From my “column” in the September 2016 Newsletter:
The smell hits you as you’re coming up Hell’s Backbone Road: unmistakable. It differs depending on which plants happen to be in the still, but it’s definitely House of Aromatics. Time and again visitors get out of their cars or take off their motorcycle helmets, and the first thing they say is, “Wow, it smells so good here!” Yes, it does. It’s as if we took the forest and cranked it up a few notches. It also feels
good here, I have heard, and I’ve felt it myself. It’s a more ethereal, less substantial sense than scent, but we all somehow intangibly know something special is happening here.
Eric had the still set up in the kitchen when he first started distilling, and he used to get up throughout the night to make sure everything was going ok. He used to sit mesmerized, watching the steam condense and trickle down, letting his mind play and the Plant Spirits nudge him toward knowledge of chemistry, alchemy, communion… Intuition leads us. Now the still sits in a little shed off the back of the house, and yet, “We journey with whatever’s in the still,” I’ve heard myself say. It’s a way of learning from the plants that permeates our life. The more we pay attention, the more consciously we see it, but it’s always with us.
The wonder is ever-renewed through the eyes of visitors, and we get to see from different angles. Two friends from Tokyo came to learn with us last fall. By the magic of ‘doing what’s right in front of us,’ the first plant we worked with was Rabbitbrush (charmingly referred to by our guests as “Rabbit-oh!-Brush”). We anointed the plant and ourselves with its oil and sat down for a Plant Journey. When we shared our experience, we were amazed at the themes that emerged, among them: white or golden light coming in at our crowns, interconnectedness, the ability to transform toxic matter into medicine, warm, soft and comforting feelings. What a beautiful way to begin!
We recently renamed this oil “Golden Hare.”
We wanted our Japanese guests to experience a co-distillation process, too. As Life would have it, the plant who was ready to join in was Sage
(Artemisia tridentata). Sage and Rabbitbrush grow intimately entwined, at the same tall-shrub height, with beautifully contrasting shades of green. The name of their co-distill oil used to be “Twins.” When I knew we would be working with Sage again, my breath caught in a little “uh-oh!” The first time Eric and I put Sage in the still since I moved here, the journey was intense and a bumpy ride for us both. Sage is traditionally used for clearing, cleansing, and purification on all levels of being; its power includes calling up Shadow aspects in order to clear them. The oil is so potent, there are stories of people falling over backward from inhaling too deeply! Where the Rabbitbrush was like a cute, fuzzy bunny, the Sage had been like a stark, unflinching mirror.
Fortunately in the co-distillation these two harmonize to work together, calling up the Shadow, and shining the loving Crown Light upon it to help us see ourselves with gentleness and warmth, and then to let go.
Now we call this oil “Shadow Lighter.” Sweet and musky.
From my “column” in the most recent Newsletter:
On the road!
Eric was invited to present a distillation demo at this year’s Beyond Aromatics conference put on by the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy. What an epic logistical feat it was, with organizers and other angels pulling miracles behind the scenes to make it happen. Eric left the vendor’s table at noon thinking he’d have the still still set up at the park by 3, so there’d be plenty of time for the retort to heat up and the steam to make its way through the plant material and start the essential oil flowing. But first he needed to pick up a rental trailer with a 500 gallon tank on it and fill it with water. (“What?!? There’s no water available at the park?” This was just days before the conference.) With a stone-age map app, some dyslexia with directions, confusion about the name of the park and the rental store, not to mention the wrong trailer hitch, a blow torch, negotiations with a gas station owner to partially fill the water tank for 20 bucks, and several games of phone tag later, Eric pulled into the park at 4:30 pm in go mode.
By then the help he needed had arrived (THANK YOU NIKKO!), and they got it set up and going pretty quickly. There was no time to think, worry, or get nervous. When the first shuttle bus full of people arrived from the conference center, Eric was floored. This was a bigger audience than he had ever spoken to, and he realized he’d been wondering if anyone would even show up. But one face was missing. “Where’s Amber?” Oh well, he thought, she must have gotten caught up at the vendor table. She must not be coming. OK.
Then the second shuttle arrived, and the people poured out of it. And there she was! (He hurried to embrace me, with trembling hands, tears in his eyes and a lump in his throat.) All was proven worthwhile as a hush fell across the crowd gathered under a city park picnic shelter with tall Spruce trees standing guard all around and the setting sun painting the sky dramatic shades of red behind us. The steam came up into the condensing tower, the oil began to burble up through the decanter, Eric spun a tale of magic and plant medicine intrigue, and all was well. Of course it was.
OWL SPEAK was the codistillation happening at the demo: thank you Juniper and Sage! Protector plants, clearers of obstacles, helping to navigate life’s twists and turns.