A Novel Breathes Life and the Wisdom of the Elders

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My friends, you must read Big Magic by Liz Gilbert.  I keep referring to it.  I loved how it stated that genius lands on people, not people become geniuses.  An idea has its own entity, its own life and “lands” on willing recipients.  Sometimes a recipient isn’t ready for it and it goes to another person.  That is the reason we see books, movies, songs that we were going to write.  With this in mind, I asked for an idea to land on me.  I wrote snippets in California.  I asked every day for an idea.  And one landed on me last week.

I then sat in front of my computer, a first time novelist, trying to construct a “proper” novel setting.  Where do I insert dialogue?  How many adjectives should I use?  How do I set the pace?  I have been reading novels this month trying to see the map of it all.

When I do my work in herbalism, I just kind of zone out, so to speak, and do the work.  My hands move deftly to the right plants and combinations, and I can “see” easily.  If I were to overthink it, I wouldn’t get much done.  I went into that same zone and just started writing.  It was as if I were meeting the characters myself as they hopped from fingertips to screen.  “Oh, well, hello, nice to meet you!”  “Are you coming back at the end of the book?  How nice.”  The prose and which person I used to speak changes and surprises me.  I am not writing this book, it seems, I am just privy to how it is creating itself, much like my paintings, much like my recipes, much like my work as an herbalist, I am merely the middleman…woman.

The book starts in the nineteen thirties.  As I was visiting my grandparents yesterday I asked a few basic questions, like did they drink tea or coffee more?  Did many folks have cars?  I told them I was trying to research the Cherokee land disputes that took place in the 30’s due to land rushes and oil companies.  Turns out Grandpa remembers all about it.  Grandma and Grandpa took turns illustrating in real life the dust bowl, the depression, the locusts, the farming, history unveiling itself.  Many, many things we never learned in public schools.  I was fascinated, humbled, grateful.

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These beautiful old dolls are among my grandmother’s.  As if my day couldn’t get any better, they were gifted to me.

Sometimes I fall into an irreconcilable sadness, wondering if we will ever get our own place, our own homestead, the city life here…I try to make the most of it.  I visit other’s farms, I try to save money (try being the key word), I cry.  It all seems so impossible.  But I can, at this moment, write….

Smudging 101, Deer Visitors, and the 10%

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There is a Talking Circle at my shop the first Sunday of each month.  Not really church, just a place to be with others and pray traditionally with Native influences and customs.  This last Sunday we talked about focusing our energies on the 10%.  90% of what we worry about is what the media tells us about, world issues, family issues, and many, many things that we have absolutely no control over.  As we focus more and more on the 90% we lose track of the 10% of things we can control and our gifts that we carry that can assist in this world.  Focusing on the 90% leads to anxiety and depression and helplessness.

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Last night I felt an overwhelming sense of desperation and helplessness.  How can we possibly afford anything in the state that has the newly highest cost of living?  How can we survive?  How can we stay near our babies if we had to move?  and on and on with scenarios that may or may not exist.  I went to sleep early as slumber will renew me and oft give me answers.  I woke up renewed.

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Within the realms of the 10% I can choose my back up plan in case we cannot get the large farm.  I could very well be an urban homesteader while making a difference in a career.  The career that I would be best in (in my opinion) is teaching young adults.  So, I relooked at my curriculum choices for school with a renewed sense of purpose.  I will let things unfold naturally, while saving money, since I cannot see the future.  No matter how hard I try.  Meanwhile I call on strength from the Great Spirit and the Directions.  This is how to smudge (prayers and blessing).

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Traditionally Cherokee prayer herbs would consist of Sweet grass to renew positive energy, Sage to rid negative energy, Tobacco as an offering to the Great Spirit, and Cedar as an offering to the spirits; animal, plant, and the deceased.  In a pottery bowl (heat proof) place the herbs desired and light.  Using a feather to spread the smoke around a room, over thyself, or in the Four Directions.  Any feather will do.

