Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Apprentice week one: diving into the void
I hardly even know how to begin describing what has happened so far on this most recent journey. I find myself in the Catskill mountains in upstate New York on Laughing Rock Farm where the Wise Woman Center is located. It is an incredible beautiful area with soft rounded mountains, lush forests, streams, mosquitoes, ticks, flowers, rain and shine. The weather has been up and down from low 70’s to low 40’s (I think that is between 5 and 20 celsius) with some nice sunny days and some cold rainy days. Thank the goddess I am living in a cute little house by the name of “Nettle Patch” where I actually have my own room with a real bed, running water, electricity, heat and a phone (much more than I thought I would be getting).
So what has brought me here you ask, the spirits, the flowers, the trees……. I have come to apprentice under a herbalist, wise woman, high priestess and bitch, Susun Weed. If any of you have heard of her it may have been for many reasons, perhaps you have read one of her books on herbal medicine, seen her speak, watched one of her youtube videos, had a friend do a workshop or an apprenticeship or perhaps you yourself have. So your opinion of her may be high, low or somewhere inbetween. My experience thus far of Susun is that she is a force to be reckoned with, she sings as sweetly as she screams ferociously!!!! After a mere 7 days here I have spent every single day thinking about leaving, running as fast as I possibly can. This apprenticeship is not merely about learning about herbs, far from infact, it is about learning who you are and how to deal with it and Susun’s methods are not orthodox. Like any extreme master (though she claims not to be one) her methods are harsh, abrasive and intense and meant to peel away your skin, fat, muscles and bones and all the other layers of crap you may carry around. She is not for the faint of heart and many people who come to apprentice leave with in the first few hours. I personally have never been yelled at as much in my whole life or with such ferocity. Despite all of this there is a real sense that she is doing this for the good of women and humanity and with real love in her heart. She pushes you to live in reality, to stay conscious and be passionate.
This week I have learned and identified many things that I was aware of in some capacity but perhaps not willing yet to admit to. I certainly am not fully conscious all the time, drifting off into daydreams which is made all the worse when you become so anxious you will get into trouble that you can not think at all and then fuck up and get into trouble. But after this short period of time I am beginning to be able to control my anxiety and stand up to her, which is amazing thinking how I felt on the first day. I have also become aware of how I never ask questions and generally make assumptions which does not work here unless you can read minds and thus I have made the commitment to ask questions, which has not been very easy. I know there will be much more work done and we even have help from Susun’s singing teacher twice a week who also is a tai chi teacher and studied a great number of therapies and guides us through many different of them including reikian therapy, Alexander work…..
Thankfully I have an amazing apprentice sister who is also from Vancouver and I rely on her so much. She is totally the opposite of me, thin and fragile, emotional and rather flighty. But it works out so well because we seem to balance each other out a bit. It is also really amazing to have someone else to talk to about the madness that happens here and bitch about Susun too.
Despite the fact that it seems like we are in tense, horrifying torture all the time we also do many other things around the farm. We care for the animals; 7 goats (of which 3 are pregnant), two insanely hilarious geese who follow you everywhere, 7 bunnies (of which four are just babies) and two cats. We also do work around the house; cooking, cleaning, making infusion, making cheese and yogurt, caring for the tons of plants that are everywhere, making remedies and we have our assignments; naming the botanical names of a new flowering plant everyday, a report of plant families, spending time with our green allies who teach us what they have to offer without us reading about it. Our days are long and intense, but very rewarding especially working with the animals who are so loving.