entering the season of letting go and a call to home
Greetings Lovelies, this substack is in honour of the season, the deep sacredness of fall, and the depth of work we do in this time of letting go, witnessing what we brought to fruit in the late summer fall to the ground, rot and become fecund. This time of letting go of the beauty that we brought forth and the offering to death, so as to bring richness to future possibility and experience. To offer to what has gone and therein what will be.
In this season I find that the word cleaving always comes to mind and was reminded of one of my essays from my Materia Medica series where I attempt to share some of the healing wisdom of the humble herbs I work with. Usually I like to read these stories live, to an audience while I share the ways I make the medicines and what I use them for and if you would like me to come and do this for your event, happening, ceremony please do reach out. As I cleave my eyes begin to always look towards the fresh horizon! I am so impatient that way. And you know I love nothing more than to be in conversation with my subtle friends and over years of visiting and chatting I feel compelled to tell our love stories and here is one of my first loves, Yarrow. Yarrow, who if I travel, will always go with me for their intelligence and adaptability make them one of the finest companions in movement and action. Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us, to take a moment and breathe in the sharpness of Fall.
Materia Medica by Natasha Clarke 2020
You have walked past yarrow as have your ancestors, yarrow that has been here with us and reaches back into time, yarrow who’s medicine has been used in the battles of the romans and norse men, whose steady stalks have been held by the sages of the east. Stalks that I keep after I have cut off the blossoms and leaves for tinctures and oils, stalks that slowly dry until I remember to trim, count and make bundles of fifty for my friend the acupuncturist. Gifts for the art of deep divination, the mancy of talking to the resonance field, the throwing of prayer, the shifting and sorting of desire, intent and longing. Yarrow held firmly in hand while counting four at a time, again the strong foundation, until the diviner can calculate with the math of the I Ching, what breaks and lines, which ones and zeros create the words that speak of what will be. Its pillars of faith that I'm talking about here, as I crush the flowers between my fingers and inhale the breath of prayer and belief. All words that make my modern white privileged skin crawl. Words and practices that were out of reach to me during times when I was absolutely lost, a fragment of myself, shifting in and out of the real that is now, doing my best to hold it together while I was just flickering like an exhausted fluorescent light, no illuminated pathway, no faith that I could believe in, no other to hold me as the separation from those very concepts kept me figuring it out alone.
Back to a time when I'm sitting on the porch smoking a spliff, two small children sleeping in my mortgaged house, my partner is intermittent but, more significantly, absolutely not communicating and I know that my world is going to shit. Maybe you too have sat in a similar chair, this place of complete confusion, where we have no control, only impossible responsibilities and our supports, or infrastructures, being revealed for the fantasies that they are, have seemingly vanished into thin air. There is the litany of practicalities, like north sea cliffs that rise up behind each wave, seemingly impassible, and then there is the no-self, the void sitting centre in all of the rubble, in the tower, fallen down with the still scorched breath of lightning scenting the air and there I sit, stunned into collapsed time.
Fractured completeness is how I think of it when I'm frozen like this in place. From the outside, I appear to be real but I'm really made up of a thousand shards of mirrored glass all ready to explode and skewer whatever is in my path, rip and tear and litter the way with unbearable unknowns, so instead I hold completely still. Should I make a move? Disassociate while I dissemble myself on the floor? There I am, frozen in place, an alignment of sorts and more unfortunately more comfortable suck than the alternative - the shattering, the release, the mess, the death of transformation called forth with change. Fractured and stuck all at the same time. A holding of terror.
Stay in this spot long enough, and long enough it can become to feel strangely familiar, the clenched heart, letting the mind that do all the feeling with running thoughts instead of sensations. The continuous trance of story. The shear strength of keeping this assemble in place can insanely become an almost unnoticeable burden. Spending my chi to hold invisible tension and negotiation as I move through the motions while having to gather and coordinate the thousand broken pieces to somehow move as one. Checking out at this juncture is often the only way to carry on.
When we bow down to the demand that we keep it together at all costs is when the dead are walking, fodder for the machine, as we are occupied by doing whatever we can to hold everyone and everything else up out of the rubble that threatens to bury us at any moment. And I did. I ghost walked through the debris, pretended that all the extraordinary behaviour, all the masked demand, all the ridged fear, all the unspoken violence was acceptable to my spirit, was something that I was obviously born to bare.
