at about 6 am we took the scenic drive to Oracle State Park passing the cows and the prison. as the sky woke up slowly revealing the beautiful Catalinas we were engrossed in heartfelt conversation. we spoke about our daughters, hers 14, mine 7 months. about our hope for them. about our fear of being enough of a mother. about our joy at their spirit. we spoke about what we wanted to be when we grew up. we spoke about our family. how much things have changed in such a short time. we spoke about food, herbs, and oils - a favorite topic.
when we finally pulled into the park, i was sad the drive was over but that was quickly replaced with excitement when i met Mr. Kane. Straight out of a spaghetti western i couldnt wait to hear him talk. Quickly calling in to question all of my previous judgements as to what an herbalist should look like. A tall man equipped with wranglers, a tan cowboy hat, and the requisite handlebar mustache he casually gathered all the eager walkers and we started off on our trail.
no less than 2 minutes into our walk and we stopped to observe the first of many trees and bushes i never noticed in any of my previous desert hikes. soapberry, he explained, could be used as a tea for arthritis, joint pain or other anti-inflammatory needs. The bark and the fruit were traditionally used for, guess what, washing! never noticing this lively bush before, i was now careful where i placed my feet so as not to crush its delicate leaves. i was all at once aware of my surroundings in a new way. i wanted to be sure i was not stepping on some other precious gem i had yet to meet.
as we wandered our way through the park over above the windy ridge lookout we learned about the rich tannins of desert plants. how ironic that so many of these plants are used for surface tissue inflammation issues (sunburn, cuts etc). it seems nature knows a thing or two after all. pausing at the top of this ridge overlooking the vast desert mountains while the wind hums a familiar song, i am instantly connected with everyone who was here before. i see women gathering the lemonade berries and men working at the root of a great yucca.
we learned that survival in the desert was possible. small berries poked out of their lush green hiding places when you started looking and tiny acorns seemed to jump into your hands. mesquite beans make flour. the all growing passion flower, abundant in our desert is a valuable healer. desert broom comes to the rescue of our tired muscles while juniper heals our tummy. deer weed makes a good lunch and if you are looking for an altered state (really he said its like 'having a coupla beers'), there's always a good dose of hedgehog cactus fruit.
i took a million notes, but wish i could just go on the walk again. the best thing our herbal cowboy talked about was balance. this might have been the first time a nature walk guide encouraged me to take something from the forest. taste flowers, take home acorns and shrub branches to try them out. after all this was about coexisting with our local nature to heal and grow. while being careful not to give any answers he posed the idea of balance. "i dont want it all cut down and bottled, but i dont want a fence around it for looking only."
this is probably the longest post i will ever write but there is still so much to say. as we pulled away from the park i was left feeling connected to my harsh desert land while i rolled the small mugwort flowers around in my hands. you see while we didnt come from here, our family mirrors the desert. hard, dry, and rough but with an occasional monsoon of love for each other that gives clarity to the rich bounty that helps to cure our aches and pains.
i love you my family.