Archive for the ‘botanicals’ Category

dear friend,

 here is an excerpt from “More Than Dust,” the book i’m writing. enjoy!

brunfelsia, "yesterday, today, and tomorrow"

brunfelsia, "yesterday, today, and tomorrow"

 

Timote and I traveled to Jamaica, our trip funded by a grant to discover a feared-extinct medicinal plant that researchers desperately needed, for a possible cancer-killing alkaloid they’d isolated from an old specimen, in a lab. Tim and I arrived in the blue-green island and drove to a mountainous region, a tiny hamlet called Bamboo. From there we made day trips all over the region, scouring the land around the site of the last known sighting of Brunfelsia Americana. In the 40s specimens had been collected from there, and none from any other location on earth ever since. Because of botanical information-gathering sources, called herbariums, dried and pickled specimens of every plant gathered by botanists are available for research, and that is how the cancer-experts discovered a near-magical ingredient found only in this particular species, that Tim and I were now hunting for.

Brunfelsia americana...the near-extinct species

Brunfelsia americana...the near-extinct species

Extreme strip mining, for the mineral bauxite, had changed the lay of the land in that part of Jamaica, drastically affecting the natural plantings. Still, Timote was not discouraged, because as we talked to native people we found that some old-timers remembered seeing the plant, called by various local, patois names. After a week of bush whacking our way through one red-herring lead after the next, we climbed an isolated plateau of land we were directed to, in a hidden valley, of sorts, a place where one small bit of land rose above the desolation below like a living altar, which had miraculously survived decades of destructive bulldozing by bauxite miners. We were elated to find one lone stand of this rare species of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, brunfelsia’s common name, and even more thrilled to find seeds and seedlings among the shriveled, deformed, last remaining group, anywhere, of this precious plant.

Live and love and laugh a lot, today and everyday,

we are All One on planet Earth

moon flower: plants, minerals, humanity: we are All One on planet Earth

your pal, lordflea

Hi Friend,

Just back from Boston where we spent a pleasantly gentile weekend attending a gathering of old college friends. 

bridge to nowhere ... crossing the Charles River

bridge to nowhere ... crossing the Charles River

we got to share stimulating thoughts, discussions, symposiums, dances, exhibits, and most importantly, the sharing of life’s sweet laughter.

as i’d mentioned in an earlier post, i’m starting a new awareness about all of us catching ourselves in our tendencies to over-intellectualize and/or over-politicize, and become, more and more, aware of each opportunity to practice, and finally arrive at BEING … more and more … with practice, with joy, even … being SPIRITUALLY CORRECT

instead of being p.c. i suggest we all try to be, and help each other to remember to be … “S.C.” — spiritually correct.

you may laugh, but once you get the hang of this new movement, you’ll enjoy this carefree, “all for others” attitude, even in midst of the worst financial crisis, the most confusing and challenging of political climes.

take our pal Bob, here, showing off his new tattoo.  bob chose the ancient hebrew phrase honoring “Logos”… the “word” of Spirit … in his humble way of proclaiming his own brand of reminding himself to be spiritually correct.  a former businessman, now an ordained minister, bob has branded his love of Spirit into his very flesh.  i kept calling him “reverand biker bob” but … we just laughed, because surely he is not that.  bob’s tat is his own private reminder of his dedication to this new way of being:

Reverand Bob showing his new "logos" tattoo to Carter

Reverand Bob showing his new "Logos" tattoo

so, for the moment, my journey with you that my blog records, documenting my personal lust for art, nature, and adventure, is taking an inward turn as i report more about my most cherished discovery … that among all things people like to share about, the most important journey of all, and perhaps the most unbelievalbe … is a person’s discovering, and then embracing, the Inner Light within.

being Spiritually Correct, s.c., is to acknowledge this Truth (of Spirit) as not only real — but really important to remember.  to call yourself s.c. is to remind yourSelf to keep a heightened awareness ever at the center of all actions, all thoughts, in the rest of all our daily living, whatever that might entail.  being “spiritual” doesn’t mean just now and then.  being s.c. means to live with awakened recognition that we are all ONE.   being s.c. takes precedent over being any other kind of “correct,” be it social, political, intellectual, environmental, groovy, hip, religious, anti-religious, cultural or quaint, material or non-consuming, or … any other ways of being fashionably or unfashionably human.

try something new — be s.c. 

being s.c. means … letting go and letting Spirit into the scene.

