Sweetwater

Taking Care

MS

I don’t often make new year’s resolutions, but this year I got quiet and asked my body what it needed. Turns out, it was very simple. My body wanted me to take care of it. To be deeply good to it. To feel gratitude for its greatness, to hold space wide enough in the world for it, to listen to the whispers and whirlwinds of its intuitive urges.

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Our bodies are powerful instruments of the divine, of nature, of your own will, or however you choose to see it. For me, my body is a change-maker, a sacred skin, a past and future home of children, full of muscles that work for both voluntary and involuntary ends, bones that hold space and stand me tall, flesh and blood and mucus and oil that somehow, amazingly, make an intelligent being typing this with fingers on an iPhone and into the internet.

But most of all, my body is energy. My body is space and expanse. My body is the wisdom of all creation flowing through me, vibration by numinous vibration. If I get quiet enough, I listen to the pulse and current of that spirit. It’s as simple as asking my body what it wants — truly wants — for breakfast or lunch or to do in the afternoon. As simple as paying attention to my seated position or my sleepy cues for slumber.

When we listen to our bodies, we honor our experiences on earth. When we listen to our bodies, we listen to earth herself and to the whole of creation, all at once. Our bodies are sites of worship and joy, and places for sadness and reverie. Places where, above all, the many magic energies of the universe flow through us. When we consult these holy maps of seas and valleys and continents within our bodies, we deeply, divinely know the way of our souls.

Celebrating Solstice

MS

Today marks the Winter Solstice, the beginning of Yuletide, the shortest day of light and the longest night of the year. It’s a time of vision and dreaming, a time to cradle warmth and call in wishes, a time of introspection, joy, and rebirth.

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The solstice has been regarded since the Stone Age, and for eons before, since we opened our animal eyes to movements in the heavens above. “Solstice” comes from the Latin “sol,” meaning sun, and “sistere,” to stand still. Today, the sun, which faithfully moves through the sky all year long, appears to pause in its arc and remain still.

Whether you enjoy this sacred time in quietude or merriment, inward journeys or outward landscapes, know that you are weaving threads from humanity’s ancient past and creating the image of our luminous future.

Here are a few ways to celebrate:

If you have a tree in your home, you might choose to do as the ancient Celts did, and revere it for its evergreen ability to live and grow through all things, as a sign of divinity and love. Or do as the Druids did and decorate it with totems of gifts you’d like bestowed upon your hearth, heart, and home.

If you don’t have a tree, spark some candles or a bonfire, the old origin of today’s festive twinkle lights.

Hang some chimes or bells, believed by our ancient ancestors to rustle and ring from tree branches when spirits were present.

Use traditional warming herbs, like ginger or cinnamon, to spice some mead, which was traditionally ready to drink on this day, or wine, or apple cider.

Use this day of hallowed stillness, this darkest day of our year, to call light back into your life and back to our Earth.

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The holiday and winter seasons are a time for celebration and family, so just as you may have special memories of your parents and grandparents, they too remembered their own grandparents, who remembered their own grandparents, who remembered their own grandparents, and so on, all the way back, to time immemorial, to a tribe of lovers and children who went out and found the sun, overhead, perfectly still, who knew this marked our darkest time, this time of rebirth — the point at which they beckoned the light all through night to finally return — and to bring with it a green Earth, and animals, and fruit.

Take this time to delight in the foods we have to eat, our bodies’ heat, and to the fires we can make to warm and rekindle our world.

May you find peace and love in the darkness tonight. May you rejoice in the returning of the light. May you always have faith that abundant harvests will return, that evergreen gifts will be laden upon our lives, and that you yourself hold a sacred place in our ancient human family.

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Happy Solstice.

Wildfire Herbal Healing

MS

Right now, so many beautiful plants, animals, and humans in California are being threatened by conditions created from deadly wildfires. Heart grief, anxiety, and dirty, smoky air are both emotionally and physically taxing. If you’re living with the consequences of those fires, my love goes out to you. It’s important to take care of yourself — and others, if you’re in so fortunate a position — so I wanted to share some herbs that can be deeply healing for our lungs, our toxin-elimination systems, and our minds & spirits.

Some of these herbs are easily found in commercial teas, while others can be purchased loose online. A few of these will be found right in the backyards of Californians.

