I live in an amazing area, high on the hill above Ben Lomond, California off Alba Road. My yogini friend says the area is renowned for having ‘good vastu’. Vastu being the East Indian (Ayurveda) approximate to what the Chinese would call Feng Shui—namely: the art of home or simply how to create good vibes—both inner and outer.
The outer is grand. I have a newly remodeled rental with a private entrance which is connected to the main house via a long hallway (with a shared bathroom plus washer and dryer). My landlord Anne is 70 and a godsend. She is delicate and inward-directed, a retired high school French teacher. The house is on 30 acres inside a spacious meadow with clusters of redwoods, madrone and oak trees circumnavigating the property. The rainfall here, the highest in the county, makes for a supreme meadow environment. Deer families come from all over the world to visit. Robins gather materials here. Really they do. Hummingbirds delight, Bees pollinate and mosquitoes feast (on me if I do not close the door fast enough).
Inside the house, well, that’s a different story. Sure I Vas-stewed the place according to directions but there’s a storage issue in the kitchen, the mini fridge is dying—it began whining yesterday morning. I think I over-stuffed the little guy and he has a festering ulcer but more importantly, I need a plant doctor.
What does it say about one who neglects their plants? My Draceana (had to look at the label thingy stuck in the plant as I didn’t even know the poor sap’s name). Well that fine fellow has been turning a sickly brown color; nothing about him seems the least bit healthy. The other plant, well she has no label. I’d forgotten her so completely. Even worse, I never knew her name. We’ll have to call her Sally to make things easy. Wait, that’s two syllables, it’s just too much. Make it Sal. So Sal has looked creepy, malnourished and sultry. I would say she is in shock from neglect. It probably started the day I bought her.
“Who is this schmuck who bought me?” She probably cried but of course her screams were in vain. I purchased her through the burgeoning, underground plant trade . The plant madame said she would “do well with indirect sunlight, once a week watering, mostly shade and didn’t need much care.” Can you believe I actually looked for a plant that didn’t need much care?! Christ, some caregiver I am.
So yesterday morning I took off for THE GARDEN FAIRE in the conservative villa known as Scotts Valley. To be honest I wasn’t going for the plants, wasn’t even thinking of them. I was going to listen to Ed Bauman give a keynote address about “Healing from the ground up”. At the Faire, they had booths about a variety of topics: Transition town-with speakers discussing toxic pest control, herbal mandalas, making backyard biofuel; a tent with demos on ecological landscaping, Garden Exchange, Water Coalition, music, food and of course local wine and beer.
As I wandered towards the nutrition tent I heard the local Santa Cruz brewer telling someone about this new enzyme that eats gluten which allows one to make regular beer without gluten and stood for a moment listening to a woman discussing her horror upon learning that not all honey at the farmer’s market is ‘raw’.
Moments later I was listening to Ed Bauman’s fine spiel about all things nutritional including his Jamu healing tonic adventure with an Indonesian Shaman family in Bali (Jamu is an indigenous herbal remedy, made with a mortar and pestle, using fresh turmeric and galangal root and other herbs and spices).
Afterwards I was drawn to the Healing Spirit Plants booth. The banner waved in the early summer breeze and perfect 70 degree temp-it said: Abandon Wall Street-Reclaim our Economy- Create Compassionate Energy-Occupy the Garden. Soon I was entering an aromatic wonderland with healing plants separated by sections: Classical European-motherwort, fennel, angelica; Chinese-shou wu, lyceum; native American-blue cohosh, boneset and osho root; and Ayurvedic-shatavari, ajwain, indian myrrh and many others. They also had a section with sacred and smudging herb plants.
It was plant heaven and I know my plants would have enjoyed the company of these Royal Sages but alas I was greedily looking at these plants like a cannibal stocking prey.
‘Which one of you will help ameliorate my latest symptomology? Well, speak up my little pretties!’ I mused. The plants seemed to recoil in terror. “Don’t look at me that way, blame Ed, he is the one that was pushing me to eat more herbivorously.” I countered. The plants then began to communicate in a silent language, in unison they claimed that as living, breathing species they were omnipotent and that to consume them into the human alimentary canal would be a grievous misuse of their potential. It was a valiant effort and the heartfelt quality of the utterance saved their lives. I stood their imbibing their essence and no longer felt the need for mastication.
When I got home there was a newfound love of plants. I can’t say I caressed the leaves of Draceana or or that dear Sal received a massage but better days lie ahead for my house plant darlings.