There are many ways to
acknowledge our teachers. Payment in funds is the
obvious way, though there is an active acknowledgement in
another way. The passing of information and wisdom is
truly a conduit, a mystical passage. The student steps
into the stream, accepts responsibility for understanding, and
then passes along the teaching in his or her own way. This
is why it behooves one to seek out the right teacher, one with
whom a mutual bond is created, as though the information shared
is a living entity, honored and appreciated by both student and
teacher. One can see the traditions of the teacher
activated in the student. It is in this way I want to
acknowledge one of my teachers, Jeanne Rose.
I felt I had known Jeanne Rose years before I met her.
It was the winter of 1969. I had moved from Hawaii to
Oregon to attend college. My interest in plants was
burgeoning, for one thing because Oregon grows everything in its
green folds. For another I had known only Hawaiian plants
until now, and they are of an entirely different genus than
western herbs, a whole different enchilada. I was a babe
in the woods and eager to learn how to get closer to the natural
world around me.
For a birthday present I was given Herbs and Things,
Jeanne’s first book, my Herbal Primer. From that one book,
I launched what was to become my career, though I didn’t know it
then. I was studying comparative literature at Pacific
University, a rural setting in one of the most beautiful areas
of Oregon for growing whatever you want. Everyone gardened
and shared community pride in the local produce and flowers.
I set about to abide by community customs.
In my garden, I planted flowers and herbs. Cows
trampled everything and I started over. Some plants kept
coming back and thus I discovered the world of perennials.
I had a handful of facts from the locals, and a feeling like I
was being led- in the most entertaining way- by Herbs and
Things. The drawings amused and helped distill the weight
of the words, all new to me, a world of plants to discover.
Jeanne has the distinction of botanist and scientist to
her knowledge. I would call it more medical botany,
bordering on alchemy, including traditional customs, and most of
all practical approaches to understanding plants and their
healing qualities. Her books cull information from magical
uses, culinary uses, and most important to me, medicinal and
cosmetic uses. I kept her books in an old multi-painted
kitchen cabinet, along with my growing plethora of dried herbs.
When, years later, I got to actually meet Jeanne Rose,
I had left my teaching career to move out to the country and
raise herbs, make herbal products, and live as close to the land
as I could. I think these were the best years of my life, though
I worked the hardest. So, I took a break to attend a
conference. Up on the podium was a commanding woman, arms
outstretched from a beautiful silken dress, long flowing raven
black hair, and a voice strong enough to reach around a building
corner. She looked mythically alive and was holding the
audience in rapt attention. Her stature seemed as bold as
her stories, and I was smitten by her wit. I could see
that she loved the imparting of wisdom.
By this time she had published four or five of her
twenty-four books. At the time, I’m sure even she didn’t
realize what a wealth of wisdom she had to pass along, and
something tells me she has more books in her. Out of a
class she led, I determined to learn more. Jeanne has
always been very generous with her experience and information.
She truly delights in teaching about her passion. There
have been times when I have had questions about my formulating
and she was most helpful. When others would have felt a
sense of encroachment or competition, Jeanne would call back
with even more information than I thought I needed, and never
charge for her time. Her style of teaching has influenced
me above so many others, and I try to now teach with the same
spirit of generosity.
One of her favorite plants is the rose geranium.
I learned this the day I took a tour of her garden and found a
near shrine to the simple geranium in her terraced herb garden.
Up front and center, the lacy little ladies with pink blossoms
waved to me with frivolity. They were so strong in
stature, burgeoning little bushes that their scent nearly ran
after me. I had never seen such a complete coverage of a
hillside in herbs, each one labeled, a living laboratory.
I was invited to stay with her in the very house that
once hung the costumes of Grace Slick, during the days of
Jefferson Airplane and their flight through the summer of love
and into the halls of Bill Graham. How would I have known
my teacher was a clothing designer for the hottest mama in rock
n roll? There are so many stories that I imagine one can
trail Ms. Rose for years and still not hear all of the ones
she’s willing to divulge. The house is an old Victorian,
what else, with three levels of well lived in comfort. She
raised two children, mostly single-handedly there, and has long
used it as an office, meeting facility, workshop (the entire
basement is an herbalists delight) and party palace.
Her office is its own universe. Walls of books on
botany and drawers of old botanical prints dwarf her desk.
Only one thing seemed absent in the midst of this rich
library…there was no computer. I remember registering
sheer astonishment that in the budding age of computer science,
back then, this author preferred the tap and cling of a standard
typewriter! She had found a style of writing that worked
for her and it did not involve a glowing screen that could
instantly re-arrange anything she typed. I suspect she
still writes her books on her typewriter, though she is quick to
respond by email.
A scientist by training, Jeanne traveled widely.
It was on a research project in Indonesia that she contracted a
bacterium, which settled in her lungs, challenging her health
over the last few decades. Fortunately, she is an
excellent teacher and writer and doesn’t have to depend on
manual labor to make a living. She still travels on
teaching assignments, and it is worth the tuition to just be in
her company. Her ability to tell a story makes you feel
like you were there…and she’s been everywhere. Her
scientific background and her respect for the herbal traditions
turn her stories into learning adventures.
I highly recommend that you refer to Jeanne Rose @
wikipedia to see the breadth of her life work. Her website
will lead you on a virtual fragrant walk through many products
designed to enrich your learning experience. I have
referred to her laminated Aroma Chart hundreds of times: every
herbalist ought to have it. To have the best of Jeanne,
please treat your self to one of her classes!
See more about Jeanne Rose on
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Photo of Ms. Rose
courtesy: SharAmbrosia Photography
visit Alexandra's web site:
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