I realised I wanted to start interviewing people over a year ago. At first I thought 'I'll start a podcast!' and then realized I didn't have enough bandwidth to commit to it fully. But the idea of interviews stuck in my head. There are people out there who are doing amazing things: healing, creating, living amazing lives that are their own; following their curiosity and their passion no matter where it leads them. They follow something intangible inside themselves, and it shows in their work and how they interact with the world. These interviews don't contain 'productivity tips', nor do they serve as a road map for how to get 'there' (where is 'there' anyway?). Instead, I wanted to talk about something inspiring-- show that there are people out there who listen to themselves, follow their hearts, and more importantly, follow the magic :). Here's the first: Sophia Rose, a herbalist who I've met at various herb conferences over the years, and who, through her work, is connecting people to a deeper part of themselves, and living a life that is unapologetically her own.
Some people and their work are indefinable, and yet people often want a label anyway. What do you call yourself, professionally?
I call myself a folk herbalist — clinically trained and magically minded. I also call myself a writer. This month I am launching a really special new project which will allow me to deepen my work in both worlds. The project is called Garden Party , and you are cordially invited …
Do you feel pressure to be more productive, get more done, keep up with the ‘rat race’? If so, do you think this is a positive thing or something standing between you and the world?
Absolutely. But I do my best to quiet the voices, both inner and outer, that are constantly urging me forward. I also conscioulsy reject any model of success that necessitates competition instead of cooperation. I am constantly looking for ways that I can do less. I wrote about this recently, here and here. I definitely recommend these words for anyone who feels as though they are forever falling behind, and simply can’t keep up with the pace of this world.
In our culture, we are so goal oriented, that more often than not, we forget to actually experience our lives, forsaking pleasure for productivity. But, I promise you this — there is nowhere to go, nothing to do, no one to be. At the same time, I notice myself constantly striving. And when I do, I try my best to be compassionate and have a sense of humor about how seriously I tend to take things.
Side Note // Prickly Pear has been a super helpful ally for me in the process of unpacking my culturally inherited beliefs about the endless need to do more, be more, have more, etc.
One of the recurring themes in my life is the idea of having a home, and yet the wanderlust and love of travel. For myself, I think starting to move around at such a young age permanently wrecked any idea of having ‘deep lasting roots’ in my life, but then at the same time, I yearn for that deep roots— a place of my own; but at the same time as I also need to get up and go, often. From what I know of you, you have a similar pattern— the desire to be rooted and the need to roam. Do you reconcile these two parts of yourself at all? If so, how? If not, how do you cope with that non-reconciliation?
I’ve learned through the last ten years of near-constant movement and travel, that there is very little in the outer world that is solid, unchanging, or steadfast. In reality, we are constantly flowing in and out of home, whether to go to the grocery store or travel to a foreign country. Home is a construct. I have a house in Austin right now. All my things are there, and I have passionately devoted myself to the garden I’ve created, but it won’t be my home forever and I cannot predict the exact moment when this will shift. Nothing belongs to us and we can’t take any of it with us when we go. Best to get real comfortable where we are, as well as comfortable in the knowing that it will all inevitably change, in ways both large and small.
What about your life is not as magical as it looks on the internet; what about your life is even more magical than it looks on the internet?
I prefer things which are unpretentious, sincere, and even a little bit messy over those which are meticulously curated. Because true magic can be found in even the most mundane of moments. As someone who does share their life and work through the Internet, I spend a lot of time thinking critically about the preciousness of consumer culture and the commodification of magic. I believe that we can be honest about our lives and experiences both online and off, while appreciating both the more obvious beauty as well as the less glamorous aspects of a life well lived. For example, every night I take time to put my house to bed for the night — making sure that each thing is in its place and as it should be. I turn off the fans, close the blinds, lock the doors, clear the countertops, wash the dishes, adjust the thermostat, and so on. In the morning, I delight in waking the house back up again and doing it all in the reverse. I don’t post pictures of these moments, but they are beautiful to me, all the same. Being in living relationship with even the most simple tasks of daily living can elevate them to acts of beauty and devotion.
