The Botanarchy



Welcome, my flagrantly fragrant freesia blossoms, to the Botanarchy Newsletter: Pleasure Principal Edition! Come one, come all, to the concupiscent carnival of delights that is bursting with bodacious bounty through the buttons of Gaia’s great girdle. The whole world’s a thicc goddess in a bodycon dress, and I’m swiping right.

As we find ourselves at the onset of summer, in an open-armed embrace with the sun from across the sky, certain archetypal energies are awakened in us - the same energies that force the buds to blossom, the cicadas to sing, the antlers to grow, and the squirrel to seek shade in the towering oak. As above so below, and so on and so on, and scooby dooby doo. Summer in the Taoist Medicine tradition hearkens the arrival of the fire element, and she carries the banner of joy & pleasure. Whereas spring and the season of wood broke ground and outstretched its arms, fire expresses and extends in all directions, places new and novel, in a grand display of beyond-ness (which some might call extra). In the season of fire, we see the generosity and grandiosity of the sun who isn’t stingy with the vibes, laying them on thick. Summer is the season where we can give it all away, for in our yang exuberance, we have more than enough to give.

All life long
the dew falls from heaven
all life long
trees climb up from underground waters.
In the seed of the old god the new gods are swarming.
Earth is ready for planting.
The shut eye is opening.
The heat.
- Gerrit Lansing,The Great Form is Without Shape

In my Northern European ancestral traditions, summer also hearkens the arrival of the Oak King, who wrests the cosmic reigns from the Holly King’s frigid fingers and carries us away upon his sturdy back into the golden sunset. As such, this newsletter will also be dedicated to the magic, myth, and medicine of thee mighty Oak. Often our only respite from a brazenly baked 100° afternoon, I consider the Oak to be the unofficial sponsor of California summers. Get ready to jump into the cosmic jacuzzi with Pan and his gaggle of wood nymphs for a night of bacchanalian reverie. Pruney fingers, come at me!

News From The Botanarchy Coven

Benjamin Fox is my astrologer, alchemical healing mentor, and a legend amongst my patients for his ability to connect his clients to their inherent gifts through symbols, myth, archetypes, storytelling, and humor. He is launching an online Astrology For Everyone membership to empower folks to understand and engage with the potent symbols of astrology themselves. Benjamin’s guiding ethos is:

“Becoming who we are meant to be is what I understand as the essence of all healing.”

I highly rec checking out his membership!

In other news, I sat down with fellow wizard Devin Person of This Podcast Is A Ritual to discuss Anarcha-Taoism and medicine as a technology of liberation. Might be biased, but this podcast has it all:

  • Anarcha-Taoist book lists
  • Punk rock wuwei
  • How 2 declutter the chaos of culture
  • Learning how 2 embrace your unique inner ecosystem
  • Devo quotes!
  • Life hacks from Chuang Tzu
  • The natural beauty of chaos
  • And so much more!

Like the Priestesses of Zeus who interpreted the rustling of Oak leaves as a sacred oracle, I hope you find insight and inspiration in the pages of this newsletter.

In health and solidarity,


Avoid Gurus, follow plants


By Carolyn Barron

In the shadow of summer’s exit, when the wine casks have all been emptied and the rotten fruit falls from the vine, the wheel of the year turns with a yank and a crank as fire gives way to frost. It is in this leafless loll that the Holly King returns from goth night in the bowels of the earth to reclaim his throne, summoning us to the underworld with a beckoning finger wave. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, for today is June, the days are long, the crops grow tall, and the yang exuberance of the sun extends wantonly in all directions like the most egregious manspreader. It is in this fertile bower that the Oak King dons his leafy crown, the hamadryads sway to the sound of Lust For Life, and the wood nymph Balanos - the Oaken Lord’s presiding deity - sets out the finest libations of centaur milk and lily dew for all to feast upon, a charcuterie platter so dank it makes Demeter blush. Hark! Is that a bisexual orchid I see, flagrantly self-pollinating on the lanai?! It must be summer, my friends!!!

In the mythic imagination of Europe and Scandinavia, the Oak King and the Holly King are personifications of summer and winter, engaging in a ceaseless battle of clashing powers that symbolizes the seasonal cycles of the year. Midsummer extends its elegant neck over the northern hemisphere on June 24th, marking both the dawn of summer and the full florescence of the Oak King’s splendor. In the warmth of elongating days that begin to stretch out like cats in the sun from the spring equinox to the summer solstice, the Oak King gains in strength and vigor. The Holly King emerges on Midsummer to slay his brother and take back the light, only to have the favor returned by the Oak King in the balefires of Midwinter. Oh, the pathos! Reflecting the yin/yang polarity inherent in nature, the Oak King and Holly King remind us that the cycles of birth, death, regeneration, and renewal follow a particular cadence that unfolds itself across the entirety of the cosmos, a mythic dance of creation and cessation where the Goddess’s dance card is always full.

