Tilly Jane + Old Man Wy'east

The first week I had my car I left one of the doors open while it was parked off street by my apartment, like a dingus. Not a good thing as I live at a sort of sketchy intersection. My neighbor said, "hey! You left your car door open!" and I said, "oh shit, thank you! I'm still getting used to this car owner thing." You know, getting used to basic things like shutting the door and locking it when you're done with it. Anyway... I haven't done that again!

I am also very indecisive when it comes to any sort of adventure plans, now that I am basically able to get to any and everything. There's just too much to see out here! So I made a firm decision for Cooper Spur last weekend.

I have mixed feelings about adventuring around Mt. Hood. Firstly (and I am not alone in this), Hood puts off the feels. Like he's angry and shit. I would be too if people were trampling around on my slopes leaving all sorts of trash, lighting fires and being generally disrespectful. It's a high traffic area and I prefer less traffic. Being the animist that I am, I do my best to tread lightly and respectfully. I also bring treats, which usually wins some kind of favor. Just make sure it's the right treat!

When I reached the road to get to the trail head I saw another trail, the Tilly Jane ski trail. Not wanting to drive the 10 miles of switchbacks to reach the Cloud Cap campground, I took this instead as it eventually links up with the Timberline and then Cooper Spur. Overly ambitious, but whatevs. It totaled at I believe, 12 miles there and back with an elevation gain of something like 3000 feet. I stopped at the iconic stone hut, where there's the junction between Cooper and Timberline. There was a shit ton of people there and it was sometime after 4pm so, not wanting to hike in the dark I was quick like a bunny and went back. So in actuality I never did Cooper Spur, but this was nice.

This trail takes you through an old burn, back from 2008 I believe. The contrast of the silvery dead trees and plants moving into their fall colors were stunning to say the least. It always makes me want to paint.

Mountain yarrow! Some of the best yarrow grows along coasts, at higher elevation or rough wild terrain. Cultivated yarrow is considered inferior by some herbalists. When these little plants are exposed to harsh environments, like growing out of a rock on the side of a mountain, they're stronger for it and have much more potent medicine. You can actually smell the difference. Compare yarrow growing in a garden to yarrow on a windy, rocky slope and you'll smell it.

Little plant lessons: exposure to extremes can lead to strength, tenacity and potency.

Real Talk + Coming Full Circle + Vulnerability

Not love with another per se, but a union of polarity within myself, of coming to love myself. Breaking free, and shocks to the system. Rising from the ashes. Breaking old bonds and forming new ones.

Not love with another per se, but a union of polarity within myself, of coming to love myself. Breaking free, and shocks to the system. Rising from the ashes. Breaking old bonds and forming new ones.

On this day and at this particular hour a whole year ago, I was sitting in a bar with my then lover, drunk. We were celebrating the move into my new apartment. My first move out on my own after having been in a tumultuous 7 year relationship, which ended only four months before I moved out of the place we cohabited and into my new home. Literally, one relation to the next. Four days later, the then lover dumped me to return to his ex. It was an intense four month affair with him. We were each others rebound and hadn't really known it I think.

I was extremely isolated, in a new apartment, no friends locally to speak of, family clear across the country. My cats were unable to live with me, lover completely abandoned me. Save for the cruel texts about how he missed me and could still smell me on his bed... jackass. I descended into a manic depression. I think, it was at that time, that kicked off the real lessons of my Saturn return, in the sign of Scorpio no less. It wasn't just about him breaking up with me, it went far deeper than that. It was however, definitely a catalyst.

I coped with drinking and hooking up with random people. I neglected my business, family, friends and myself.

I desperately wanted to, but would not admit this to myself at the time, regain what I had lost. But it was gone gone gone and I was chasing after something ungrabable, smoke, shadows. I knew that even though I wanted to be loved so badly and to give love so badly, I wasn't even ready for it. I didn't want it but I wanted it. I wanted to be rescued, but no one was able to actually do it but me.

