Lindsey is a tea specialist, an herbalist, a studied artist, travelled the world full-time for several years while working as a journalist and freelancer for tea. She is married with Merlin, who grew up at the organic farm where I used to spent my riding holidays, and where a group of befriended families meets to camp together inspired by the traditions of the Lakota Indians. The interview was the second time we met, after their wedding one year ago. We laughed a lot during the interview. And I still feel really gifted and inspired by her clear calmness, the wisdom and the feminine integrity that surrounds her like an aura.
What makes me happy... I think that a feeling of connectedness is probably the thing that makes me the happiest. Sometimes, that means feeling connected with another person or a group of people. Sometimes it means feeling connected to a purpose, an intention. Often it means feeling connected to nature. In the past for me it has also often involved connections with ideas, but I find myself shifting away from that over the years, more into a sense of connectedness with the present moment and with the incredible energy that is all around us all the time – This sense of oneness that connects all and is itself emptiness and yet not emptiness at the same time... I think, recognizing that I am part of that, whatever it is or isn't. I hope that doesn't sound to pretentious! That's what makes me happy.
To be a bit more specific, I love working with plants. I do a lot of work with plants as nourishment and as medicine. When most people walk outside, they see plants as a sort of green blob – but the more I've learned about plants and how we humans can work with plants, the more I feel this incredible sense of connection every time I step outside. Just looking around right outside of my door, I see dandelions and I know that I can cook the flowers into this amazing fritters or I can make mead or wine from them, the leaves I can use for salad in the spring and in the autumn, and during the summer I can cook them up with other kinds of greens, and the roots make amazing medicine as a tincture, too… There are so many of them, right there. I see stinging nettle all over the place, too, and it is such an incredible, nourishing plant as food and as medicine, both. And we think a lot of these plants are weeds, right? But actually, these plants are there because we humans are there. There are even weed seeds in Antarctica now, because people carry them in the soles of their shoes and in the fibers of their clothing, they bring them by accident or on purpose wherever the go. All over the world, there are these great plants for nourishment. And of course they vary on where you are, but they don't have to be so wildly and exotic or from one specific place – a lot of them are incredibly common.
I think that “weeds” are offering themselves to us – and interacting with us – in ways that we don't always recognize. So just becoming aware of what some of these plants are and then being open to connecting with them can be such a joy. Such a delight. And that brings me a lot of happiness. Whether it is making wild salads – which is so fun, changes all year – or if it's making some nice nettle soup, especially this time of the year, making tinctures... And through that, I find that I can connect with a lot of other people as a teacher, as a student, as a nourisher – for me, that connects into my own spiritual practice of giving and of embodying goddess. So… yup! This is what makes me happy.
That's an interesting question and that's the thing that people asked me a lot when I was traveling full time. In 2011, I gave away or sold almost all of my possessions. I had a small storage unit left in Portland, Oregon and aside from that I had my suitcase and a backpack and that was it. When I started my journey, people would always ask my where my home is and I would joke, that it was in my suitcase. Over the time, I started to change my response as I was asked again and again and I would say “it's here” [Lindsey points to her head], right in my head. Then, I started to meditate on a regular basis and I started saying something that maybe sounds a little bit cheesy, but I found it to be true and it is: It's in my heart. There is this expression of “home is where your heart is”, and it is considered to be a bit cheesy, something that most people see embroidered, this kind of nostalgic thing, but I think it is usually thought of as home, being where you are with people that you care about. But the way that I meant it was more like: Home is being comfortable in your own skin. And taking that sense of comfort wherever you are. I don't mean comfort like lazing around on a couch, I mean comfort like a kind of gentle confidence in not just yourself, but in what is going on. A sort of assurance that everything is gonna be okay. And a sense of being empowered to act when necessary and to be still when action is not necessary. More recently, I moved to Germany. I lived here for nearly a year and home is taking a sort of added layer for me, because I live on an organic farm that has belonged to my husband's family for a long, long time. And he has very deep roots here. So for him, this place is a lot of his sense of home. And I find that I am beginning to share in some of that and I really love this land on this place and I am happy to be a part of it and to have this sense of connection here, while still maintaining my own sense of home within myself.
What shaped my life. I'll start with one thing from about five years ago, relatively recent, but it has had a really profound effect on how I live my life, which is starting a meditation practice. Before I started the mediation practice, I think that I had a lot of inner conflicts between who I was and who I felt I was expected to be. I think, I was putting a lot of external ideals on myself, expecting things of myself that I really don't have to. I feel so much more free of that, so much more clear about who I am am (and who I am not). I find that I don't have such rigid walls around myself. I am much more able to connect with other people in a deeper way than I was before. And as an ongoing part of that practice, more recently I am also learning when it is appropriate to have walls – in a healthy and compassionate way. And how to do that well. Which doesn't mean shutting someone out completely or shutting down emotionally, but rather resting in compassion and setting boundaries that are clear. So that is part of an ongoing process I think I'll be engaged in for the rest of my life and it's been an enormous shift on how I see the world and how I operate within it. And I am very grateful for that change in my life.