With its prodigious roots planted firmly into the earth and its towering branches extending upwards to the sky, the oak is a channel between heaven and earth, and the element of fire is its medium. The Anglo-Saxon rune ᚪ represents the magic of the acorn, who holds within it the divine spark the gods imbue into every being, the seed potential that if nurtured correctly unfolds a cosmic blueprint for growing into a godly oak. In every European ancestral tradition at this party, the oak is the chief sacred tree, and the lordly king of the forest is synonymous with the God of Thunder whether you worship him as Thor, Zeus, Donar, Jupiter, or Perun. In nature, oaks resist fire and attract lightning, with thick, furrowed bark and tough, leathery leaves that are slow to burn. Because of this, they are revered for bringing controllable fire to humanity, a vessel for the light of heaven to descend unto earth and bless all of creation with its luster, warmth, and power of transformation. As such, the oak is under the protection of the ancients. Nymphs, gods, and occasionally the law itself have all been known to punish mortals who harm oaks. In ancient Germany, anyone found damaging an oak would be put to death. In our own little druid grove in a sacred corner of the Hollywood Hills, there is currently a neighbor punch-drunk on property greed threatening one of our most cherished oaks. May the fury of the dryads be awakened! The law might also be helpful in this situation, although the oak in question has a circumference a wee hair short of being granted heritage status, a magical power bestowed on trees of a certain size and historical stature by California law that makes it illegal to cut them down.

To celebrate the Oak King’s coronation, here are four of the fire element’s occult secrets that we can learn from oak trees, and ways we can incorporate them into our lives this summer.

1. Marcescence

One of the reasons our ancestors worshipped the oak tree as a symbol of protection, strength, success, fertility, and stability is due to its seemingly magical ability to retain its leaves through the dark half of the year when most of us are withering and falling from the vine. Perhaps this is why the Romans carried oak boughs at weddings to ensure a fruitful marriage.

Us physicians of Taoist Medicine call the phenomena of retaining leaves on your stems throughout autumn and winter ‘storing yang qi’, but to scientists on the streets it’s known as marcescence. Marcescence is the persistence of decaying plant leaves that remain attached to a tree until spring bud growth pushes them free. While their color might fade from a verdigris green to a burnt sienna, the leaves still remain firmly affixed to the stem through winter and into spring. Folks who should know such things aren’t entirely sure why some trees marcese, so to speak. According to horticulturists at the Clemson College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences, marcescence may provide the oak with advantages that help keep it hearty during the Holly King’s reign:

“Several theories proposed by plant ecologists suggest that leaves that drop later in the spring will provide a fresh layer of leaf mulch around the tree that helps conserve soil moisture, and these leaves decompose later during springtime to recycle and provide additional nutrients for growth. Another theory that seems to make sense is that lower limbs holding onto these dry unpalatable leaves may deter browsing by deer, who prefer to feed on the more tender and nutritious buds and twigs, not on the bitter, fibrous old foliage. Also, strong winter winds and snow may have a more harmful effect on a tree possessing foliage by causing more branch breakage.”

The Taoist sages believed that inappropriate behavior in summer leads to deficiency at the autumn harvest. Storing yang qi during the abundance of fire season can help us persist & resist through the yin time of year, when we can become vulnerable to attack from predators and the elements. Like thee mighty oak, if we squander all summer long without preserving, we’re dead set on getting respiratory infections, allergies, joint pain, and exhaustion when the yin months of the year cast their icy spells upon us. All beings can benefit from marcescence, and one way you can pad your coffers for the dark months ahead is through the practice of Celestial Moxa.

Celestial Moxa is a preventative treatment involving the use of mugwort fire on the days surrounding the summer solstice, as this is the time in the cosmic rotation that Earth is most abundant with heat and yang energy. Celestial Moxa is prepared from mugwort (Artemisia Vulgaris), which is prolific and endemic to Southern California and East Asia alike. The aromatic leaves are dried and repeatedly sifted until they are fluffy. The ‘moxa wool’ is then rolled into a long cigar shape and wrapped in paper. The cigar-shaped moxa stick is then lighted and held about an inch away from the desired area. The power of mugwort fire is very penetrating, making it effective for directing qi, yang, and heat deep into the reserves of the body. When applied to acupuncture points specific for deficiency, the body absorbs the heat into its deepest levels, restoring the body's yang qi and life force like a juiced up battery. You can call upon the Mugwort Gods in the comfort of your own home by following my DIY Celestial Moxa tutorial in last summer’s issue of the Botanarchy Times.

2. Share Resources With Your Community

The oak is the embodiment of the fire element’s hospitable benevolence, and its ability to nurture communities, bring folks together, and sustain others radically different from itself. Oaks are the top life support trees in 84% of the counties in North America. Sayeth High Priest of Oaks, Sir Doug Tallamy, in his essential tome The Nature of Oaks: The Rich Ecology of Our Most Essential Native Trees:

“During one lifetime, an oak tree will drop up to 3 million acorns and serve as a lifeline for countless creatures, including dozens of bird species, rodents, bears, raccoons, opossums, rat snakes, fence lizards, several butterflies (by several, he means 511), hundreds of moths, cynipid gall wasps and other predators and parasitoids, weevils, myriad spiders, and dozens more species of anthropoids, mollusks, and annelids that depend on oak leaf litter for nourishment and protection.”

