For many years I have dreamed of making a great escape from my busy life to attend a herb conference or gathering.
The deep longing to immerse myself in plants and to surround myself with plant folk always ended up taking a back seat each year to some great pressing “thing” that needed attention here at home: kids, work, business, homesteading, markets, gardening, summer projects…work, work, work, and more work.
But all work and no play makes Sarah a dull Goddess.
So this past month when my husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday, desperation poured out of my eyeballs as I asked him to grant me a weekend all to myself to attend the Alberta Herb Gathering taking place in Pigeon Lake, AB. Being the good hubby that he is, he saw that I needed this. He saw that it wasn’t so much of a question as it was a plea. I needed this. He knew it. It wasn’t easy, but he shuffled work to take care of our children and made magic happen.
Want to know something crazy and a little bit pathetic to put this in perspective? I’ve been married for over 16 years and have never spent a single night away from my husband or kids. I’m not sure if that means I’m awesome or mentally unstable. Probably a little of both. Either way, life circumstances always played out so that if there was a rare getaway from the kids, I was with hubby. Or if hubby was away working, I was with the kids. The point being that I have never been alone.
And golly gosh, did I ever wish to be alone. My agenda? Escape the daily grind. Let go of mom guilt. Drop everything and run. Drive far away. Embrace silence. Meet “my kinda” people. Learn something new. Forget the old. Shake off the stagnant. Reconnect with myself. Be inspired. Feel reborn. Come back fresh. No husband or kids. For a whole weekend. Swoon.
I booked myself a cute cabin in the woods for three nights and jumped into my little VW green beetle with great anticipation for the road trip ahead. Driving alone in peace and quiet for 5 hours was worth the trip alone, but the best was yet to come.
The lineup of guest speakers at the gathering made my heart pitter-patter with excitement. Yarrow Willard and Robert Rogers would be there. If you don’t know them, I highly encourage you to follow them on social media if you dig plant medicine in any way. Yarrow Willard is an incredibly passionate herbalist and the mastermind behind the stellar product line Harmonic Arts Botanical Dispensary. Robert Rogers is another wise herbalist, mushroom enthusiast, and prolific author of over 40 books. For me, meeting them would be like hanging with rockstars. My knees felt a teeny bit wobbly knowing I’d be hanging with them for the entire weekend.
Herbalists and plant lovers from all walks of life and from all over the province gathered and shared our lives and stories with each other. We sang and held hands while dancing in ceremony. We gathered by the fireside and listened intently to wise teachers who inspired us to strengthen our connection to plants and the natural world around us. We assembled ourselves in workshops row upon row like eager school children to listen and learn from wise elders and respected teachers in the herbal community. We attended plant walks and hung on every word our leaders spoke. We laughed together, and at times, we shed some tears.
The takeaways from the weekend were plenty. Meeting Yarrow and Robert were right up there for me (I even gathered the courage to ask Yarrow for a picture!), but so were the new connections I made in the herbal community.
I particularly fell in love with the stories and teachings from a Métis woman named Kakisimo Iskwew (aka Natalie Pepin). She inspired me beyond words. Her words and work are very powerful, and I now eagerly follow her on Facebook via her page ReSkilled Life Learning Centre. I hope to bring her to North to teach a workshop in the future. Her mission is to “re-skill our communities with off-grid, food production, modern homesteading, and traditional living skills with a permaculture design method.”
One of my new-found favourite friends from the gathering is Métis herbalist, medicine maker, and birthworker Sheena Bradley of Omisimaw Wellness in Fort McMurray. Find her on Instagram! Her work and words are beautiful and meaningful, and it was lovely to meet her. I now eagerly follow her work, too.
I also got to meet an incredibly captivating “fun guy” named Denis Manzer who is completely obsessed with foraging and fungi. I have been following him for some time now on social media via his FB and IG channels @fermentyourfood and @forageyourfood and highly recommend you follow his adventures, too. I would love to bring him to the North for some mushroom foraging adventures, too!
Many more amazing moments happened during my weekend away which I will spare you of; the point I would like to make here is that attending the conference deepened my love for plants and made me realize a few key things:
1) I have more knowledge about plants than I give myself credit for, yet conversely…
2) I still have so very much to learn. Regardless…
3) I believe it’s time to step out of my comfort zone and share what knowledge I do have by hosting local plant walks. And furthermore…
4) I would like our acreage to become an educational “hub” where I can partner with other talented and knowledgeable locals willing to share their particular skillsets with the community.
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel we are moving towards an unstable future where we are going to need to rely on old skills and knowledge from the past to survive and thrive in the days and years to come. And I would very much love to be part of the solution by creating a space here on our acreage where like minded folk can gather, share, and learn.
I would like to see us become more self sufficient here in the North. I would like to breathe new life into lost teachings. I would like to facilitate opportunities for us to gather and learn new skills. I would like to see us actively work together towards building more resilient communities. I think we are going to need each other in the future and I think we need to start making meaningful connections now.
With this in mind, I would like to know if you would be interested in attending future workshops that are not just about skincare but also geared towards self sufficiency, permaculture, homesteading, wildcrafting, mushroom identification, plant walks, learning traditional or forgotten skills, food security, food preserving techniques, gardening, etc?
Tell me all your thoughts! What, if anything, interests you from the mentioned categories above? What am I missing? And do you or someone you know have unique skill sets that you’d be willing to share with others?
Thank you dear Goddesses for your time and feedback! I appreciate you and look forward to serving you in new and exciting ways in the future.
The Green Goddess