Something else from right around that time – Six months or so after the day I started meditating, I met Merlin, who is now my husband. I had dated quite a few people before and some of them I had cared about quite a bit, but I think I wasn't clear on who I was, what I needed, what I wanted. And I wasn't looking to date anyone, I was intentionally not dating anyone for a year or so before I met Merlin. And I think eliminating even the possibility of dating anyone for that time, I helped me to not waste any emotional energy on people who I wasn't going to be in a deeply caring relationship with. I wasn't just going out for dinner with someone for entertainment or as a way to pass the time, but I was very actively working on myself. During that time I was traveling quite a bit, so I was opening myself up to a lot of new experiences and situations, cultural understandings and this kind of thing that really helped to foster emotional work on myself.
For a long time, I had been very against been having children. I believed that it wasn't sustainable, they are like tiny little ego accessories, all the usual arguments on not having children. But through the meditation practice I found myself becoming a gentler person, becoming kinder to myself, becoming more compassionate. And I realized that actually, I do want to have children and that’s okay. I didn't feel that I need to have children, I felt open to the possibility of it. I remember on my first date with Merlin, he told me: Just so you know, I wanna have like six kids. In the years before that, if someone had said that to me on a first date I would have looked at him like “Yeah, goodbye, thank you...” But I immediately joked back to him “Well, maybe you can count on me for like one of them.” And that sense of playfulness and openness has guided our relationship since that very first date next to a certain sense of joy and magic. I don't mean it to sound like if we had some kind of fairytale, perfect relationship in every way, but I think that keeping that sense of joy and magic has really helped us to work through some incredibly difficult things, including the very sudden death of our first child. I think, it helped us to stay positive and connected, even in the most difficult and dark of times. And it really started with that very first date, actually even before that, it started with the very first time we met. There is kind of always been this very deep sense of connection and acceptance and of caring very deeply for each other without clinging to that. For the first two years of our relationship we lived half way across the world from each other. We talked on Skype maybe once a week, and our conversations were very meaningful. We felt very close to each other, but we weren't dependent on having that. We were very free and open on how it would progress – or not. And I think, for both of us, just knowing that the other person was happy was very central to what we wanted out of things. So I think, since we first met, that has been something that shaped a lot of my life in these last five years.
The third thing... it might sound small, but I think it happened during a very formative time. It is that I went to a very progressive pre-school, and I had these really cool teachers. One of them had hair all the way down to her hips and one of them would never watch the news, because she said that watching the news doesn't help you to affect change – and she would rather work on a local level and expand her energy in that way than watching news about things she can't do anything about. I think, just having these strong wise women around me at a very young age was incredibly powerful for me. It was echoed later in my life, with the teacher who is the most important to me in my life, a woman named Susun Weed, who is an herbalist and a “green witch”, I am also a green witch. I did a 13-week, full-time apprenticeship with her in Woodstock, New York, where she has a beautiful piece of land where apprentices learn all about herbs in many different aspects of understanding. We herd goats, we learn how to nourish through cooking, we make herbal medicines, we have talking stick circles every day, a moon lodge once a month... it was a very intense and difficult experience. As a teacher, Susun is incredibly demanding, she pushes her apprentices really hard. She and her partner say, 'If our apprentices aren't crying, we're not doing our job.’ So, one of the most challenging things I've ever done and yet it created such growth in me and prepared me for so much. It shifted how I see health, healing, the interconnectedness of all living things, the spiral dance of life and death and rebirth. I think without that, I really wouldn’t have known how to survive the death of my son.
I feel so blessed to have studied with her. Because through that education and through that sharing of wisdom, I was able to experientially understand that this is the great spiral of 'eating and being eaten', that death becomes life over and over and over. And death is not a disease, not something to be feared, it is a natural part of a healthy life. And it is something all of us will do one day. Die. With the experience of being an apprentice, having that wisdom be passed on through her as a teacher and through the teachings she provides, I felt so much more equipped to heal myself, help others heal, and to accept the death of my son. The death of a child is something most parents find to be unacceptable. They literally do not accept it. Most married couples who lose a child divorced within a year, according to the last study I know of about it from 1977. Maybe today this is different. But I think being able to personally survive and to be on the road to thriving again, to be able to maintain and build upon a healthy relationship with my husband after the loss of a child is an amazing gift. And I feel very blessed to have received the tools to be able to do this things.
Lily's question: What do you do to celebrate the gift of life?
Oh, wow! That's a great question! When you ask children what makes them happy or what they do to celebrate, it's usually something really easy that they can do right then. So it's often something small, like they might say: Hearing the birds sing right now makes me happy. And to celebrate, I sing, I jump up and down, I hug my friend... it's all these very immediate, actionable things. Usually, if you ask an adult the same kind of questions, they'll say things like: 'Go on a vacation'. It becomes these 'maybe someday' kind of things. And for me to celebrate the gift of life, I love to return to that child-like state, which is actually a very amazing form of wisdom that they carry, and to just appreciate the life that is all around me. And to recognize that it is all changing, all the time, and being part of that change. To participate in that. That's how I celebrate.