Some of my most cherished things have been begotten beneath the shade of a towering oak. The Celtic goddess Brigid - the patroness of medicine, poetry and smithcraft - was born from an acorn beneath a great oak, which is also home to the Fly Agaric Mushroom, my biggest celebrity crush of all time. The Tinder Polypore Fungus commonly ref’d on the streets as elf shelf or dryad’s saddle affixes itself to the oak’s girthy trunk, and provides a respite for the wee dryads and local landvættir that live amongst the boughs. The Oak Titmouse - have you ever seen such a magnificently mohawk’d diminutive angel?! - is known to galumph through the gales under the protection of the oak, as well as Oakmoss, the world’s sexiest lichen who brings its woody sensual funk to the finest perfumes.

The healthy expression of our inner fire element is an acknowledgement of abundance and an abounding generosity. Think of the summer flowers, show-ponying about town with their flagrant displays of plumage and their wanton coffers of pollen. They aren’t being stingy with the stank. In the summer sun, their buds, blossoms, and bowers of nectar seep every which way, a sacred vessel of sustenance they share with all of creation.

Plants - though exploited and shaped and poked and prodded for gain - aren’t bound by the fake laws of capitalism and its paucity politics. They live outside the law, in a model that knows no scarcity, where it is intrinsically understood that giving your pollen to the bees and acorns to the animals creates more abundance and everybody wins. Why hoard (so uncouth) when you can unleash your limitless resources and give it all away? Energy is a resource. Time is a resource. Willingness is a resource. Ingenuity, influence, invention, vexation, elation, elbow grease… all resources, collateral in the collective economy. Like flowers, there is also that inimitable resource that is yours and yours alone, that fragrant je ne sais quoi that when unleashed, the world is marked with your signature, and we are all the better for it.

Prescription for the summer swelter - share and shelter others, just like your neighborhood cornerstone tree. Do you really want to be the ONLY species not givin’ it up for the good of all? For the exasperated and overwhelmed, think locally. Who or what has helped you reach your perch of comfort or assisted in the unfolding of your tao? Can you give back to your community in the same way?

3. Worship Parasites

The Druids, whose very name translates to ‘knower of oaks’, were masters of nature’s mysteries and living vessels for the occult secrets of the oak. Oak groves were their most venerated spaces, places in which they trained initiates, held secret meetings, and performed divinations. For the Druids, the magic and mirth of the oak extended beyond its branches to the species it sheltered, and their most sacred plant was Viscum album - the parasitic mistletoe that grows upon its bark. Its presence upon the tree was believed to indicate the hand of the Sky God having placed it there in a lightning strike, perhaps even suggesting that the mistletoe might imbue humanity with the supernatural qualities of fire itself: virility, power, protection, and fertility. From Aldous Huxley in Man, Myth & Magic: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Supernatural:

“The magic of mistletoe derives largely from its striking appearance, different from the host yet apparently part of it; from the fact that is is evergreen when the host is bare; that it does not grow in the soil but above it, and that it seems to have a mysterious vitality despite its apparent rootlessness.”

The mistletoe embedded in the bark of the oak is a reminder that each body is in erotic entanglement with all of creation, a symbol of the fire element’s interdependence on wood to burn brightly and thrive. Whereas our cultural response to parasites is to make a cross-sign, cower, and run to Erewhon for ParaGuard, the presence of mistletoe should be considered a sign of a diverse ecosystem rather than a threat to tree health. Studies have found that forests with a moderate amount of mistletoe are much more biodiverse and ecologically healthily. These parasitic plants might take a small amount of nutrients away from their host, but they greatly enrich the ecosystems in which they grow. I don’t know if you are ready to hear this, but the human body contains only 10% human cells. 10 PERCENT. 90% of our mass is essentially non-human, made up of beneficial microbes that we call the microbiome. We are more mistletoe than oak, my thunder-blessed kin.

A radical naturopath once taught me how to put my psoriasis into remission by inoculating myself with a helminth purchased off the Australian dark web. While I would never tell you to give yourself a parasite procured in the bowels of the Silk Road, I would ask you to get curious about their benefits. Or at the very least, get tested for the presence of malignant parasites before you go downing shots of Wormwood with the hope of killing them all. In the world of mutualism, it is becoming more and more clear that humans have evolved in tandem with these mythical beasts, the two existing like an ouroboros of mutual aid that imbues both parasite and host with magical powers. For the parasite, a home! Some food! For the host, a slew of anti-inflammatory benefits that support the immune system and stress adaptation.

According to leading scientists in the field, early trials suggest a host of allergies and autoimmune ailments could be treated with worm therapy, or infection with live worm-like parasites. Inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease… there is compelling research that shows these conditions remain rare in developing countries that have yet to sanitize their parasite brethren out of existence. But don’t take it from me, take it from the Victorian poets. In the language of flowers, the message of the mistletoe is “I surmount difficulties.”

