Down the Hobbit Hole of the Plant Spirits -Guest Blog Post by Sacred Earth Medicine Apprentice, Irene Sturla

I am so honored and pleased to be able to share this guest post with you from one of the amazing apprentices in the 2013 Sacred Earth Medicine Apprenticeship, Irene Sturla.  I first met Irene when she had recently moved to the southwest and was registered in my Tree Medicine E Course- since that time I have watched her bloom and grow into a magnificent medicine woman and plant goddess- embracing herself and her power and capability to transform herself and her life into fulfilling her deepest wishes.  She graciously shared her experience in the apprenticeship last year.


Already on a path with the beloved plants, apprenticing with Darcey took me further down the hobbit hole into a world of subtle communion with plant spirits within various terrains of the Southwest. The overwhelming heat of the arroyos in the Sonoran desert allowed me to seek shade beneath cottonwoods, mesquite and walnut trees and supportive fellow apprentices. Our “classroom” was beneath these very trees. It was a thrill to personally discover a new sage species at elevations above 7000 feet in the Chiracahuas Mountains with Darcey, my teacher, guide and friend who also is on a journey of unfolding new plant teachings. Tasting this sage plant as well as many other new plant friends deepened my relationships and confidence. Trust also deepened with each breath and soft sensing of the landscape. Communing with poison ivy as an ally and teacher of boundaries and protection of self was not something we expected to engage in for an entire afternoon. In particular, poison ivy and a particular ground nesting bird festooned our timeless sourjourn. Darcey guided us on a journey here and throughout our year’s work together humanly, knowledgeably and safely. How can one person combine plant spirit teachings, clinical therapeutics, beauteous camp settings with unpredictable weather changes while facilitating friendships in ceremony, supporting our own evolving health botanically, energetically and spiritually and coordinating mundane details with stories of her own personal travails and triumphs and everything in between? I experienced Darcey’s “teaching style” as a gentle prod to go beyond our comfort zone and to seek the wild plants as teachers and guides.

I was often challenged by the sheer immensity of information presented to us in the form of clinical therapeutics, self-care, materia medica, organ systems, constitutions and assessment not merely because these things carried huge value to me but because there was more to it.   I am so grateful  to have been on this adventure with Darcey, Carol, Sara and Gretchen. After all, I too like to assist others with botanical support because I have a deep love for the plants and what they offer to our ecologies. I realized while being in the open wash of past peak milky oat tops field, that nourishment and support of our humanly health is only a tiny facet of what plants are here to do. And in the most fatiguing of times, they would shout this out vividly on the steep slope where a lone elder tree held space to burned acres of the Chiracahuas Mountains. Humor graced us often especially when Sara jumped on the picnic table when a skunk friend waddled by while we processed plant medicine. There was never a dull moment!

There was something magical about walking through a fresh tall brush of raspberry bushes and encountering a small patch of valerian in a matter of feet. And to encounter the ethereal desert lavender gracing a stark hot wash lends to the old adage, heaven on earth. I am so grateful Darcey introduced me to the plants of the Southwest. She has a way of creating a family of both people and plants without any separation. She appealed to our palates and brought us warmth even in times of uncertainty. A Sacred Earth Apprenticeship with Darcey opened my senses, healed my heart and reminded me where home is. I feel ever more at home with the plants and especially those who have adapted to the Southwest. Colorful are these plants lives with an evolving landscape that has rendered me being more attuned to the seasons in my core. Broths nourish my body. Streams blessed my noodling feet. Flower mandalas were created by our apprenticeship deep in the forest. Falcons screeched in the distance. Tears were shed and laughter abounded. We gazed over the Tucson foothills and dug for roots. We listened to the yarrow and plucked a song carefully on fishhook cactus spines. And all the while we created another thread to the mystery of healing with the plants. Thank you, Darcey for creating such an amazing experience.

Irene Sturla is the owner of Spotted Skunk Botanicals and can be reached on Facebook

You can join me in 2014 for the Sacred Earth Medicine Apprenticeship!

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