Dive into living In Spirit, being s.c.

Dive into living In Spirit, being s.c.

fly from your restraints and you, too, can learn to fly, In Spirit!  let your own Inner Spirit be one with the knowledge that we are all connected, we are all One.  there is a discernible energy that connects us all.  as Chief Joseph said, “we are all connected, in the web of life.”

right now, everywhere i go and you, too, people are buzzing, ranting, non-sequituring, going off the wall (but not jumping out windows–yet!), being passionate about politics, the financial fiasco, the mess our environment is in.  on everyone’s minds is the need for climate change; we’re desperate for conscious, compassionate leadership.  and so it should be, all of us being passionate — right now — at this election time.  because we all must fight for what we believe in, and that includes stating, even fighting for our choices.  each of us must discern from the political pile the best of what is offered.

but come the evening of november 4th, we must all come together as One, no matter what the results of the u.s. presidential election is.

i won’t go into politics here.  this blog is not about that subject.  my thoughts are about art, nature, the environment, and the more important subjects (hey! it’s MY blog, right!) of finding the universal Truth that hides in the heart of all members of the human race, of all living beings, too.  we are all tiny cells in the body of what some call “God” but … it doesn’t matter what you call “IT.”  IT is a mysterious, mystical, but very real, very tappable energy.  IT is a force that is unseen, yet IT connects us all, in more ways than science has yet to discover, but they are quickly on the trail of pinpointing and proving: cellular knowledge, quantum physics, string theory.  stay tuned: michio kaku will explain it all, in all good time.

the IT of plants is the same as ...

the IT of plants is the same as ...

the IT within all … spiritual energy … a person’s chi, also called the kundalini, qi, tao, Great and Holy Spirit … whatever name we choose to call the Divine … is the only reality there is, the alpha, the omega, and … the Logos:

the Force within i call Noname

the Force within i call Noname

this is not serious, no-fun business i’m talking about here. i hope you realize i am reporting on the absolute certain joyousness i feel in my heart, and soul, based on my own experiences of discovering we are all One, all connected.  if you don’t think this is fun stuff–lighten up!  don’t get me wrong or put me in some box marked “weirdo serioso.”  no sirree.  when i speak of living a life based on being s.c. i’m conveying the choice to embrace an attitude, based on personal experience.  but don’t just scoff.   put this s.c. business into practice for yourself, and see your face light up, the smiles barge into your life, and others! 

a person whose life is based on being s.c. is much more prone to laughing and doing silly things like … being in an elevator with or without friends (as happened this past weekend up in Boston) and, for the hell of it, when the doors close and the strangers stuck with you refuse to look you in the eye, or even crack a smile … gently, mellowly start to Ooooooommmmmmmmmmmm.  you’ll feel the energy change, BIG TIME!!!  boy!  you’ll see, as we did, uptight strangers rush out of an elevator so fast you’re practically knocked down!  we laugh and we laugh, and we continue to Oooommmm in the most unlikely places, with or without friends.  this is all good, all great, all unbelievable loosening action:

BE A SPIRITUAL ACTIVIST … be s.c.

help others rid themselves of stiff, old, doesn’t-work, irrepressibly stuffy and unfun thinking that needs to be unwound from the human collective soul.  

let go let Spirit into your heart, and learn to fly!

let go let Spirit into your heart, and learn to fly!

so come on, i dare you!  do something totally whacked-out remindful of Spirit today, and forget being “proper” or “polite” or “afraid to offend”…. just spread the word, of IT, of God, of Spirit, however you sing that song of bliss, whatever the Name is, whatever IT means to you.  

