My awakening began, like so many others, with death. Not my own, but my grandma’s passing in 2006. She died of complications from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which was very sad, but in reality much better than it could have been: she outlived her prognosis by years by making and using herbal remedies from plants she grew in her garden. She also gave herself a new purpose in life by starting her own business when she was 70 years old, making jams, jellies and vinegars from berries, herbs and flowers she grew in her garden. She was and still is an inspiration to me, not only as an example of the healing power of nature, but of the reality that you’re never too old to start something new.
Within a year of her death I got a job as a staff writer for a nutritional supplement marketing company, which really opened my eyes. I was researching exotic herbal ingredients and their structure/function claims (one of the bigger assignments was to help the company transition to FDA compliancy). I was also discovering how broken our health care system was, and how it was not based on health but on profiting from sickness – and how other systems, such as the agriculture industry, fed into this model.
After realizing that real food is the foundation of good health, and strongly desiring to get out of the office, I quit that job and went to work on an organic farm – two of them, actually. The first one was in West Michigan, and the second was off-grid in a Caribbean rainforest (since they had a year-round growing season). Those were some of the most educational and memorable experiences of my life. I have never felt so nourished, alive, and in touch (literally) with nature as I did when on the farm, and I had dreams of starting a farm of my own.
I also continued to study alternative health, and came across the work of Ann Wigmore, who I found had run a health retreat in Michigan in the 1970s. The retreat was still there, practically in my backyard. I called them up and they invited me to join as an intern, and when I was there I felt like I was in an entirely different world. I was exposed to many practices that before I had only read about, and it was a thrill to see them come to life. I worked in every aspect of the retreat center, including the raw food kitchen, wheatgrass greenhouse, wheatgrass juicing and serving, teaching workshops, maintaining the herb garden, organizing the library, running the gift shop, marketing programs, housekeeping and cleaning, and even painting a wall mural. I met so many amazing people there and felt like I had connected to my soul group and a bigger purpose for my life. I loved how I lived there. It felt magical. I definitely began dreaming of running a health retreat of my own.
But I also felt that I was on the wrong side of things – that I should have been a guest before being a worker at the health retreat. I had a lot of issues and was in desperate need of healing myself. But it was expensive to be a guest, and I didn’t have any money or family to back me.
So I decided to take a housesitting gig, again in the Caribbean, where I could focus on my healing and personal development, without having to work so hard to survive. I dedicated six months to every healing thing I could think of: fasting, journaling, creative writing, reading, organizing, painting, gardening, swimming in the ocean, watching the colors of the sunrise and the shapes of the drifting clouds. Sitting out on the balcony during a tropical storm.
It was a special time and I let go of a lot. But I was still stressed about money. I had not healed that yet and I was worried about how I was going to sustain myself. So I got another job, as a caregiver, and later, after returning to Michigan, as a private cook for an office group on a Ketogenic diet. I had learned that I was able to support myself by supporting others, which eventually led to, amazingly, after almost ten years, another corporate office job. But I was still searching for my purpose, which I found in my passion when it resurfaced in small ways, like when one of the managers was sick and I gave him 1500mg of Vitamin C. The next day he came in and said he felt great. I loved that.
I was on an email list for Blue Heron Academy and I received an email notice for the next session of classes. At the encouragement of an old friend, I decided to register, and at the time of this writing I’m a little over a month into it – and I’ve loved it from day one. The subject matter is fascinating to me and I am learning the basics I wish I would have had in the beginning – funny, the course I am in now started around 2006, but it was nowhere near my field of vision then. It was only in looking back over the patterns that emerged in the past 13 years that I was able to see what the best future for me would be. I could not have imagined in 2006 that I would be a Holistic Health Practitioner – but the seeds had been sown in my grandma’s garden.
It is to her that I dedicate my work.
With all of my heart,