As I reflect on my summer break, the trip to Southern Oregon with Dr. Glen Nagel proved to be the highlight of my relationship with NCNM thus far. Having just finished a grueling second year, I was absolutely ready to let the stress of my mind’s journey be gratefully released into the sacred land of Good Medicine: our home for what would prove to be an epic journey to explore plant spirit medicine experientially. The goal: to tour herb farms, create our own medicines from plants we harvested ourselves, deepen our relationship with plant spirit medicine, perform or recite a creative piece on the final day of the trip for the group, and find at least one plant to research and explore our left-brained understanding of with a five page paper due at the end of term. What happened was an incredible journey we each experienced both within and without as our group hungrily explored nature and the roots of our medicine together.
The retreat center, Good Medicine, is owned by two incredibly conscious, loving individuals named Ohana and Windsong. They were some of the first to “develop” in the valley of Williams, Oregon, and as such, they maintain their land with honor, commitment and respect for Mother Earth and Father Sky. With teepees, fire circles, a sacred sauna, a mystical lodge with a full kitchen attached, a gorgeous swimming hole, and warm outdoor shower, we were held in sacred communion with the spirits of the land on a journey that transformed each of us in unique and powerful ways. Had we known what to expect, I’m sure we would have gasped in amazement at the privilege of being blessed enough to receive such an experience.
My campsite was nestled beside a running stream. Andrea, Maria and I created a little second year neighborhood held under the yew trees and amongst the river spirits. Our week began with a hike through a gorgeous wilderness accompanied by the intense and incredible Dr. Kevin Spelman. Handsome, trim, and with quirky glasses, active eyes and a huge heart, we were led by him and Dr. Nagel on an incomparable tour of the plants in their natural habitats. We met fireweed, a gorgeous purple flower, valerian root, St. John’s wort, and countless others. And we listened attentively as the two gentlemen played their knowledge back and forth like a musical duet: Kevin with a never-ending supply of information on biochemical constituents and mechanisms of action, and Dr. Nagel backing him up with his experience of the medicines in clinical practice and how they can be used medicinally. With each stop on the trail, we asked questions, thirsty for every detail they had to impart. And for me, the only student on the trip with no botanical medicine background, I kept up with what I could… and made copious notes of things to look up and explore once I returned home. We lunched at a remote lake and experienced our first afternoon together in nature getting to know one another under our plant medicine names adapted for the trip. The night before having named ourselves based on pre-existing relationships we shared with the botanicals: Echinacea, Dahlia, Angelica, Sweet Melissa, Thyme, American Ginseng (Panex), Oregon Grape (OG), Artemesia, Oak, Cedar, and Dr. Yew. We had an opportunity to abandon our school personas and embrace a week as “Who We Really Are…” accepted, embraced and supported by ourselves and each other.
Stay tuned for Part Two. . .
Post by Mary Browne, NUNM naturopathic medicine student