Yarrow is a master of the blood, knowing the flow in relation to the function. This play of thickening and thinning of the blood allows it to orchestrate a healing of wounds, from paper cuts to axes. Hemorrhages, clotting, and bruising, capillary healing to name a few. Yarrow's intelligence allows it to bring temperance to what has been split wide open.
We can kid ourselves that we are aligned anytime. That’s what makes it so tricky. As I sat in absolute cellular terror, that frozen wasteland that is held so tightly in-place inside, as I ran the many stories of my victimhood and placeless blame, all the while ignoring the horror that I was completely incapable of relationship. With you. With myself, with anything.
For that is the pivoting aspect of being in alignment, if we look at the actual definition of the word: the proper positioning or state of adjustment of parts in relation to each other, an arrangement of groups or forces in relation to one another. To do this we need to be in the relationship, first and foremost with ourselves. It's by knowing that when in a relationship, our alignment is a living force, giving life to the scared inside and the balance that can be achieved to relationship to other.
Yarrow has been recognised as an intelligent plant, with this ability to know the proper positioning of parts in a relationship. It has an inherent ability to move structures and function into proper play, so different from that frozen state of holding the pieces or watching them shatter through the world in chaotic noise.
This ability to bring into alignment conjures the word cleave to mind, a word that both describes what to hold onto and what to let go off, what to amalgamate so that alignment can happen, a true ace of swords, that cold clear energy of the steel, the knife being used with decisiveness, the intention clearly expressed so as to best wield with clarity and precision. The unmistakable truth that to be with other we need to be with self. To give grace to having been cleaved apart.
Cleaving to the center is a delicate art, reminiscent of Pullmans subtle knife between the worlds - and if I close my eyes, blinding what I know yet alert to what I feel, feel with the tip of the blade as I slide it through my reality, feel when and where to cleave, the sharp intake of breath as it starts to catch and how I can pull back, breath and feel into finding the way again, journeying as we bring into balance the elements of the mind and pull them down into the heart, that awakening as we begin to embody.
Yarrow has an affinity with the qualities of air. Is intimate with the heady heights of the mountains, And it's the transparency of our story that we have to cleave through. Cleave through the arguments, the judging, all the offenses which contain the pain. Balancing the ever-shifting story that masks as our present, a very heady present, full of opinions, righteousness, needs, backing you in its corners, wrapped up and covering over the self-deceit in all these very earnest efforts of how I "really" feel about something or "deeply" believe in something, all said with a slight upward lift of the voice, maybe a little quiver overtone as that air in earth whistles through, betraying the “I am not present at all.” That I might believe if I wasn’t completely outside of myself. Completely checked out, disassociated, just not fucking here. That's when my lofty disembodiment hysterically announces itself, and my frozen mirror held so tightly in place is liable to shatter all over once again, leaving me red-eyed, puffy-eyed and no doubt on my own or with the kids watching, while mummy loses her shit, on my knees picking up the pieces scenario, one with the original script written so long ago that it's not legible, that demand, that unspoken tentacle that someone, anyone, something, anything hold me up. Anything other than myself. Please. Because I don't want to look at how there is nobody home to align, nobody caring about the damn relationship that is really just bloody pain.
How that I’m here in the first place because I have somehow completely abandoned my self.
How that all my coping, my checking out, the absolute refusal to face to discomfort of being in my body, is what is causing all this agony.
And I refuse to realize the impact of my disregard because I’m just too busy holding it all together. It’s not a coincidence that yarrow has a deep and long relationship to the knife and knife wounds, can stop the draining away of blood, can soothe the pain while knitting together the skin. Yarrow understands the knife, Yarrow knows its nature, the sharp edge that can separate one from another, that can cleave open, Yarrow’s roots tell of gladiators and lions, offerings and bloodletting in dark forest glades, yarrow can reach back to steel and humans and splitting apart, has made itself known to us so very long ago. Yarrow can make whole what was once sliced open.
