Monday, October 20, 2014

Mountains, herbs and butter

moon over Asheville
October might be my favorite month, and the true turn of the seasons feels like it happens during the drive south to Asheville, North Carolina, where my friend Jen and I attend the Southeast Wise Women's Herbal Conference.  Every year we go for a bit longer, insinuating ourselves into the inner circle of women who make the conference happen... 

Jen and our fine "camping" food
 This year we arrived, along with our friend Sarah, on Wednesday for our work shift.  I love being on the camp grounds when it is still quietly humming.  Before hundreds of women arrive.

I've started every conference for the past four years welcoming women to the top of the mountain, where there is camping and parking.  I can see the gathering swell from this peaceful spot, and as you can see from the next, oh several photos, I also have long moments to myself.

How about I talk at you while you enjoy these beauties? So, every year I try to arrive with a blank slate and an open mind.  I have attended workshops on conscious dying, herbs for menopause, honing intuition and drumming.  I have sat through classes on stone medicine and adaptogens, and listened to the likes of Susun Weed and Aviva Romm.   This year my intention was to take care of myself through the weekend, be a little self-centered and only do what fed me.  This is harder than you think.

I started off well - I came down the mountain on a path that took me past more stunning fungus than I've seen all year in Ohio, and decided to not rush to make it to the first class, but to treat myself to a shower after 3 days of travel and work exchange.  Self-care.  I ran into another worker who I recognized from years past and together we decided to skip the talk on auto-immunity and made a beeline towards Sex as a Path to the Divine.  See? Open mind. It was awesome.  The 68-year-old teacher is a midwife and healer and was composed and articulate as she talked about brainwaves (beta - your thinking mind, alpha - your zoney listening-to-music-while-drawing mind, theta - your REM sleeping or tripping mind, and delta - your deeply sleeping mind) and orgasms (ok, so it wasn't so much the how, but the why).  This woman takes self-care seriously.

(are you still enjoying the pretty pictures??
or are you distracted because I mentioned what the teacher called "solo cultivation"??)

Did I mention that Eliza came again this year? She saved her money and looked forward to it all year, sweet girl.  Friday night, after the opening ceremony (highlight: hearing that Malala won the Nobel Peace Prize, in a room with nearly 1000 women and girls), we headed to the dining hall to watch Girl Rising which I wish everyone would see.

(Can you believe this sweet village of fungus??
They were living on a woodpile next to me.)

oh, those eyelashes...
Jen, our friend Kylene, and I had the pleasure of having Monica Corrado sit down at our table to eat her lunch one day.  She is a nutritionist, chef, student of living healthy and being well, and was there to teach several classes over the weekend, including one I attended: Get the Skinny on Fats.  We grilled her for a while there during our meal, and the upshot of everything she had to say (while making us laugh every other minute - this woman is charming) was "Eat butter".  Eat fats, preferably animal fats, because they are good for healing your gut, they are extremely good for optimal brain function (your brain is made of fat! so are your lungs and 50% of your cell walls!), your adrenal system, your immunity and they do not make you fat.  So there. Stop eating margarine and bring on the butter.

Wild Wise Women
Saturday was the International Day of the Girl, and there was a parade through the conference, celebrating the girls who were present and the girls these women use to be. 

The last class I took on Saturday was with Kim Duckett, who runs the Mystery School near Asheville.  I've heard her speak before about the ancient Wheel of the Year and the way it is used as a template for inner work, but it was nice to get a refresher, plus she focused this year on the Autumn Woman, in the middle of her life.  Ahem, it hit home in many ways.  It's a time to clarify what things in your life you are ready to let go of, and what has simply been dormant and is still there, ready to be useful.  What have you harvested, and what is it time to say goodbye to? They were nice reflections for any of us to hear, but I had recently been processing some of this in writing and conversations with friends, so it was interesting to hear it as a step along the path that many people walk through.

Communing with the plants, dancing, playing games...Eliza and I were both exhausted and happy by the end of the day on Saturday, and actually crawled into her bottom bunk together to snuggle and talk about the day.  (Skipping the night-time festivities was more self care for me!)  Sunday morning I attended a talk with Aviva Romm on pediatrics and antibiotics (the bottom line: explore every option before taking antibiotics. They are way over-prescribed in our country, because they are an easy answer, but they are creating drug-resistant variations of diseases and can cause extensive damage to your gut health: learn more directly from the CDC) and then started the packing up for the long drive home.  Tired, happy, content...

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