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.

 

A Peaceful Holiday

The full moon hovered brightly over the land last eve and Yule was nigh.  The 12 days of Christmas was originally the 12 days of Yule.  Festivities, bonfires, hearth fires, the yule log, the decorated trees, feeding the birds and other wildlife, exchanging gifts, and checking on the elderly and homebound fill the days of Yule leading to new year.

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It is a quiet morning here in my cozy home.  Father Sun peeks through the windows while climbing to start the day.  I sip my warm coffee, the earthiness and steam filling the air.  We keep the lights on the tree on often.  Just sitting in my rocking chair watching the glimmering lights, scanning the many ornaments that hold place as story tellers, makes me joyful and calm.  I put a Christmas album on.  My favorite is Andy Williams.   The presents are piled on the bed ready to be wrapped in paper and bows.

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Christmas past when my children were very young. (1999)

The birds outside sing and dart about.  The fat squirrel looks at me through the window.  She is out of bird seed.  Sweet thing; I wish blessings on all the wildlife.  A young eagle landed in the tree the other day and we sat together for some time.  The geese fly overhead noisily, their synchronized flying like swimmers in the sky.  Upon this great landscape of earth is such a lovely place to live.  I am thankful each day for health, for life, for family, for this cozy home where the hearth fires burn.

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Dreaming of Christmas cookies

Yesterday I did ceremony on my friends who are getting married beneath the full moon by a fire outdoors.  Today I get the honor of officiating their wedding.  Tomorrow we are off to my cousin’s, the next day to our friends’, home again for Christmas eve and my children will all gather here.  Santa knows to come to Grammie and Pa’s house.  Christmas morning will shine bright with the love of family.  A late Hannukah celebration with family and my daughter’s birthday round out the festivities before the new year dawns with promise and light.

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Christmas present. My beautiful granddaughters, Maryjane and Ayla.

What are your plans for the holidays, my Friends?  From our home to yours, I wish you the happiest Christmas and a blessed Yule.  May you be with those you love and may peace fill your home.

December Morning Dawn

The lavender sky spreads and stretches over rolling pastures and forests of trees.

Along the railroad tracks the mist lightly rolls as dawn awakes

Golden sun rises and the air is ever cool in the December morning breeze

Deer move along the tracks with motions swift on crisp winter grass.

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Here at cozy home the dawn wakes me without clock as the lavender clouds drift by

Outside my window a new day begins of promise and light

No window coverings block my view of the large trees and the colored western sky

I mutter silent prayers of gratitude and breathe deeply.

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‘Tis too easy to get caught up in past affairs and travesties, harsh pain and mire

‘Tis too easy to become obsessed with what one still desires

But in this moment, my Dear ones out there, be the heart and smile that you would admire

Let not any negative word or thought escape to the world.

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Focus, Dears, on what is real and light and bright and sweet, upon blessings, and present here

See beauty in all things big and small, from children to birdsong,

Speak in tomes of love and forgiveness and inspire those that are near, for joy they hear

For your spirit’s light this Yule tide season can be very bright.

 

The Spirit of Yuletide Décor

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and most Joyous Yule, my dear friends.  Our household, throughout the year, tends to honor and celebrate the oldest of traditions and beliefs, long before organized religion and that feels beautiful and real to us.  We will be celebrating Yule, but since I was raised Christian and Doug was raised Jewish, we incorporate all sorts of lovely traditions into our house and celebrate with our families.  For all the celebrations are really the same, the celebration of light, love, and hope.

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Decorating for the holidays should be nothing short of fun!  Incorporating ideas, palettes, and items that bring joy are the basis for holiday décor.

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We have collected cute stockings for a long time.  The children took some of their stockings to their own homes.  We are one short this year with the arrival of Ayla Mae, so I will find an adorable one for her.  Santa is coming to Grammie and Pa’s house Christmas Eve!  (To my great delight!)  I hung the stockings with care from the curtain rods.