Yarrow is part of the Aster family and its flower clusters, its compound corymbs, are made up of many tiny flowers, the micro in the macro, factual in its function, spiraling fragrant endless sworls. It’s a multi-faceted plant with many delicate, layered upon aromatics allowing it to become an arsenal of different actions and properties, facilitating intelligent alignment with its environment.
Yarrow stands tall in its prayers to the sky supported by its pillars of faith, sending prayers on the wind. This alignment, this need to know how to be in constant touch, in actual relationship so that we can play with the forces given to us so that we can align ourselves to be in alignment with other, requires us to be in knowledge of ourselves, not just our minds, or pain, or needs and demands but in our hearts, spun whole with the song of our spirits.
In knowledge of myself, in practice, in whole. It demands that I be present.
"Being superior in function" is another one of the faceted mirrors of self-reflection that Yarrow offers, another maze of the mind, another spiral in the galaxy that Yarrow encompasses. We can become deeply entrapped in the wounded warrior, a shieldmaiden to those of us who give ourselves away piece by piece, saving folk, all martyrs in waiting, completely proficient so that our disregard is seen as simply being clever at the best, rather superior at the worst. The angelic smile that never hits home, as there is no one home to begin with.
Again the discourse of what are we in relationship with? How do we align ourselves if we are not even present? Without being able to consider our own spirit? How can we function in alignment without regard to self?
A remedy for the wounded healer, Yarrow is a calling for us to align within and without, acknowledge ourselves to see the other, while our mind, heart and spirit dances in prayer, prayer becoming present, the right remedy for what is apart, that wound from the effort of cleaving, the acknowledgement of pain and separation. Becoming our own true warriors, facing the enormity of self-worth and regard, to live a life in the practice of exactly how precious we are to ourselves. To the homecoming of being in our hearts. What does that feel like?
And do we even get the chance to find out while being enslaved to a system of unceasing growth, the constant refrain of more over relationship? Where we are exhausted in the exercise of creating value without the space to find our own? What lies within our own beating hearts as we are judged continuously on our worth, as we stand in comparison, rather than in beauty, as we are constantly being weighed and measured up to one another? In simplified evolution for capital gain.
And meanwhile as we are taught due diligence in counting and recording and yet nothing of prayer, that act of being in relationship with anything, something other, greater than us. That act of taking time to be in a relationship with something when we are actually present?. John O’Donohue writes, “prayer is the voice of longing, it reaches outward and inwards to unearth our ancient belonging.” And what a rift, that the simple act of prayer, the whisper from the lips of heart-searching for longing, of burning intention, of our most vulnerable selves, that the act of prayer, the act of being in relationship to seen or unseen, known or unknown has been taken up, trademarked and constrained to that most insidiousness power, the politicisation of spirituality, our corrupt religious structures, rather than to place or to belonging to the land that supports us, literally holds us up, to our home, Our Earth.
Yarrow is an aromatic bitter that will instigate digestion, facilitating the flow of bile and general decongestion of the liver and internal organs as well as soothing and eliminating gas, bloating, ulcers and colitis and bleeding from the stomach. It aids the digestive process, which is tasked with breaking down into components, that which we can digest, what can nourish us and what we need to eliminate - to move through.
Finding ourselves, cradling our self worth, being in regard to ourselves and our centre, as we feel the earth's energy flow through us, as it does through mountain to reach to sky, is an alignment that is almost impossible to know off without experiencing some form of initiation, rock bottom, crisis, and indeed yarrow has the feel of ceremony about it, it cuts through miasma and stagnation with its heady breath, its complex aromatics, enlivening and awaking, the sea, the mountain and the sky, all silver-grey rock and crystal prussian blue interlaced with brilliant white peaks while surrounded by the charcoal green-black of the ocean, a sliver, a lightning bolt, illuminating air laced with the frost of deepest winter, the crisp sharp alignment of the elements, vertical in feeling, running you through. It is not something that necessarily happens when your screen is the only physical witness, or your kid's care's are keeping your hands full without relief from support, or being swallowed up by the labour of being a cog in this complex society.