I have a life motto of sorts: an unequivocal commitment to follow, what I call ‘the magic’. I know that when I am tapped into that part of myself and the world, then I am in the right place, on the right track. To me, personally, it’s a feeling in my chest and the way the world around me looks, but even more simple than that, I simply feel good and happy when I’m there. So I stick with it, follow it at all costs, even if it means doing something utterly crazy. I think other people have other words for it, or other ways of looking at it, but would I be totally off-track in suggesting that you have a similar thing? If you do, what do you call it? Do you have a different description for it? When did you find it? Do you have a couple of examples of times when you’ve stayed committed to it even when it was utterly mad?
I do. And I flow in and out of connection with it in my life. Which I think is natural, and healthy, and a constantly evolving process. I look forward to being older and knowing myself well enough to trust my intuition unerringly. Because I always know, but I don’t always listen. For me, this “magic” is awakened and amplified by time spent alone in Nature. Most of my life probably appears totally nonsensical to anyone coming from a linear, western cosmology. I chose the college I attended (briefly) because it smelled right. I drove five thousand miles across the country with basically no plan last year. I’m here in Portland, in some ways against my better judgement, because I just know there is medicine for me here — to give and to receive. It’s a process of working with fear, and showing up, again and again — in spite of that fear.
What pulls you away from yourself?
Emails and text messages. People pleasing. The poison of comparison. Self doubt. Rushing.
What gets you back to yourself?
Time alone in Nature. Cooking myself nourishing food and eating it slowly. Baths, always baths. Staying up late writing and creating. Working with leather and clay to bring my visions into form. Vigorous exercise. Swimming in wild waters, both icy and warm. Sex.
Is there a book or two (or three) that has influenced you to the point of changing your life?
When I was a kid and I first read Alicia Bay Laurel’s iconic book, Living On The Earth, my mind was blown and I knew a more beautiful world was possible. Alicia is now a friend of mine, which is truly amazing, and a testament to the strange and magical gifts that life often offers us.
All of Stephen Harrod Buhner’s work has also been profoundly influential in my life and work.
And I recently finished reading Sex at Dawn, which I highly recommend.
What life advice do you have for people out there who want magic in their own lives?
Spend as much time alone in Nature as possible. Spend time with people who delight you and who bring you into the world in ways that are foreign and novel. Make time to wander. And know that you might have to dissolve a bit first to make space for the magic that is trying to find you. The world is not quite so solid as you might have thought. Be curious about what can shift within you, and the world beyond your own body, heart, and mind will begin to reflect this inner refinement. Because the magic is there, you only need eyes to see it, and heart to sense it. A lot of this, for me at least, is about pace, and existing in a state of parasympathetic relaxation — which is easier said than done. When my life begins to move too quickly, the magic vanishes. Slowing down to the pace of the body and breath are often all that is needed to bring the world alive again. Find ways to feel safe in the world and in your body. Plant medicines help us with us, obviously, and one of my perennial favorites for reconnecting with this inner space of safety is the Rose Petal Elixir.
Pick 4 people you want on your team in the zombie apocalypse. Why them?
Everyone I’ve listed below understands the cyclical nature of time, the necessity of death upon which all life rests, so I guess the folks I would choose to navigate this situation with, would bring more grace than hard survival skills — but often grace, communication, and patience are the most important survival strategies available to us.
- My friend Vanessa. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing these days — she makes it better. Vanessa embodies grace and dark beauty — a deep trust in the cycles of life and death that we are all constantly experiencing. Whenever I put on an event or travel to teach, I’m always delighted for her to come along. Her presence alone brings such richness to whatever space she is in. She is truly a muse of the highest order.
- Olivia Pepper. Olivia is a bonafide mystic and scholar. She views all life through the wide angle lens of myth, which I suspect would be an extremely useful perspective and skill set during the end times.
- Michael Reed, my teacher and friend who lives in New Mexico.
- My girlfriend, Leslie. She is so personable and charming that she could befriend any zombies with ease. She has an incredible ability to see the goodness in literally everyone - an ability which extends, I imagine, even to zombies.