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This was the first tree top angel I bought when I was nineteen years old in my first home.  I, of course, chose the tallest tree I could fit in my house this year so angel sits in the window welcoming loved ones.  Find these beautiful candles for a buck and some in the religious aisle of your grocery store.  They have them without the pictures on them.  They burn for a long time and they add festivity and charm to the home.

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Incorporating things you love is easy.  This moose was one of two that Doug got me our first Christmas together.  Her head is falling off but way up on the bookshelf she has a safe place of importance.

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The tree is filled with ornaments of old and new.  Photo ornaments the children made in grade school and ones from my childhood.  Ones from Grandma’s tree and many from our travels.

Yuletide décor is in the details.  Use holiday china this time of year, even for lunch!  Put oil lamps in each room.  Light plenty of candles.  Place strings of garland and twinkly lights in each room (even the bathroom!)

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These sweet, little cloches hold seasonal treasures.  Bird’s nests and moss covered twigs, sprigs of pine and pinecones.

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We opted this year to just string lights around the front porch and set them on a timer.  I love my ristras (one day I will be in New Mexico) and I leave the chairs and tables set up all winter in case of a sunny day that can be spent on the porch.  Always add pieces of yourself in the décor.  A sterile scene from a store doesn’t create the spirit of life that your own personal touches can.

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Place tea candles on sand inside lunch bags and line your front walk.  Light an oil lamp on the front porch for visitors.  Make handmade gifts this year.  Spend time enjoying the season.  And make space in your heart for light, love, and hope.

The Magic of a Yuletide Card

Thanksgiving eve.  There is always so much to be thankful for.  Health, family, security, home, and an inspired life.  These things I think of and am thankful for each day of the year.  As a vegetarian and a history lover, Thanksgiving isn’t really my favorite holiday.  And this year my children will be other places.  So, I have put up my Christmas houses and am clearing a place for the tree.  Yes, Yule is my very favorite holiday of the year.  The lights, the charity, the music, the wrappings, the trimmings, the beauty and joy that surrounds Yuletide is intoxicating for me.

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My grandparents with their great, great granddaughters. So much to be thankful for.

Now, I feel like we are all old friends here.  Just like you are over for coffee this pretty morning and I am telling you about how I, on a whim, just registered for a full load of classes to pursue a teaching degree (yes, I did that the other night) or am showing you photographs of my new granddaughter.  Over the years we’ve have had some laughs, we’ve had some tears, we’ve had some wine.  But I like the tangible as well.  I would love to be on your Christmas card list this year and I will add you to mine.  Let us pen old fashioned wishes and hopes for the new year.  I love hearing from readers and responding.  It makes us friends out there in this big, small world.

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Christmas cards may seem old fashioned, but they are a link and a wish to family and friends, old and new, and a moment of your time and love.  There is no greater gift than that.  Christmas cards have led to a few really fabulous pen pals for me.  I enjoy so much that moment of peeking in the mailbox and finding a card or letter.  Placing the envelope in my apron pocket as I make a cup of tea.  Sitting down to savor every word.  To be there.  To listen.  To read.  To pull out a few pieces of beautiful stationary and respond.  Yes, it is one of my favorite things.  Send me a card and I will send you one as well filled with good wishes and cheer, from my cozy home to yours.

Mrs. Katie Sanders

1901 Brown Ave

Pueblo, CO 81004

Wishing you a joyous Thanksgiving and a happy beginning to your Yuletide festivities.

The Grand Arrival of Ayla Mae

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She would be induced at 10:00 that night.  Not wanting to be two hours away, we checked into a hotel with our granddaughter, Maryjane, near the hospital after packing bags and finding a pet sitter.  We went swimming and snuggled in for the night, checking my phone every few hours.   Maryjane and I had coffee and then went to the hospital while Pa checked in at work.  Maryjane’s other grandma came to pick her up.  The soon-to-be big sister was nervous and excited and emotional.  My daughter, Shyanne, arrived and we all settled in for the seemingly long arrival of a little girl.  Pa came back a few hours later.  We drank tea, and watched the clock, and talked to relatives on the phone, and tried to help Emily.

