There is a place, tucked away in the hills of the Northern California town of Laytonville, called Black Oak Ranch. With its hidden-from-the-world feel, the trees from which its name comes, and its legacy as Wavy Gravy's base for the Hog Farm gatherings, Earthdance festivals and of course Camp Winnarainbow, a kids circus camp that takes place there, it is already a pretty magical place.
But add to that that it's the home the Northern California Women's Herbal Symposium, and you've got something special beyond words. And I got to go there with one of my best girlfriends, for three whole days of herbal learning, gazing at the stars, camping by the river with gorgeous, crazy, awesome hippie women. What a trip!
That I haven't managed to post about it for a year, is just outrageous, but in a way the timing s perfect, because, by the time you read this, that's where I'll be! So while I traipse around in California's golden sunlight, please enjoy this vicarious journey with me.
Ever since we heard about "witch camp" from Amber and Sasha, I've just known I had to go sooner or later and it was exactly as amazing as I had dreamt and much much more.
The camp itself has everything: herbal first aid, body work, tipi circle, bookstore amazing kitchens where our three vegan meals a day were cooked and even showers for glamping purposes.
For a weekend the ranch is its own self-contained world, a little utopia of female energy where women prance around in all states of undress and colorful dress and connect with each other without the artificial barriers that our ordinary lives sometimes put up between us.
For the experience, Amber had armed us with two pieces of information and I don't even remember what the first one was, but I the second was go to all and any of Stargazer Li's classes.
That first night we rushed to her Star Gazing class and were transported to a place of myth and physics and celestial bodies and...cinnamon rolls. It was possibly the best introduction one could have into the night skies. We loved it so much we went the following night as well and the since there was no stargazing the night after that, the two of us just ambled out to the parking lot and tried to find those constellations she had taught us. The name of the post derives itself from two such stars. It was laying in that grass, looking at the heavens that we knew that we'd arrived in the right place; the center of the Universe.
We took essence-making from her as well, herbal first aid from this lovely, eight months-pregnant lady and started off the whole experience with a walking plant tour of the land.
Every class we took was just as awesome and informative as the next and there were plenty we missed that I would have loved to take.
We even branched out and took a drum circle class, which was definitely fun and out-hippieing the hippie in me.
There's classes and activities for kids as well, child care and a safe environment which is awesome for mamas who want to integrate this kind of experience for their little ones into their own learning.
Not to mention the adorable kid's talent show.
There's a seed swapping library.
And a "insta garden" which gets sold of at the end of the session.
Though you pay for the whole shebang, the food the, classes and the camping, you're also expected to work a few hours to give back to the community and we ended up volunteering at the kitchen and making great friends, singing the night away and enjoying delicious vegan muffins into the night. In fact we had so much fun we actually worked longer than we were supposed just to prolong the moment.
We woke to the sound of wild turkeys, went to yoga in a tent in at the crack of dawn, roamed, met lovely womyn and, of course, took countless pictures.
There were folks staying in awesome hippie wagons. The one above turned out to belong to Trinity Cross, a lovely maker lady who's dresses we bought at the market.
We donned our best frocks and got compliments for it.
We got hippie-dippied out.
We drank amazing herbal brews from dusk 'till dawn, when we had some Starf***s instant coffee, because there wasn't anything else available.
There's a handmade market on one of the days and we swooned over the array of goodies available. Masai beads, arrow pints, felted things, symposium tees, pottery and potions and lotions, oh my! This year I'm gonna try my hand at selling my jewelry. It's always nice for me when I see that no one else is doing quite what I'm doing and that maybe there's a little niche my jewellery can fill.
I took so many pics of folks' tattoos. I love women with tattoos, especially plant ones.
We found goodies for ourselves, but most importantly, Missa found some for Clover. You know like "Mom, what did you bring me from the Northern California Women's Herbal Symposium?", "Oh just a crown and a unicorn, my dear."
The biggest hit at the market had to be Field Day dresses though
Made from old sheets and other recycled materials in Oakland, these babies are worth keeping your eye out for at gatherings and in the Bay Area.
Though we tried on a few, the contenders wre easily found, admired and purchased.
We took our new dresses down to the river.
There's so much lovely little life to marvel at there. Not to mention that beyond big bugs and wild turkeys, I found out about tics and poison ivy. Like not in the terrible way of experiencing them, just in the way of being terrified of them.
Some of us got dolled up like faery princesses for the Coming Of Age ceremony.
Which was fun, beautiful and so different from those we do out here. Seeing the snaking human tunnel of hundreds of women through which the girls walked with their brightest smiles and twinkliest eyes, made my heart flutter and my eyes mist up. Some day it might be nice to be a mama to a little girl coming of age. Who knows...
My favorite class was the final one we took on monday morning. I wasn't necessarily expecting much, but Missa was keen on it and turned out it was totally amazing, in spite the fact that almost none of the information applies up in Washington.
The Wild Foods Intensive, taught us not only of wild gathering in California, but the folks who did it before us, with Tamara Wilder passing on information that for centuries held and nourished literally tens of millions of Californians.
If you've never been exposed to information about pre-columbian farming (it's not called that because it doesn't fill our definition of it, but it's farming, wild farming) go and find out about it. This land fed so many people in this amazing permaculture fashion. I'm reading 1491 right now and it'll actually blow one's mind wide open.
Passing on thousands of year of the wisdom of women, carefully preserved and reconstructed, that's what this gathering is all about.
I can't wait to get back into its embrace. And give this girl the biggest bear-hug I can master.
Peace, Love and Vegan Muffins!