a l l  n a t u r a l  i n f o

Botanical Medicine Woman, Modern Sage
Jeanne Rose

 by Alexandra Avery 

     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 Wikopedia ~
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeanne_Rose

 

Photo of Ms. Rose courtesy: SharAmbrosia Photography
 

 

Please visit Alexandra's web site:

AlexandraAvery.com

 

 

All views expressed in the articles on the "All Natural Info" page are those of the various authors, they are presented here for your enjoyment and enlightenment.  These views do not necessarily represent the views of SharAmbrosia or the "all natural beauty" website. 

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