Being her second baby, Emily knew what to expect and what to request.  She was amazing during her labor.  New daddy, Reed, was nervous and doting and sweet.

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The nurses all knew that we hoped the baby would arrive that day, November 14th, for it was the fervent request from the new baby’s great, great grandmother.  November 14th was my grandparent’s 70th wedding anniversary.  Never mind silver or gold, Grandma and Grandpa wanted a baby.

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And then quite suddenly it was time.  Within thirty minutes a very small little girl with curly, black hair arrived into the arms of her mother.  Daddy swelled with pride.  Pa and Auntie Shyanne cried.  Mama sobbed with joy.  I smiled and welcomed the new little one to our family.  We are ten now in our tribe.  Over a hundred in families that we gained through the children’s partners and our own extended families.  There is truly nothing more important to me than our family.

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And Ayla Mae was born.  A new little medicine woman in our line.

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Maryjane bounced into the room accompanied by her grandma.  She held a stack of papers that she had composed a song in scribbles on and immediately went to singing to her new baby sister.

Those near and dear came in to call.  Ayla has our family birthmark.  She has her daddy’s ears and nose.  She is so beautiful.  I caught my breath and held her close through the night letting mama and daddy sleep some.  And in the quiet of that dimmed hospital room, that precious heartbeat next to mine, I felt the immensity of it all, the blessings that fill my life and this family that we have helped create.  A Thanksgiving gift. (And an anniversary one as well!)

Ayla Mae Thompson

November 14, 2018

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The Beloved Family

There is a very large photograph in Aunt Donna’s basement of her as a young woman, dark hair, slim figure, standing primly in a beauty pageant.  Her forties hair swirled perfectly and her lovely face and smile… my Shyanne looks very much like her.

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Aunt Donna is my grandma’s sister.  I say ‘is’ even though she passed away on Halloween.  She is mentioned throughout this blog many times as my gardening guru, my insight to family history and spirituality, and my friend.  At eighty-nine years old, she left behind a family that she had helped keep together over decades.  The matriarch.  I shall miss visiting her.  I shall miss her home.  I shall miss asking things like, “What do I do with Jerusalem artichokes?” after a day of harvesting sumac and Oregon grape root, or apples, or grapes or Jerusalem artichokes.

Family is beloved.

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My own beautiful family. (From left: Reed, Emily, me, Maryjane, Doug, Andrew, Bree, Shyanne, Jacob)

Family looks differently to different folks, indeed, but a family is a family.  Even though the actual definition is of blood and descent, I feel the dictionary ought to update.  I was born into a very large family.  As I grow older in the line, the family line changes and we all take different places.  My grandmother is now the matriarch.  There are many pieces missing in between, either from death or distance or apathy, they move away or fall apart or come closer and evolve.

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Maryjane’s beloved Aunt Pat (my dear friend)

My granddaughter, Maryjane, knew Aunt Donna.  She knows my grandparents on one side.  She also called my friend, Kat, grandma and calls Rod, grandpa.  She calls my great friends, Auntie and Uncle.  The harsh lines of lineage change and soften.  Maryjane’s Pa adopted all my children when they were very small.  There is no question that he is their father and his entire side of the family can be found penned into Ancestry.com as such.  My lovely, dark skinned sister and brother are as much my brother and sister as my blond brother and sister.

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Four of the five of us. (From left: Patrick, Vanessa, Joel, me)

And to Maryjane there is no difference between anyone.  If they are in our lives, they are family.  Community and family and friends intertwine and become stronger.  Find those that bring you joy and choose to spend time with them.  Call once a week, pen a note and send it off.  Be there.  Be present.  Be kind.  Be thankful.  Because family, made up of the kindest and those that love us, is beloved.

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My world.

50 Things (replacing anxiety for peace)

It instantly calmed my breath.  My shoulders relaxed.  A smile crept onto my face.  My mind quieted.