Yarrow calls in the breeze, the self, the mountain. Yarrow calls in the dedication to walk up alone and face the vista and to find your own way home. Yarrow has a grace as it holds itself up, beckoning you to take a minute, to stop and focus, to be still inside with prayer, not terror or panic but questing, to find your center so that you can start to swirl outwards to meet your needs, to be in service, to find relationship.
Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit." e. e. cummings ~
It is no surprise that this is a herb who has such great affinity with the digestion, from colic to the shards of broken glass in our bleeding ulcers. And what can we in the end actually stomach? To be alive in this world? Where the daily dignity of being human is overcome in the holding of those thousand fractured atrocities, that we are all so used to keeping in place, while so complicity completely numb? That we all participate in, with our very breath, while somehow being so removed like a fractured reflection? What are we allowing ourselves to digest in the thick of this? Surely we need some encouragement to discern what we want to actually chew down on and what just won't feed us anymore. What kind of digestive fire do we need that's capable of breaking down the kind of world we live in, the current present that we are all aligned with?
Yarrow can help align our intentions, bring thought into action, identify the path for our wounds to become discernment. Yarrow can help us by soothing the pain, the pain of what has changed us forever, of what we have cleaved and what has been cleaved, that searing pain of separation. Yarrow can help us all call into ourselves the faith that we are not alone, that we, each and everyone, a tiny flower of a tiny flower, like pinpricks of light, are held in a universe of other lights, that simple separation defines other and that other is part of us. To understand that our center is eternal in this interconnected universe, that our spirits spiral out to infinity and touch everything, to understand that a calling out with prayer is our conversation, an act of placing the parts in proper play. Yarrow is the landscape from where the phoenix rises, the hills that hold great transformation, Yarrow, spinning infinitely in its own forever Milky Way is a reminder to us all to show up and be present, to our own shafts of steel. What fire-forged you and what particular pieces you can cleave will shine through in each and every tiny flower, in its fragrant galaxy. Will thrive on beach, land, meadow and mountain top, sandy bluffs, garden lawns and deep rocky crevasses honed in by an azure blue breathless sky, surrounded by a shimmer of clarity, reflected in the bright sharpness of scent, the delectable bite of bitter that shivers down your spine as your heart, spirit and mind sing with the unmistakable complexity of what it is to be at home.
Yarrow is a normalizer, taking diametric or opposing situations and bringing them into homeostasis, whether it be through the regulation of temperature in cases of fever or the secretions of the body with the distribution of fluids. As it achieves this balance it can harmonise the whole, bringing in healing.
How we pull it all together while present is a prayer of our own, a song we each carry inside, our alignment within the ecosystems that we each move around in every minute, the myriad of beings that make up our own selves from the landscapes of our minds, the wellspring of our emotions, to feeling our feet on the earth and the weather on our faces. The unfolding of the fractal to find a place in the spiral, for that is the nature of alignment, ever-shifting to pull all the parts into balance, around the central premise of what we are aligned too, of what we believe in with our hearts. How I have danced instead around those tricky words like faith and belief, easy to ignore when every material need is met and endless youth is an actual thing. Right now it is a pulling to center, a coming home to self, a call that we have right relationship with ourselves and the kiss of yarrows floral embrace in my mouth, the clarity rifling through me as I feel myself in place, feel the air in my lungs co-mingle with the core of my being to the roots that I am putting down with every footstep and caress. As I become, through the humbling practice of being in relationship, the deep discomfort of revealing my vulnerabilities, the ceaseless practice of being a part and apart of this reality, the simple dignity of being present and I can feel my self align, assemble, flex and flow and I become more of myself, held, safe to be curious, safe to wonder how I am going to amass with community, nurture my environment, how I am going to take the time to give thanks and respect my fellow humans, green folk, furry ones, and those on the wing, of the sea and all in-between, the pointless ones, the hungry ones, all and other, so that we can work together, work within and without to create something more than just competition of the fittest, how to put forth the simple beauty of ourselves, between the earth and the sky.
All art work generated from my phrases and rendered by Dali AI
To my north west folks check out my ongoing classes happening in North Bend Wa And to all you other Lovelies please share and comment! Until next time, where I will endeavor to share what is making me cry and what is keeping me present and what is bringing joy. Much Love - Natasha