Doc: Hehehehhe! Guerilla gardening is the planting of herbs or veggies in accessible if illegal environs. Those of us who partake in this activities tend to be closemouthed as to where are gardens are. The trick is to find the right environment for said flora, plus the ability to access it. The gardens can vary through the seasons. I tend to grow medicinal herbs in areas where wild herbs might be growing. Where fennel grows, thyme can grow. Where sage grows, rosemary will grow. Onions can be planted almost anywhere you can find a steady drip of moisture… say, the side on an abandon building. Healing flowers can be planted in urban parks. The city’s department of public works is often stretched fairly thin. Moving grass is a low priority. Plus, if it looks like it was professionally planted they will assume it was authorized by someone. A few years ago Prunella was sprouting all over the ghettos and barrios of Richmond.
Plant Healer: We love the diversity in herbalism overall and in the Plant Healer folk herbalism community in particular, from well educated clinical practitioners to spike haired dumpster diving plant lovers… with none being less typical than you, sir. Everyone wants a place and way to fit in, but would you say that “normal” is a tad overrated, and fitting in a bit constrictive?
Doc: Normal is over rated and constricting. It is the moral equivalent of Orwell’s 1984. And it can be dangerous. Normal was informing on your Jewish neighbor in the early days of Nazi Germany. Normal was owning slaves in (pick your own favorite culture). Normal was building huge pyramids and then running away to a place with no fucking oil! Normal was throwing your kid out of the house because he was gay. No no, you can have normal.
Plant Healer: What are the greatest threats to the practice and community of herbalism today, both from within and without?
Doc: Regulation. With regulation comes enforcement. And you can’t take the word force out of enforcement. With regulations comes limits on herbs and cultural protocols. I fear the American Herbalist Guild like a virgin boy fears a priest, a redneck fears bad moonshine, an Irishman fears cold beer, Utah fears same sex marriage, and the Ku Klux Klan fears another minority president.
Plant Healer: If you could do anything you wanted with the remainder of your life, if your future were a blank canvas unencumbered by obligation or habit and you held every available color, what might that composition look like?
Doc: If I had good health I would walk a thousand miles. Note book, camera, backpack, walking stick. If I could not do that, I would like to find a cabin or homestead in New Mexico or Arizona. Try to live a comfortable if primitive off grid type life, and read the classics. Moby Dick, Don Quixote, Pilgrims Progress, the poetry of Keats and Shelley. Then biographies of great people. Curie, Pasteur, Lincoln, Elizabeth the First, Kipling, Burton. I’d make love to a gentle woman in the evening. Make jam in the morning. Tend my garden. Make goat cheese. Write letters by hand. I guess that covers it.
Plant Healer: Tell folks a bit about what you will be teaching at the TWHC this September.
Doc: I’m teaching two classes. One on Chronic Pain: An Hispanic Perspective. I’m excited about this as I’ve never lectured directly on this topic. I will be sharing how Hispanics have dealt with chronic pain in the past, both with herbs and patent medicines, but also the mindset of those who have dealt with this depressing condition. I think folks will be surprised. One thing you won’t hear is, “Pain has something to teach you.”
I’m also teaching a class on Death and Dying: Coping for the Herbalist/Caregiver. I first taught this last year with the aid of a dear friend who is a hospice nurse. This deals with recognizing the signs of care giver burn out and finding coping mechanisms, herbal, social, maybe spiritual, and dangerous.
Plant Healer: How do feel about coming back to teach for us again?
Doc: I love coming back. I was frankly surprised to invited back the second year. I still remember the shocked faces of some of the students who survived my lectures the first year.
Plant Healer: If you had only a short amount of mortal breath with which to give to herbalists and others a bit of your distilled wisdom, what advice might you give?
Doc: That’s easy. And not very profound perhaps. I would say two words: “Give care.”