I have always been strong, adaptable, capable, resilient, independent. I have always prided myself in being the classic Aries woman. I was in the negative sense during this time: I withered, crumbled and was worked to ash by my own uncontrollable flame.

I had never thought myself capable of numbing and blotting out my own emotions with self-destructive behavior, that isn't me. Avoiding the truth of it all. I did it though and I did it through the latter part of 2014 and almost half of 2015.

When there wasn't random hookups, I dated some rather horrible and abusive people. I do not play victim here, I walked into these situations with my own self made blinders hiding the red flags. There were good ones too, but you knew in your heart there wasn't anything there. Or maybe you felt strongly the potential with someone, but knew it wasn't time yet.

It was all validation seeking in the wrong places. I sought it through attention from men, through meaningless sex. It left me with an intensely dull and hollow feeling. Like husks.

I knew it the whole time, what I was doing. Again and again the lesson would be taught. But oh! I only learn the hard way! I only learn through walking through fucking fire and ordeal. Ugh.

It came to a strange head about mid year, when I stopped dating and stopped with the hookups. A deep dreading and nagging feeling clung to me. Drinking and socializing continued and even in that there was a growing dis-ease with the amount of drinking I was doing. Hangovers were a constant depressive state. The realization of the validation seeking in all the wrong places was setting in... I knew it, but didn't want to face it.

I was avoiding me. Myself. Running, running, running from the elephant in the room. I was always able to call other people out for avoiding their own shadows, their bullshit, their own truth. Here I was this whole fucking time, doing just that.

Physician heal thyself. Or as I sometimes like to say, “Herbalist, heal thyself!”

I did it, I did it.

It required hermitizing. It required making myself poor and dumping all my saved money into a car and backpacking gear so that I could get the fuck out of this city and into the places my soul can expand in... be enriched by. Cutting off unhealthy relationships. Vowing to never again have Tinder on my phone. Back to the gym. Back to nutrition. Back to making art. Back to the plants and spirits that call... back to being happily, contentedly, alone. Back to real Britton, the root me.

I suppose, I had had enough of my own bullshit.

Do you know, I went a whole fucking month without drinking a cup of herbal tea? Oh I did. And shame on me. One strange and sobering night I was pulled to a jar in my cupboard filled with a bright green crushed leaf. I remember very distinctly the day I had collected it. The thought and intention as I plucked each leaf, talking to them as I went, leaving offerings as I went. I brewed it, cooled it enough to sip and I remember standing at my window watching a scraggly ass crow peck around in the street. I think it was very hot that day too... I sipped it. Boom! In that moment my whole mother fucking world crashed in around me. Like I was stuck somewhere up in the ozone layer and yoinked back down to earth. I cried and cried. It kind of went on like that for days, taking this tea, peeling back the layers.

The validation I was so seeking? I had to find in myself.

That little plant was vanilla leaf, an aromatic. I still haven't got a clue as to the how and why that plant and I have come to form a serious bond, I have simply always been very attracted to it. Very often the things that we are attracted to, are attracted to us, and for good reason. Plant gnosis is what it is. I owe that humble little dude plant quite a lot. No matter what, it's like they're always smiling back at me and reaching out to be touched. Nodding and waving in their low growing clusters through the woods. Like little forest foot soldiers.

Back in May, I sat in a lecture lead by a guy named Nome McBride, who was talking about restorative wildcrafting and he said, “sometimes you just have to go to the mountain and sit on a rock and cry.” He emphasized the (naturally) healing aspects of going to the woods and working with spirit of place and plants, developing and deepening those relationships. Internally that day, I went to my own mountain and cried. In his power point, he ended it with, “Rx of the day: Go to the mountain!” So now I can actually go to mountains! Sit on rocks and have a good cathartic cry with the acquisition of a motor vehicle. Plants can take us places too, but internally. Just like vanilla leaf did for me.

I cannot say, why, why I resisted what I know feeds me, what is right to me, my soul. Maybe it is the rawness of it all? The feeling of your skin being inverted and constant nerve exposure. Accepting the otherness of yourself. Sometimes you must be broken to be made anew...

