People ask me all the time how I learned about plants, herbal medicine making, perfumery, tea blending and the like.
For the most part, I say that it's a long story, or that I'm mostly self-taught. I don't know why the question always throws me. In general, if there is a question that comes up a lot that I'm not sure how to answer, I prepare an all encompassing answer. For example, people always ask "Where do you get all those bottles and jars?" I answer with "All over" The long answer is boring and the short answer is true.
So I usually say "The plants, time, experience, experimenting." All true.
"I don't know" I sometimes answer.
truth is, there is a longer answer, and it is, in part, that
I may not be where I am or know what I know without the guidance of Cascade Anderson Geller.
Late last night when I heard that my dear
friend, teacher and mentor Cascade had passed, I couldn't believe it. I still barely can.
I tossed and turned most of the night. There was a whirlwind of anxiety dreams, then Cascade was beside me. We were up high in the mountains at the top of a waterfall. It was lush and green and damp. She had on a maroon wool beret and a jean jacket. She said, "it's ok. we just go into the waterfall, it will be ok." she was talking so sweetly and pointing down at the spray of the waterfall. "Ok? Ready?" And we prepared together and dove into the waterfall and it was pure peace.
I awoke feeling a bit of peace, but still sorrow. I drank my morning tea and listened to a podcast.
I thought of so many of the things she brought to my life.
My husband says that your favorite movies are the ones you quote from regularly. I was thinking that your favorite people are those you quote from. Cascade is one of my favorite people, with me always, with bits of wisdom on parenting, teaching, and just being a person.
Many years ago, when we were learning about Hawthorne in an herb class, she asked everyone to smell the flowers. I was surprised to hear everyone saying how terrible they smelled. Most were making faces, saying ewww. I was perplexed. Cascade saw my confusion and asked what I thought, "I love it", she threw back her head and laughed. "You have an old nose."
A few years ago at the Breitenbush Herbal Conference I attended a talk she was giving on trees. Before she began, she said to me, "Why are you here? You know all of this, this is old hat to you" I replied "I never get to see you and I always learn something new from you."
Today the question keeps coming up "how did you learn all of this?"
A true answer is that Cascade Anderson Geller was more of a big sister, mom and mentor to me than just an herb teacher.
I'm no longer sure that it's possible to be self-taught. Everything that happens around you is a teaching. All of the people you encounter are teachers. I had a product line under my belt before I even met Cascade, and the perfumery that lay ahead of me was not covered in any coursework. I was lucky enough to take part in a two year herbal studies course with Cascade. Without her, I'm not sure I would have been guided so surely in the direction I have taken with my life.
The things I learned from her infuse my day to day life.
When I make a perfume or potion or tea blend, I think of her. I hold her in my mind as a guiding force. If the tea I have blended would make Cascade proud, then I can be done. The perfumes; are they natural enough, pure enough, made with the best intentions? If so, then I believe Cascade would be proud and I let that be enough.
I will think of her as I always do, every day.
My deepest condolences to her children, who are only a few years older than my own.