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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Swan Song to Mary Jane

So, remember when I was all "I'm ready to get my ass in gear" last year? Well, it didn't happen too quickly, but it did finally happen. I'm happy to report that my ass is now in full gear. Full-Geared-Ass has commenced! I have the muscle pain and an earlier alarm set on my phone to prove it. I'm on the road of few words, lots of action. I will say, however, that the road I'm taking is on foot- and it's 13.1 miles long. More- lots more- on this in the months to come.

I've been making small steps toward something better, something that seemed so far away from my life that it felt like a distant galaxy. But I've been mired in apathy, stuck in the proverbial rut, the deceptively enticing quicksand of stuckness has been sucking me down. That rut I was in felt cozy, though. The apathy draped around my shoulders like a nice, warm, cashmere throw. I think for awhile I was confusing the quicksand for a Vichy mudbath. What I'm saying here, people, is that the low-grade depression and unmotivated greyness that clung around my life like a misty fog served me somehow. Or, maybe I served It.

So, before I move any further down this path of action, I have to say thank you and goodbye to someone very special to me. Her name is Mary Jane. You might know Her by other names: weed, green, pot- you get the picture. I need to say thank you and farewell to my old companion Tetrahydrocannabinol, good ole’ C21H30O2.

I remember the initial spark of discomfort, a seed that was planted one late spring evening while scrolling mindlessly through social media. A friend I met in Vermont, a lovely woman who helps others come into healing, had posted an article in Elephant Journal. I always pay attention to her posts because they're usually very poignant and insightful. I was smoking my evening bowl, unwinding from my stressful day, happy for the lengthening days and warmed concrete under my bare feet. The title of the article piqued my interest: “Dear Marijuana” by Alexandra Moga. Oh, yes, dear, dear marijuana. I sing your praises and pray at your altar almost religiously.


I was expecting an article lauding the benefits of weed, another piece of research affirming my choices, adding a layer of cashmere to my self-inflicted shroud of apathy. What I got was a love letter- a goodbye letter- to my dear friend. I almost closed the page, feeling tricked, judging it as right-wing propaganda, but chose to read it. It hit me like a brick wall. I cried. This woman could be me. I could finish most of her sentences. Change the name, some of the basic info, she is me. I am she! 
"I know that you heal. And I know that you enlighten. You are of Mother Earth and you ease the pain that life can bring in a beautiful way. But the truth needs to be stated: using you is, ultimately, cheating...
...It’s cheating myself and the road that I have to walk through life—through pain, foolishness, discomfort and the work I need to do on that tendency toward not-always-healthy escapism I harbor. You’re the fast lane to the highs above the lows of life. You’ve helped me understand some grand truths...
...I mean, here I am right now, living a life around yoga, wholeheartedly trying to dedicate myself to helping myself and others access a direct connection to that elevated, deeply integrated state you so cheaply (though dang—you can cost a lot!) and easily endow with zero work or digging. It’s not true. It’s not honest. ‘Cause as much as I love you, I’ve gotta learn how to love and stay connected to the unadulterated, direct line, the line of and through myself, my soul, the only tool I was born with for that exact purpose—to connect in order get high and deep as f***!"
There was only one big difference between me and that woman: she was on the other side. I sat there. Judging. Mocking. Silently simmering inside. Hating that mirror. I wasn’t ready.


The seed was planted. I went on with my life. Working, planting and tending my garden, moving, learning my herbs and medicines, working some more, and, of course, smoking. In the back of my mind I kept that seed hidden in the deep, loamy soil of my heart, it's potential slowly germinating in me.

