Like in years past, next Thursday many families will be gathering from near and far to feast together on local/traditional foods. Many will be observing this day as the National Day of Mourning, organized by the United American Indians of New England, there at the event in Plymouth, MA, and attending the potluck after, or in spirit from wherever we may be. The next day, only one day after giving thanks for all that we have and/or for mourning the generations of racism and genocide that have poisoned this land, hordes will push and shove and grab (but hopefully this year not trample to death and added to the lives lost from the mayhem of previous Black Friday) to buy stuff. Stuff probably made in sweatshops and sold at stores owned by corporations that refuse to pay their workers a living wage, while making gazillions of dollars and not paying a cent in taxes. Others will be gathering in front of said stores celebrating Buy Nothing Day, in support of said workers and protesting said corporations and the vicious cycle of capitalism (devaluing workers, buying elections, destroying the environment, etc).
This year, Ferguson and communities all over the US also await the verdict to see if the police will finally be held accountable, or if yet another white officer walks free after murdering a person of color. Events are planned all over the country. In Mexico, our compaNer@s continue the search for their loved ones in Guerrero. Elsewhere, and all over the world, people are organizing for justice too.
There's so much to celebrate and so much to grieve. And it's so important to come together in these times to support and feed one another. Figuratively and literally.
However we pass this coming week, may it at least in part be a time to remember the foundation of the US - genocide, racism, stolen land, slavery, exploited labor - and to recommit ourselves to working for justice, in solidarity across lines of color, gender, nationality, ability, age, class, etc. And for those of us born into privilege, may we reflect on how these dynamics still play out and how we contribute to them. (This time of year is one of retrospection about my ancestry, being a descendant of two who came over on the Mayflower and enslaved the indigenous peoples upon arrival, setting up a precedence for violent racism, land theft, and (Northern!) slavery that white people still benefit from today. Being at the Day of Mourning at the site of their arrival felt like it was part of healing some ancestral wounds.) May we take the lead from the communities most impacted by injustice, and recommit ourselves to unlearning the racism, white supremacy, and other forms of oppression that seek to divide us. May we speak up both during mainstream Thanksgiving white-washing of history and in our daily lives in general when indigenous people are ignored, made silent, made fun of, disrespected, depicted in degrading/cartoonish/dehumanizing ways, and invaded - both literally on their land, like at Black Mesa, and also their sacred cultural practices ~ plant medicine traditions, healing practices, and sacred ceremonial objects.
As we wait, feast, grieve, protest, and organize, may we call on the plants and the ancestors to support us in these times. Here are some ways that we can practice self-care and collective-care, in solitude or in community. For clarity: these are not shoulds! These are suggestions intended to be supportive. These are notes to myself too, for when I forget.
Take time to make tea with nourishing and relaxing herbs like Milky Oat Tops, Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Tulsi (Holy Basil), Skullcap, and a pinch of Rose petals and Lavender flowers. Many of these herbs not only calm the body, they also help heal the heart, support digestion, and lift our spirits. You can get boxed tea, but if possible make your own tea blend where you can see the leaves and flowers and roots. This is part of the medicine. Add some honey if you need some sweetness.
Prepare an herbal bath or foot bath ~ sometimes a messy herbal/floral bath is just what we're needing, where every part of our beautiful bodies is bathed with bits of flower petals, leaves, and evergreen needles. Directions here for an herbal bath in a tub or shower. Also, a foot bath draws stress and zingy energy that can keep us from sleeping well, and sends it away with the bathwater. Giving myself a mini-foot massage with cream as I begin and end my day always makes me feel both relaxed and grounded.
Eat nourishing foods as a form of medicine what makes your body feel good, both when you're eating and afterwards. For me it's chicken and rice noodles and sweet potatoes and greens and baked apples. My body just says yes! when I eat these. What does your body say yes too? What has your body been craving lately? Also, taking bitters supports our livers which work so dang hard, and help us to digest and absorb the nutrients from all that good, nourishing food.
Massage our bodies with oils to ground and relax us with olive, grapeseed, coconut, sunflower, sesame oils. See what kind feels good on your skin. And there's no need to go buy some expensive body oil. If you have these unrefined oils in your home for cooking, use 'em on your skin! Remember, our skin is our largest organ and it's best not to put on our skin anything we wouldn't put in our bodies. You can add a few drops of essential oils, or infuse your oils with herbs if you like, but just plain oil can feel sooo good too! My favorite is a blend of coconut and sesame (untoasted, and infused with chamomile flowers!) oils.
Burn candles, herbs, and incense or spray floral waters to shift the energy of our physical space
Participate/Don't If joining up with others for a Day of Mourning or anti-racism/police violence event will feed your spirit, do it! If you're feeling a bit (or a lot) burnt out and need some rest and relaxation, do it! We can't be everywhere all the time and events aren't just about having a body count. If we're going to be drained from attending, maybe our time would be better passed doing some of the nurturing things on this list. Or hunting or finger painting or whatever you feel like. It's about being in it for the long haul, not pushing ourselves to physically be at every event. That said, it can be really encouraging and inspiring to share space with others who are passionate about social justice, and just feel all the range of emotions we're feeling, with collective witness to the pain of injustice. You make the call and just know that you made a conscious, self-care-y decision.
Fill out your In Case of (emotional) Emergency Form a self-care/community-care form to fill out when you’re feeling grounded, supported, calm, inspired, etc. To read when you’re not. You can find it here.
Unplug while I'm a big fan of the people's media and keeping informed, it's also easy to get overstimulated and overwhelmed in a way that depletes, rather than feeds and inspires, us. Check in with yourself, are you present in your body and choosing what you let into your space or are you going on auto-pilot and getting bombarded with information and images? Take some time to unplug. Turn off the phone, computer, radio, whatever gadget is demanding your attention. And do some of the practices listed above, if they sound good to you.
sweet, vanilla-like Chamomile tea
Dandelioness Herbals also creates remedies to offer physical and emotional support within a culture of self-care and collective-care. While you can enjoy these remedies at home, they are also convenient for bringing with you to rallies, gatherings, potlucks, when traveling, and wherever else you may go, when you may not be able to make tea, prepare a footbath, and do other self-care practices . Relaxation in a Bottle, Calm the Rage, Heart Elixir, Relaxing Bitters, Stay Ready, Mercury's In Retrograde, Again?!, Yarrow Flower Essence for clear and strong boundaries, and others. I'm happy to make a custom blend that is especially for you, where you're at, and what you're dealing with and focusing on.
May we transform next week and this season into an opportunity for healing and growth and renewed solidarity.
Photos by Dana L Woodruff/Dandelioness Herbals, from the top: a wee bowl of Chamomile; Chamomile and Lavender harvest; basket of Lemon Balm; Milky Oat harvest; Evergreen-Rose foot bath for the People's Spa; Make-it-as-we-go-along personalized Relaxation in a Bottle tincture and flower-infused oils for self-massage before bed/bathing from the Community Self-Care: Nourishing our Nervous Systems for the Long Haul workshop series; bee coming in for a Tulsi/Holy Basil landing; gathering Rose pollen; Yarrow for strong boundaries; and Chamomile tea.