Rekindling forgotten relationships with plants has put me in touch with the old ways to remember.
My path as an herbalist began in New York City of all places, with the weeds. The ‘weeds’ are ancient medicines, old allies with humans, only recently forgotten. Getting to know these resilient species triggered something deep within me: the profound familiarity of working with the plant world for healing.
Cultivating a relationship with the medicinal weeds growing in my Brooklyn neighborhood wove me back into my environment. By pursuing the path of herbal medicine, I found my path home. As I dug deep into the phytochemical complexity of plant medicine and human physiology, I came to recognize the sophistication of seemingly simple home remedies, prepared by my Slovenian grandmother when I was young. I knew then I had to return to Slovenia; my own path as an herbalist is a continuation of generations that had come before me.
My return to Slovenia as an adult, to pursue research on Slovene plant medicine, yielded the profound wisdom enfolded within folk stories, stories told to me when I visited my family there as a child. My research was truly that, re-search. I had the opportunity to look more closely, and to find deeper meaning in what I thought I knew. My re-search began by looking backwards, firstly to my childhood then into the lives of my family members, to the deep roots of our ancestry and heritage.
During walks or afternoon sits in the garden, I would ask my family members about a particular plant or old remedy and a family story would spring forth. These stories were at times lighthearted, magical and nostalgic, other times traumatic, devastating and full of loss. I soon learned that asking about what I thought to be neutral information, was in fact tugging on the exposed portion of a very intricately connected and sensitive nerve.
Traditions and folkways are so embedded in the personal, in the rituals and goings on of the day to day. I can’t separate the medicinal uses and properties of plants from the stories they evoke. Each plant is a portal into a web of relationships, the personal tied to the cultural, the cultural to mythical.
My project of going back to Slovenia to learn about the traditional uses of plant medicine in Slovene culture is a life long journey. My return to Slovenia each year is a pilgrimage. I am a seed sent forth, far away to adapt to new conditions and environments. I am returning to understand my roots. Between the seed and the root I grow, I bear fruit.