IT may be nature.

allow yourself to become calm, secure enough, just for today, somewhere a wild bird might easily choose to come and rest upon your head.  sit still, and thoughtful, breathe, become filled with s.c. … in your yard, by your window, on a park bench … in a golden autumn meadow.

just allow yourself to feel the goodness of being in tune with the earth, this glorious earth that we are ever-more-consciously stewards of.  your activism starts with remembering the beating of your heart, of listening to your own breath.  your entire life will feel so much better if you invite your busy mind to just stop — for a little while — and merge with your natural surroundings. become safe enough for a wild bird to trust its life to, to alight upon the top of your head.  feel the tender feet of the bird believing you and IT are indeed, the same.

breathe deeply in, pushing your belly out with the in-breath… breathe gently and long out, contracting your belly with the out-breath.  merge with your breath.  why not?  what have you got to lose?

that is what i mean by being “spirituall correct.”

each of us can sit easily by the river of our lives ... in close connection ... being s.c. by just noticing how we breathe

each of us can sit easily by the river of our lives ... in close connection ... being s.c. by just noticing how we breathe

wishing you all a fun, shimmering, serene day, even in the midst of the most tumultuous firey tempest,

in the Light, lord flea

Hi friend,

equipoise, a term used to denote being in balance, also called "the middle way" in buddhism, or serenity, or ... peace. not too much this, not too much that; perfectly with earth, air, water, and fire. om shanti shanti shanti

"equipoise," a yogic term used to denote being in balance, also called "the middle way" in buddhism, or "serenity," or ... peace, contentment, and other words. equipoise is an inner state achieved by learning to not respond to too much this, too much that; to be perfectly aligned with Nature and Her elements: earth, air, water, and fire. om shanti shanti shanti

a new friend came into my life on saturday night, when we had a satsang at our house. “satsang” is a sanskrit term for “being in company of Truth.” it is what you call the time when seekers of all sorts get together purposefully for the opportunity to be as One, to honor the Inner Self, to honor the teachers, disseminate the teachers’ and scriptural wisdom, and to do things like chant, contemplate great words, and meditate, and…to socialize with like-minded individuals. we had cake (someone’s birthday! happy leos! and herb tea afterwards.)

this new friend of mine grows herbs. she knew i was a fan of nature because in our emailing back and forth preceding the satsang, i mentioned my love of ripping out lawns (which i do wherever i can) and replanting them with zero-scape (or is it xeroscape?) gardens, designed free-style with meandering paths, little areas of interests, and as much rock-work and sculpture as i can possibly fit into the space. i’ve done lots of this kind of arting-with-earth-moving-and-painting-with-living plants creation, in both cities and in rural areas.

in an email to her i mentioned how i’ve been trying to germinate “tulsi,” a variety of basil, which is considered both medicinal and sacred in India, where it’s from. so when Dora the herb lady (her business is www.maggiesherbfarm.com ) came to satsang, she brought bunches of cut neem, and…magic of all magic, a tulsi plant!

the neem was especially interesting to me, as i’ve been staring at a jar of neem oil, afraid to use it, timid to try something so foreignly sticky and yukky smelling, and generally being the kind of slouch and narrow-minded fool that i often ridicule. so isn’t it perfect, me thinks to meself, that Dora has brought me some neem as a gift.

nature's gifts...worn as jewelry, cool necklace, eh?

nature's gifts worn as jewelry; cool necklace, eh?

plants are truly gifts from the gods. how often has mankind been rewarded, even “saved” by a natural plant or mineral? a cure for leprosy; the fungus growing on bread that became penicillin; barley and hops that became mankind’s favorite intoxicant: mead then beer; juniper berries in gin; little unopened flowers that are capers; and let’s not forget all the great cures of cancer, AIDS and every other disease that is sure to be contained in the “right plant”…when the scientists discover them. 

a little treat for you, on this thought:

through the gate of seeking, all Truth is found. this is a work by my friend, tomas sanchez, of costa rica. his work is filled with the kind of exciting, gorgeous discoveries that make being alive so magical as i feel, as tomas does too. and you? we hope so; if not, keep looking deeper into this painting. you will find the invitation to discover what you need, right there, in the Light.

through the gate of seeking, all Truth is found. this is a work by my friend, tomas sanchez, of costa rica. his work is filled with the kind of exciting, gorgeous discoveries that make being alive so magical as i feel, as tomas does too. and you? we hope so; if not, keep looking deeper into this painting. you will find the invitation to discover what you need, right there, in the Light.

