Posted by: Jane Valencia | February 24, 2010

Now You’re Really In For It: Jane’s Magical Weirdness

Okay, I’ve decided to go for it and blog my magical weirdness.  This is how my brain and spirit work.   My hope that in publicly revealing my spirit-mind-etc. ecology that you I might nudge into embracing your whole, strange, fascinating self and begin tracking, immersing, adventuring in your completely singular playground of soil/soul.   Your sole self.

Feb. 24 Early Morning Weave

My mind is tantalized by a sprinkling of notions from an interview with wisewoman herbalist Susun Weed.  In particular this  idea spoke loud and clear:

All our cells are replaced in our bodies every seven years, but our atoms are replaced every four days.  When an herb chooses you as an ally (or you choose it), breathe with the plant for ten minutes a day for four days.  Get on your belly or back if you need to.  The herb is exhaling and you’re  inhaling that exhale.  As simply as that you will be breathing in the plant, and it will begin being part of you biologically, and in all ways.  It will begin communicating with you in its language, and you’ll begin uncovering how it might work with you.

With this concept in mind I trail out to the garden this morning, and instead of settling at my Sit Spot, I cross to the shady part of the yard where Periwinkle (Vinca major) is a mass tangle of vines punctuated by purple star flowers, and covers a long expanse along the fence.  A moment’s hesitation–the ground is very wet, and I’m just wearing indoor, thin cotton pants–I lay on my belly and plunge  my face into a cluster of Periwinkle vines, glossy leaves, and sleepy, droopy star flowers.

So I’m taking in this presence and moisture and breath of this plant.  At the same time I’m listening to the changing song of the Singer — that gray bird I just can’t definitively figure out what it is — and know that it’s at the top of the huge birch two houses down.  Mow-and-blow gardeners start up in full, very loud force in the yard behind our backyard–way too close.  I consider a question that John Gallagher of mentioned that he posed each day to computer programming students for 5 points extra credit: name five plants in bloom today.  I can answer that:  in my yard its Plum, Quince, Mizuna (a mustard green), Arugula, California Poppy, Pea, Sour Grass/Bermuda Sorrel, Periwinkle …  How about five trees right now?  That would be plum, cherry, acacia (with those clusters of tiny yellow pom-poms that still cause my body to tighten when I see them because I suffered terrible hay-fever from acacia as a teen and young adult, living here in the Bay Area).  Two more, hmm: California Bay with its miniscule creamy flowers, and a tree that I think is Madrone, with its lovely pink flowers.

Face buried in Periwinkle I note that even though the flower is drooped, I know that it has five petals with a white flair in the center, and a pentagram opening  in the center of that (probably the reason this plant was used to ward off sorcery).  I’m relearning plant parts, so I’ll attempt to name that pentagram opening as that of the pistil, the female reproductive part of the flower.  And that opening is the stigma.  (am I right?  I’ll doublecheck later).  The plant grows to about a foot high, with the ovoid leaves in pairs (need to doublecheck how to botanically describe those leaves), and I observe the pattern of the veins.   Vines snake along the damp, limp leaf-littered ground — honestly there has never been anything inviting for me in this part of the garden except for the lovely bright red camellia to the left that is currently in beautiful bloom (given as a gift and planted when my grandmother died.  My grandparents had this house built and lived til the end of their lives),  and the Hawthorn tree, what I think of as the Grandmother tree, to my right.  This tangle has always been repulsive to me, strangling ground cover, dank and invasive.

And yet–I’ve found myself reluctantly fascinated by Periwinkle in the past year, since I first saw mention of it as an herbal medicine plant (a “vasoconstrictor for migraines and passive hemorrhage/bleeding”) on Kiva Rose’s Anima Healing Arts blog.    Overpowering my disdain for this plant is my fascination and commitment to working with the plants that are–literally–in my own back yard.   My working philosophy is that whatever is abundant (herbally — probably in other ways too) right where you are is just what you need to work with.

So I worked with Periwinkle some for my Herbalist 101 course with Angie Goodloe.  And now I’m deepening my relationship by just breathing the herb (nibbling it too).    So much to say about Periwinkle, and so much more I’ll no doubt realize as I deepen my relationship, but I’ll say this.  Periwinkle can ease migraines, so I’ve read.    I’ve only had a migraine once (and at that time is the kind where I didn’t feel pain, but saw lots of flashing lights — kinda reminds me of these Periwinkle star flowers, now that I think of it).  But my mind does tend to tangle with too many thoughts, too many “I can’t figure it outs!”   Currently, too, my mind and emotions have brooded on things of a dark nature, due to something that happened recently.  I reflect now that “warding off sorcery” could be also mean banishing this cloak filled with sick-feeling and unpleasantness.  The situation has passed and been dealt with — I no longer need to walk with this dark energy.  It’s no longer useful to do so.  Can Periwinkle help me to dispel this particular “sorcery”?

