Killaloe Herbal Project
Killaloe Herbal Project

Killaloe Herbal Project

|By Steven Martyn|dianatam

A couple years ago a friend, Diana Macauley and myself both had a strong impulse to bring the healing power of herbs to the people of our community. We had many grand ideas, some which may still come to pass, like an apothecary, a clinic, gardens and a school of herbal medicine. While all excellent ideas,  I think we both felt a little weighed down by the organizational and physical demands of creating these dreams. Unsure how to move forward Diana spearheaded a community gathering of like-minded souls… to see what might come of our dreams. Though this meeting might not seem heroic or like a big deal it represents a very important turning point in the unfolding of this story. While Diana and I had gestated this dream for many months or even years, this point when it was birthed into the realm of the community was when the dream really took on a life of its own. I think many of us have dreams but then at the intersection where our dreams meet reality we are discouraged by the infrastructural demands and the daunting task of reaching our set goals. When we approach this wall of reality on our own a feeling of impotency or fear of failure can set in and push us to drop the whole thing. But as a group we can inspire each other and can begin to scale the wall. Through three graces Diana’s dream lives and is being achieved. These three are, determination, letting go of specific form and reaching out to others in our community.

Determination: to just keep moving forward and not let inertia set in.
Letting go of specific form: this is important because so many of us are perfectionists and are locked into a specific goal and are unable to move forward once we lose sight or are blocked from that goal. But life is a co-creative force; She must have Her say too. Its good to keep in mind nothing in reality ever happens in strict accordance to our plans. Like holding a fledgling bird we must support and feed our dreams so they can take flight, if we hold onto things too tightly we kill them.
The last grace, virtue or skill is to be able to reach outside our self to our community. So often in this “age of the individual” we forget to ask for help. There are very few, if any, people who achieve great things by themselves in isolation. Even if you think you achieved something on your own, that’s just your ego talking, look again and you’ll see family, friends, ancestors and Nature Herself have had a hand in your achievements.

Now, lets get back to our little story. What came of the meeting was to start a herbal group which would gather every week to share herbal stories and teachings as well as creating larger community events out on the land to learn about and harvest herbs for the community. So, without any physical infrastructure, with only our bodies and our consciousness and our group will we have started to achieve Diana’s goals of a school an apothecary and a clinic. We divide the harvest up and pass it on with teachings to others in our community who are in need.

My motivation for sharing this story of community flowering is not just for its inspirational beauty but also to spread the actual seed of this dream. Imagine every community, in hamlets, towns and cities had such a local herbal group. Just like the local horticultural societies that are everywhere. Imagine what would happen to the costs of OHIP and health care, to the power of the pharmaceutical corporations, to the ecological costs of shipping 120 million dollars in herbs from all over the world to Ontario annually, to the local economy. Image, not being held hostage by the medical industry at the points when we are most vulnerable, during birth, death and illness. There is so much beauty and potential in such a small actions. By joining our will and honoring our teachers, the holders of this traditional herbal wisdom that we have nearly lost, we could easily take back our right to heal our community and ourselves.

While we’re holding this lovely vision and shifting reality let me plant another seed born of a local flowering. We have in the Ottawa Valley, and now delivering into Ottawa,  has what is called The Ottawa Valley Food Co-op. The model was based on the Oklahoma Food Co-op that has ten thousand members. The co-op is not open to the public, which means for the most part it can skirt the regulator boards and corporate restrictions. It has a low one-time membership fee as well as a producer fee for producers. The Sacred Gardener Farm and The Algonquin Tea Company were both founding members and producers. Much like the Killaloe Herbal group the co-op has no central location or essential infrastructure. This of course massively reduces costs. Members and producers buy and sell on-line and have a monthly meeting to distribute all the locally produced food. Every type of local food, like grains, fruit and vegetables, meat and all manner of pre-made healthy foods are for sale through the co-op. It is possible to live just on what is purchased through the co-op. An effortless on-line one hundred mile diet!

Imagine we all lived this way. Imagine what would happen to the multinational food corporations, to the millions of dollars and ecological damage lost in shipping food around the world, to the chemical companies that supply fertilizers and poisons for growing highbred seed, to the diverse ecologies that have been lost to mega farms and monoculture. Imagine how quickly the world could change. Be part of the change.