We call on the spirit of the East direction for strength and hope and faith.  We give thanks to the Creator for all the things in our lives and our own life.  We thank Grandfather Sun for rising each morning and providing warmth and light. 

We call on the spirit of the South for childlike wonder and awe, for lessons, and we thank our four legged brethren for providing us with companionship, food, and clothing, and to the plants for giving of themselves for food and medicine.

We call on the spirit of the West for strength, health, and endurance.  We give thanks to our ancestors for guiding us and praying for us.

We call on the spirit of the North for calm and wisdom.  We thank the north for rain and snow, for lessons learned, and for peace and breath.

We call on the spirit of the sky (galun’lati), to the star people and Grandmother moon for protection and inspiration.

We call on the spirit of the Mother Earth (alohi)for caring for us, for her life, therefore our life as we pledge to be more careful with her.

We are thankful for the ceremonial fire as our prayers are taken upward on the smoke and carried on the winged ones’ feathers and for our connection with all around us. 

We draw the smoke over ourselves that we will have a clear heart, a love for all, and will do things in the right way. 

And as my breath and peace came forth, the beautiful deer (ahwi) came to see me.

Wishing you peace and less worries….ehmenah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Greatest Quotes

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When you think back on your life of quotes, those given to you, those read, which ones stand out to you?  Which ones offer direction for how you live?  Or simply whisper wisdom?  When I think on this question two quotes come to mind as the ones that ring loudest and most often.

I was caring for an elderly lady some years ago and told her that I wanted to be a veterinarian.  I later changed my mind and started an herbal line of medicines for animals instead but her advice is still relevant today.  I said something about being thirty-eight years old by the time I finished.

“You will be that age before you know it so you may as well be doing what you want.” she advised.

I started school but did not finish due to family responsibilities, costs, and life went on.  But now I would like to finish my teaching degree.  I would love to work with “spirited” kids.  Older teens to early twenties.  College maybe, high school likely.  Maybe a director of somewhere that encourages youth.  Or history.  Or culture.  By the time I get my master’s degree I will be forty-six years old at the very least.  Then Marsha’s words ring in my mind and I may as well see.  Why not?  I’ll be there soon enough.

Fast forward and I am sitting in the living room of a respected Native elder who has entrusted me with the words he wishes to share with his children.  I listen.  I want to be a bigger part of the Native community.  I want folks to know I make powerful medicine.  I want to have a sense of belonging.  What if I am not accepted?  I didn’t know if I needed invitations to places.  I didn’t know how to get involved.

“Just show up.” he said soundly.  “Just show up.”

So Doug and I took Maryjane to a Cherokee Circle meeting in Denver even though it was over an hour drive.  My best friend from middle and high school came with her family.  Her granddaughter is the very same age as Maryjane.  We showed up and were welcomed.  If we don’t embrace our culture it will be gone.  We have missed too many generations of traditions and community.  If not us, the grandmothers, then who?  So we showed up.  And it was wonderful.

What quotes have stayed with you?

Gratitude and Quarters

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The sun peeks over the horizon, as it does each day.  Its warm rays promise the beginnings of a good day.  My priorities change, and morph, as I ascend and descend on this current path.  Hoping the quarters hold out, not even enough money to put my beloved cat to sleep, who desperately needs to go to kitty heaven.  But we can see over the hill of this journey now.  Regular paychecks from Doug by the end of the next month and a busy store promises security soon, but right now it is slim pickins, Folks.  Ridiculously slim.  In the meantime we hold on with whitened knuckles and wait for the ride, and finances, to smooth out.

Simplicity and security wait in the corners of the coming month.  We sign the lease for our shop tomorrow.  We are moving into our next home this week.  Our life quietly moves forward with little holding onto us and images of sunrises and walks to the shop, a fire in the wood stove, dinners from a kitchen I have freedom in.  How I miss that.

The pieces of our life like seeds from a dandelion, fluffed into the air, settle and seed and become our new existence.  A place of family, friends, few belongings, good meals, delicious memories, valuable work, a bit of money to live on, cats lying in the sun as it warms our room and each day is a gift.

