Making essences is, for me, the most beautiful way to meet a place - a way to learn and discover and honor land and flora on a deep level. I had the chance to spend most of June 2017 in South Africa, visiting and making essences. What an exquisitely beautiful place - steep mountains by the sea, coiled kelp fronds the length and girth of pythons, baboons clambering over dunes, flocks of sacred ibises, expanses of spiked protea bushes. So much stunning wildness to behold.
I was there for the winter solstice, and winter there is a rainier, chillier season. Not so much in bloom this time of year, but I was told that what bloomed now was what was indigenous to the land, and so I was able to make essences of those native plants. That felt just right. Knowing I was there for a short time gave urgency to the experience. I am lucky to have a dear friend who is South African; she guided me to tidepools, gardens and wilder spots.
Some highlights of my experience: an afternoon in a grove of milkwood trees in the coastal town of Kommetjie, my bowl nestled in the crook of one of these exquisitely gnarled old trees; making an essence with a large starfish in a tidepool at Windmill Beach (I have wanted an essence of starfish for years - I mean, the signature of regenerative limb power! What might that offer us as humans?); sitting with a glorious and humming patch of pigs’ ear succulents in the country town of Barrydale; making an essence of place at Cape Point, the tip of Africa, where stormy winter green seas meet white sand dunes covered with the tracks of baboons; straining an essence of a yellow beach daisy at the beginning of a storm while the wind whipped so fiercely the water wasn’t making it into the bottle (I had to move behind some rock shelter in order to finish the job, and when I was finished, the mist on the mountains against the wild sea just took my breath away).
I was able to teach an introductory flower essence class at Saskia Schelling’s Urban Farmstead, a permaculture haven in Tokai, where she’s transformed the soil from nearly unworkable pale grains into a rich, dark, generative bed that grows papayas and bananas. I also facilitated an authentic movement class in a small, wood-floored studio next to a shark education center in Kalk Bay. What a gift to be able to meet and connect with people in these sorts of circumstances - where you quickly drop beneath the surface to what is more essential.
The day I arrived in South Africa, as I emerged from the airport, there was a huge full rainbow across the highway, and on my last day, as I headed back to the airport, there was another one - the kind that makes your heart leap. They were a cherished frame to my trip. And now I am home, beginning to research and explore with this new set of flower, animal, and place essences, opening myself to what they have to offer us. I am excited to learn from them and work with them over time, and always am amazed and moved by Nature’s generous healing bounty.
Jade tree essence, Kalk Bay
Seaweed on the beach, Kommetjie
*First image - pig’s ear essence, Barrydale
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