 

…so…what is neem, you ask.

www.neemfoundation.org

it is a deep-green, delicated-leaved tree used for any type of ailment besieging a plant grower or gardener. writing this, i’m working up to trying an infusion of its leaves on an infestation of white flies attacking my young papaya trees. i’ll also be glad to share my other stash (a jar of neem oil from Dyna-Gro) with my friend, Isabel, who has an epidemic of microscopic black flies (or is it scale?) attacking hers. i’ll put some of this neem oil into my sprayer, diluted with water and liquid dish soap (1 tsp. per gal) and spray it on early in morning or late in afternoon. meanwhile, i’m cooking up the leaves of the neem branches that Dora brought, to make my own brew. the leftover naked woody stems i’ve put in a pot of water with the prospect of their sending out roots and then, voila! i’ll have little neem trees of my own to plant in my St. Augustine, Florida garden.  

when i kill lawns i always plant as many native species of “wild grass” from the area, and as many big timber species of bamboo as i can fit into a property.

lord flea with a giant timber bamboo, in costa rica

lord flea with a giant timber bamboo, in costa rica

here, at the garden i’m creating at our new home (which I’ve named “Veritas Shambho”…veritas is latin for “the Truth” and shambho, sanskrit for “the abode of bliss”), i’ve planted over 7 different clumping species (old hamii, minor amoenus, buddha belly, dragon’s nest, etc.), and wow, this place will look like that fighting scene from “Crouching Tiger” in just a few years. be sure to always plant clumpers, not spreaders, for those of you who are thinking of going natural, and planting bamboo. BIG difference. you will regret it if you accidentally plant a bamboo that spreads, rather than clumps. so be careful.

the conundrum of plants

the conundrum of plants

which brings me to the thought of how nature is so well balanced, so much in fact that if we could just learn how to live from observing nature, how much happier, healthier, and prosperous we’d all be.

years ago i drew this illustration for Tim Plowman, a great botanist who succumbed early on to the AIDS pandemic. but before timoteo left us he studied the use of, spread of, and in general, good effects humanity has derived from the plant known as coca.

coca erythroxylum, the bush that has caused such havoc when humans distill its alkaloid, "cocaine" but which also has great beneficial qualities, known to the ancients and to modern dwellers of the high Andes and Altiplano of South America
coca erythroxylum, the bush that has caused such havoc when humans distill its alkaloid, “cocaine” but which also has great beneficial qualities, known to the ancients and to modern dwellers of the high Andes and Altiplano of South America

it has occurred to me on several occasions, about the mystery of how nature has encrypted both a blessing and a curse in each of her byproducts. certainly, the human species is the best example of that, as we can be either the very best example of cosmic consciousness or…the very most slug-minded beast who slaves at dispersing evil and dismay for him/her-self and others.

but with coca, mother nature has outwitted us brainy humans by implanting in this particularly favored of her plant-children, many remarkable attributes, attesting for its being one of the great plants that both boosts the human experience, and seriously challenges it.

the delicate tropical bush named coca erythroxylum is still cultivated for its unique flavor (and exported to Coca Cola factories throughout the world, minus the alkaloid cocaine which is distilled from the leaf in its native growing countries of Peru, Bolivia, Columbia); used still for its medicinal qualities by indigenous and acculturated people throughout the Andes, for warding off everything from altitude sickness, stomach ailments, to a child’s misbehavior, and even malnutrition. best known, though, is coca’s malicious, much maligned cousin, the alkaloid cocaine, which is familiar to plain old recreational drug users everywhere, for an energized thrill-seeking high preferred by those seeking to escape so-called reality (coke users, crack-heads, and their danger-loving drug-dealing suppliers).

when Nature bestowed on us earth dwellers the plant coca, She intended for the plant to be worshipped as a Goddess. the ancient Incans did so, and all was well. the ancient Incans used the plant sparingly, to fuel themselves on long treks through the mountains where taking food and water would be difficult, if not impossible. every Incan who was mummified has been found with his/her coca pouch for their trek to the Great Hereafter, as they believed chewing coca made them more in touch with the divine.

