Nature Unearthed

Nature-unearthed_21-May-13Nature amazes us with her diversity, intricacy and beauty. I experienced a diverse slice of nature exploration in May 2013. First stop, the Lloyd Library and Museum in Cincinnati—one-stop shopping for nature and pharmacy literature dating to the late 1400s. I barely had time during my short two days as a guest of the Library to walk up and down the endless rows in the closed stacks of 250,000 volumes. Quickly reading book spines; gingerly removing treasures from the shelves. Gently cradling them in my hands, flipping a few pages, I was awed as if shaking the hand of the famed. What to do in such a treasure trove with so little time? If I can’t shake their hands, why not read letters penned by the hand of Thomas Jefferson to a famous naturalist such as Francois André Michaux? Jefferson penned a letter to Michaux, the younger, on 14 December, 1813, praising his publications. F. A. Michaux (1770-1855) was the son of French botanist André Michaux (1746-1802). Father and son collected in the Americas on behalf of the French government, but funding evaporated during the French Revolution. The father was sent home, accused of spying for the French. In the early 20th century when the Lloyd Library purchased F. A. Michaux’s North American Silva (1817), the letter from Thomas Jefferson was a random surprise tucked between two pages. I must admit, I do love exploring natural history in a climate controlled environment.

Next stop, the Cincinnati Museums Center Edge of Appalachia Preserve in Adams County, Ohio. There, to conduct the first medicinal plant workshop in their Advanced Naturalists series, an intensive limited to 10 participants. The 16,000 acre nature preserve, 80 miles east of Cincinnati, features the extraordinary Eulett Nature Center with labs, classrooms, state-of-the art everything—a nature workshop instructor’s dream— immersion in nature with naturalists who taught me more than I taught them.

Then I came home, and rather than exploring nature in a library or interpreting it in a workshop, nature reminded me who is in charge. Deep rolling thunder, vibrating big nature ruled. The walls rattled. The deep low tremors pulsed up into my bones from the balls of my feet. No different than a fly—me—just a small human in nature.

There’s a Garden in the Mind

Screen-shot-2013-01-30-at-2.03.01-PM-202x300Some  herbalists (but not you young ones) will recall Dr. Paul Lee, from Santa Cruz, California, once the Executive Director of the Herb Trade Association, the predecessor of the American Herbal Products Association. Paul Lee brought Shakespearian actor turned maniacal horticulturist, Alan Chadwick, to UC Santa Cruz in 1967 which evolved into UC Santa Cruz’s then Farm & Garden Project. Chadwick’s blending of biodynamic principles with French-intensive gardening inspired a generation of gardeners. Now Paul Lee has completed a new memoir, “There’s a Garden in the Mind: A Memoir of Alan Chadwick and the Organic Movement in California.” Pre-order print or Kindle edition at Amazon or better yet get it from your favorite independent bookseller. It’s published by North Atlantic Press (Random House, dist.), $19.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-58394-559-9