4. Do Most Of Your Work Underground

The impulse of the fire element is to see and be seen, to outstretch its brilliant tendrils like the finest fusillade that explodes with the drama of an ancient star. And we love fire to pieces for wooing us with its glamorous displays of first-rate thaumaturgy. However, an under-nourished fire element can be very seduced by the 24/7 war march of the attention economy that demands our lives become a platform for personal branding. When so much of our qi is projected outwards onto screens for public consumption, we often fail to resource the deepest parts of ourselves that need to photosynthesize by the light of something greater than an iPhone screen.

The best things in life - Druidic rituals in oak groves, reading in bathtubs, conversations between you and the moon, and, for those of us that aren’t cam girls & boys, sex - enrich the very fibers of our fascia with a generative magic that defies broadcast. For the first few years of the oak’s life, when the acorn sprouts and sends its roots a-courtin', above ground growth is painfully slow. In the sapling’s very first year, only one set of leaves are produced, and the tree grows barely a few inches tall. But its growth rate below ground is another story altogether. From our Oaken Lord Doug Tallamy:

“All the energy those first leaves gather from the sun is allocated towards root growth. After their first year, a seedling oak may have up to 10 times more root mass than the biomass of leaves and shoots above ground. Oaks produce enormous root systems over their lifetimes, and these help make them champions when it comes to soil stabilization, carbon sequestration, and watershed management.”

Over time, this root mass may spread to to occupy a space four to seven times the width of the oak’s crown. The oak balances its skyward preening by sending most of its qi downwards into the depths of the earth, tapping into the generative well deep in the underworld that bubbles up like a spring. It knows it must sequester its magic underground, in the dank dirt full of ancestor bones and occult secrets blessed by mycelial might that infuse the tree with the durability that comes from being connected to source. In return, this taproot becomes the oak’s chief support, and that of countless creatures who rely on it for its stabilizing sorcery.

My love was speaking recently on the gentle magic of Jeff Buckley, who, like many artists resisting capitalist narratives of monetizing their every expression, had a sacred practice of composing songs that were just for his own pleasure, never to be made platinum, never to get a sunburn whilst preening in the noonday sun. The lesson? Do most of your work underground. As my partner put it on this evening’s walk in which we did MUCH discussing of oaks, it’s a perfect lesson from a perfect tree.

Works Cited

Man, Myth & Magic: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Supernatural edited by Richard Cavendish

The White Goddess: a Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth by Robert Graves

Fly Agaric: A Compendium of History, Pharmacology, Mythology, & Exploration edited by Kevin Feneey

The Nature of Oaks: The Rich Ecology of Our Most Essential Native Trees by Douglas Tallamy

Native American Medicinal Plants: An Ethnobotanical Dictionary by Daniel E. Moerman

Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake

Moxibustion: A Modern Clinical Handbook by Lorraine Wilcox

Bulfinch’s Mythology by Thomas Bulfinch

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate by Peter Wohlleben

Acupoint Alchemy

‍Mythopoetic Medicine For Seasonal Alignment


By Carolyn Barron

Summer is the moment of the Great Flowering, and as such, it’s the time to do those things that make you say “why don’t I do this more often?” Yes, I second that… why are you always denying and delaying your pleasure!? As a Priestess Of Austerity, I take the summer off of solemnity and do some work around joy and pleasure. What engenders it? What is blocking it? How can I access it in deeper, richer, freer ways than what compulsion and capitalism have to offer?

The emotion associated with a healthy internal fire element is joy, the kind that inflames your heart with a sultry swelter that feels like a cosmic backscratch from the manicured fingers of the Goddess. Joy is tricky business - too much of it and you run the risk of feeling manic, too little of it, and depression descends like Miseria's weighted blanket. Leaching joy hither and thither can breach your boundaries, making you more sensitive to the fire element’s flights of fancy like anxiety, overheating, inflammation, and the tendency to overextend and burn out.

There's a certain erratic panache to the balefires of the heart, cauldron flames are extinguished by past hurts as quickly as they’re lit by the pipes of Pan. Sometimes the work of a Taoist physician is to restore our patients ability to love and be loved free of past experiences, to temper the flames of the heart so that joy may smolder judiciously. This work can be eased on down the road with the help of acupoint Heart Protector 8: Lao Gong - ‘Palace of Weariness’. One of my favorite writers on the Taoist lore of acupuncture points, Debra Kaatz, says this of Lao Gong:

“Lao Gong is a palace or temple of the ancestors. It is where we can go and be cared for when there has been weariness, trouble, overwork, and when suffering has been long. This point is even more effective in its own time and season where the heightened fire energy of summer can enhance the fire energy of the point. ‘Lao’ is drawn as a lamp that flames with a gentle fire at night. It means to exert one’s self in an extraordinary manner, work, labour, suffer, weary, make, encourage, give trouble to, reward, and consume. ‘Gong’ is drawn as several rooms under a roof. It means the Imperial Palace, temple of the ancestors. At Lao Gong is all the love, nourishment, and luxuries of a great palace for the weary heart to regain its lost trust and ease its hurts. Here the Emperor himself gives tender care to the troubles of the heart so its doors can open and fill with the joys and laughter of the world again.”

