This blog is my gift to my self.
Some of you may already know me; for those of you who do not, or who are feeling surprised by the contents of this blog, let me offer a bit of an explanation…
My name is Carolyn Herbst Lewis. I am a professional historian who teaches and writes about the histories of medicine, gender, and sexuality in the United States. I love my job as a history professor, and I am very proud of the scholarship I have created. But I’m also at that mid-career (mid-life?) point where some of us start looking for something new to spice things up a bit. I suppose in another context, I’d be getting a motorcycle or dating someone half my age. It just so happens that for me, turning 40 brought with it a diagnosis of arthritis and fibromyalgia. Learning to manage chronic pain became really, really important. So, when a friend suggested I take a break from preparing my tenure dossier by signing up for an introduction to herbalism course at a nearby botanical garden, I agreed. Even if I didn’t learn anything that was likely to help with the pain, at least it would be interesting. And, as someone who likes to connect with Earth energy, I thought this would be the perfect way to celebrate the upcoming Summer Solstice. I had no idea that this class would be a turning point in my life. Then again, who ever sees the plot change coming?
Long story short, the practice of Euro-American herbalism resonated deeply with me, not just as a self-proclaimed wackadoodle,* but as a historian, too. I recognized that I already taught much of the philosophy behind herbalism in my history of American medicine course. And like the fifteen-or-so other students in that first herbalism class I attended, for much of the past, women have been the primary practitioners and knowledge-holders of herbal medicine. It was as if various threads of my life finally were weaving together.
Learning herbalism became a passion. Suddenly, I had mountains of books to read about botany and foraging and healing. I found myself taking walks in my community, looking for plants to practice identification. Soon I was planning an herb garden. Then, much to my surprise, there came opportunities to bring what I was learning about herbalism into my own teaching. I began to imagine how I might create space to write about these connections and experiences. Most importantly, I wanted to create space that was for me, without the expectations of academic prose or apparatus, without the doldrums inherent to the peer-review process. I simply wanted to learn, and to think, and to write, and to share. That is when Wildcrafting History was born.
I hope you enjoy following my adventures. Please remember that this is in no way a medical advice blog. I am not that kind of doctor. Any symptoms you are experiencing should be discussed with a qualified healthcare practitioner.
All photos are my own unless otherwise noted. If you want to use one of them, please give me appropriate credit.
* My apologies to anyone who is offended by this term. I suppose I should investigate its origins. In the meantime, please know that it is a term I use with affection to describe myself and others who are willing to throw caution to the wind and embrace their instincts and intuition, especially in the face of the otherwise inexplicable.