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  • Mj Pettengill

Trust the Process


Ecstatic Wildness - Mj Pettengill

It is essential to know one’s place. I ask myself, what is it that I have been called to do? Is it one thing or many? Is it clear, or is it somewhere in a dream or mist, waiting to emerge when the time is right?


There are so many unanswered questions. What I have learned is that trust is the key that unlocks the door to being. Who holds the key? You know.


When I was a student at Vermont College, we were often told to trust the process. The program is designed for the student to own his learning and to be self-guided while mentored. This is accomplished by way of many productive exploratory sessions at the beginning of each semester. At first, when it seemed somewhat daunting, trust the process, was the response. After completing the first semester, the student joins the chorus. You have reached an understanding and comprehend the core value of trusting the process.


This brings me to the here and now. My life has taken so many incredible twists and turns, should I have viewed it more than a decade ago, I wouldn’t have believed it. I went from a successful music career to writing and wildcraft healing. These aspects of my“self” have been with me all along. Knowing when to awaken to them is what matters. When they rattle the door handle, and you have the clarity and guts, take ahold of the key, unlock, and invite them in. One could not do this without trust.


Does it mean that you answer every call that knocks? Of course not. You must rely on your instincts and be okay with things getting messy. After all, it’s not about how it looks on the outside, it’s about embodying your whole self—your highest potential. Playing it safe or acting from a place that others expect from you, prohibits growth and lessons that ultimately become gifts that you may never have dreamed possible.


I vividly remember a day that seems like a lifetime ago. I was standing still. Sunlight streamed into the room, illuminating the vintage metronome on the top of my piano. I sensed a clear message, You are going to do something significant. Your work will reach many. It won’t be music.


Boom. That was it. I was shaken by this thought. Doing anything other than music wasn’t part of the blueprint that I had carefully crafted and implemented. I loved music. It was my language, my world, what flowed through my veins.


Even the best fiction writers would not have whipped up the events to follow. At the time, it seemed like a cruel joke when I was disturbingly booted out of the music world, forced to be available to something that I had never imagined. I have written about the spiraling downward, at least at the time it is what I believed. I was in preparation mode for what was to come. Had I white-knuckled this cosmic kick in the pants, I would not have been open to the higher purpose that awaited.


I encountered the 298. I am still doing the work. However, the other part of myself that rose up to greet me was my connection to the wild—my environment where I continuously learn about the volunteer plants and making medicine. This has always been of interest to me. It is evident that I am a historian, so the healing practices of my ancestors, following several cultural lines, have captured my attention.


When writing the narrative of Nellie—the Native elder, healer, and midwife in the EIG Series—painstaking research was (always) imperative to the integrity of the piece. I am humbled by the presence and abundance of so many medicinal plants in our shared space. Intuition is vital, but so is learning the science behind these volunteers in our midst.


I have spent a great deal of time studying the art and science of plant medicine, taking courses, and non-stop reading and watching tutorials. The most legitimate classroom, however, is immersing oneself in the wild. The plants are not solely there for us; they are part of a massive, highly intelligent network. Knowing how to live amongst them is as vital to their wellness as it is to our own.


I speak and write about healing via basic acknowledgment regarding my historical work and ancestral and cultural trauma integration. The same is true for the wild. Reclaim and know your place in it. Slow down and think before you weed whack, poison (gasp), rip, tear, mow…

Acknowledging, honoring, and offering pure gratitude contributes to the rebalancing and restoration of Our Mother Earth—a living being and all life in the surrounding area. My connection, not only to plants, has deepened with animals, birds, reptiles, and insects as well. To know and respect their cycles is imperative to our overall health, spiritual, and mental well-being.


Did you know that we are the only species on Earth that destroys its own habitat? I am not mentioning the many habitats and eco-systems of other beings. You know.


If you want to get my attention, rev up a lawnmower. I have been known to refer to such equipment as weapons of mass destruction. It’s not that I have to live in a jungle, although the thought has occurred to me. But, the more wildness that you allow in your space, the more food, medicine, and habitat for other beings.


I am not here to harp on you about the pollinators and massive species extinction rate; you already know that. What I want you to ask yourself is, What can I do to make it better?  It makes no sense for me to rattle off the prominent list of what is toxic, what is helpful, etc. etc…. It’s time for you to either know or do your own homework. Then, there is no need to ask. You will have imprinted it.


Also, allowing wildness its own (unruly) spaces is the ultimate artistic expression. This is an opportunity for Our Mother to splash her many colorful arrays of plants, painting your landscape. At the same time, you maintain some control, if this is important. How? By mowing pathways around pretty patches of untamed earth.


My yard looks like a labyrinth. The more wild spaces, the better. Much of what grows is responsibly and thoughtfully wildcrafted. My studio—the apothecary—is filled with curative offerings from Our Mother.


One of my favorite practices is to host a “wild tea party.” It is a gathering to demonstrate the art of crafting wild tea. It is also a time for people to get together to talk about healing and forming a bond, a place where sharing brings warmth and goodness.


Many ancient cultures gathered around the fire or hearth to openly share their thoughts, stories, medicine, and fellowship. In these times, reaching out to one another is of the essence. I ask you to slow down and consider your place on this remarkable planet. We are not separate. Reclaim your wildness. Come and sit with me.

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