In the Garden:
November, 2012
Regional Report

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Community health nurse and herbalist Donna Bryant Winston demonstrates how to cut bars of handmade goat's milk rosemary soap.

Women Connecting Through "Herb, Heart and Hand"

With two farms to run and a new babe in arms, Charis Lindrooth couldn't take time away to attend her favorite herbal conferences. What's a busy woman to do?

Charis created a smaller, fascinating, musical, friendly, thoughtful, Saturday venue at her Red Earth Farm in Kempton, PA. She invited lots of friends, colleagues, herbalists she admires, and women of like mind to join her for the Mid-Atlantic Women's Herbal Conference just west of Allentown.

Many herbalists tend to be teachers and learners. They love to share information, recipes, skills, crafts, techniques. Keeping with the conference theme "Herb, Heart and Hand", keynote speaker herbalist and nurse Donna Bryant Winston opened the day with this thought -- the art of caring. "Listen with a tender heart" to ourselves and others, she suggested. Sit with a calming and soothing manner, share a teapot of chamomile tea, and take time to listen while people tell their stories. Listening with our hearts opens the gates to compassionate care. Herbs and hands-on healing enhance the experience for everyone. Winston runs a community health clinic where she provides traditional and alternative medical care to her Bethlehem, Pennsylvania clients.

Later in the afternoon under the Great Tent, Winston gave us the opportunity for hands-on experience making fragrant goat's milk soap with rosemary. She came well-equipped with pots, measuring bowls and scales, protective goggles, thermometer, molds ... and soap ingredients. Of course, she made it look easy.

I scribbled notes on her detailed handout, "Sharing the Secrets of Soapmaking." Essential oil soaps would make excellent holiday gifts. Winston urged us to carve out a block of undisturbed time for soapmaking. Timing, temperature, and safety are considerations that don't lend themselves to distractions, including children or pets in the room.

Conference participants ranged from many young mothers with children to mature, experienced herbalists who eagerly shared their experiences with and journeys through this ancient tradition. Vendors sold delicious, homemade cordials as well as teas, coffees, crafts, Cape Cod organic cranberries, books, herbal products, and tasty lunch and snack food.

We plantophiles (I made that up) were well-served. Pam Montgomery, international herbalist and plant spirit educator, talked about the heart-brain connection and recent mind-spirit-plant research. Nursing a broken arm, she also shared the challenge of learning to "be" rather than do. How to let go of control and ask for help. And to have patience. Recovering from a too recently broken right shoulder, I so related to her struggles.

Montgomery's message is that people and plants are deeply connected. "We're hard-wired to plants," she said. Biophilia, renowned scientist E.O. Wilson's hypothesis, suggests there's an instinctive bond between human beings and other living things. Montgomery took that further, saying scientists are looking for a gene that connect plants and people.

Scientists have documented the healing power of plants, she said. Note the Japanese Forest Therapy and University of Wisconsin studies on hospital patient recovery and community safety related to proximity to plants.

Montgomery talked about "felt sensation," a vibratory resonance we have with plants. I have friends who mystically enjoy simply sitting with a plant. In light of Montgomery's talk, I'll be more respectful. Montgomery urged us to listen "for the song of the plants. It's like people singing. When a plant is willing and thinks you are ready for a plant song, it's a big deal."

Not enough room to share more here, except to add that the wineberry, elderflower, honey brandy cordial I bought is yummy!

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