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July 1, 2009

class

class

I have a hard time answering the simple question “How do you like your internship?” Here’s how I put it this morning, to the people who run the program:

Hi Bill and Sarah,

I know you guys are interested in feedback about how the class and internship are going. Strangely, whenever you ask, I seem to become mute and/or inarticulate and don’t really feel myself giving much back. But I was riding my bike around yesterday, thinking about how happy I am to be involved in this class and in contact with this new sphere of people, and I thought “maybe this is what Bill and Sarah are wanting to hear about!” So I’ll tell you.

I am incredibly glad to be taking part in this internship. It has added a desperately-needed element of connectedness to my life that has been missing since I was transplanted here last summer—connectedness to other people, to the community we live in, to the land around me, to the plants that are growing in it and to my own body. It is giving me inklings of visions of where I might like to take my life on a professional level, while at the same time is promoting health and well-being for me on a day-to-day basis that I then transfer (in a very positive way) to people I’m close to outside of class.

Pretty much the only times I feel frustrated about it have to do with my own self and the level of commitment/attention I’m able to give at certain times. I hate that when other things in life come up I have to cut corners from the class or farm day because it’s financially impossible to take the time off from work instead. I’m enjoying being veggie-girl at the co-op, but I’m still having to waitress to make ends meet and I’m now feeling like I’ve never worked harder for less money. Lately my level of exhaustion has made it difficult for me to be fully present in class at times—especially by the time 7 o’clock rolls around—but I want you to know it’s not for lack of interest. It only frustrates me further that by the time I’m exactly where I want to be, sitting on a slope on your beautiful farm, surrounded by healing plants and vibrant people, being given an endless opportunity to learn, that I’m only able to take in so much.

When those moments of frustration arise I remind myself that I entered this with a spirit of exploration, feeling like this would just be the first taste that would let me know if I wanted to take it further. While I’m hoping to get as much as I can out of the class on the clinical level, it helps to remind myself that I have the rest of my life to expand and deepen my knowledge as a healer. I just hope my interest and enthusiasm are at least somewhat visible to you; that it doesn’t always seem like I’m overeager to end class and be elsewhere.

Bill, I know you’ve asked if the tangents you sometimes take during class are an unwelcome distraction or not. I think that if our goal is to become herbalists / holistic healers, it is important that we discuss and think about the way our practice intersects with modern life and the presiding culture of western medicine. This is often where your digressions tend to lead, but I therefore think they’re a vital part of the discussion and often wish we could take them even further. I know there’s never enough time in each class to cover everything you want to cover. I’m all for starting on time and ending on time, but I know you do the best you can.

Sorry to have gotten so long-winded. Hopefully this wasn’t overshare. Again, thank you for opening up your home and your land to us and letting us get in on so much goodness.

haybale

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The crazy thing about seasons is how fast everything changes. The backdrop of life is constantly shifting. Recently I’ve been getting confused and lost when driving to familiar destinations because I don’t recognize my surroundings with leaves on the trees. At the farm, the herbs grow so much from week to week I only recognize them because I know where they’re planted.

This goldenseal won't be in flower next week

This goldenseal won't be in flower next week

The farm gets more and  more beautiful every time I go back. Last Thursday was misty and damp and the greenest day I can remember in a long, long time.

baby aspen trees

baby aspen trees

I hope to eat some of these dandelions before it’s too late. I’m told the tops make tasty fritters when dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and fried on in a pan. I like the idea of eating all parts of a dandelion, but am still a little squeamish about eating things that grow out of the sidewalk. However, should there be some kind of apocalypse and I become forced to forage for food, I will also be able to identify and consume wild lettuce. You may recognize it from the perimeter of many a parking lot:

wildlettuce

Besides being edible, it’s sap is a natural analgesic (painkiller). We learned last week that if you were to take the time to harvest it—letting little bubbles of sap dry and scraping the dried sap into a jar—eventually you could use the powder to remedy pain. Funny though, Bill didn’t mention how the powder should be ingested. Hmmm.

Teas & Tinctures

April 29, 2009

Lemon balm tea

Lemon balm tea

I’m three weeks into my internship at the medicinal herb farm. We meet twice each week, one day for eight hours of farm labor (see earlier post on barn-mucking) and one afternoon for four hours of clinical learning, where we’re taught the basics of how to make medicines from the plants we grow.

billdigs1

Bill digs valerian root for today's tincture

Bill has spent years studying herbs and running his own herbal medical practice. His passion for his work is serious, but I think it’s cool that he still maintains a lightheartedness and sense of humor while he talks about it. His teaching style is, by his own admission, rather un-linear.  (Circuitous?) After taking a quick walk around the grounds to see what’s happened with all the plants each week, we sprawl on blankets in the grass while Bill passes around teas and tinctures of a few different herbs. We roll the earthy diffusions and decoctions around our tongues, trying to get a physical sense of what the herbs are doing to our bodies before Bill can tell us. Then Bill takes the lid off his brain and years worth of information and experience and knowledge come flying from his mouth. Scrambling to capture the essence of his words and distill them into reliable reference material in my silly little spiral notebook feels a bit like trying to catch flying seeds on the breeze, but I have faith it will all amount to something eventually.