grandmothers hold the wisdom of half a life or more and tend to have more patience.  Maryjane is a special child.  When she was six months old we attended the funeral of Shyanne’s best friend who had committed suicide and the depth of sorrow was intense.  As I would approach people Maryjane would put her hand on their face as if she were trying to comfort.

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She is a bit of a wild child, the child that usually comes last, the one that has so much life bubbling forth that her parents want a nap!  She is also highly intuitive.  She has the same healing gifts that run through my family.  It is obvious even though she is only two years old.  She eats wild herbs and helps me make medicine.  She comforts those that are upset.  But she “knows” things too.  We were to meet Emily and Maryjane at the coffee shop the other day.  Maryjane started to yell, “Pa! Pa!”

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“Grammie and Pa aren’t here yet,” Emily replied.  About a minute later we pulled into the turning lane to get into the parking lot.  Emily was a little shocked.

“If you send her to school they will squash this little girl’s spirit,”  I lamented.

“I wasn’t planning on sending her to school.”

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Oh, happy day.  Emily and I will be homeschooling that amazing child.  Four days a week (depending on the kids’ schedules) we will be having the raucous event called “Grammie School”.

Daydreams of workbooks and drawing pads and finely sharpened pencils danced in my head then I realized that I am already homeschooling.  Learning doesn’t begin at age four and end at eighteen or twenty-two.  We have already begun.

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Here are five ways to teach a little one:

  1. Count- everything I hand the baby I count.  Here are some mullein flowers to put in the pot.  One, two, three, four, five…She now tells people she is five.  She can’t put them in order, but she can randomly sing, “one, five, nine, three, six…”
  2. Spell- Dad, d-a-d, is on his way!  I don’t spell everything we say, I would annoy myself, but she is really in tune to simple words.  Pa, p-a, Mom, m-o-m.  She has no idea what we are talking about yet but the letters stick in her little head.  She sure surprised her mom by writing D-A-D on her arm!
  3. Point out everything.  Birds, trees, flowers, dogs, coffee, books, people, cars, rain, everything.  These babies are sponges and they will remember all of these things in detail.  It is terribly sad to me that so many parents I see just set their kids in a corner and ignore them.  They just “get through” until the next stage.  Babies being lugged around in car seats instead of being held.  Perhaps it is a grandmother’s perspective to see that children grow quickly and time is so precious.  These little ones cannot be all they aspire to without nearly constant attention and guidance.
  4. Teach them about animals.  Teach them not to be afraid of animals.  The kids used to have friends come over to the house that were terrified of our cats!  A child that knows animals, speaks to animals, is gentle with animals, and who is well versed in the various kinds of animals naturally grows to be a more compassionate and gentle child and adult.
  5. Read- read, read, read!  Read labels, books, magazines, signs, and fill the child’s head full of adventures and stories.  Give them a love for reading early.  Visit the library, read to them on your lap, just read.  This is special time for the child and for you and the libraries will forever hold a place in that child’s heart.

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There are many more things, manners, cooking, chores, things that we have Maryjane do as well, but the above five are easy and effective ways to homeschool whether one chooses to send their child to school or not.  There is always the opportunity to reach out to a child and make a difference in their self-esteem and in their learning.

Emily at Eighteen (Happy Birthday!)

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“Oh Emily, so sweet and true

Oh Emily, my love for you extends beyond a thousand miles

Will see us through a thousand trials

All I see and know to be right,

disappear from my sight,

as my adoration for you surrounds us like light.”

March 1997

a long time ago

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I think Maryjane looks a lot like her mother!

I think Maryjane looks a lot like her mother!

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Emily at Eighteen, a beautiful sight

sweet and kind, a joyous light

a stubborn streak, a knowing grin

a good friend to seek, a great passion within.

And now another from your womb

brings even more light to this room

And the world spins and I have won

with my girls life gets lots more fun.

 

I am honored to be the mother of one so dear

Emily, you grow more beautiful with each passing year.

 

Happy Birthday!

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The Life of a Healer- Part 1 (oddities and healings)

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I remember that little girl rather clearly though it was many a year ago.  Her name was Wildflower and I can see her now with her wispy brown hair and big blue eyes planting dandelion seeds in a circular pattern in the neighbor’s yard in hopes of creating bountiful yellow meadows on that city block.  Even then, at six years old, Wildflower understood the importance of dandelions and was ever baffled at those who attempted their demise.

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She was a bit of an odd child, I recall.  She spent most of her time playing alone.  She kept only a few close friends.  Her friends were the trees and the animals.  She had a special bond with animals, an empathy that confused those near, and a deep compassion for all living creatures.

As the child started to grow she spent most of her time at the park reading, or writing poetry.  She would feed the ducks and they would lie along the edges of her blanket by the lake, under the large summer trees.  She would feed squirrels by hand and chatter with them as they would her.  Again, only keeping a few close friends, she spent most of her time alone among animals and nature.

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When she was quite small her parents were Atheist and so Wildflower would test God.  “God, if you are real, help me with my homework!”  Every time she did her English work she would ask to find a word in the dictionary that was required and would turn to the page and point to it with her eyes closed.  Every time she found the word she was looking for.  This surprised and delighted the young child and long talks ensued with the Great Spirit.  Her parents became Catholic and so did she and Wildflower fell in love with all the prayers and quiet treasures of silent reverie.  She wished to become a nun and spend her entire life writing and reading and praying and helping animals and people.