Through all these winding turns this summer, nay, the last year and a half, we have learned gratitude.  When you are missing things you had, what you have left, or what you can regain, hold a profound place of thankfulness.

Old and new customers are already calling in orders.  Gifts and encouragement from so many people keep us afloat.  We are back on track, temporary detour, thanks for staying with us!  My gratitude holds no limits.

The Things that Form Us (and weaving them into life)

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The Holly Hobby lunch box stood behind the vendor whispering.  She whispered of kindergarten, and my old Holly Hobby book, and my favorite quilt pattern.  Of coloring books and the bonnet I still have that my grandmother sewed for me on my fifth birthday.

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“Will you take $10?” I asked meekly.  With a silent question to her partner and a nod she smiled and handed me the lunch box.  I began to cry, which surprised me, but the rush of childhood and innocence and fresh beginnings so moved me at that moment.

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Looking at her dress and apron and her early influence on my life, is she the reason I have such a love for pioneers and the old fashioned?

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Up until my twenties I had never heard that I was possibly Native American.  It wasn’t until I became an herbalist that I started searching for that link. Where does my odd clairvoyance come from?  Where does my innate knowledge of plant medicines come from?  I know now it comes from both sides.  I need to find help to break my genealogy addiction!  I was excited to see that I am the granddaughter of a Cherokee chief but I am not sure what role that plays in my present life!  Is the knowledge and personalities, just as DNA, passed through our grandmothers and grandfathers into us?  That would seem as probable as getting blond hair from a relative through DNA.  Everything that goes into forming us is so complex and fascinating.  Through this journey we became involved in a wonderful Native community and place where both of us can worship.  We have made great friends and I have been honored with their trust of my plant medicines.

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Now standing looking out on the next chapter of our life, literally building each piece from scratch, it is easy to see what parts of us we want to use to create the next step of our life.  Choosing a job, Doug made the decision to not pursue the IT field and go for something different.  He has his third interview with Starbucks as a shift supervisor tomorrow.  If you know Doug, he is very talented in the computer field but he really thrives around coffee and customers.  He is happy and easy going and with benefits and a steady paycheck he will do great and create a fun environment for others working there too.

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I know my calling and I cannot wait to get a little shop open so that folks can find me.  A lot of people thought we disappeared when we left for Calhan and a lot of people have expressed excitement that I will be making medicines and being in one place where people can easily come for help.  We had our second showing on the house yesterday.  Everything is moving forward and as we build our life, we will incorporate gardens, and herbs, and art, simple living, and community.  For community has formed us too.

Creating a Medicine Bag

There are different types of medicine bags and all are wise to create.

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The one I am going to describe to you today is a protection of sorts.  It doesn’t matter if you are Catholic or Buddhist, I think we all understand that there is a lot out there that we do not fully grasp.  We are a small part of the whole.  Regardless of the believer’s perceived notions on heaven and hell, there is no doubt that there are spirits, some good, some evil, entities of destruction and angels of good.  We can help in the protection of our own being.  You might see some people have a Native medicine bag attached to their belt or used as a purse but those are for show.  A real medicine bag must be hidden.  Worn under the clothes or kept very close in a purse or the like, a medicine bag is a protection device.

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My first teacher, a wise shaman, taught me to fill mine with something from every element and helper.  I used rocks, and feathers, and totems, and herbs, and boy was it heavy!  One could simply use sage, cedar, sweet grass, tobacco, rocks or totems of meaning, feathers, medals, or holy soil.  Listen to yourself find the perfect combination.  One doesn’t divulge what is in their own personal medicine bag.  Having a shaman smudge it makes it stronger and secure. (If you don’t know one, do it yourself with cedar and sage.)

For those that are healers, intuitives, and empaths, these are imperative as good work is often trifled with from the dark side, but even those that do not find themselves in these descriptions can benefit from extra protection from the negative forces of this world.  Be safe out there and do good works!