The recent seasonal shift seems to be supporting my movements. Venus has been retrograde since July 25th and I can say, I wanted to utilize her dipping into shadow to get back to myself and I did. Interestingly, as she began to station retro I noticed the little rx next to my own Venus in Aries in my natal chart, something I somehow overlooked. I was born into this world with her in the underworld. A coming home time of sorts I think, back to home base and a familiar root. I have felt as though something has been building up to this month as she soon stations direct and begins a side by side transit with my own ruling planet, Mars. Power is building... and a lunar eclipse in my sign soon! Such good things. Supportive astrological aspects in my own shifting and skin shedding.

Took me a god damn year(ish) to come full circle, to be real with myself. All of that was necessary though and I cannot say that I regret the things that I did to myself. Because through all that bittering experience, it made the sweetness that much more sweet and soothing, opening. A balm to the soul. Hawthorn to the heart. Little vanilla leaf bringing me back to myself.

I would like to wrap this up with a shout out to Olivia at First Earth Tarot, who provided me with an amazing reading at a very rock bottom point. You're an incredible woman, thank you for your compassion.

And in all his cheese, this dude gets it every time. I actually watched this after I wrote this whole thing. Oh synchronicity!

Heart Loving Hawthorn

I'd been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Crataegus oxacantha, hawthorn flowers. It's an indispensable favorite amongst herbalists I think. I had been eyeballing the few trees on my early morning walks to the train for weeks. Watching the small green buds form and then whiten... and then bloom! And bloom they did. There's a few straggler trees still blooming out there, depending on where you live they may have yet to bloom.

Hawthorn is one of those fae trees, associated with faeries (not your winged cherub type) and the fire festival of Beltane (aka May Day). And it is said that if you come upon a stand of oak, ash and thorn growing together you may see faeries, or find a gateway to the otherworld. I personally find hawthorn both fierce and comforting, warm in its personality. With its thorns and bright red berries it is associated with the element of fire and the planet Mars. Being ruled by both fire and Mars myself, might explain my unspeakable attraction to this tree. With the Mars connection, hawthorn is also protective and was once used to protect farm animals from malefica.

Medicinally hawthorn is heart tonic, lowering blood pressure without any negative side effects. It is a true tonic of the heart in every sense, opening the heart, calming and soothing. It can take a fluttering, frantic heart and state of mind to a place of calm and collection. I've noticed this with plants in the rose family, as rose herself has this similar effect on me.

Before harvesting any plant for medicine or magical use, I touch it and speak to it of my intention. I wait for a moment to feel any interaction from the plant and if I have been given permission to collect from it. Usually, when a plant is approached respectfully you will get a positive response. To get an extra gold star, considering offing up honey, a peice of bread or red woolen yarn.

I harvested the flowering tips, twig, leaf and all very carefully with a pair of sharp scissors. I wanted to do a flower only tincture and I dried the rest for tea. My teacher at herbalism school suggested collecting the flowers just before they open. And it makes sense, because they kind of contain themselves once dried out for tea.

The tincture is stinky! If you've ever smelled flowering hawthorn, you'll notice a slight top note of foulness. It's a pleasant foulness to my nose though, some may not appreciate it. To be perfectly honest, it smells like sex and what some perfume enthusiasts refer to as, "skank." Which is not at all surprising as this tree is associated with fertility and that randy of all witch holidays, Beltane. It dissipates in its dried form, but is is preserved in the tincture. I have admittedly dabbed a bit of the floral menstruum on my wrist to revel in its scent. Should I ever acquire a still, I would definitely bottle this. Macerating these blossoms in a perfume grade alcohol solvent may need to happen next year.

How's your gathering going? Are the hawthorn blossoms done in your neck of the woods, or have they just begun?

Spring Gathering: Poplar Buds & Nettle

It feels a bit late to be talking about these two, but my fingers are still deep in their goodness and it feels like I was washing the sticky poplar resin form my hands just yesterday...