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When Wildflower was nine years old she was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Such an odd thing for a child to experience and for five years weekly visits to doctors, too much aspirin, and very painful times commenced.  The doctors simply could not help.  At fourteen years old it was time to be confirmed in the Catholic Church and a retreat was taking place at the amazing Mother Cabrini Shrine in Golden, Colorado.  This is a place with awe inspiring views and a sense of true peace and miracles.  The fountain where Mother Cabrini struck a rock to bring water forth is still there and those searching, praying, or praising go to this miraculous place.  Including, at the time, a bunch of rough and tumble teenagers with little respect and a strong sense of rebellion.  Wildflower remembered the teenagers as they gathered in a room in the old house where a small, Hispanic woman with a quiet presence stood.  The children made jokes, made light of the heavy air.  The woman called the first child up and made the sign of the cross on their forehead with holy water.  The youth leaders were behind the young man as he stiffened and fell straight to the ground, being guided by their knowing hands.  There he lay paralyzed as she prayed over him.  The teenagers sat speechless.  When it was Wildflower’s turn she walked up, nervous about what would happen, and she too fell straight back and lay on the patterned rug staring at the ceiling paralyzed.  The mysterious woman leaned over her and said that Wildflower would begin speaking in tongues and that her arthritis would leave her body.  Wildflower was carried to a couch where the words of a higher power began to flow out of her mysteriously and without aid and through her fingertips a rush of power flew, all the pain that she could handle was rushing through her fingers and out of her body.  She was shaking and being comforted by youth leaders and in that moment was healed.

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This would be the first of four miraculous healings that would occur to the young healer long before she knew her calling.  She knew the plants and herbs and animals and the Great Spirit but did not yet know the herbs’ practical uses as she was still in a place where no one knew that plants could speak or heal.  So, even though she tended wild flowers, she knew not that she would work with them in the future.  Because after a few years she became lost….

Lessons From a Child (as taught by our granddaughter)

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Sometimes you have to stop and jump in a puddle…for no reason at all.

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And take a break to sit in the sun…

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Spend lots of time with friends….

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Don’t sweat the small stuff…

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See everything as if it were the first time.

Wishing you all a sense of wonder, enchantment, a prosperous spring, and an amazing farming season!

 

 

Shyanne Mae

Eighteen years ago on this morn

A baby girl was soon to be born

With soft brown curls and big blue eyes

She viewed the world as a big surprise…

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From the beginning, Shyanne would only be with me.  As a baby she would not let others hold her, would only stay tucked on my hip.  She would hold my hand as she grew and would not want to leave my side (except to play with her brother, who was her hero from the get go).  She was my little angel.

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She was giggly and fun, talkative and smart.  She had an almost exotic look about her with her dark, curly hair and big blue/green eyes.  She began to say “I know” when folks would say how beautiful she was every day.  I had to teach her to say thank you.  Still, wherever we go, someone mentions how pretty she is.

She was never in trouble, not once as a child.  She never went into time out.  She was so particular and concerned about her behavior and how everyone would feel that she kept herself out of trouble.  She even moved her desk next to her teacher’s to keep from chatting to her friends.

She was unusual in the sense that she wanted to have lunch with her teachers, hang out with adults.  She was easy to talk to.  Gracious.  Polite.

I always called her Pumpkin but her dad calls her Cupcake.  We were sitting in the hallway outside her first grade class waiting for a teacher/parent conference.  The walls were lined with portrayals of the “Cat in the Hat”.  Funny hand drawn cats in finger paint.  Doug said about one, “It’s a cupcake!”  Shyanne started laughing and said it wasn’t.  Then a cloud of unreasonable silliness covered us all.  “It’s a cupcake!” he repeated.  “No, it’s not!” she squealed and tried to cover his mouth with her little hands.  “…cupcake!”  Another roar of laughter and her little fingers laced to keep him from saying the word again.  Uncontrollable laughter filled the hall from our family.  I am sure the conference before us wondered what on earth was happening.  But, from that day, Shyanne became Cupcake.

Even as a small child, she had a gift for baking.  As a pre-teen she spent hours in the kitchen baking up masterpieces sounding a bit like Gordon Ramsey from Hell’s Kitchen.  The child can swear like a sailor.  We didn’t dare venture into the kitchen.  We were rewarded with confections of sugar and creativity.

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Shyanne could sing from early on.  She could bring down the house with her bluesy, soulful voice.  It was hard to imagine that it came out of her tiny frame.  We took the kids to bars that allowed children to sing karaoke.  When we were homeschooling we said they were studying music and social problems.  I miss those days!  The kids will not sing for me now.

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She was in the Miss pre-teen Colorado pageant.  Our good friends, Steve and Beth, sponsored her along with the owner of one of the bars we took her to.  She did not win but when she graced the stage, her arm linked with her dad’s, that big winning smile greeting the crowd, I could not help but beam with pride.

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She and her brother were inseparable as children.  Many photographs show them standing so close, their sides touched.  Along with Emily, the children went on adventures in the open space behind our neighborhood, held Pirate School regularly, and enjoyed vacations that we took to the Caribbean, to Florida, and their favorites, Oakley, Kansas and Laramie, Wyoming.

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After Andrew moved out, she began to date and all fears of not being in trouble were quickly dismissed.  She started, and still does as she pleases.

She now works at the local tea shop and does a lot of the baking there.  She is so charming and genuinely likes people and service that she is brilliant there.  Decorating, setting tables, chatting, baking, this is indeed her cup of tea.

She graduated early, December 15th, from high school and is preparing to leave for college in the fall.  I can scarcely believe our children are this big, but I cannot help but smile over the reminiscences.

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Happy Birthday, Shyanne!  I am thankful to be your mother.