Week two of Rosemary Gladstar’s apprentice program began around an inspirational opening circle, with everyone sharing stories of what they had been up to over the past year. Some people had exciting tales of products being picked up by retailers, others abandoned corporate jobs in favor of working for local nurseries and herb farms, and one classmate recently had a baby (which she even brought with her for the week!). Others had gone through serious illnesses with loved ones, and some, like me, had less dramatic tales to tell. Regardless of how our year had been, exciting changes or tragic losses, it was great to be together again; it felt as if no time had passed at all. Since I decided to fly to Vermont this year I didn’t have room to pack a tent and so I took up my usual residence in the yurt, which I was delighted to share with a wonderful woman and kindred spirit from New Zealand. After our circle, we ended the evening with a plant review slideshow and then Rosemary sent us off to bed, wishing us “golden dreams” as she told us they say in Italy.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived at Sage Mountain, herbal retreat and home of famous herbalist Rosemary Gladstar. I had traveled eight hours by myself from southern Pennsylvania to the mountains of Northern Vermont, following an inner voice that simply said I needed to go. Before I left, my husband asked me if I knew how to set up our tent as I was to camp out all week at Sage Mountain. I looked at him as if he’d lost his mind and told him of course I knew how to set up the tent, slightly offended.
The Moment I decided to become an herbalist….. The very moment….? All my life I’ve had a deep love and fascination with plants. I started ‘studying’ them when I was in the 7-8th grade and did my school projects both on Native edible and medicinal uses of plants of Sonoma County. These plants have always been special friends of mine my whole life, no matter how far I’ve traveled or lived. As I mentioned, I grew up on a small dairy farm in Sonoma County, surrounded by the lush greenery of the meadows and hills of this special plant paradise. And my grandmother, my mother’s mother, Mary Egitkhanoff, lived near us as we were growing up. She knew her plants! She use to tell us that it was her belief in God and her knowledge of the plants that saved her life. And she meant it literally. She and my grandfather both were survivors of the Armenian genocide. She felt it was her ‘religious duty’ to teach us about God ~ and plants. And what she taught, at least about the plants, stuck with me all my life!