Mullein: Mullein is one of our greatest lung & respiratory allies. Towering, yellow-flower-laden mullein has historically been used for torches — and it often grows wild after forest fires — so in the great, mystical balance of the plant world, this herb shows us its harmonic uses: mullein is both a giver of fire & a healer of fire’s harms. It’s an expectorant (expellant) and a demulcent (soother), and it can be taken as a tincture (steeped in strong alcohol to remove active medicinal constituents), in capsules, or as tea. Be sure to strain the tea through a cloth (like an old, clean t-shirt) to remove the fine, irritating hairs from the leaves.

Mullein in mid-summer

Mullein in mid-summer

Licorice: Not only is licorice calming and clearing for the throat and respiratory system, but it also supports fatigued adrenals. Like mullein, it expectorates and soothes, so it is a wonderful addition to wildfire self-care. It’s also a gentle blood cleanser & helps to detoxify the overtaxed liver. It can be taken as capsules or taken as tea; it can also be added to other, more bitter herbs to sweeten them. Please note that licorice is contraindicated in larger doses for anyone with a heart condition or who retains excessive water.

Yerba Santa: The seeds of yerba santa can lay dormant for decades, waiting for a wildfire to let them be sown again. They grow native in California (it’s even in the name, Eriodictyon californicum) and are wonderful for the lungs, coughs, and congestion. It can be taken as a tincture or as a tea. In higher doses, it can be drying, so it pairs well with…

Marshmallow & Slippery Elm: Beautifully cooling demulcents, marshmallow and slippery elm both calm inflammation and create a protective barrier for delicate mucous membranes. They alleviate dryness and soothe sore throats & the digestive tract. Both can be taken as tea. Slippery elm is also a wonderful, ancient food. Store-bought slippery elm capsules can be opened and mixed with water to create a sweet, tasty gruel that you can add to foods or eat alone. Oftentimes, it is one of the most gentle ways to get an inappetent person some sustenance.

Eucalyptus: A facial steam from eucalyptus leaves can help moisten, clean, and clear an inflamed, irritated respiratory system. Put chopped leaves in a bowl of freshly boiled water and place a towel over your head to receive the steam or take a sprig of eucalyptus into the shower or bath with you. A few fresh leaves from the hillside can even just be crushed under your nose or rubbed on the chest or against other taxed areas of the body to aid in healing.

A big batch of facial steam blend: Eucalyptus, sage, & lavender

A big batch of facial steam blend: Eucalyptus, sage, & lavender

Finally, to support and ease the stress of your nervous system, try hops, chamomile, catnip, and lavender. All can be taken as tea or dropped into a bath (especially for children).

Overall, avoid foods and activities that alarm the body, like sugar, alcohol, smoking, dairy, and so on. Eat lots of antioxidants and liver-supporting foods. Aim for dark colors, like berries, and leafy greens like dandelion or beet. Cook with aromatic herbs — most of these herbs have profound healing qualities in addition to their taste. They grow along side us and appeal to our senses to show us their deeper medicine. Drink lots of water, rest, breathe through your nose, and wear a respirator or mask if you can.

Take a moment to consciously connect to the land and its beings around you — we are all experiencing the same things. Put your hand on a plant, close your eyes, say a prayer if you want, and let that being be an ally to you, to comfort you, and to remind you that we are all truly safe. Take care of yourself. Rest. Share this information if it can help someone, and remember that everything is going to be okay.

The Heat of Summer

MS

A magical thing happened to me recently. Magical things are always happening, actually, but sometimes I am able to consciously make the connections.

As I gathered up my shop's offerings, mountains of lovingly-made products, pieces of eco-friendly packaging, stickers and labels and jars, all intermixed with baby toys in pretty much every room of my house, I was feeling the urge, strongly, to offer my healing and teaching services to a wider public.

I have been doing intuitive healing for most of my life, and I have studied many modalities formally and with many teachers for over a decade. As most healers know, the teachers and the students are truly one and the same, and sometimes this beautiful swirl can be confusing to the novice. It is easy to still consider myself the novice. I'm young, I'm a new mom, and I've always been bashful about asking for money in exchange for my healing services.

Yet, I felt energized by a new teacher this season, new lessons, and especially by the new awareness that I could connect people to their own innate powers and to be that bridge that guides them across the troubled waters of their insecurities. Even while, I, myself, was feeling so insecure and unsure of unmasking my healing powers in public.