Palace of Weariness is located in the center of the palm, where the tip of the ring finger lands when you make a closed fist. You might already have a deep relationship with this point if you’re a martial artist or a healer, as it is through Lao Gong that we project our heart qi outwards into the world. It is also a place we can receive - a portal to take qi into the body after giving too much away, pushing past our boundaries, or performing extensive work with our hands. It is especially potent if we are struggling to access joy and pleasure on account of exhaustion.

If you need to resource nature to expand your capacity to experience pleasure this summer, I recommend leaning on a sturdy oak. Go ahead, share your qi with an oak tree! There’s more than enough to go around. Scarcity is a trick of capitalism. (So are shoes - this practice is best done barefoot).

Share Your Qi With An Oak Tree

‘Cause I’m an Anarcha Taoist that’s all about collaboration and reciprocity, this practice is a cosmic embrace, a loop of love and repair between human and oak tree for synergistic symbiosis.

  • Find an oak tree that calls to you, one with robust roots pillaging the sidewalk, leafy plumes cascading asunder, a sexy hawk making eyes at you from atop a branch bannister, whatever your pleasure.
  • Approach the tree as you would a lover, slowly with grace and reverence. As you find yourself in the tree’s embrace, ask permission for an exchange of energy. Most trees do this freely and with wild abandon (hello, oxygen), but consent is key, always and forever.
  • With a clear YES, place your Palace Of Weariness atop your oaken consort.
  • Breathe the tree qi deep into your bones through your palm. They might take a cue from you, and breath your qi deep into their xylem and phloem. Anything is possible in the qi matrix.
  • Keep inhaling the tree’s qi from your palm, moving it up the back of your spine to the crown of your head.
  • Exhale down the front of your body, through Palace Of Weariness, and into the oak, sensing and visualizing the qi spiraling its way deep within the tree and down through its roots.
  • Inhale the tree qi again through your Palace Of Weariness, moving it up the back of your spine to the crown of your head, exhaling down the front of your body through your palm and into the oak. Repeat this orbit at least 9 times, though truly, the consanguine embrace can continue forever.
  • When you feel cosmically nourished, gently let go of your embrace, listening for messages from the tree and beyond. Oaks tell dad jokes, but don’t take it from me - taste and sense and hear for yourself.
  • Bow to your oak in gratitude, leaving an offering. I like ash, as it nourishes the soil, but anything given with respect and awe will do just fine.

Herbage Verbiage

Nature Gets Loquacious


By Gabriel Welchert Garcia

"You’ll want to know the planting depth: a shallow trench will suit the vine but trees need deeper anchorage:
the oak particularly: where the roots reach down
to Tartarus, the crown must soar to airy heaven.
No winter storms uproot it, nor can wind or rain
but as a rock through generations, still it stands,
beyond descendants even and the roll of time.
While from a rugged girth it throws great branches out
it has a crown encompassing the deepest shade.”

-Virgil, Georgics

Trees do not need us for much, rather it is us who need them. They are not contingent on humans to proliferate, to feed or seed. But we need their oxygen, their fruit and shade and all the life they support. One of the things we can do for them is to behold their splendor, their magnificence, and give thanks and praise for all that they do. The oak trees of California give shade not just to our present lives… their boughs also gave shade to our past and future ancestors. For their lifespan extends before you were born and will keep doing so after you leave this realm.

When you walk amongst oak trees, allow yourself to feel deeper into this stretch of time and the stationary, stable, powerful force the oak represents. If you find yourself in a burly oak grove, whisper to them this question, “What can I do for you?” The still, small voice will reign through the wind in the leaves to answer, “Just admire us.” You may respond, “That’s all?” and they will return with, “yep!”.

There’s no doubt, you, dear reader, already venerate their thrashed, husky trunks, their dense canopies, their gnarled roots, and you also watch the critters and birds of prey who rely on them in so many ways, grasping the breathtaking magnitude and extent of their care. Your love can always be deeper, wider, and expand beyond what is already the territory of your heart, the space in you dedicated to the genus Quercus. Take time to simply behold the oaks, they love nothing more than attention and admiration… give freely and give often. When your heart sends this energy to them, beneath their gnarled arms, I assure you they will find oblique but powerful ways to gift you revelation, insight, and consciousness.

These dear oaks penetrate our lives and influence far more than can be grasped. My mother suffered from a deep, unrelenting anxiety and depression. When I was in grade school, I’d come home to hear muffled tears from behind a closet while my father was still at work. Once, I tried to open the closet door - it clapped shut instantly.

She needed to be alone.

