Summer sun drenched chamomile flowers, from my garden and from Janet Czarnecki’s Redwood Roots Farm. They dry gently for two days before getting put into quart sized mason jars and saturated with organic jojoba and/or almond oil. These flowers, soaked in sun, moon, stars and blessings are squeezed out into a rich oil that I use in my salves and also just as a singular oil. It takes six to nine months from start to finish, which doesn’t include how long it took the flowers to grow and develop according the Creator’s Great Flower Plan–so really start to finish is a very long time indeed!
On December 21, 2022 my world was rocked and rolled, smashed, dashed and seriously shaken (not stirred) by a 6.4 earthquake in my neighborhood. “Won’t you be my neighbor…” (cue the Mr. Roger’s theme song). Earthquakes are pretty much, usually no big deal here in Humboldt County. I’ve been living in earthquake country for over 30 years. I remember taking a beginning geology class, when I first attended Humboldt State University (now Cal Poly Humboldt). The professor pointed out how we were at the meeting place of three, count them three, different tectonic plates and that this was one of the most seismically active areas in the world. It turns out that living here means getting used to (as if that’s possible) our mother earth shaking her shoulders or twitching a muscle or sometimes stomping her foot down or doing some version of the twist and making us all shout. She likes to stretch and dance to her own wild song.
There’s great beauty and joy in experiencing an earthquake. I know, you think I’m crazy. I speak my truth here. I love feeling the power of the ground moving and knowing that it is absolutely no big thing for the earth to do this. We are puny human specks on her surface. I love feeling that she can just shake her hair out or choose to do some serious downward dog stretching and we’ll all just be folded back into the ground.
וַיִּ֩יצֶר֩ יְהֹוָ֨ה אֱלֹהִ֜ים אֶת־הָֽאָדָ֗ם עָפָר֙ מִן־הָ֣אֲדָמָ֔ה וַיִּפַּ֥ח בְּאַפָּ֖יו נִשְׁמַ֣ת חַיִּ֑ים וַֽיְהִ֥י הָֽאָדָ֖ם לְנֶ֥פֶשׁ חַיָּֽה׃ God יהוה formed the Human*“the Human I.e., the progenitor of the species and the point of origin for human society. Heb. ha-’adam; trad. “man.” In the eyes of ancient Israel, the typical initiator of a lineage was male, and so the first human being would also have been imagined as male. See further the Dictionary under ’adam. from the soil’s humus,*soil’s humus Heb. ‘afar min ha-’adamah, rendered to emulate the wordplay with Heb. ha-’adam “the Human”; more precisely, “loose dirt from the soil.” NJPS “dust of the earth.” blowing into his nostrils the breath of life: the Human became a living being.” https://www.sefaria.org/Genesis.2.7?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en
Much has been written about how Adam/הָֽאָדָ֗ם does not correctly translate to “man.” The word for man in Hebrew is ish and for woman it is isha. Adam means the human, coming from the dust/earth/humus. So, if we get folded back into our earth mama, we are just returning home.I don’t have a death wish, I am not a human hater, but I am so very tired of the way humans think and behave, as if we were in charge of the whole shebang and can do whatever we want to our Holy mother and not have consequences.
There are always consequences. Earthquakes are not happening because we behave like idiots abusing our power and polluting our water, air and ground. But, we forget that we are guests here on this orb. We are part of her, but we are not her in the simple 2+2=4 kind of a way. I do grok that there is a relationship between fracking and earthquakes, but I am not a scientist. There are relationships between us and each blade of grass, frog, snake, river, mountain, star, snowflake, human, fox, or wild bird. The rabbis speak of each blade of grass having an angel clapping for it. There is no distance between us and this planet or us and each other or us and the Divine, we are all One.
Feeling that sense of oneness is a different thing entirely. When the bed started rocking, I was terrified and scared as we were rolling back and forth as if we were on a ship at sea during a storm. My husband and I instinctively and immediately wrapped our arms around each other, becoming one big flesh burrito and we held each onto each other for dear life. We said “I love you” and held tight. My feeling scared was extremely brief, within seconds of the quake beginning I found myself having a profound Yirat Ha-Shem/Yirat Shamayim experience.
Yirat doesn’t translate easily, it can mean fear or awe or anything on the continuum between those feelings. English doesn’t do feelings and spiritual feelings especially not the realm of English unless you are a poet, and then English can get you there. So, I was briefly fearful but in a Yirah way and then it was so deeply, in my soul, cells and bone deep, a feeling of Awe of Heaven/Yirat Shamayim and Awe of the Holy One/Yirat Ha-Shem.
יראת יי יראת שׁמים
I want you to imagine you are me and have a relationship with the Divine as someone you are involved with, not someone you believe in or are separate from. This Holy Being is present for you more than any other human or creature. If you can’t imagine this then hopefully my words will penetrate enough to give you an inkling of what I actually felt while holding my beloved, skin to skin, embraced and embracing and feeling held not just by my man, but by the Holy One.
I have no fear of dying and in this moment it turns out when I was on that edge, I had NO fear of dying. I only had a sense of Yirah/Awe that I was with my Beloved Creator/The Holy One, completely with. If now was the time that my physical form was ending, it would be just fine. I was in the arms of the person I love the most in the world, we were warm, skin to skin, almost one being and I felt complete in that moment. I have had an extraordinary life. I just felt so okay (which is an English word that cannot begin to express what I felt, but is the only one that comes close to the idea of being really calm and at peace in the middle of the shaking). There was no me separate from Kevin, or me separate from the Earth, or me separate from the Holy One. I was One with the movement and whatever came next would be within the arms of that Holiness and Love.