Lindsey's question: How would you describe the difference between wisdom and knowledge?
Lindsey's Nettle soup recipe
Inspired by my Krauterhexe teacher, Susun Weed
This recipe may seem like it takes ages to make, but almost all the cooking goes on in the background. While your soup is simmering, you can harvest a wild salad and make some herbal medicines or just go about your day as usual. I love to eat nettle soup with a slice of whole grain bread smeared with organic butter or topped with goat cheese. It's a deeply nourishing, inexpensive meal that connects one to the Earth and the seasons.
To make homemade nettle soup, you'll need:
- a large pot, halfway filled with water
- a big basket full of nettle tops (the young, tender leaves and stalks), harvested BEFORE the plant begins to flower
- assorted root vegetables (especially carrots, potatoes, parsnips)
- (optional) if you want fancy nettle soup for a special occasion, add homemade Knöpfle or other Kloß with chopped Schnittlauch mixed into the dough
- (optional) onions, leeks and / or garlic
- (optional) heavy cream
- (optional) olive oil, miso paste, shoyu soy sauce, gomasio (recipe follows)
- salt, to taste
And here's how you make these things into delicious, nutritious nettle soup:
1. Put the water on low heat, grab your basket and go outside to the nearest nettle patch.
2. Quickly and carefully harvest a big basket full of nettle tops, using a glove for one hand if you need it.
* Pack them down into the basket as you go. You want an abundance of them!
* If you get a bad sting, spit some chewed-up Spitzwegerich or Breitwegerich onto the wound. It'll feel better in no time!
3. When you get back to the kitchen, put the nettle tops into the boiling water, shaking off any insects as you go. (There's no need to wash the nettles first. A little soil bacteria is good for you!)
4. Leave the nettles simmering for at least four hours. The longer the better!
If you don't have four hours, simmer them for an hour, then turn off the heat, put a lid on the pot, wrap the pot with an old blanket or towel and leave the soup like that for another four hours or so. Then, simmer it for one more hour with the added vegetables before serving.
5. After several hours of cooking (or when you're ready to turn on the heat again), chop any Allium plants (leeks, onions or garlic) that you want to add. Before adding them to the soup, expose the chopped Alliums to oxygen for at least ten minutes to make them more nutritious. (They form anti-inflammatory compounds called allicin, and make your food more medicinal.)
6. Chop any root veggies you want to add, and then add them. Simmer until tender.
7. If you're adding cream or dumplings, add it shortly before the cooking time is over.
8. When the nettles and veggies are melt-in-your-mouth tender and any other added goodies are ready to be enjoyed, remove the soup from heat.
- If you are not adding shoyu and gomasio, add salt to taste now.
- If you prefer a thicker soup, blend half of it with an immersion blender, then mix it with the rest.
- If you're adding miso paste, ladle a little broth into a bowl and mix it with the paste there before adding the rest of the soup, a dash of shoyu, a dash of olive oil and a healthy sprinkle of gomasio.
Otherwise, just serve the soup into bowls and enjoy!
Homemade seaweed Gomaiso
Gomasio is a traditional Japanese condiment that can be made with or without seaweed (Meeresalgen). It's tastes great over rice, stir fries, soups and all kinds of other foods that normally have added salt. Replacing salt with seaweed gomasio is a great way to add calcium and trace minerals (Essentielle Spurenelemente) into your diet, to reduce your salt intake and to eat something wild every day.
You can make gomasio in large batches and store the seeds whole or freeze the extra ground gomasio.
To make gomasio, you'll need:
- a cast-iron or other heavy-bottomed pan
- a food processor, coffee grinder or large mortar and pestle
- 300 grams sesame seeds
- 2-3 tablespoons sea salt
- 1 strip dried kombu seaweed (available in many Biomärtke / natural foods stores)
And here's how you make it:
1. Warm the pan on medium heat, then add the salt and seaweed. Stir constantly, until the salt changes color.
2. Remove the seaweed, crumble it up and add it back to the pan. Then, add the sesame seeds and continue stirring.
3. After a few minutes, the sesame seeds will start to 'pop'. You can stop cooking now if you prefer a lighter flavor, or keep roasting until the seeds are aromatic and a brownish color if you prefer a roasty flavor. (I love to have a lighter roast in Summer and a darker roast in Winter!)
4. Remove the pan from heat and let the seeds mixture cool for a few minutes before grinding it up. Ideally, almost all of the seeds will be broken open, making them easier to digest. You can grind all of it and store the extra in an airtight container in the freezer, or you can only grind what you need and store the rest in a jar on a shelf.
5. Keep gomasio in a salt shaker or other condiment container on your kitchen / dining room table. Enjoy it on rice, seafood, veggies and other savory foods instead of using salt.