Later, sensing my confusion and hurt, she explained it was Agoraphobia. What a weird word to hear at 8 years old! I had to look it up in the dictionary because at that age I had no grasp on polysyllables or psychoanalytic terminology. I didn’t understand her suffering, I just knew it was an incredible force, her roots searched amidst drought for water.

Sometimes she was better and sometimes worse. When she was better, she could make it to the chiropractor, or to see other healers. Sometimes we could make it as far as the library, which I loved for the books and the oak trees outside the building.

I grew up in a town called Thousand Oaks, and though thousands are in the name, millions seems more apt, they are truly everywhere.

On one vividly sweltering summer afternoon, my brothers and I were loaded up into our rickety Volvo station wagon. We were headed to the Thousand Oaks Public Library (where we all HAD to be quiet) to return and check out books. I was elated, it was my favorite place on earth. The Garcia troop was hard to wrangle, four boys writhing and wriggling around screaming fart jokes and punching each other. Yet the library was one of the places there was freedom from that special chaos, as long as we were silent. My mother would often check out books on weaving or other crafts, while I was obsessed with books on tigers and condors as well as ample science fiction.

After I had returned my books, I quickly secured my next cache, for I was forever plotting my visits. I always timed it perfectly, so I could sneak out to the oak grove and spend some time near the creek in the arms of one very special heritage oak. Once, I overheard some adults call it the “mother tree”.

Oak trees at Thousand Oaks Library, Thousand Oaks, California

It was the largest living thing I had ever seen. She was resplendent, with a circumference of branches spanning perhaps sixty feet. Many of them dipped to kiss the ground or hover within inches, muscularly suspended then sweeping back up skyward. As such I could easily climb these branches, or dangle my skinny limbs off of them. Its trunk was as wide as a car and its crown was a prefect bell curve, its age perhaps 300.

I loved sitting in the numinous cathedral of wisdom, sheltered by shade and from the bruises of the human world. Sometimes when I could climb high enough, I would occasionally see other children meander through. Sometimes, they wouldn’t even know I was there. I began to think of this tree as a magical spell, an invisibility cloak I could merge with. I never minded those wayward, smelly, snot nosed brats wandering through, because if you found the right ditch in a branch, you could lay back, perfectly held, and stare up at the dappled sunlight through the densely green leaves. I kept an acorn in my pocket to throw, in case one of my brothers came by to call me to the car. I truly loved those moments and I never minded the wrath for having gone missing. After a while everyone knew where to find me when it was time to leave.

Oak’s sacredness spans from the way they are the great absorbers of nature. As a keystone tree, they harbor far more life than any other. If you plant two oak trees, it will offset the carbon footprint of a whole human life. They merge with the landscape almost totally, and as a result are truly the parents of the habitat. When you walk though fire torn areas, the oaks survive even when severely burnt and scarred. Their taproots are so deep, they need no watering through the war torn summer months of Southern California. In last summer’s Botanarchy Times I wrote about the ways they grow spiny limbs called “fire ladders” in order to merge with and survive the inevitable wildfires. And when lightning strikes they may split, but easily and deftly hold their life force. And from the point of being struck onwards, they hold the power of sky fire. The tannins within these beings are so hearty that if split down the trunk by lightning, they can protect their future life (and therefore all life dependent on them) from rot and death. If you’ve ever seen quarter sawn oak lumber, you will recognize immediately the wood’s structural and aesthetic integration of flame.

What I describe are merely some of its physical adaptive powers, but this also extends to the non-physical and psychic. Spend time with any oak and tell me I’m wrong.

Quartersawn Oak

But back to the particular library day I describe above. As I said, I had wandered out of the library’s sliding doors to drunkenly commune with these trees, only later to be met with shock upon meandering back to the sliding door entrance.

My mother had collapsed in the library, helpless and seemingly lifeless. Someone, perhaps one of my brothers, scolded me for my absence. By this time the staff had encircled her in deep concern, the adults muted words about calling ambulances and firemen. Her pallor was white and vulnerable. She had a severe panic attack while I had been gone. I was frightened beyond belief.

I thought perhaps I needed to get her to that dark, dank closet…

She thankfully recovered and got her troop home, exhausted…

It’s hard being the keystone of a family when you are in such deep suffering.

Some twenty years after this event she became a Jungian therapist. This journey allowed her to escape the grasp of depression, anxiety, and Agoraphobia. The lightning storm struck her, but she survived, only to grow new, healthy branches. She went on to continue to give back and help others, like the oaks taught her. It was an incredible recovery.

During these years our relationship was strained and we didn’t speak often, she went her way, I went mine. In these years she found new adventures… she once travelled to Morocco, and parasailed above the Mediterranean Ocean, an unthinkable possibility in her former life.

She and I reconciled, just before she succumbed to breast cancer in 2010. It was about the time I started my own journey out of depression and suicidality and into my own journey to become a therapist. I am so grateful that she was able to understand peace and emotional resolve before she passed.

