The Traveling Medicine Show
words & images by Sophia Rose of La Abeja Herbs
Welcome darling friends, kin of mine, and yet-to-be-met plantfolk alike! I invite you to put on a kettle, make yourself a cup of tea, and settle in cozy for a cross-country journey with La Abeja and the Traveling Medicine Show. We set out from our home in northern New Mexico amidst the month of May to gather wild plant medicine and to share wisdom in the woods of California with our sisters at the Spirit Weavers Gathering. From the misty embrace of the gathering amongst the redwoods, we then forged on northward visiting our loved ones, strewn like constellations and stretching all the way to the border of Oregon and Washington. Coming and going, we trod the dusty dirt roads of Arizona, and discovered lush flowers that the desert promises for only a short moment each spring. Our month on the road was all things, as life and travel inevitably are. It was hot, it was cold. We were hopelessly lost in the unbroken stillness of mossy roads, long forgotten. There were rainbows, double rainbows, and laughter as well as tears in equal measure. We cooked dinner beneath the stars and shared elderberry mead beside a friendly fire. We dried wildflowers upon wildflowers and bundles of California Bay in our tent. We woke many a morn to dew covering our eyelashes. Friends were made, and love was deepened. Lessons were learned and then learned again.
And it is here that we have come to recount these tales for you now.
So, won't you join us?
A R I Z O N A
What We Learned
Rise with the sun, rest during the heat of the day, come alive once more at nightfall.
Our Dream Day
Waking before sunrise to take in the symphony of desert sounds in the brief inhale which precedes the dawn. Meditating in the growing light of day atop a rocky crag, surrounded by silent lizards and wizened saguaros. Late morning and afternoon spent bundling juniper in the shade, or soaking up the indigo bliss of a desert swimming hole, deep and cool.
We rejoiced in the blooming of prickly pear, yerba santa, saguaro, palo verde, primrose, ocotillo and manzanita.
To my delight, spring had donned her best and brightest dress as we made our way across New Mexico and entered Arizona. Miles-long stretches of highway were covered with white primroses. When we stopped to take them in, we found that they were in good company.
Palo verde, above, produces one of the sweetest tasting flowers in the desert, or anywhere else for that matter.
The flower essence of prickly pear provides nourishment to the deepest parts of the self and allows one to find sustenance in places where it once seemed absent. It offers support for those who wish to release habits of eating which do not truly feed them. Prickly pear is a useful remedy for collectors of things, people, and accomplishments, or for anyone who always desires that which is just beyond reach rather than enjoying the abundance which they already possess. This essence reconnects one with softness, receptivity, and the a gentle awareness of the delicate dance that is life.
The sturdy, fragrant blossoms of the towering and ancient saguaro help to heal the relationship with the father: one's birth father, the father within each one of us, and the divine masculine forces of the universe. This is a plant which commands great respect through its presence alone, and which teaches humans to walk with a similar dignity, holding all that is within them as truly precious. This essence is of great use for anyone who seeks containment or fathering through lovers, friends, or partners. It empowers us instead to see how to best support and nourish ourselves from within, take steps to meet our own needs, and to claim full responsibility for the one life that is ours to live. As my own father would say, "You've got to paddle your own canoe," and saguaro helps us in doing just that.
C A L I F O R N I A
What We Learned
The ecological diversity and plant medicine found in California is enough to keep me enchanted for many lifetimes over. Just as fertile as the land is the creative spark I sensed within the hearts and homes of many of the folks we were fortunate to connect with.
Our Dream Day
Gathering elderflower, mimulus, and bay in Lucas Valley. Stopping at late morning garage sales in San Rafael; tasting the peaches and strawberries at the farmer's market; meeting up with friends to share stories over an early evening picnic of cold wine, freshly picked blackberries, wild greens, grilled salmon, and soft boiled eggs.
Elderflowers, mimulus, yarrow, redwood, california poppy, usnea, bay, magnolia, horsetail, and blackberry leaf.
