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My direct experience with herbs as medicine only began a few years ago.  Even so, I believe that they were always there running a parallel path with me and, like little brain synapses, connections were being built over time. 

I grew up in the center of the Western medical model in the 1950s.  My doctor dad and nurse mom were part of that new generation that embraced the miraculous “magic bullet” perspective signified by the antibiotic.  Every sniffle in our household resulted in my three siblings and I being lined butts up on the couch for a shot of penicillin.  I didn’t fare as well as the others and tended to be chronically tired and ill with one thing and another.  Because no medical reason could be established, I was eventually dismissed as being weak and a bit of a hypochondriac (even though I had significant and measurable symptoms).

Even so, it was a good childhood in a small rural town where I developed an abiding love of nature.  I always spent time outside communing with my frog friends and voraciously reading in my private “room” under our huge lilac.  This microcosm set the ground for my passion for social justice.  College was exchanged for membership in what was considered to be a radical group (SDS – Students for a Democratic Society) and I lived in a commune dedicated to social justice.  Later I hitchhiked around Europe for a couple years.  Along the way I was introduced to healthier food choices and alternative health modalities – still not in the forefront but securely tucked in my back pocket.

After marriage and children I went back to school and was able to fully indulge my interests in social justice.  My academic work was centered on history, Cultural Theory and Whole Systems Theory and I found that most often I was drawn to issues around food, water and health – and more connections were made.  Through all of this, I gardened.  I considered my garden my sanctuary and I was always most happy on my knees weeding. 

In the last few years, I noticed I was incorporating more herbs that had medicinal uses into my garden but I realized I didn’t know them or their uses well.  I also found that my need for the big structural picture just wasn’t meshing with the memorization of single herbs for this or that disease.  Happily, all the connections converged after I retired from my job.  I worked with a very gifted herbalist, Rosalee de la Forêt, who many of you know as a graduate from the East West program.  I could see the big picture and consolidation in her practice and it made me want to know more.  I signed up for the East West study program and its systemic approach to herbal study has made all the difference.  I am starting my advanced year in the program and my intentions are wide open. 

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