A little while later I received an email from an herbalist whom I admire. She was sharing a book review of the book The Enchanted Healer: A Guidebook for Finding Your True Medicine by Jesse Hardin. A quote stood out to me:
“It is crucial for healers to not become complacent, inured, or for any reason get in the habit of feeling less and numbing out more. The efficacy of our lives and practices hinges on our sensitivities, our innate and developed senses, our ability to notice, feel, and respond.” – Jesse Hardin
As an herbalist, student, and apprentice, my heart sunk. I know this, yet this is exactly what I’ve been guilty of. My training in Traditional Medicine had just started and the rule has always been that I can’t touch any intoxicating substance for four days prior to touching a medicine. I've been taught that I need to stay sharp and aware. That complicated my fun time. 

About a week later I got an email from a dear friend. She wanted to give me some feedback on a recent visit we had. She held that mirror right up to my face and told me that the last time we saw each other that I did nothing but talk about me. We both were pretty high during our visit and that equates to a loquaciousness like no other for me. Holy fucking hell. There was no backing away from this now. 

My priorities were placed squarely in front of me. I had to make a choice- a week later I was in the chair across from an awesome therapist. A week after that I decided to not smoke pot for one night. Then another, and another. One night at a time. One bowl at a time. This wasn’t the grand farewell I imagined it would be. This wasn’t the way I pictured my departure from Greenland. I didn’t sneak away, I just clicked and It shut off.

I haven’t smoked in a couple months. I wasn’t sure how this would affect my life, but the rewards have so far outweighed the occasional cravings I have, usually at night when I’m done with my day, or when I have major period cramps or arthritis flare ups, or when I have an especially stressful or emotional day, or when I’m in a social situation where I want to vibe with everyone else. I’m seeing the holes that weed filled for me, how it lubricated discomfort and coddled me, or when I was bored. 

I was always lamenting not having enough time to achieve the things I want to achieve in my life- to be creative and productive and healthy, but my intense lack of motivation was purely chemically-induced, a leftover coping mechanism. I realized that my habit started during the trauma of my mid thirties when my life dramatically shifted. It helped me cope with the death and grief that surrounded me. It eased me into a new life after I left my ex. I celebrated my freedom by sparking up. I had amazing, mind-blowing psychedelic realizations. And then things just sort of flatlined and went numb. I stopped running. I stopped creating. I stopped doing anything that wasn't in my lexicon of self-preservation. The initial chrysalis of mind-altering benefits wore off and never opened, devoid of energy or motivation. I just kept sleeping, thinking that the longer I stay in that cozy cocoon the more prepared I'd be for the next big shift.

I know I don't need to say this, but I would like to acknowledge all the weed smokers out there. This is not a judgement on you or your relationship with pot. We all have our own shit to deal with and this is completely mine. I have been in many situations since I made this shift where people have been confused and self-conscious around me and offered to leave the room, or ask me if I am offended in some way. I'm not. Keep on keepin' on! This is my choice around my issues. I know nothing of your issues and make no judgements, no should I. 

So, this is my farewell. My swan song to Mary Jane. I wholeheartedly thank you for all the good you do for so many who benefit from your potent Earth Medicine. I apologize for abusing you, taking you for granted, and misusing you for my own dysfunction. I will always advocate for your freedom. I will always honor your deep wisdom. If I ever see you again, I will most certainly look you in the eye and we will both acknowledge the awesome times we shared together and how you changed me. But it's over now. We both need to move on and be the best we can be for others.

It’s not you- it’s me.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Catching up

OK, OK, I know. It's been 9 months since my last post. Enough time to birth a damned baby! Well, I guess I've kind of been carrying something to term, although we're still childless by choice (unless you count our furry family members!), but more on that later.

To play a little bit of catchup- we moved out of our awesome apartment/horrible neighborhood in Hamilton, Ontario on April 1st. We weren't planning a move, but the location and constant fear for my life, lack of greenspace, constant parking tickets (there were only metered spaces anywhere near our building), and just general depressing energy of that neighborhood finally got to us. When we found a rental in our favorite town in the GHA we jumped on it and broke our lease. We ended up in a sweet 1.5 bedroom with a great yard in Dundas, a posh little British'y town about 15 minutes outside of the city. The Bruce Trail picks up at the end of our street. My CSA share is a block away. There's an amazing butcher a block from us. We live next to a chiropractic office that closes before we even get home, with a privacy-fenced back yard, so we can walk around in our skivvies with nary a thought. We've been in domestic bliss for the last 4+ months.