[T H E S P I R I T W E A V E R S G A T H E R I N G ]
There is no way I could have anticipated the experience that awaited me beneath the canopy of those elder redwoods at the Spirit Weavers Gathering. I will never find words which can fully express the magic of the week spent in the wilderness with five hundred wise and wild women. However, this beautiful video by Leslie Satterfield, with music by Mariee Sioux, hints at the smell of the forest, intimates the way the sunlight played upon us through the boughs of the ancient Standing People, and points toward the felt sensations of the experience.
[T H E T R A V E L I N G M E D I C I N E S H O W]
After being held in the gentle embrace of the ancient redwoods throughout the Spirit Weavers Gathering, I spent a sun dappled afternoon in the shade of their canopy making a new batch of one of our favorite medicines, the Redwood Elixir.
Redwood connects us with the timelessness of life on earth. It resets our inner clock to the ancient rhythm of the forest and the trees. "Old as time, old as time," is the refrain heard in the gentle rustle of redwood boughs. The medicine of this tree has a profound ability to heal long-held and inherited grief, particularly as it relates to loss of home, loss of place, and loss of way of life. It is a valuable remedy for connecting with one's own ancestral roots as well as finding communion and harmony with the spirits of the land where one lives. The greatest gift offered by the redwood is a sense of ancient support, one which exists beyond time or space. Its effect is at once grounding and enlivening, making it a choice companion for meditation and tasks that require both careful focus and relaxed attention.
O R E G O N
What We Learned
Look for dead or decaying trees in the canopy above you before setting up your tent! One night we were awoken by a thundering crack from above. Certain that a great branch or entire trunk was about to descend upon us, my sweetheart valiantly positioned himself above me in a gesture of protection. Thank heavens, the tree did NOT fall on us.
Our Dream Day
Waking slow to the sound of leaves overhead and the soft light of morning. Sitting silent and solitary, creekside; watching the current of life as it trickles past. A hot cup of tea, cozied up on a sheepskin with a sleepy friend, breakfast on the deck as the sun makes its way through the clouds.
Violet, cornflower, elder, california poppy, trillium, plantain, solomon's plume, doug fir, wild roses, oxalis.
The rose is one of the most ancient botanical medicines know to humans. Used for everything from menstrual complaints to liver congestion, this flower inspires not only poetry and romance, but superior health! Above all else, its blossom aids us in recalling the sweetness of life. Rose is queen of the flowers, unabashed in her beauty and uniqueness. It is the powerful protection provided by the thorns of the plant that allow for this expression of fullness, without fear or apology. Rose Petal Elixir helps one to embody this same courage, and to live as the most sincere and vulnerable version of herself, trusting that she is always protected.
[B R E I T E N B U S H]
Soaking in the hot healing waters in the last light of day, building a fire, sleeping amongst the trees.
[K L A M A T H]
Somes Bar is a speck on the map, located somewhere within the vast Klamath wilderness. I spent last summer here, crying in our tent while listening to Joanna Newsom on my iPhone, reading Women Who Run with the Wolves, harvesting usnea and fat blackberries, and swimming in the creek for hours at a time. It is wild there, and very beautiful.
And so, after a month on the road, we began the bittersweet journey back to our high desert home on the Taos Mesa. California and Oregon showed me many new terrains within the landscape of my inner world. There was talk of moving and talk of moving on. Life is so precious, so fragile, and there is still so much yet to come.
Sophia Rose is softness and strength. She is fierce and loving, honest and quietly curious. She is a woman who listens closely to the singing of the earth’s spirit and shares the beauty of all that she hears in her work as a folk healer and herbalist. In the tradition of the Traveling Medicine Show, Sophia Rose is the proprietress of La Abeja Herbs, a nomad's apothecary, bringing herbal medicine, magic, and lore to places both near and far. Through La Abeja, Sophia offers regular classes, a host of wildcrafted medicines and apothecary goods, as well as flower essence + herbal wellness consultations. Follow her on Instagram for tales from the road and visit www.LaAbejaHerbs.com to learn more.