Give me a roadtrip, and I’ll give you a materia medica, or a treatise on the human condition.
Over the decades, I’ve traversed thousands of kilometres of this great land, as well as a few others, witnessed changing landscapes – both the natural progression from lush forest to sparse plains, and in contrast, the progressive sprawl of sub-urban ‘civilisation’ with it’s cartoon-realism of boxes upon boxes of bland and generic blergh. One thing that I’m constantly drawn to however, is the ever-changing edge. Edges of riverbanks, creeks, beaches, mountains, paddocks, and road-sides. Interesting things happen on the edges. Diverse things. Eco-systems in and of themselves. Sub-cultures and sassy wilderness.
I started pondering this recently as we made the annual road trip there and back to take and fetch my eldest son from Summer camp. The area where the camp is also hosts the invasive but ever useful St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum). It just happens to be blooming and at it’s medicinal peak at the exact time of year we drop our offspring off. So, if time permits, I take the opportunity to harvest the flowers – usually to infuse a deep ruby-hued nerve-nourishing, wound-healing, oil. But other green beings grow on the road-side and fence-line as well – mullein, fennel, yarrow, hawthorn, willow, apples, peaches, apricots, cherries, plantain, dandelions, prickly pear……..
and amidst the green abundance, myself.
I’ve been living on the fringe ever since I can remember. Growing up, the spiritual beliefs of my family had in various ways meant that we didn’t really fit the norm of the greater community of those on a similar path, or the community as a whole. This often frustrated me. I found it difficult enough to think or express myself like others did. And spiritual beliefs aside, my natural introversion and propensity to simply observe, gave me ample opportunity to do so. And so observe I did.
And observe I continue to do.
And I continue to look at the edges, fringes, and boundaries of things.
Because interesting things happen on the fringe.
Is it any wonder then, that I married a man whose life motto is, “if you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room”?
So I began to reflect on this fringe-dwelling, edge-walking, bound-beating life of mine.
As a doula, I stood at the edges, holding the space for women and their babies to find their own way in the world, simultaneously holding back shadows. I’m there but I’m not there.
As a herbalist, I exist in that ‘hedgerow’ between plant and person, between wild and civilised, between hopelessness and hope, but also gleaning the meaning, the motivation, that lies at the edge of humanity, in the shadows of the bodymind that sits in front of me.
Ironically, even within these realms, I am a fringe-dweller, a radical, who witnesses both the noble services of birthwork and traditional herbalism being appropriated by the reductionist, relentless, and horribly homogenous mainstream.
As a mother, I am the edge, the boundary between child and world.
And so it goes.
As I have grown older, I have come to terms with my intrinsic fringe-dwelling, my inherent need to study the edges.
If you take a walk with me, don’t think I’m being rude, I’ll be listening to you, but I’ll also be watching the road-side. Simultaneously watching for the wildness that dances there, and I’ll be listening to what it says too.
Over the next few posts, I’ll share with you the weeds and the wonders that I observe, where often nobody bothers to look.
Because interesting things happen on the edge.