Astrological Sign: I'm an Aquarius, born February 8th, 1981 in South Lake Tahoe, CA. Lately I've been thinking a lot about astrology and my self identification as an "Aquarius sun, Cancer rising, Aries moon" and taking it less and less seriously.
Being a single mom in Nevada City is awesome because… of the community of mothers and children that my daughter and I are deeply embedded in. I am aware every single day of how blessed we are to have this social circle, of how truly supported we are, of how sweet of a childhood my daughter has. I grew up with a somewhat similar scene in Tahoe- my mom's best friends were all my best friend's moms- but my community now is bigger and stronger. Not having any family here, and always hustling to make rent, I rely on my friends all the time. And they on me. It's an easy reciprocity; some of us give more and some aren't able to do that, but no one is keeping track. It's all about raising the kids up right and holding one another up.
Also, of course, the Yuba river. The most perfect river on earth- huge granite boulders hemming in the rushing green waters of pristine High Sierra snowmelt. It's insane that it even exists, and even crazier that children get to grow up swimming in its waters every summer and have that inform their deepest essence and sense of self.
Okay now I'm having a serious moment of gratitude, and embarrassment at all the times I complain about my life here. It is a small town, and that can be very socially tedious and challenging, not to mention economically limiting. But it totally rules. Oh also- free Waldorf school. Epic score.
We are really passionate about the power of the word and the idea of stories as medicine, which is what keeps us returning to your page again and again- your commitment to continuing to produce long form written content in an all but entirely visual era. Somehow you manage to come across as radical rather than merely stubborn! Can you elaborate on your relationship to the written word?
I suppose it's just intrinsic to my nature, this love of the written word. As the most important dream I've ever had told me years ago, writing is in my bones. I'm not musically inclined, my spatial intelligence is nil, I suck at math, and I'm a horrendous athlete, so writing feels like the one talent I was born with.
And, of course, it's so tied in to reading. I think the love of reading came in because I was an introverted, highly sensitive child, and it gave me escape. I also loved thinking about big concepts (death, eternity, space) from an early age, and since no one wanted to indulge me in conversations about those things, I turned to books.
My daughter loves when I do my impression of my Auntie Karen who, at family gatherings growing up, would say in her loud Italian voice with her strong Boston accent, "Why you always gotta be readin' Amba? Why you always have a book with you?" It was because I needed time to withdraw and recover, and needed that connection with others who thought and cared about what I thought and cared about. Not that I was reading super lofty books at a young age- Babysitter's Club all the way (fist bump emoji).
Can you tell us some of your favorite books?
Grrrl, now you're getting to the heart of things! I'll limit myself to three.
Since you're also a dreamtime explorer and have studied with one of my favorite authors, Robert Moss, let's talk about his book The Secret History of Dreaming. I love this book because it's not about how to enhance or interpret your dreams, but about how dreams have changed the course of history. It's SO fascinating. From Joan of Arc to Winston Churchill to John Lennon, dreams have reached through into waking life countless times in ways that changed everything for everyone who came afterward. I especially loved learning about how Freud was so stuck in his own limited theory of dream interpretation that he failed to notice the obvious symbolism in a dream that foretold his eventual death from throat cancer.
One book I wish someone would make into a PBS special with mind-blowing computer animation to make it easily and intuitively understandable is The View From the Center of the Universe by Joel R. Primacy and Nancy Ellen Abrams. It gives perspective on the place of humanity in this vast multiverse. Not in an old world, geocentric, "humans are the most important things in the universe!" way, but from from the standpoint of modern science. For example, did you know that humans are at the center of all possible sizes, based on the laws of physics in our universe? We are equidistant from both the smallest thing and the biggest thing possible. The book explains deep time, the evolution of life, the future of the cosmos, and so much more in an easily understandable way that has profound meaning for modern humans in need of a shared cosmology. If we're not spending our precious time on earth thinking about these biggest of questions at least some of the time, then what's the point?
And for my final selection, may I present Sex, Time, and Power: How Women's Sexuality Shaped Human Evolution by Leonard Shlain. This is one of those books where just reading the Table of Contents turns me on, and I can go back and dip in to any page and immediately be fascinated. I'm having a hard time summing it up because it's basically about everything, and how the evolution of women's bodies has made humanity what it is. He has an amazing ability to look at evidence from many disciplines and draw new conclusions, and to tie seemingly disparate ideas together. Chapter titles include "Iron/Sex" "Red Blood/White Milk" "Periods/Perils" "Her Climax/His Climax" "Grandmothers/Circumcision" "Carnivory/Vegetarianism" "Menarche/Mustaches" "Misogyny/Patriarchy" and more. See? You wanna go read it now, right? I sure do.
Topical medicinal oils are so easy to make and use, but so underrepresented in the marketplace in terms of what we think of when we think of herbal medicine. Who did you study Herbalism with, and what led you to specialize in whole plant herbal oils?