I’m no expert at meditation and my discipline in the world of exercise has something to be desired but I found an instantaneous solution to my anxious mind.  50 Things.

Now there have been gratitude journals out there for years and the word gratitude is practically a catchphrase.  Here, on the porch watching the sun rise, or deep in the waters of a warm bath, or lying in bed with my mind wrought with worry, 50 Things soothes like a blanket and a glass of wine.

I have friends who are just cool.  Just easy.  I feel like a sped up record next to them.  My shop is closing up north, my new shop is opening and we pray for customers  One daughter needs to find a job, the other hopes we find success, the dishes are not done, and the puppy ate my bike helmet.  I feel them all most intensely!  But those 50 Things quiets and glides me into the day or night with peace.

 

Try it.  Whisper aloud to the Creator and your guides and ancestors 50 things that you are grateful for.  Try to make them slightly different each time.  For brightly colored marigolds, and pumpkins on the porch, for blue jays waking me at dawn, and hot coffee in a mug my friend gifted me, for each child, and their friends that love me like a mom, and for my husband, and the bumper crop of potatoes, and my visiting granddaughter and granddog, and autumn, the new shop, new beginnings, hope, geraniums….

A breath of anxiety releases and wafts through the cool morning dissolving into sunlight and a new day begins.

Farmgirl Advice for a Happier Life

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1- Just because you are very good at something doesn’t mean you have to do it.  You can always reinvent what your life looks like.

2- Life is meant to be experienced.  There is no one purpose. You will have plenty of time to ponder the meaning of the universe, right now be human and experience life.

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3- Change is never easy.  Allow yourself to mourn.  But keep that glimmer of hope because the best is yet to come and closed doors lead to wide open opportunities.

4- Quiet your chattering mind.  Tune into the activity around you.  As I sit here on the porch on this lovely late summer day I watch a mouse quietly approach the bird seed and begin to nibble as dozens of finches take flight, their silhouettes artful in the filtered light.  I listen to the crickets’ songs of summer and feel the cooling breeze on my skin before the dog days of summer heat that is to set in later.  There is a much bigger world than what is going on in our minds.

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5- Listen to your passions and follow their road.  Do not try and figure out where they go, just follow their lead.

6- See people’s spirits.  See them as children.  Banish ignorance.  Don’t give into fear.

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7- Release the past.  Past relationships, events, hurts, happenings, eras.  Leave them behind with a blessing and move forward.  Cut the ribbons that keep you bound.  Fly.

8- Be enchanted.  Life is brief and blissful.  It is what we make it.  It is what we create.  A large black bird lands on a trellis next to me.  He is fascinating in his mottled browns and blacks and tussled feathers.  I wonder if he was born this very year.  The glorious blue jays screech their joyful song across treetops.

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9- Have faith.  Know that you were not just dropped on this earth without lifelines.  Fear is the lack of faith.

10- Treat yourself with care, my dears, and follow your heart.

Pa and His Present

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Two of my favorite people in my world are celebrating their birthdays.  My beautiful granddaughter, Maryjane Rose, who adds so much sunshine and love to our family arrived five years ago this morning.  It was a snowy March day and we were snowed into the hospital.  The next morning dawned bright as Pa celebrated his birthday with a stuffed animal from the gift shop and a new baby girl.

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“What should we get Pa for his birthday?” I asked Maryjane while we were shopping.  She looked at me blankly.  “Nothing,” she replied seriously, “am his present!”  She is all of our present.  She brought our family closer than we could imagine.  She is such a lovely soul.

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And so the next few days will be filled with festivities.  We believe in celebrating birthdays to the max around here because each day is not guaranteed and each year is truly a gift. And each soul in our lives truly matter.  Each day with these two loves of mine give me more joy than I can type.

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I am thankful.  Maryjane and grammie

Join me in sending some love and good wishes across the line to Doug and Maryjane.  Happy birthday you two!