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On Becoming an Herbalist

I sat crying in my vehicle on a beautiful Autumn day in late September. 

Moments earlier, I had just retrieved the mail from our village post office. Amongst the bills, a large brown envelope addressed to my name had caught my eye, and I suddenly, desperately, wanted to seek refuge in the comfort of my vehicle.

I knew what it was. And I had waited for this moment for ten long years. 

Heart racing, I rushed outside and threw myself into the front seat of my truck; my three children sat waiting behind me. Tearing into the envelope carefully, I reached inside to reveal a large, thick certificate embellished with beautifully sketched old-world botanicals all over it - a good sign, I thought. My full name was handwritten in neat cursive writing right smack dab in the centre - another good sign.

Overcome with emotion; I sat in silence while frantically reading the words on the document. Then, tears began to fall from my eyes. 

 

Sage Mountain Herbal Center 

PROUDLY AWARDS TO 

Sarah Keates 

(Traditional Herbalist)

 

"In recognition of the successful completion of the Science & Art of Herbalism, an Intensive Program with Rosemary Gladstar in the didactic, therapeutic, laboratory, and fieldwork of Herbalism."

 

14 September 2021

Dated This Day

 

Rosemary Gladstar

 

 

And just like that, my dream of becoming an Herbalist came true.

As I sat there absorbing the words and the meaning of the certificate, rereading it, something stirred deep inside me. A well of emotions suddenly came rushing up, up, up, like a geyser, beyond my control. I intuitively knew the feelings that were exploding to the surface were ones I had suppressed for far too long. My journey to arrive at this moment was long and difficult, and as my tears turned into sobs, it became crystal clear that I had put off my feelings about my studies as much as I had put off my actual studies over the years. 

Among the predominant feelings of joy, pride, and accomplishment that I felt at that moment, feelings of guilt, shame, and embarrassment were hot on their tail. All these emotions, long ignored, came bursting out of me at once. Then, feeling it all course through me, I sobbed as they made their way up and out, releasing, releasing, releasing - it felt overwhelming, cathartic, and beautiful at the same time. 

If those rising emotions I felt had flavour, the taste explosion I was experiencing was sweet and sour. Sweet, sweet goodness for having reached the finish line at long last, and sour for having underestimated the journey to get there. Another helping of sour for the embarrassment of getting lost along the way more times than I can count. More sour for the pathetic shame of being the slowest student in the school's entire history (unconfirmed but likely).

Yes, the journey was long. 

A little history for you:

I had signed up for this course when I was newly pregnant with my first child, thinking that I would have all the time in the world to study while being a new stay-at-home mom. How delusional - that baby is now turning ten years old in a few days. Sweet. Sour.

I could never have imagined that pursuing my passion for plants would result in so many unforeseen circumstances. Combined with a hefty dose of procrastination, what should have been a relatively short course of about a year turned into a ten-year-long stint. Sour.

Somehow, my journey to becoming an Herbalist morphed into a journey of also becoming a mother to not one but three babies - with years of sleepless nights, long evenings making products and trying to grow a demanding business, homeschooling, moving multiple times, and finally, acquiring land on our dream acreage, designing and building a new home and Green Goddess Studio with big fat dreams of raising animals, tending gardens and homesteading. All so wonderfully sweet and sour.

 

Is life not that way, though? 

 

We set goals, budgets and timelines, but more times than not, budgets get blown, timelines drag on, life throws us curveballs, the to-do list doesn't end, and there seems to never be enough hours in the day to do it all. It's all so messy and unpredictable and a downright struggle some days. We get there in the end, though, eventually.

So, as I sat in my truck, letting it all out with my kids sat concerned behind me, they asked what had happened. I turned to them with a smile and read my certificate aloud to them. Then, confused, they asked me, "Isn't that a good thing, Mom?"

I replied, "Yes, sweethearts, yes it is. Mommy is just happy crying. I'm really, really proud of myself that I didn't give up when I really wanted to."

By now, my children know that I often bite off more than I can chew, so they understand the moment. They are moved and touched, and I think they might even understand the slight pain I am experiencing beneath it all. They smile their best, most sincere smiles and hold space for me.

By the way - I'm telling you this personal story because I know this story will resonate with you. After all, I know you are just as overwhelmed by life as I am. I had an outpouring of support when I aired the video of me "ugly crying" when I received my certificate. Women clearly understood that this moment was worthy of celebration, no matter how small the accomplishment or how long it took. I was overwhelmed by loving encouragement and congratulations - all for something that should have been no big deal but turned out to be huge in the end.

And now I want to return the support by sending you a message loud and clear: don't give up on your dreams!!

Have you ever seen the classic movie The Great Outdoors with John Candy? Specifically, that part when he has to eat the giant 96'er steak, gristle and all, to win everyone in his group a free meal? Spoiler alert: he finishes it. It wasn't pretty, he totally wanted to quit, and it took a long time. But he did it. How?

 

One bite at a time.

 

So, dear Goddesses, I want to encourage you to revive any forgotten dreams you may have and take life one bite at a time. Of course, there will be sweet wins and sour fails, but we all know that the flavours of sweet and sour become rather delicious in the end when mixed they're mixed together, aren't they? 

Perhaps the moral of the story could be that we need a little sour to make us appreciate the sweetest moments in life? Maybe it does something magical not just in the culinary sense but in life, too? 

So anyway, after a while, when my tears finally stopped, and with my three precious kids sitting contentedly in the back, I felt a new sensation wash over me. Driving off with swollen eyes and a smile, I knew that my sour hardships were precisely what had made my victory all the sweeter. 

And I left feeling grateful for living a life so rich and full of flavour. 

 

xo Sarah

Traditional Herbalist


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