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Terrain

Terrain.


It is one of the five factors from the Art of War. It is anything to do with space and time.


Looking out across the plateaus and mountains of Utah is a deep study of terrain. Space and time. The trees and plants are minimal due to the desert dryness so the horizon is visible and a wide open sky.


The landscape is incredible in how it was shaped and formed by rivers cutting through. There are jagged mountains. There are vast plateaus. There are narrow canyons and cliffs and all kinds of layers of rock. There are just a myriad of shapes in every possible configuration. The elevation is high, and elevation varies wildly from location to location by thousands of feet. I grew up part of my life playing and hiking in these lands, and still feel the reverberations of the peace that being able to be in those wide open spaces brought me as a 7-year-old.


This whole description here of how the Canyonlands formed is amazing: https://www.nps.gov/cany/learn/nature/geologicformations.htm


There are also remnants of the dinosaurs that once roamed there. I had my hand on a stone next to a fossilized footprint of a brontosaurus. I just sat there feeling like I still could feel that long-ago dinosaur there as my hand rested next to the print. Time felt like it bent in that moment as I was there, with a long-ago being, a long-ago relative.


The desert sand and the snow show more recent prints too. Like those of a raptor that had landed and then taken back off again inside a canyon I was hiking through.


You can observe this terrain if you are using the sense doors of sight. Seeing the colors, minerals, and cut-away shapes that water has carved out. But also if you have the ability to hike and climb (and it’s not easy, it’s hiking through washes which are sand and rugged irregular terrain) you can move through these layers and this history with your body. From one “floor” of Earth, to climbing up to another plateau, for instance. Feeling the textures of the surfaces change.


The water comes and goes with force. Sometimes there is gentle snow, and a little rain, but the land is also very used to flash floods. You can see where large rocks have been moved in more recent flash floods, where parts of trees are lodged, and patterns in the sand of where water moved things. Areas of rock with other kinds of rocks embedded, that are getting sanded down and broken apart.


The indigenous stewardship of the land is also marked across the landscape.


Every landscape on Earth is abundant in medicine. So many of the plants. And even with some of the plants that are poisonous, they are also medicine, but have to be used with additional and significant care. So these plants that are relatives, as indigenous traditions stress, are also loving support for us. We are born on a planet that is medicine. Nourishment and medicine. And the two are so interrelated.


There is a desert plant called in English, “Mormon Tea”. I couldn’t find the indigenous name. It has decongestant effects. I would gently sample this plant as I moved around in the desert landscape. I could taste, depending on where the plant was, a variety of flavors in the sprigs of the plant. It was amazing to follow the variation, depending on where I was in elevation (which also impacted temperature and level of Spring) and other factors like how protected the plants were and access to moisture. I also marveled that a plant that could treat my allergy to Sage in the desert, grew hand in hand with Sage as friends. At one point, I was in an area of much human activity, a park, and reached out to a Mormon Tea plant to ask if I could have some medicine, as my nose had started running from my smelling sage leaves. The plant warned me “no”. I realized it was a place of much human and dog interaction, this wasn’t a place where the plants were growing abundantly and without exposure to all kinds of things that I didn’t know about. I did take a taste of a sprig and it was just bitter, I spit it out quickly. I felt the warning from the plant, and couldn’t taste the sweetness and powerful range of other flavors in the plant.


I made friends with the plants outside of where I was staying early on my Utah trip, heading out each morning to say hello and engage and listen and watch things. I also picked up pieces of garbage brought in by the wind, and removed some rocks from the skin of a cactus to let it heal it’s skin. I used the mugwort stick I have to activate important pressure points in Chinese medicine in the mornings, and after every time I used that plant medicine, there was new plant medicine or communication from plants in the yard that became visible/detectable.


At least for right now my experience talking with plants isn’t quite like talking verbally to another human. It’s more that I’m there, and I just get a quiet message. Like a yes, or no. Or some other feeling that is important information. Like the warning from the plant that I communicated with in the park. It reminds me of how messages from my ancestors arrive. It’s like how it is to see stars from the corner of one’s eye - peripheral vision providing access to seeing galaxies.


From the Mormon Tea plants in areas where there was a sense I had permission, I collected some across several plants.


I talked to Mormon Tea plants. And a Mesquite tree. And various Cholla cacti.


I carefully picked Juniper berries as I hiked all afternoon with friends. I talked to the trees and thanked them. It takes three years for a single Juniper berry to grow to maturity. I carefully asked permission and picked berries slowly, just a few per tree. It was interesting to note the response of the trees. There was one up on a plateau that I’m convinced was just full of joy, and overflowing with Juniper berries. It was like the tree was smiling when I came up over the edge of the canyon. As if there were glowing sparkles all around it as I encountered it. Incredible.


I found a small branch, broken off from a Ponderosa pine, and the smell was so strong and sweet. I remembered as a kid smelling trees - smelling the vanilla, and maple, and burnt sugar smells from the evergreen trees I grew up around in the Colorado Rockies.


Upon returning back to where I live today, I carefully put various plants in olive oil to create infused oils, and also some plants in vodka to create tinctures. The kitchen smelled like all the medicine coming from the plants as I carefully put things in jars. It felt like I was humming a love song to all of the kind plants and spaces I was honored to get to have time in over the past few days.


I learned this week that the California poppies that fill my backyard have calming medicine. A mild poppy magic. I’ll be making some tinctures with the plants if I get permission from them. Only taking a little and being sure to support the poppies continuing to grow in my yard. I'm watching the green fluffy fronds that will eventually unfurl delicate orange flower petals. There are a bunch of other “weeds” that have popped up and now I’m curious about what those plants are. I realized I have “weeded” before chickweed, which is a good medicine plant.








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lopeznavarro1
Mar 10, 2023

Thank you for sharing all of these things 💜💜💜

I love hearing about how the Honorable Harvest looks and feels and tastes in the world (that Robin Wall Kimmerer shares about). And how it feels to listen to messages from plants and the earth.

hehe and I think the best definition of a weed that I’ve heard, is just something growing in a place you don’t want it. not any set of unwelcome species. I love pulling what are ”weeds” in one part of my garden and trying to relocate them to a different home that works better for me, and allows them to continue their cycles. And some get routine haircuts bc they are so prolific or perhaps aggressive…

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