even modern-day descendants of the Incans have lost the divine connection to Mama Coca. to this day, the indigenous Kogi people of Columbia still chew (although, to my mind, way too excessively), but certainly more than any westerner i ever met either snorts, smokes or swallows drugs, chews gum or smokes cigarettes, for these so-called “pure” indigenous people to be labeled anything other than intoxicated. certainly these guys don’t need to so addictively be poking their sticks into their lime gourds, constantly constantly constantly activating the alkaloid in the leaves as they habitually do. whereas the other Altiplano indigenous people, for instance, the Ayamarra in Bolivia, just let their coca wads set and trickle their juices in their puffed-out cheeks, adding the lime activater (a catalyst substance, like ground-up seashell, or fire ash) to the cheek wad only occasionally.

truly, the world is witnessing the degradation and murdurous violence, the downgrading of humanity through the spread of drug use, and cocaine is one of the strongest, most addictive, next to heroin. within all so-called “beneficial” plants Nature has, in the balance of existence She is, activated the “encoded” curse within everything. with coca it goes something like this (lord flea sings!):

when the spaniards came to invade the new world, they wiped out the indigenous people, the Incans, calling them heathens and savages. they didn’t honor the gods of the Incans. they didn’t recognize Mama Coca, and called Her, instead, a false god. the spaniards wanted the savages to stop chewing Her coca leaves, to stop revering Mama Coca. but the native people did not, and thus, they were eradicated. now…centuries later…the conquerors, those descended from the spaniards, the english, the dutch, etc. have themselves come under the evil scourge of what coca does when it’s been altered by “human distillation” … in the form of cocaine. people everywhere are suffering from the prevalence of cocaine. gone are the days when coca was considered a valuable medicine, when Coca Cola had it in their drink (the alkaloid addition halted after narcotics were regulated by Federal Law in 1927, but the distinguishing extracted flavor of coca still is used). gone are the elixirs, the coca-laced wines and other coca-enhanced pick-me-uppers, the refreshing, nourishing potions sold everywhere after the discovery of coca in the new world.

now the world thinks of “coca” and (if they don’t confuse it with cacao, the tree that is the source of chocolate) they think of drug-addled crazies. This is the way Nature, or i should say, Mother Nature, our Mother Earth, our dear Planet, beloved Gaia, has encoded into all her being-ness her all-knowing, always sensing, self-protecting feature, in each and every one of her cells of existence. Including you, all other humans, and me.

In other words: addiction to cocaine is Mother Nature’s way of getting back on the guys, the so-called “civilized conquerors” who wiped out the Incans, just because they were different than they were. Heed this warning, all good people of the Earth. Mother Nature always balances the scales when there are injustices against any part of herself.

We are One.

the dance ... We are One

the dance ... We are One

we cannot hurt one part of Her without another part of Her hurting us. this is the law of cause and effect: of Mother Earth’s Mystery, the balancing act of Nature. 

so…i boil my neem leaves and prepare to make my own insect-killer, bacteria-negater, infestation-preventing potion: not by buying the latest chemical (which might do ME in by accident…it happens!) but by finding out what Nature has given us to counteract negatives. There is always a positive out there, to balance out the negative.

oh, and did i mention i’m suffering from poison ivy this week? jewelweed, the natural antidote for poison ivy (rhus toxicedron) doesn’t grow around here, in northern Florida. but i found a good poison-ivy soap from www.Burtsbees.com  that contains jewelweed, and also other good things from our Mother.

here’s another of my early botanical works for you. this study done for Tom E. Lockwood’s dissertation on Brugmansia (Harvard University, 1968). brugmansia is the tree form of datura, which is popularly called Devil’s Weed, Angel’s Trumpet, and many other weird, counter-indicating names that don’t make much sense, except they are quite sensational, as the plant is.

enjoy the moment, yours in singing Truth, lord flea

brugmansia sanguinea

brugmansia sanguinea

ps. if you want to know more about “Plants of the Gods” check out that eponymously named book by Schultes, Hofmann and Ratsch, Healing Arts Press.