I hear a mourning dove cooing in the neighborhood landscape, and the cheery-up, cheerilu‘s of the Robin even further away, but there.  I get up, nibble a leaf, thank the plant, circle the garden to gaze at the Mizuna that with its four-petaled yellow flowers, and seed pods spiraling up its long stalk, and move to my Sit Spot.

I engage in my routines there (though I had practiced Thanksgiving while at the Periwinkle.  Fascinating to offer thanks to the people in my life, the earth, the water, and so on through the lens and focus of this plant!)

Thoughts and questions thread into my being.  Thoughts from that interview with Susun Weed.  Something is nourishing if you experience it and receive good things from it, and even just by recalling it you receive the blessings of it.  Something is tonifying if you do it in a rhythm and good things result.  But the rhythm — even if its a yearly rhythm or some other kind–five days on, two off, for example is essential to the key.   From a whole different conversation–one about preparing an herbal formula as a kind of Celtic Triad (you take the condition you want to treat, then choose one herb for the specific condition, one as a nourishing and buffering, and one for the major body system associated with that condition — I’m not sure if I’m totally recalling correctly but this concept was presented by Heather Nic an Fhleisdeir and her “Think Like An Herbalist” course on — I consider which plants, which practices might support me in rooting me firmly in the soil of myself and effectively offering my medicine to my people (who are they?  Family, friends, communities ….), and making a difference for the planet now and for the future generations (perhaps this is a Systems concept!).  What will help me in growing the rhythm and direction to resume my book, which involves being decisive and insightful and practical about telling a good story?

How might Periwinkle help me in this, since I’m so drawn to it (despite myself!)?   On the one hand it seems not much good for anything, tangling and crawling everywhere, and with pretty star flowers, but it’s hard for me to appreciate them in the midst of that tangle?

Uhhhh …. Just who am I talking about here?

So now I come to the place where I put all this wandering and musing into practical action.  I do notice that my mind and spirit feel … clear!  Can Periwinkle (and the surrounding ecology) have worked its magic already?  That cloak of dread is gone.  I’m feeling amused and nourished and potentially decisive, but in a laid back–“let’s discover what happens” way.

Let’s take the book as the specific condition.

Condition: Help!  I’ve got this entire book with lots of characters and situations and part of it was dreamed up with my kids and some of it is just my playground (but boring to even my kids)–how do I shape it into a story that is fun for the readers too, and that works?  How do I decide what belongs in the story and what doesn’t, which characters are necessary and which aren’t? ….?

So: it’s a tangle right now, like all those Periwinkle vines, overwhelming even the complex, bright stars that are its own flowers.

I might ask a different kind of question at this point.  How might I work with the Periwinkle and the land on that S/E length of fence (hm, it’s in the Southeast — energy of child’s passions, mischief and magic — I hadn’t realized that!) become more inviting to me, to my kids, my husband, anyone visiting the garden?

Yes, I might actually pull out some of the Periwinkle (perhaps I can sit with the plant again and allow it to guide m this?  Is there some way this might actually nourish the Periwinkle community there?).  Okay, a whole trail of thought is opening, in which I jot down questions I have about my book, plot, and characters, and then I go to the Periwinkle, breathe it, lay on the ground and then begin to work: playing with that Periwinkle plot with my hands and senses while also going back and forth with my book questions, just going decisively down the list.  Work with plants and plot, answer a book question (with ut reflecting much).  Back and forth.

Seems like a good whole nature experiment–working on multiple levels and on two different projects that have in common that they totally bug me right now!

How will I know if I’ve achieved my goal(s)?  If not only myself–but my family–becomes engaged with the Periwinkle area (and eventually if it’s immediately engaging to others who enter the garden).

If I can describe my book with animation and clarity to others — in a paragraph, and in one “page”, and how about “three pages”.  If I can do those three things–both vocally and in writing–I’m certain I can move forward decisively with completing this second draft of my book.

I’ll report on the results of this experiment!


  1. yay yay yay!!! keep going, LOVING your blogs this morning Jane!!

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