This spring, when I was in California, I got to spend some precious alone-time with Amber of Aquarian Dawn. Like many of my "internets friends", we've known each other a long time, now. Our friendships now span new loves, brake-ups, babies, new careers, moves, illness, wellness, success, sadness, and joy, all of which we share with each other.
What started of as a very unlikely online connection, has blossomed over the years into a full-blown friendship, sisterhood. Sometimes we discover that the details are a little hazy (What do your parents do? What did you major in college?), but the feeling, the friendship, is deep, intimate, and kind of spiritual. Unlike so many friendships formed by proximity, these ones seem fated somehow, like destiny (and vintage frocks) drew us together.
It was so special to have a few days to tool around Amber's hometown, to hang out with her daughter Mycie, to meet her man, to see the sights, to do our work, read and write at her local coffee shop, visit the beautiful store, Kitkitdizzi, where she sells her oils, to visit the river which is the source of so much of her mythology, and must be in her blood by now. But most of all, it was special to talk, talk, and talk, with her, until we had to fall asleep, because we were exhausted.
One of the big topics we discussed was our shared experience of being HSP, short for "Highly Sensitive Person", someone with an overly developed nervous system, a person who feels everything acutely. I first discovered this side of myself as a physical condition, rather than just a personality trait to "try to get over", around the same time I first met Amber. A bodyworker friend, who's HSP herself, pointed me to a book she though I ought to read, to better help myself manage my stress-levels.
That book was a revelation, another piece in the puzzle of my emotional, and physical challenges. Learning this thing about myself, has helped me manage the more unpleasant side-effects of this sensitivity, and to keep looking for ways to do that.
As I've grown to know Amber, I've been in awe of her ability to cope with stress. In the years I've known her, she's had more than her fair share of it, and yet she's continued to grow, and flourish even under its weight, making the life she wants, and deserves. She is a master at self-care. One of the earliest things I remember about her, is her writing about the many baths she takes. Being immersed in water, she explained, is her way of calming that wild nervous system. What I call grounding, she does in water. As much as I love my saltwater dips, they are more the Scandinavian style in-and-out-of-the-hole-in-the-ice-variety, than a leisurely soak. My version of her river days, and long baths, is walking barefoot in the woods, touching trees, or working in my garden.
Amber introduced herbal body oils in my life. When I was little girl, I remember my mother oiling herself (with German botanicals brand Weleda-oil), after our weekly sauna, one of her few beauty rituals. Over the years, oiling was something I was intuitively drawn to, but it had never occurred to me that I could use medicinal oils, or even make my own.
As a matter-of-fact, meeting Amber was a crucial step on my path in folk herbalism. Here was this powerful woman who made her own medicines, trusted her own intuition about her health (so much so that she opted for an unassisted home birth!), as well as that of her family. I was in awe.
Her reasoning behind her oils was very much about self-care, and calming the nervous system, about bringing calm to the mind, through the body. I've found this to be true for myself as well, and I'm grateful to her for that insight. Even as I've come to make my own oils from her inspiration, I still use her precious St. John's Wort oil like it's the liquid drops of rubies it looks like.
Last spring, our conversations winding around our shared sensitivity, we agreed that it should be viewed as a strength as well, an ability to perceive things that others sometimes miss. A heightened animal intuition, if you will. That whatever the downsides, we wouldn't trade it for the world, or the ability to tolerate loud noises.
These last few days, those talks have been on my mind a lot, because I've had a hard time coping. Up here, I can tell, something is shifting. A wild windstorm came through on Saturday, bringing rain, a Super Moon in Pisces, and some renewed sense of clarity. It felt like a breath of fresh air, and yet, I've also felt emotional and vulnerable all weekend long, upset by the littlest things, or nothing at all.
When this happens it's best for me to just take a time-out, so I spent a good few hours mulling over Herbal Body Oiling-Ancient Sacrament, Modern Necessity, an ebook on body oiling that Amber just put out. It beautifully outlines how the oils affect our nervous system, how to care for our lymph, and even teaches the novice herb lover, how to make them herself. She also talks about the practice of oiling in the context of HSP, but makes a point of noting, that in our rapid-fire world, most people will benefit from relaxing their bodies this way.
Since my Hedge Witching post many of you have been asking how to start on the path of self-care, making remedies for your family, being more in-tune with your body, as well as the natural world. You've asked me for recipes, and recommendations. Well, here is one recommendation: follow this woman's work, as I have. If you can, buy her book, because it's the kind of comprehensive guide to one aspect of herbal medicine, you need to get started.
Wherever you meet wise women, take heed, learn what you can, count yourself among them. Remember that your perceived weaknesses may, in fact, be your strengths. Listen to your small, still voice, it's your intuition, and it's usually right.
Here endeth the love letter, you deserve it Amber, you babe!