The season started slow with poplar buds and nettles. Both have a powerful olfactory effect on me. Poplar bud oil was once worn by an old flame of mine. So upon first whiff I am instantly reminded of him. It's changing though and I am more drawn to the thoughts of the rivers and wet places the cottonwoods grow... and where they grow, nettle never seems far away. You can smell them when the air is balmy and they'll fill your bag with a ripe skunk when you've harvested them up. I've always been rather fond of a good stink, and I sometimes find myself sticking my nose very carefully into the bag I've put them in. Green, fatty, skunky and with a hint of citrus. Yes! To my nose there exists a citrusy note in older nettle leaves.

The nettle has gone into tea for the most part. It creates a vegetal broth of sorts. When you sip it, it immediately touches some place internally that sends off all sorts of signals telling you this is nourishment. Nettle is highly nutritive, full of minerals and a lovely spring tonic. I've also been adding it to my weekly batch of chicken soup. I tried it fresh, but I prefer to add it in once it has been dried. I find it more palatable.

Magically, nettle is a jinx breaker. One that would be powerful I think. Jinx breaking with a bit of a sting to it!

I made oil from the poplar buds and left a good portion of them to dry out for incense and magical needs. Often times I think of plants for their folk magic uses first, rather than for medicine. I find they go hand in hand. Poplar is used to mend broken hearts, or foster reconciliation between two lovers or friends, to soothe strife. You'll find that magical property with a lot of sweet smelling and tasting things. Having had my heart broken by one who wore this as a perfume has been interesting in the development of my relationship with cottonwood to say the least. It truly is a great soothing balm, figuratively and literally!

golden poplar bud oil

golden poplar bud oil

The buds also make a most fantastic incense. Once dried and crushed I mixed it with red cedar heartwood to make a lovely sweetening, soothing, clearing and blessing smudge. Try it, you won't be disappointed. 

April Already Gone Goodbye

Then the youth understood that the Moon, like God and Fortune, does the most for those who do the most for themselves.
— Aradia, Gospel of the Witches - Charles G. Leland

This month flew by and as I try to look for reasons, I can't seem to find any... other than I've been doing shit. Nose has been to the grindstone and to-do's that are relentlessly perpetual hang out around my heels like a swarm of hangry cats.

I turned 30 this month. As the date approached I felt nervous about it, a little intimidated. I don't think I'll ever feel like a proper adult. I still feel like I'm 25. Throughout my late 20's I always told myself that my 30's would be amazing. They will be. And while I'd love to have the ability to wax some poetic about it right now, I don't think I can. I'm 30 now, it's a new decade of my life. Potential and opportunity hum and buzz. My finger on the pulse.

I did start that day with a strong spiritual bath. In the usual style of rising before dawn, washing downwards to remove obstacles, blockages and any sort of spiritual gunk stuck to me, drip dry, clothing myself and marching towards the nearest crossroads whereupon I dispose of a little saved bath water, throwing it over my left shoulder towards the sunrise... and walking home, never to look back on it again. Always the best way to begin a new beginning I think.

I also made a tiny list of things I wanted to get done and do for myself. It really was only one thing, maybe two. Getting my drivers license and buying a car. I've been more or less city bound since I moved here (8 years ago). When my bag and personal belongings were stolen when I first moved here, my license went with it. Because I didn't have a car at the time (and didn't plan on getting one any time soon) Oregon required I take the driving test to be issued a new license, I opted for the non-drivers ID. The quickest fix at the time. A slightly regrettable decision now that I look back on it. But! I haven't had a deep desire for a vehicle till recently.

A lot of this landscape that surrounds me, I haven't explored. I feel, not a void... but a large space inside of me that needs to get out, get away. Or at least have the ability. The city carries it's own spirit that I very much appreciate, but it can be grating on the nerves. The mountains, valleys, the desert, it all calls to me consistently and relentlessly. Now, officially and in earnest I will go to them.

Oh! And it's Walpurgisnacht. Ride your goat to the sabbat witches! I will meet you on the mountain top.