One of my first mentors gave me some good advice almost thirty years ago. He was what one might call a ‘barefoot healer’ and he had some very unique qualities. When we started spending time together, I noticed he always wore this exquisitely beautiful and mysterious pendant around his neck. I felt that it must carry some very deep meaning for him. One day, I expressed admiration for it and without a moment’s hesitation, he took it off and slipped it modestly over my head. ‘It’s yours now’ he said quietly and walked away as if nothing had happened. So you had to be careful not to admire anything he had, for he would simply give it to you – right then and there. It was a powerful lesson, to see that people can be incredibly giving and unattached.
We spent a lot of time in the wild – Mt. Shasta, Big Sur, exploring Maui’s volcanoes, the San Juan Islands and Cascades, wandering through forest, dunes and upcountry – he had a puzzling knack for knowing where the hidden places of power were. ‘Dale and glade’ he would say, and as we walked he would grab my arm, ssshhh me and vigorously whisper, ‘listen!’ Sure enough, something there, some plant, some magic had passed under my radar, but not his. So, with his patience and understanding for my apparently endless ignorance, I started on my path of listening.
Well, back to his good advice, which, by the way, I still hold dear to my heart. I had observed that he knew plants and was familiar with much of their medicinal and healing qualities. Yet, he wasn’t interested in any sort of classifying mentality, he didn’t exhibit what one might call a ‘trained scientist’ attitude towards plants. His attitude was more in the direction of ‘hey, meet some of my good friends!’ This touched my heart – for I had never bought into the ‘dominion over all things’ nonsense. When I asked how could I learn this relationship, this benevolent rapport with plants, here was his advice . . . ‘Always have 10 good friends.’ That was it.
So, from then on, I began to look for plants to befriend, always knowing that his advice gave me a simple way to start my study. I’ll always remember my first one – watercress! For years, I would look for her wherever I went (actually, I still do!). She was my secret lover and taught me the wily ways of the semi-aquatic, peppery-tasting, bio-indicator of clean water. Gratefully, over the decades, I’ve befriended a fair amount of incredible, awesome, mysterious plants and this has helped me in the delightful job of formulating Grateful Body products. But as in our human relationships, there always seems to be a handful of old friends who never fade passively into the past. St. John’s, Clary Sage and Yarrow come to mind, but I do want to briefly mention my good and kind companion who always stays in my heart and mind – Helichrysum.
There’s an interesting thing Helichrysum has in common with the enigmatic mentor I’ve been telling you about. He went by a few different names; now in his 90′s, I heard recently that he has a new one – I don’t know why. My mystical plant friend is no different. Call her Helichrysum, Everlasting or Immortelle, or even ‘super-magic healing flower.’ (personally, I call her Heli-Girl – I think she likes it!). Well, I could go on and on about her, but I know without a doubt that Helichrysum’s very presence in our lives reveals a great loving passion for us poor, reckless bipeds. She is so healing, so giving, so dexterous, I mean this girl is all over the map. Anti-inflammatory yet heals emotional aches; regenerating skin cells while opening the heart; reducing pain while sending subtle hints about our connectedness; for her it’s natural to be simultaneously healing the skin and the spirit. Talk about multi-talented!
With all sincerity, I say it in as many ways as I can . . . this is a gift. And trying not to sound like I’m preaching, I will also say this . . . nothing man-made from the laboratory could possibly match this. Nature is intelligent and magnanimous and we are not separate from her. By the way, I try to slip Helichrysum into as many products as I can. But her biggest presence is in our moisturizers. Perhaps you already use them. If not, give one a try and meet my best friend!
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