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08/17/2006 Archived Entry: "Being part of things (and musings on cannabis)"

BEING PART OF THINGS. I like to know the names of things in nature. It makes me feel part of them.

Until I moved into the boondocks, I spent all my life in dreary, sterile working-class suburbs (with one brief dash into the Haight-Ashbury at the height of its glory, for which I'll be forever grateful and get to be forever at least a little, teeny bit cool, but that's another subject). The world that bore me (and bored me) had two kinds of trees: Christmas trees and deciduous. Oh, there were also specifically walnut trees. I knew because we had one in our backyard. But I couldn't have told that from a cherry tree, except by the nuts falling on my head.

Now I know the names of the dominant tree species around these parts. And because I know their names, I also know that this specific one has shaggy bark and that particular one produces a deadly poison. The names let me speak the language of the locals: "Look next to that ----- over there" or "Yeah, three -----'s came down across the road in that last wind storm."

I can see the trees differently.

Because I know the word "foxglove" and know what it matches to, I've noticed the intricate shadings and patterns in their purple-to-white blossoms. Because I know the name I know that foxglove, too, produces deadly poison, but also produces one of humankind's oldest and most important medicines, digitalis.

I grew up in a world where the full moon would suddenly appear, out of context, then go away abruptly until next time. I didn't know the full moon rose in the early evening and the new moon at dawn. I didn't know what "gibbous" meant. And I didn't know by looking at it whether the moon was waxing or waning.

Now ... well, I still get surprised by the full moon. Because no matter how hard I try to be attuned to the world in some ancestral way, moon phases just don't have the relevance to me that they had to soothsayers, people who had to count the seasons, and superstitious types who planted their crops by the light or dark of the moon. (Did you know that root crops should be planted while the moon is waning and crops that produce upward should only ever be planted in the waxing moon? Never start a journey during the waning moon, ether. Bad luck.)

Anyhow ... I can look at the moon now and tell you which phase it's in. That's not much, I know. But it's better than before.

But what all this is leading up to (and yes, it really is leading up to something), is that thanks to a book I received through the great generosity of two TCF members, I now know similar facts about the beautiful holy herb, that most abundant producer of fiber, that most amazing medicine, that most pure gentle pleasure for a Saturday night ... the cannabis plant.

I know it buds in fall, triggered by the longer dark nights. I know that every part of it produces cannabinoids, some stronger than others. I know (or maybe I know; this part's kind of confusing) that cannabis sativa may grow 20-feet tall, while indica might be only four-feet tall (I almost said "high" :-) ) and that indica gives you a more "stony" stone. You know, the kind that makes you say "Dude" a lot.

And because Our Beloved Rulers and their propagandists say it is not good to know such things, and because I am newly, imperfectly attuned to one of Nature's greatest gifts, then somehow I'm bad and dangerous and a suspicious character.

There I am in my veggie garden learning that "early" tomatoes bloom at the same time as "late" tomatoes. Learning that when the potato plants suddenly went all to hell this month, I really shouldn't have sprayed them with all that nitrogen and antibiotic because it was perfectly normal for them to go to hell now. Learning that baby apple trees can miraculously survive scientific expeditions by a puppy attempting to get to the root of things.

All this learning is beautiful.

But to learn that cuttings from successive cannabis plants lose THC over time is a bad thing. To learn that a 10-foot tall cannabis plant might have a tap root only six inches deep (supported by a lateral root system) makes a person likely to be some kind of criminal, deserving of puppy-stomping SWAT raids. To learn that oven-dried leaf burns like a bitch and gives a high like cheap Mexican weed ca. 1966 makes a body so potentially evil an outcast that they deserve to have their pets killed, their home seized, and their liberty taken away just for pointing their brain in that direction.

Here I am, well (I hate to say it, but the Haight-Ashbury business always makes it a dead giveaway) into my 50s, just learning to be an Earth goddess ... well, hell, a third-assistant Earth demi-goddess ... and some power freak with a federal grant and more weaponry than boys of his temperament should ever be trusted playing with might think I deserve worse than Charles Manson or the BTK murderer.

Even as I write this I'm aware I sound like I'm drama-queening it, big time. I mean, it's ludicrous to imagine that owning and reading books about growing a plant would make a body vulnerable to being destroyed by the government of the Land of the Free. Surely I must be exaggerating to a prepostrous extent. Unfortunately, it's Our Beloved Masters who are doing all the exaggerating. You and I both know that people have been stomped merely for buying grow lights, making blown-glass water-pipes, growing sunflowers that some officious idiot neighbor thought were cannabis, and owning land and possessions that some drug warrior wanted to steal.

My black-thumb is sadly well known. This year it's a minor miracle that I grew a handful of undersized potatoes and some cherry tomatoes that were actually supposed to have been full-sized guys three-inches across. So not likely my backyard will become the next battleground in the drug war. But in a better world, with better skills, I would love to try growing the sacred herb.

Nothing would make me feel more like a true Earth mother than to be able to plant and tend something that has blessed humankind so benevolently for thousands of years -- something my great-great-great- into eternity grandmother might have gathered and delivered to soothe the miseries of ailing villagers. Something that might have given inspiration to prophets in desert or woods. Nothing would make me feel more connected to the life of the planet.

And nothing could be farther from the parched, whithered, sin-burning, witch-hunting spirit of those who destroy their fellow man solely because of what grows peacefully in his private garden.

Posted by Claire @ 08:36 AM CST

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