Before the funeral I was going through pictures of her for a memorial slideshow. I came upon one I had never seen before. In the foreground was her, the venerable and wise therapist, the fire torn tree, donning a crimson shawl and holding a flower. In the background was the ever recognizable trunk and branches of a mighty oak - yes, that oak - the mother tree in front of the Thousand Oaks Public Library.

For almost all of us, encountering trees is a holy induction into the sacredness of life itself. Children are drawn to them, and show a preternatural dexterity on their loving arms, a somatic admission of our hominid past. I’ve never seen anyone anything less than mystically enraptured by them.

And most of us have at least one tree that greeted us as a baby, stands tall throughout our lifetime, and is there for us when we die… For my mother, myself and many after it will be the same perennial tree.

Gabriel Garcia is a therapist, writer and woodworker living in Los Angeles. (And less impressively, he is also my husband).

Botanarchy Coven

Ask The Botanarchist

Advice For Rewilding Your Healthcare

Reader queries into the mystic wilds of the body can be submitted to Time permits but one answer a month at this juncture.

Summer is the moment in the cosmic rotation where we are closest to the sun, the moon, and the stars. So close, that perhaps - PERHAPS - we can hear them whispering to us. The fire season is ruled by the heart, and the heart reaches apex aliveness during the summer. If we tune into what the tao is throwin’ down, the capacity to sense with our heart awakens, and we can directly experience the inherent pleasures that flow through nature.

When I think of summer healthcare, I think of following pleasure and desire as an act of rewilding. In celebrating nature as a kindred being, we wake up our latent wildness and learn to govern by the part of us that remains undomesticated, feral, in tune with our truest desires.

Somewhere in the Venn diagram connecting healthcare and pleasure in a swirl of concentric circles lies the Five Activities and Ten Pleasures, a series of ancient listicles culled from the annals of Chinese medicine that detail simple strategies for cultivating health, longevity, joy, and contentedness:

The Five Activities

Quiet sitting is first. Contemplating books is second. Viewing mountains and water, flowers and trees is third. Discussing things with a good friend is fourth. Teaching children and younger siblings is fifth.

The Ten Pleasures

Studying the meaning and principles in books; learning methods of calligraphy; calming the heart-mind with quiet sitting; idle talk with helpful friends; drinking a little until half intoxicated; watering flowers and planting bamboo; listening to the qín and enjoying cranes; burning incense and brewing tea; climbing the city walls to observe the mountains; telling parables and developing chess skills.

What I adore most about the Five Activities and Ten Pleasures is that they function like tiny magic spells we can practice each day, a humble addition to the flashier aspects of medicine like burning mugwort, brewing tinctures, and slinging needles. All they require is our participation in the majesty of the unfurling cosmos, and the willingness to witness, tend, contemplate, and moderate (still working on ‘drinking a little until half intoxicated’, but who isn’t.)

For the summer Ask A Botanarchist series, I thought it might be fun to ask my cabal of botanarchists, healers, witches, warlocks, and anarcha-taoists what their Ten Pleasures are. There’s so many bunk wizards out there hawking voguish ephemera under the guise of ‘wellness’, most of it flagrantly anti-pleasure. A lot of what passes for wellness these days is merely products and philosophies meant to increase our productivity in a capitalist labor market at the expense of our own qi. For shame! I would much rather know what has been keeping legit healers healthy, sane, inspired, and connected to the microcosm of their body and the macrocosm of the earth. Read on for hot takes from real life witches!

But first, a pleasure mixtape!

Adam Yasmin, Coach & Digital Habits Educator

Gentle mornings free from the tyranny of glowing rectangles; Parenting whilst dancing between all 5 love languages; The morning music of cultured butter and fierce ferments; Leaning on the infrastructure of breathing exercises; The alchemy of leaves and water; Post-meal walks around the lake visiting bounds of new goslings; The daily seduction by my cat; Seeing magic amid the mundane of working from home; Hot day beach adventures that remind me I’m an animal; The encore nightly solo performance by the mockingbird right outside our window until 1:00am.

Pamela Samuelson, Sex Educator & Somatic Healer at Embodywork

Reading aloud together, pausing to discuss meaning & connection; Tenderly hand-sewing tiny beads into mending = textile kintsugi; The redolence of fermenting elderflower filling the air as the champagne comes to life; Slow, eyes-closed dancing in the morning when the house is empty; The deliciousness of the blade through an envelope, releasing the letter from my love; Small strong arms around my neck and shrieks of unhinged joy as we dive beneath the surface; Exactly at midnight, every night: songbirds at the window; Our fingers interlaced as we fall asleep; Singing in tunnels; The always-surprise of tiny shoots coaxed from their seeds into the light.

Portia Wilson, AcuWitch at Deeper Genius Acupuncture + Healing Arts

Getting lost in sonic pleasures both new and old; Inhaling the fragrant aroma of night blooming jasmine on an evening walk; Filling my lungs to their greatest capacity before fully exhaling; Sitting quietly in front of a flame; Letting art speak to me; Listening to the wisdom of plants; Living out joy in all its forms and sizes; Observing LA skylines; Leaning into the magic of physical adornment; Laughing and smiling and repeating.

