For as long as it’s existed, A-Camp has been one of my favorite places. It’s also been a place that turns the worry knob in my brain up to full blast. I worry that I’m too small or maybe pretending to be big but what if I’m too big and then everyone can see right through me and what if seeing through turns into looking past and and and and and.
So this year, after a winter that was more cold than cozy, I wrote a love letter to myself in my application and planned to lead nothing but arts and crafts for four days. Y’all! We made tiny grills, sewed coptic-bound books, and made jewelry out of recycled beer cans, but my favorite activity was the herbalism knowledge share I hosted. We were a ragtag group of queers and damn if every single person there didn’t have something to teach me.
I came home from camp with a low humming calm that my body had known before but forgot the year it first knew blood. I’m not saying I came back perfect or fixed, but I stopped confusing devastation with depth and started to feel the whole way around things. Like maybe the earth is a warm place. Like maybe I make it warmer.
And so the death that came in June and then again in July wasn’t a jolt back to reality because I hadn’t left the ground to chase happiness this time. My joy was rooted deep enough that I could let the sorrow I felt flower. I cried on the subway, marched up Broadway in a sweaty crowd, and let the ocean toss me around on a Thursday afternoon until my body couldn’t handle any more salt.
I don’t know how to say things with the intensity that I mean them. The right words get lost somewhere down in my knees, afraid to be pulled up into my heart or even my stomach. I’m not worried though. I think that to fight against the destruction of Black and brown lives, my tiny hands are more important than my voice. My hands can sew notebooks for brilliant writers to sketch out the words of their next poem. They can help build stages for performers who speak out against police brutality with every song or make teas to heal the throats of overworked activists after a long day of action.
Or they can plant seeds.
If you’re doing the good work, let me plant something and bring it to you. At the very least, let’s teach each other how to grow plants for ourselves. These are the zines I made for our herbalism meet-up at camp. Each one is available digitally and in a PDF so you can print and fold them if paper’s more your thing.
Kitchen witches, especially those of us who are white, U.S. American, and otherwise just full-on embodiments of privilege have a bad habit of thinking that playing with plants magically exempts us from actively working against oppression. Newsflash: from veritable parades of cultural appropriation to looking down our noses at people for eating gluten or meat or whatever to glorifying white dude herbalists who charge $$$ for their classes, we royally fuck up pretty much all the time. This zine is a baby step into the conversation of how we can do better.
Resources highlighted in the zine
Materia medica are books of plants and their actions that help herbalists decide what to use to treat their patients. This materiacita medica is a beginner overview of seven plants with cooling actions that work to balance anxiety, cuts and bruises, insomnia, sunburn, and other summertime irritations. Since these kind of “hot” problems often impact the movers and shakers of the world, it’s a good start for activists of all stripes.
Once you know what plants you’re working with, you need some recipe guidelines. This zine covers drying herbs, infusing oils, making salves and tinctures, and – for anyone looking to get outside for some fresh air – wildcrafting tips and ethics.
Title from my favorite song forever and always: Creo En Ti by Ana Tijoux