The 29th Annual Women’s Herbal Conference

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We are all special, important and powerful and are on planet earth for a purpose. At the same time, we are all the same, not unique and desperately need each other to make it through this crazy life we are given. Standing in the center of these two things will be my life’s goal.

How can I describe the feelings I am having since the conference? I am cracked open, blood spilling on the floor as I spread my wings and fly for possibly the first time ever. It’s exhilarating!

Stand on the shore of the ocean, walk alone in the deep woods, spend a night looking at the Milky Way under the new moon, be awake at sunset and sunrise the next morning – and you will just have barely stepped into this feeling that has awoken in my heart. It is more than I understand. It is music, singing, drums and voices, clapping, praying, dancing before a fire, reflection, acceptance and most importantly, gratitude and peace.

I’ve been to 4-H, Girl Scout, Youth Group camps, various self-help, religious and other retreats. All were perfect for the time and place they happened and all were leading to this. And I know it for sure. This knowing is so powerful it brings tears to my eyes when I think of it. This freedom, this journey, this adventure is what I was born for. And I KNOW it.

The cabin I stayed in was clean and comfortable and the bathrooms and showers were good. There were about 16 people in our bunkhouse on each side and everyone was really nice. I didn’t spend a lot of time hanging out with people – I didn’t have the energy to do so – I spent a lot of time alone between classes because it was what I needed to process and recover and make decisions for when I got home.

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I met so many women, and they did this thing where they greeted you and smiled and looked you in the eye. Their greetings echoed inside my chest – where meaningful greetings used to dwell. Most days, outside of my home, people do not see me. Two things occurred to me: when did I stop looking at people? and when did I stop needing to be seen and heard in the world?

I learned from teachers who were so beautifully capable that knowledge overflowed from them like a loving extension of who they are. It pulled me in to learn and to be included and to want to know as much as possible about plants, and healing through nutrition and herbs and to learn about myself. The joy on their faces as they taught, the powerful strength showing through strongest in giggling vulnerability, silly antics and unapologetic, direct language.

I took a class in salve making with Sophia Sanders, incense making with Joann Darling, Stress, Immunity, Mood, and Sleep and Healing Depression with Madelon Hope, bone health and New England Trees with Kate Gilday, a plant walk with Susun Weed, and so much more. I am still processing the social justice class I landed in one day “by accident”.  I learned more about myself, it seemed, in three days than I could have imagined.

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We were called together each night with drumming and singing and heard so many speak about the struggles facing the native peoples around the world, the struggle to keep good food and nutrition accessible to everyone, the fight for water, the legal battles to keep ancestral and traditional teachings free from trademarks. And so much more. I was allowed a glimpse into a world that I do not live in and was not even aware of, for the most part. Rosemary Gladstar did not, in fact, walk in the woods and teach me about plants, but her vision is the reason I was in the woods at the conference and she is a large part of 29 years of women learning and bringing their knowledge out into the world to share.

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On Saturday night there was a fire circle and drumming – I believe coordinated by Imani.  It was dark and we walked a lighted path through the woods – hundreds of us, it seemed by the singing, until we reached a clearing where the fire circle was set to be lit. The drumming started, the fire was lit and people danced. I went to the circle to ask for what I really wanted and left some things that I needed to let go of. What I remember most – and still hear and feel – are the drums calling – and a song echoes in me that we sang on that walk…

Prepare yourself,
Prepare yourself,
Open the way.

Prepare yourself,
Prepare yourself,
Open the way.

Breathe now.
Be now.
Open the way.

Breathe now.
Be now.
Open the way.

For me, that is exactly what has happened…

"Our dreams drench us in sense, and sense steeps us again in dreams." ~Amos Bronson Alcott