This whole solar cycle has been a roller-coaster, with sharp emotional ups and downs, for a variety of reasons – both public and private. At this point in the year, after so much turmoil in the news and in our communities, it feels numbing just to keep up with the deluge. Like trying to drink water from a fire hose, we’re fighting every day just to remain balanced and resist the dark side. One thing that I’ve found to be a grounding force, however, is a foray into medicine gardens, herbalism and wildcrafting. The quiet times I’ve spent researching, gathering and cultivating have paid for themselves by opening up a space for calmness to creep up, displacing the inner melee.
Growing up along the St. Croix river valley, just East of the Twin Cities, I spent long Summer days climbing limestone cliff faces, swimming across the river, observing wildlife and collecting specimens. Wild places feel sacred to me, and bringing respectfully harvested medicinal and culinary plants home for use, anchors the rest of my work in unexpected ways. Having studied Ecological Architecture in my MFA, my practice still requires a sense of grounding in the Earth. Relating to site through flora and fauna also restores a connection to local history, ancestral knowledge, homesteading traditions and witchcraft.
These days, my wilderness landscape has shifted from my family’s homestead on the river to a pair of yurts in the Timberland region of central Wisconsin. Endeavoring to make it there once a month throughout the wheel of the year, I celebrate seasonal changes in vegetation and animal populations, seeking to glean wisdom from their collective expertise. Yurtopia allows me to better experience and appreciate solar highs and temperate lows, to savor handwork, and secrets shared by the landscape with the patient observer. It also illustrates just how disruptive small human interventions are in nature, something even seasoned woods-people can easily forget.
The outpost: naturalist fieldwork and medicine making.
My first ever herbarium filled quickly this Summer, with carefully pressed botanical samples labelled in common names and the conditions they were found and harvested under. In the Fall, I’ll dry what I can gather and over Winter do research, filling-in the pages with medicinal uses and plant properties. In the Spring, I’ll be better prepared to utilize the herbs that I’ve sampled throughout this past growing season, incorporating them into visual art in hopes of carrying on their tonic for the soul. But the greatest influence this place has had on my process has been that production cycles are becoming tethered to seasonal changes, to lunar cycles and the planetary days and hours.