For the past 3 weeks I have had a lot of ideas about what I wanted my next post to be-climate change and the responsibility of healers and herbalists to come up with a solution to crop failure; the relationship between healing from trauma and collective struggle (something I’ve been trying to write for years now); a call for healers to engage in the fight against incarceration and deportation…These are all important ways in to a fundamental question for me: what is the relationship between collective struggle and healing? What is my path? How does it relate to the trajectory of the global struggle against capitalism, exploitation, war, and incarceration in all their manifestations? But they’re also all about taking on change as a responsibility, making interventions, solving the problems. The other thing that has happened these past weeks has been a series of conversation, events, and interactions that have been incredibly humbling. The phrase “getting knocked back down” keeps coming to mind. From my work with clients, to my personal relationships, to my views on spirituality and collective struggle, I keep learning the same lessons–“back off, pay attention, you’re not in charge of the way the world unfolds…” As these lessons keep coming (and I’m sure they’ll only continue), I keep feeling drawn back to a plant that I became acquainted with last summer in France–Daucus Carota. But Queen Anne’s Lace/Wild Carrot Seed/Daucus Carota grows rampant in New York City, and in the many meadows, roadsides, overpasses, and empty lots all over the region It flowers in summer, when it is white with one or two red-to-dark purple flowers right in the middle. [As a side note, I’m sure this post will bring out critiques, corrections, and adendums on my plant knowledge from my elders, and in the spirit of this I look forward to being told what’s up]
In spring and early summer, the plant is closed and green. It unfolds into white flowers in summer, and in fall the plant goes to seed, creating a curled hand (or closed womb) of small brown seeds. The heads of the plant make a concave ball of seeds that often become detached from the stem and roll all over the place, spreading out over the city and countryside. Unsurprisingly, Daucus Carota is widely known as a plant that deals in fertility, and has been reported to be both a companion both to increasing fertility, and an aid in preventing implantation of pregnancies thereby acting as a contraception. The red/purple flowers in the middle are said to be there to attract insects, but also act as a signature for menstruation (a signature explained to me first by Julia Graves of Green Tara).
I am in the very beginning stages of my herbal study, and am only starting to learn with the help of mentors (human, plant, and animal alike) how to listen to plants, but a message that I always seem to get from Daucus Carota is “pay attention, watch without having to intervene, use your intuition (I initially saw the purple flowers as a signature for the crown chakra, the third eye, and vision).” While its growing, Daucus Carota is often the tallest flowering plant wherever it is, sitting just above every other plant, keeping an eye out for the spring and summer. When it comes time to move to its next stage of its life, reproduction, Daucus Carota gives up its high post, and tumbles along the ground, allowing its seeds to be carried by the wind and by other living things, but then decisively finding places in the soil, bringing life to neglected corners, new vision to an old place, quiet observation to forgotten ecosystems.
Daucus Carota creates change through its affinity to clear vision. In fertility, it assists in providing options. In the wild, it brings attention to the other life around it. I don’t have any conclusions for Daucus Carota, and I suspect it would be antithetical to its teachings to try to create any. But I am trying to learn quiet observation, holding space for change through attention, and allowing growth to occur by trusting the processes unfolding and only intervening when the time is right and that part of the journey has taken its course. Like all lessons for me, this has practical implications for political work and healing work. In the struggle against exploitation and oppression, it is a challenge for me to hold back from always proposing solutions, assuming me or my organization has all the answers, assuming that I know what’s right, and if I could only force that decision/perspective/tactic through then we would be on track for global revolution. But the reality is more complex, more contradictory, and more robust than that. To struggle for liberation means the ongoing unfolding of the discovery of the power that every day people have. While making strategic interventions is necessary, they need to come out of a process of collective work and discovery, and are never “solutions”, just helpful organizing principles to continue to unravel the world we live in now by constantly building a new one. Healing work is similar, and the philosophies of cranio-sacral therapy particularly speak to the need to allow a person’s system to unwind, to unfold in its own contradictions, to heal itself. The role of the “healer” is more of a role of observer, or witness. When I try to intervene in someone’s system too quickly, or without respect for their own process, or without allowing them to complete their internal work, I have exacerbated symptoms and potentially caused a person to lose trust in not just me but also themselves.
Tonight, during the full moon in Virgo, I’ll be working with some Daucus Carota I harvested by myself last fall around my birthday, and prepared in November during the Taurus supermoon in community with a wonderful Capital study group I am lucky enough to learn with. From what I am learning, Virgo is the sign of getting things done, of making decisions, of organizing yourself and others. It only makes sense to me to be working with an herb that urges clarity, patience, and attention to change. I can only hope to be able to get knocked a few notches down, and see what lies in front of me with ever new sight.