Our first two years in Topanga, we lived in a large trailer on a thirteen acre property. It wasn’t easy living in a trailer, but we had the advantage of being in nature, right close to the creek, with the enchanting sounds of frogs at night, and so much space to roam. There were about 10 other living spaces around, like a little village. It was a dream come true to finally live in Topanga, and raise our son Zane there. He was only 3 at the time, so though our living space wasn’t comfortable, we had a fun and inspiring environment amongst friends. Most importantly, we were surrounded in nature. We were living amongst a group of people who loved to garden, cook, create, dance, dress up, swing on a flying hoop in the main living room, and encourage and inspire each other.
Zane was having nightmares, and I was at a loss for how to stop them. I remembered a time when my little brother was having bad dreams. I shared a room with him and he used to talk in his sleep, so I knew the nightmares were very intense. One night, my mother attempted to stop them. She put herself into his dream in order to pull him out of it. While Zane’s nightmares were not as bad as my brother’s, they were still going on.
A member of our village invited a Chumash Medicine Woman named Cecilia to stay on the land a couple months. The Chumash were the original inhabitants of this part of the California coast, from San Luis Obispo to LA County. She offered gifts of healing and nature walks, where she taught us about the local plants- what plants could be used as food, and what plants were medicine. Every day was a wonder with her. I valued the time I got with her, and treasured every lesson she taught me.
When Cecilia was staying on the land, nature responded. It was like the land was glad she was there. One day we went outside to be blessed by a rain of ladybugs. One fell on my lip and bounced off. I can still remember how it felt. One morning, a deer came to her door and knocked on it with it’s antlers. They went for a walk. In one of our sessions, a blue tailed lizard came to assist us with its lizard medicine.
Cecilia had a magical pot. During her sessions with people, she made concoctions with herbs that she had chosen and harvested. When I told her about Zane and his nightmares, she concocted a special brew for him, and told me to simmer it on the stove overnight. She said it would clear out old energy, and invite the good spirits in. I brought it home and turned on the stove to simmer, the faint blue light in the dark room echoing the moonlight on the Topanga hills outside. Then I went to bed.
In the middle of the night, I woke up in the in between state. Everything was alive and vivid. I saw a few big, tall, bright spirits walk in the door. Good spirits, the invited ones. They looked almost like people, but more cartoony. I remember their smiles, so big, so alive, so colorful. When I’m in this in between state, my body feels weightless, and sort of buzzed. They were so kind, and I welcomed them in before fading back into deeper sleep again.
I did not see what spirits they evicted, but they must have done something, because after that, Zane’s nightmares stopped.
In time I developed more awareness about wild herbs, and worked my way up to hiking every day, and foraging with my skilled foraging partner. I had the luck of having gardens where I could experiment with different heirloom vegetables and herbs, that brought great inspiration to my life and food. My magical forest creature friends in Topanga have guided me in this experience, in unusual and beautiful ways, which led me to being called the Soup Sorceress. I often feel like I’m in a Miyazaki movie, surrounded by magical flora and fauna while I create with my hands, pulling ingredients of spirit into a space of creation that heals my heart in a new way every time, and creating new flavors I never heard of before.
And I remember Cecilia’s magical pot of herbs, and the graciousness of the spirits, during times I need soup for my soul.