Juniper Garza, Beauty Alchemist & Holistic Esthetician

Luxuriating in long quiet mornings; Sipping tea in meditation from my favorite cup; Soaking in sunlight upon my completely naked form; Slipping into a perfectly hot bath with the contrasting endorphin rush of a cold rinse to follow; Enjoying a delicious meal prepared by a lover; Light silk garments worn on warm balmy days; Brisk walks beneath soft dappled canopy lighting  — “Komorebi”; Dancing myself into ecstatic bliss, like nobodies business; Being sweetly caressed by a perfect piece of classical music; Laying on the earth while exchanging telepathic love notes with existence.

Carolyn Barron, Poet Doc at Botanarchy Herbs + Acupuncture

Hunting mushrooms in a dank mineral fog with my lover and our wolves; Neighborhood walks for the sake of marveling at architecture and tawdry trees; Wooing my ancestors by speaking Old Norse; Observing hawks and courting owls; Gently scrubbing marks off floorboards; Allowing the invisible hand of wu wei to coax poetry from my pen; Writing love songs to the ancients whilst gently inebriated, gazing at Mount Lee; Doing yoga alone to Joy Division in smeared red lipstick; Watching the dogs sleep unabashed in the grass; Making myself an empty vessel for tao to fill.

Gabriel Garcia, LMFT at AnarchaTaoist Therapy

I study and cultivate tree seedlings, (Costal oak and Sequoia); Daydreaming is one of the most important times of the day, and I am learning to take mid day sleep. Tapping into subtle energies confers a deeper sense of reality; I try to find at least one most utterly quiet moment, and I nourish life by cleaning and sweeping up; I blast my brain with cleansing music, as I try to delight in menial tasks; When the day is done, I relish the musings of my love, and I always go to the astral plane before I drift to sleep.

Emma Destrube, Acupuncturist & Somatic Movement Therapist

Humming into one’s body in a steaming hot, candlelit bath at dawn; Observing the movement of tree limbs in the wind; Scream-singing in the car on the I-10; After first waking, lingering in bed listening to bird song whilst embracing one’s love; Turning stones in one’s hands on a blustery ocean shore; Collaboratively preparing a meal in good company; Pressing one’s face into the soft fur of an animal; Laughing uproariously, outdoors; Stretching one’s tendons under a subtle influence of a medicinal plant; Gazing upon one’s friends’ illuminated faces across a bonfire; Allowing a blanket of calm to roll off the ocean on onto one's resting body.

Dr Patti Kim, Naturopath + Classical Chinese Medicine Practitioner

Listening to the soft snore of my dog; The deep intimacy of uncontrollable laughter with a friend; Going to the movies alone in the middle of the day; Laying in bed doing a castor oil pack watching Netflix, free of any guilt; Taking myself out on a solo date for a fancy meal; An honest and restorative conversation with a friend that truly makes me feel seen; Sharing a knowing smile with a stranger; Wandering through the aisles of an art supply store; Sitting in a cute coffee shop writing in my journal and reading a book; The release and freedom of floating in water, whether in my Lilliputian tub or my local float tank or a Palm Springs pool;

And lastly, Botanarchy is thrice blessed to have been given a shui spell, The Ten Pleasures of Cleaning*:

Meghan Wallace James, Interdisciplinary Healing Artist + Space, Style, Sex Consultant at her developemental agency Front Room Gallery

  • Smoothing the spasm in my mind’s eye, is mustering the energy to get to the other side of a creative hiccup, is doing what I know I need to do, is…
  • An inaugural mixtape blast courtesy of @buttrtunes, my Gen Z resident DJ, dropping our interpretation of the Zeitgeist's algorithm driven micro-trends ∴ a beat is set to move to.
  • Tidying in a circuitous fashion patterned after the adage that one thing always leads to another–and games are fun when you know you’re playing.
  • Opening the doors and windows and smudging a something to exchange the ready to go with begin agains.
  • Taming the wild beasts called Kitchen and Bathroom before coasting on/through home.
  • Three beds present an opportunistic triad of taking my time; laundered layers of symbolism secured with the hospital corners drilled into my being by a nurse for a mother.
  • Washing windows for seeing clearly and mopping smell good shiny floors for grounded next steps.
  • Nurturing up the many house plants – thank you keen barometers of household health – and refreshing the ever diversifying aquatic microcosm with our microcosm.
  • A cold glass of wine in the shower, feeling feelings as the serpentine finish line is crossed.
  • My lover plating takeout and deciding whether to salt soak before or after clean sheet romping to the symphony of lightbulbs turning ON.

*that minxy muse of clarity has been courted!

I am the wilderness before the dawn - Tao Te Ching.
I am the wilderness before the dawn - Tao Te Ching.
I am the wilderness before the dawn - Tao Te Ching.
I am the wilderness before the dawn - Tao Te Ching.
I am the wilderness before the dawn - Tao Te Ching.
I am the wilderness before the dawn - Tao Te Ching.