I’m in the air, held by Holiness, no matter where or when I leave this earth.
And then the rocking stopped and the noises began (the beeping of the surge power protectors and outside sirens and mysterious booms) and our concern for the house, our stuff and most importantly our goddaughter Victoria, who was staying with us in the upstairs attic room of our home, about a thousand miles away from our bedroom. We got up, found slippers and clothing and our phones to light our way. There were books askew in the living room, a whole shelf of Kevin’s CDs had fallen down (about 500 CDs), many picture framed ancestors were flung about and glass was everywhere. In the dining room the floor was wet from our water jug having spilled and the ceramic crock holding it was on the ground and again glass was all over the place from pictures that had fallen. The kitchen was a true disaster with a great deal of my precious dishes and glasses shattered on the floor along with oils and spilled bottles of foodstuffs that were on the counters.
We still hadn’t reached our beloved Victoria though, so we called out to reassure her. We then went through Ana’s room (one of our Goddaughters, who was house-sitting elsewhere) and then through the bathroom, at the bottom of the steps, where we found and enfolded a shaking and tender person. We got her some shoes and walked her through the chaos, in the dark, to the living room sofa where we all convened. Holding each other, comforting one another and endeavoring to help each other to settle down, as much as we could, in the rubble amidst the aftershocks and in trauma response mode.
Victoria on solid ground, at the Byodo-In Buddhist Temple, feeling safe and held long before the 6.4
It has taken me several weeks to clean up from the quake, there are several areas of my home that I cannot handle cleaning up alone or for more than a few hours at a time. I have a great helper, my Goddaughter Ana, who is kind enough to throw away the things I can’t bear seeing thrown away. My outside pantry closet was the home of all my medicines, my oil processing, my supplies for making salves, very expensive organic oils in gallon glass containers, herbs and bottles for putting oils and syrups in. Our wine is kept out there, as well, and all of our suitcases. So, it was a giant jumbled mess of goo, oils, broken glass and weird smells as things combined that shouldn’t have. I didn’t want to see or deal with this.
I finally opened the door and looked in a few days later. I saw that two quart jars of the chamomile oil had miraculously not broken. They had tumbled, they had fallen, they were askew, but they were held and kept safe by hands from the other side. The flowers in the picture, at the beginning of this post, took me hours to separate from their stems. While I was doing this and touching each flower and saying prayers, I felt a presence, a sweet, gentle presence and I recognized her as Veda Raskin. Veda left this earth, when a tsunami of hormones, rage, pain and confusion in her brain slammed into her and she took her own life. She did this shortly after her 17th birthday. I’ve known Veda since she was in her mother Karen’s tummy growing. I’ve seen her grow and become a phenomenal young woman. Her death was worse than an earthquake, it was a bomb across continents of hearts and the damage to her family and friends continues. There is no broken glass to sweep up or repairs that can be made.
Altar for the Raskin family, with the seven day candle from when she died, and lots of her father Bryan Raskin’s glass work and a photo of Veda with her sister and parents. In this picture here, Veda looks ghostly, next to her sister Acacia, in the pink shirt.
I’m the kind of gal that gets messages from those who aren’t in bodies anymore. Their souls continue on and they care about those they love. They love, in the present tense, even after they leave, in the past tense. So, I called Karen and mentioned that I felt Veda’s energy while I was playing with the chamomile. She told me that chamomile was Veda’s favorite flower, something I did not know, but clearly was so. We cried together and I felt glad that I could offer a moment of beauty in the ugly and hard.
So, when the earth shook here, six months later and these two precious bottles of sacred oils survived intact turned out to be Veda’s chamomile blessed ones, I felt her again. She was here holding me, holding her family and preserving her oil. Pre-Earthquake, I’d mentioned to Karen that I’d be sending her the oil I pressed, once it had steeped for a good long while. This chamomile oil now had earthquake energy coursing through it as well. The the smell and feel of this batch is truly beyond any other batch of oil I’ve ever made. It’s shimmering in every way, in a very Veda way. She can come through, in the heavenly scent of this oil. She can comfort in the healing of tissues that soak up her oil and penetrate deep into the bodies of those that she touches through this oil. In this way, she is giving and loving and present for all those who can open to feel her.
Me, I’m an open book times a thousand, which is why I have the kind of experiences I do. This is also why I help midwife people across towards their deaths as well as helping, as a doula, for those coming in. There’s a great teaching about how a child is in heaven slowly integrating down to this earthly plane while in utero. The mother, on this side of the equation, is lifting off and rising up towards heaven to meet her child, even when you are as heavy as can be, there is a feeling of floating or being held or carried by Holiness that can come upon you. So, there’s this crossing between worlds going on and it’s going on all the time.
There is no final ending, there is just moving between.
This doesn’t mean we don’t feel broken and lost and that our time engaging with our loved ones who die, doesn’t feel like an ending. It is and it isn’t. It’s an end to our physical relationship with that person. Their souls and their songs, energy and beauty carry on.
And so must we, while we are here. We must do the good that they no longer can, we must give and laugh and love more fully with our beloveds, who have left this realm. We have to grieve and mourn them as well. It’s not easy being a fully feeling human, but the other option, is unacceptable and leads to humans who desecrate the earth and others and who forget how we are all ONE.
Here’s a video of me and my oil making mess and also oil making magic.