I studied simultaneously with Kami McBride and Kathi Keville, both well-known herbalists here in Northern California. I had a nursling at the time and no money (I borrowed from family and did partial work-trade for both) so it was a pretty crazy endeavor to undertake, but I was being called so hard. Kami was a few hours away and was the first to teach me about herbal body oils; Kathi is local and introduced me to the St. John's Wort growing in our area. It was making and using St. John's Wort herbal body oil that solidified my love of this form of medicine.
Yes! You nailed it in your question. I write in the introduction to my ebook Herbal Body Oiling: Ancient Sacrament, Modern Necessity, "When we think about taking herbal medicine, we tend to picture teas, tinctures, or some other way of ingesting the medicinal benefits of the plant through the mouth. But the skin is our largest organ and is incredibly absorbent, with direct access to the nervous, lymphatic, and immune systems."
Once I started oiling I couldn't understand why there is so much focus on internally taken herbal medicine, when I found this external method of ingesting herbs to be so tangibly effective, especially for stress relief, relaxation, and calming the nervous system. I can drink the tea or take the tinctures of lavender, peppermint, chamomile, valerian, etc. forever and never feel as relaxed as I do after oiling my body. There's something about the way the fat in oil binds to the receptor sites in our bodies that brings immediate and profound relaxation, and that is enhanced by whichever herb/s are in it.
And since stress is a precursor to so many illnesses, and pretty much no one in the modern world is immune to stress, I think it's absolutely necessary that we each have a self care routine that includes nourishing the nervous system and keeping it functioning at the highest possible level.
There is a lot of talk about herbal oils today, but it's all about essential oils! (Which aren't even oils in the sense that they aren't fat-based and don't interact with the body in that way, they are actually just vapors).
Basically, thanks to the proliferation of Multi-Level Marketing companies selling essential oils, there is suddenly a plethora of dangerous, misleading information out there, perpetuated by untrained individuals calling themselves herbalists who are looking to make an easy buck in the competitive and unsustainable pyramid structure of companies such as doTerra and Young Living.
Herbal Body Oils are safe, easy to use and make, and highly effective. I experienced this firsthand as I adjusted to motherhood, life in chaotic relationship, and years of financial struggle. Sometimes, it was the only thing keeping me grounded and helping me sleep. So I became passionate about sharing this simple form of ancient plant medicine with people and trying to cut through some of the voices barking at us all the time with conflicting and false information about essential oils.
Any good dreams lately?
My most important dreams seem to be related to my father's mother's side of the family (my only real life encounters with mourning doves have occurred on her front porch). She, my Grandma Inie (birth name Daythel Inez Wright), was very close to me; our spirits had a resonance my entire life. She became an Ancestor last year, and our relationship has evolved into a whole new thing since her death. In the dream I referred to above, about my writing, I looked down at my right wrist and saw that a cylindrical hole had been drilled in it. I reached into it and pulled out a rolled-up scroll. When I unfurled the scroll it had her grandfather's name written on it, whose last name, like her maiden name, was Wright. The message I eventually took from this dream was that The Scrolls Are In My Bones, and I loved how my ancestors were using word play (Wright/write/right), something I love, to remind me of that.
On your blog, it seems the most talked about subjects are body oiling, float tank therapy, death, transparency, vulnerability, motherhood, and the Yuba river. Is there a common thread that your aware of that draws you to exploring these subjects?
Ha! Can we add psychedelics, ancestry, sisterhood, menstruation, and sexuality to this list? I think that just about covers the random conglomeration of topics I've been diving into and sharing about for the last couple decades ;-)
I can see how this list falls into three categories- health (especially women's- herbal oils, motherhood/birth, sisterhood, menstruation, and sexuality), consciousness (psychedelics, float tanks, ancestry, and death), and genuine relating (transparency, vulnerability, ancestry, sisterhood and motherhood).
And then the Yuba is in a category all it's own, though it could easily be tied to all three of those.
A psilocybin mushroom experience when I was 16 cleansed my doors of perception in such a way that I've had a strong aversion to the surfaces of things ever since. I want to dive deep. I want to know the truth, to examine the naked essence of myself and of everything.
If I'm not open and honest and vulnerable, I'll never know the truth about myself. And I seek out relationships with like-minded people, because I want to know the depths of others too.
And I have to be healthy and nourished in order to have the capacity to explore the hidden realms of life and being, so I'm interested in taking care of myself as well as I can and honoring my embodiment as a woman.
The float tanks and death work are extensions of the consciousness expansion I've experienced on psychedelics. I've only had a few psychedelic (the word literally means "mind-manifesting" or "soul-manifesting") journeys, but they've been profound jumping off points. As Alan Watts said, "When you get the message, hang up the phone." I don't want to keep trippin', but I do want to keep exploring the mystery of consciousness.
In order to sink my teeth into the questions that kept me awake at night as a kid- "Why are we here? What is eternity? What happens after death?"- I've had to tend to my physical and social health, and so it's really just a thread of necessity that binds these disparate topics together in my life.