That's when the magical thing happened.

I was picnicking in Central Park for my friend's birthday on a gorgeous, cloud-less, electric-blue-and-green summer day, the kind of day that beckoned everyone from all the boroughs to come out, bathing suits blazing. We sat on towels and sheets, full of suntans and cupcakes and prosecco, when I mentioned my trepidation to my friends, the trepidation which felt like it was running on an endless loop for at least half a decade, if not more, about opening myself up and offering my services unabashedly.

One friend, who I have worked on in the past, was shocked. He and his husband simultaneously chimed in about how much he loved the treatment. Another friend was so excited as she said has been looking for a reiki practitioner she could trust, and it turned out she was sitting next to one! They clamored to help me feel more confident, more ready - they were willing to write testimonials, to take the train to New Jersey for healing appointments, to spread the word that I was a healer and I was, indeed, ready to heal.

I came home that day and, after drinking about a gallon of water, just sat outside in the sunshine, grinning.

The magical thing is that we can all heal each other. The magical thing is that we need only to say yes, to step into that healing role, to open our eyes and our hearts and our minds to the healing light which is all around us, which helps us to grow and to glow, which illuminates our paths towards true joy and wellness.

So with gratitude to all my students and all my teachers (who are one and the same) I say: you are powerful, and you are ready.


A special thank you to Asia Suler of One Willow Apothecaries, who recently reminded me that I know enough, I am enough, and doggone it, people like me.

New Year's Eve

MS

Tomorrow is the last day of the year. It also happens to be my 30th birthday.

I've been blessed with many gifts this year, both big and small, and after many, many, many months, lots of trial and error, rejection and acceptance, and sipping lots and lots and LOTS of teas, I'm finally getting ready to bring Sweetwater to the world. It's been brewing for years.

When I wrote my last blog post (over a year ago!), I was gathering herbs, organizing supplies, calculating shipping costs, and I was also, unbeknownst to anyone – including me – almost two weeks pregnant.

Shortly after publishing that post, I had weeks of crushing nausea. The kind that made thinking, looking, and talking arduous tasks. I couldn't drink tea for weeks. I couldn’t even bring myself to smell herbs. I was too busy smelling everything else in the world. My husband smelled like salami. My cats smelled like fruit. Jams and jellies smelled like garbage. Garbage registered in my nose from down the block. Yogurt, for some reason, was the worst smell. Hand soap was a close second. Brushing my teeth made me gag. Eating made me gag. Crying made me gag. Needless to say, I was not ready to launch a business.

But the universe always has a beautiful way of redirecting us.

In July, two days after our third wedding anniversary, I gave birth to a perfect baby boy. Nothing went according to plan, of course, but everything was absolutely sublime.

He just turned five months old this week. He laughs at bouncing and funny mouth noises. He watches us chew our food and likes to grab what we let him smell. He touches my hand or mug when I'm drinking tea.

We're used to spills and spit-up now. We're used to laughter and crying.  And we're used to the seasons changing, the plants and trees and tension growing.

These days, we’re setting our New Year’s intentions and counting our blessings. We’re getting ready for renewal. We're also, for real this time, getting ready for Sweetwater.

Frozen Flowers

MS

Last year, I had snapdragons open in my garden on Christmas, and I live in New Jersey.

Our unusually long growing seasons these past few years have coincided with the purchase of our first home on a teeny tiny piece of land in the suburbs, nestled between the New York City skyline and Hudson to the east, undulating mountains to our north and west, and the famed seashore to the south. The deer eat anything and everything here, but we love it.

We grow fruits and veggies, herbs and flowers of all ilks: basil, sage, and rosemary, lavender and chamomile, spicy nasturtiums, savory monarda, and radiant, mid-summer, yellow-blooming native St. John's Wort, among many others.

After the spring and summer, turning over the garden for the winter can feel like a sacred ritual. Cut down some of the once-fecund plants, now wilting, chop up their stems, mix them up with dirt and worms. Water the winter rye seeds and transplant the shrubs. The last of the herb garden's flowery sprigs become evermore precious.

As all but my chives really hunker down for winter, and I do in my house with my wooly socks and humidifiers, I hope you're able to curl up and enjoy a cup of tea in the window, enjoying the changing of season, looking out at the fat, whitening squirrels and the rain falling on the red leaves.