The entire first night Emma slept outside. I realized that night just how depressed she had gotten with no access to the outdoors, even with twice daily walks or the almost daily outings to the dog park. Emma, more than any of us, needs access to be outside, followed by her mama. I sat outside wrapped in a blanket every night until the weather got warm enough to let the warm air swirl around my toes. Noel actually slept an entire night in the hammock on top of a sheepskin and under a down duvet! We put in a great lasagna garden (it's a type of gardening, not that you couldn't make a lasagna out of the harvest!), some medicinal herbs (especially catnip to keep our babies close to home) and sit outside every night while we let the day wind down. I've always been a nature loving girl, but I just now realized how desperately I had missed being able to take in fresh air!

Other than just getting unpacked our lives have been relatively stable. Working, hiking, visiting family in Buffalo, chilling. That's about it. We came into a bit of cash from from tax returns we finally filed, so we took a holiday to one of our favorite places and one new place (for Noel, at least): Vermont and California. We spent 5 blissful days in Vermont with our friends Denise and Brian. Five days was just enough time to remind me why we love it so much there. It was kind of painful to go back, visit all of our old haunts and say hi to old friends. I felt like I had to float on top of the experience lest it pull me into the vortex of green, mountainous vistas, amazingly fresh farm-to-table culture, rooted, down-to-earth people and abundance of Subarus. When we left, we felt like we were leaving home again.

The second half of our trip was dedicated to exploring as much of California as we could in 9 short days. Definitely not enough to do it justice, but we still had a great time. We met up and stayed with friends in Sebastopol, Santa Barbara and San Diego and had one lovely and completely naked 24 hours in Orr Hot Springs. We had a great time in California. It was wonderful to see so many old friends at once, eat awesome Mexican food, explore the ocean and forests, gratefully accepting the doting hospitality of our hosts, and basically just letting our hair down and letting the days flow into one another.

On the third day of our trip, my landlord emailed me that he needed to speak with us ASAP. I called him and he broke the news- he's getting a divorce and needs us to move out October 1st.



At first I experienced a great sadness, mourning the sweet little nest we were still creating for ourselves. Then anger came up- how could he? Doesn't he know how much our home means to us? Then bargaining- couldn't he take pity and give us a few more months? Finally, acceptance kicked in, because we are, unfortunately, only mere renters, and his drama trumps our life. I forgave myself for being an unsympathetic asshole and grew a pair (of boobs!) So, we started looking around. And talking. And looking. And realizing...

Pet owners are seriously discriminated against when it comes to renting.

But, aside from that, we really started thinking- why are we staying in Ontario?

We were immediately pulled out of the sleepy lull of our vacation and went into self-preservation mode. We drove right by the Pacific ocean and barely saw it's splendor. We felt out of control, powerless and frustrated. So, we made a conscious choice to not let it get us down, to enjoy our vacation and deal with the mess when we touched down and recovered from our trip. About twice a day for the rest of the trip these waves of anxiety and sadness flowed through us. We acknowledged it and let it pass and dissipate. I think the beautiful surroundings and the awesome friends had something to do with that!

So, we're at the crux of some major decision-making right now. Where to go from here?

I can't answer that right at the moment, but I can share a few of my favorite photos from at least the VT leg of our trip. Enjoy, and if anyone has any wisdom on this front, please share!

Noel at Granville Gulch, VT.

Our friend's beautiful home in Johnson, VT.

The view from Mt. Mansfield, VT.

Noel enjoying the water at Granville Gulch, VT.

My favorite goatygoat who lives behind our friends in Johnson, VT.

Mt. Mansfield, VT

Hi there.

Granville Gulch, VT.

Bus stop near Prickly Mountain in East Warren, VT.