A long time ago, I took a writing workshop with Tom Robbins (if you haven’t read Tom Robbins, stop reading this and go download Jitterbug Perfume. I promise you won’t be disappointed).

Since it was a long time ago, I’m running fast and loose with Tom’s exact phrasing. Essentially he told us that the job of a writer is to connect disparate things, like a Twinkie and Jupiter or the chiming of a grandfather clock and a swallow’s mad dash from the barn eaves.

This blog post may not succeed in corralling that connection. In fact, I suspect it will be a bit like brownies that got pulled from the oven too soon—warm and gooey and yummy, but not quite brownies. If you need it all wrapped up neatly at the end, this is your chance to hop off—the ride may get a bit… elusive… from here.

It probably started back in Ireland, when a flight of ravens flew raucously over my head as I lay in the grass recovering from jet leg. Perhaps I would have sworn they were talking to me if I wasn’t deliriously tired and not thinking quite straight.

Still, it seems the Irish knew a bit about birds and a bit about people. More than once during my stay there, I overheard someone say to my teacher: She’s the Morrigan’s, that one.

If you don’t know your Celtic goddesses, the Morrigan was a warrior goddess who sent her ravens to fly over battlefields, choosing who would live and die. On the surface, she is a bit of a dark character, and not one to whom I could immediately relate. But “The Morrigan” is not a name, it’s a title: The Great Queen. Sovereignty. And the Morrigan’s daughters are those of us who have an independent streak and a heavy dose of self-sovereignty.

Fast forward to an appointment I had a few week’s back with my homeopath, a woman I have known for many years. After months of being out of sorts, I decided someone who wasn’t me needed to be consulted. Linda took my case. One of the many things I mentioned to her was that I am often given snake remedies. Linda thought about that and said, I’m not sure. Maybe snake, but I am leaning toward bird.

A bird remedy? I didn’t know there were bird remedies!

(And if you’re thinking Whoa, Maia, I didn’t think there were snake or bird remedies, because neither of those is an herb, then jump to the bottom where I will give a short explanation of the difference between homeopathy and herbalism.)

As soon as Linda said bird remedy, I said Corvus. Raven.

As we packed the car to leave for Arizona earlier this week, a crow (raven’s cousin) followed us from the house to the street where it perched on a power-line, cawing. The raven remedy was in my bag so I could take it while I was away and out from under everyday stresses.

When I arrived in Arizona, I prepared the doses and took them as prescribed.

The bird remedies, it turns out, are about feeling trapped. Corvus is about a need for freedom, for self-sovereignty.

It started me thinking about the traps, about the sand pits of daily life, about the gilded cages we lock ourselves in and the countless reasons (jobs and houses, family and friends) we don’t simply open the door.

It started me thinking about the spirit of place and if part of feeling trapped is feeling out of place. And that spiraled me into the countless times I have felt out of place, sometimes by my own actions and sometimes in reaction. Then to the many times I have sworn I couldn’t (live where I wanted to, or be comfortable in that crowd, or get the basketball through the hoop), when in fact I had the key buried deep in my coat pocket, waiting to be fished from under crumpled notes and wads of tissue.

And this, my friends, is where the brownies get pulled from the oven, not quite baked. Because, in typical blog post format, I would now present the defining moment that pulls it all together, the final strand that forever links a Twinkie to Jupiter.

But there is no denouement, no epic moment to offer. Instead, there was a twinkling of small moments, little stars that have cast their light on a myriad of doors and locks and keys.

Perhaps my mom summed it up best: Happiness, like so much else, she said, as we talked about all this, is on a continuum.

There is always a chance to find out a little more, to unlock another door.

What is the difference between Herbalism and Homeopathy?

Folks so often come into Herbiary phrasing their questions in ways that makes it clear that they are confused about the difference between Herbalism and Homeopathy.

Herbalism works with plant-based medicines. We have different potencies: an essential oil is a concentrate, a flower essence an extreme dilution. Often we work in the middle range, with teas and tinctures, which deliver a material dose of the plant.

Homeopathy works on two key principals: like cures like and less is more (i.e., the more diluted a homeopathic remedy is, the stronger it’s considered to be). Homeopathy draws its remedies from the diversity of the natural world, often using minerals and animal matter. Because it is so dilute, homeopathy is able to use plants that might be poisonous at herbal dosage.