Trees beautiful trees.

After visiting England, where the trees are so huge and beautiful,

and I became so fascinated with them, it has been great to see so many beautiful trees in Natal. I can see why Durban was a favoured colonisation place for Brits. Amazing trees are everywhere here and have the space to grow to their fullest extent. There is nothing like a fully stretched out tree even in an industrial area.20170610_090512

In Durban luckily the alien police have not attacked the trees that line the streets, and so you will find a host of the best trees from around the world. In this HOT climate you can always find cool parking. The trees take precedence in the street, as you can see here, 20170111_103209and it has been amazing to see different trees blossoming at different times of the year.   At the moment all the coral trees are blossoming their red flowers. Its red season.

A little while ago it was orange with these amazing trees from Madagascar flowering along the streets.

Previous to that was these red flowering wide spreading trees. The red flowers made a crown on top.20170118_111834

On many of my walks, next to the houses are these unexpected fairy glades.

Of course my favourite place is the Durban botanical gardens. What I like most is that it is FREE to go in at any time, unlike the fee at Kirstenbosch. Its not that I resent the fee at Kirstenbosch..which is actually cheap compared to England where I paid R500 for a much lesser experience! (see previous post on the Eden project ..okay you can use your ticket for a year, but have no option for a once off visit.) The trees here are so exotic! This was a repository of all the corners of the Empire, a mini Kew gardens.

The intention behind the gardens was not  positive, as most colonial enterprises, and many plants were “stolen” in order to create a sort of “seed bank”, as medicine was essentially herbal at the time. Many of the trees come from India and Madagascar and further east. But they have been allowed to grow and grow and are stunning! I have been going back often to visit the changes over the seasons.

The first trees that really struck me were these cannonball trees. Mainly because the heady scent of the exotic flowers were so strong, I had to stop. I couldnt see the cannonballs but later in the year I found them in the place of the flowers.

There are simply HUGE banyan trees. (The ones here are small compared to ones in India that spread over 2 acres and people even make houses inside them)  These are fig type trees that spread sideways with roots that drip down from the branches. They are grown for good luck and are a symbol of immortality.

Banyan trees are thought to have spiritual significance, with the Lord Shiva being the branches (he has many arms), the Lord Vishnu the bark of the tree, and the Lord Brahma, the great God,  the large powerful roots of the tree. They have been used medicinally for centuries.

This is the legendary Bodi tree that the Lord Buddha sat under meditating to find enlightenment

There are other wild fig species with incredible trunks.

The palms are truly majestic 20170410_095224and there are these ancient Woods and many cycads that were brought here a few hundred years ago and are also huge.

There is a fern garden with magical tree ferns  and ponds with lotus flowers,

lots of water birds and a couple of pelicans

and a special grotto with exquisite orchids.

My all time favourite are still fever trees, with their distinctive yellow trunks.

They were called fever trees because they looked like they had jaundice and were near to malaria areas. The bark is also used to cure fevers .Other medicinal trees are cinnamon (once more valuable than gold) with multiple health benefits including lowering cholesterol and blood sugar , rauvolfia caffra( called african quinine..very important in conquering africa). The bark has been used traditionally for many things including malaria. Look at http://tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Rauvolfia+caffra for more.

 

A sunken garden is very neat and reminiscent of English country gardens, I say.20170126_105714

New developments are this butterfly park where all the flowers grown are to attract certain butterflies.

As with Kirstenbosch they have music evenings and open air movies. I havent yet been to any, but fully intend to go. People use the gardens for special occasions like birthdays.

There is a lovely old fashioned tea garden run by volunteers with HUGE crumpets and scones and tea.

The best is the monkeys that race through the trees and a host of feral cats that watch you while you drink your tea. 20170204_113144

 

Why I am studying Homoeopathy

One of the students I am studying with asked me what I would study if I could choose anything I wanted to. I found that question strange, but easy to answer. I would be studying Homoeopathy of course. They then went on to ask that if I had done conventional medicine, what would I be doing now, and I said that I would be studying Homoeopathy or probably have done it long ago.

I was not brought up with homoeopathy. Not at all! My mother was a nurse who fed us every form of conventional medicine. She loved hospitals and doctors. My sister was essentially drip fed on anti-histamines, that kept her sleepy for most of her young life. We had all the possible vaccinations, antibiotics with every case. We had dental checkups and horrendous fillings every six months. (Most of my natural teeth were eaten away by these).  I was fascinated by pathology and spent 2 years working in a pathology laboratory, which wakened my interest in biology and I went on to get a degree in zoology and microbiology.

I moved into the country in Cape Town, surrounded by the most magnificent plant life. What was special about these plants was that there were so many that were medicinal. As a hobby, I would collect plants and after identifying them, look up their medicinal properties. We also had a friend who was an ethnobotanist and also a medical doctor. he was a bit wacky and would experiment on himself..particularly hallucinogenic plants. He fostered an interest in the medicinal plants…and mushrooms around our rural home.  I was into hunting and gathering and we would have meals with local herbs and mushrooms. But I always had this question as to what makes a herb medicinal or edible or poisonous.20160918_115758.jpg

As a Biology teacher in a Waldorf school,I was expected to teach a main lesson on plants. My biology lessons at my own school (and in most government schools) have much to be desired .I could see NO connection to the plant kingdom then and we learned just lots of names and categories, and osmosis and capillarity and found the structure terribly boring..”you mean there are no organs inside?” As a Waldorf teacher, my challenge was to inspire my student to find a connection, and so I could only teach it the way I had found my own love of plants..through medicinal plants.DSC07556.JPG

As a Waldorf teacher, your challenge is to scaffold a lesson so that it leads the students into questioning things as opposed to delivering facts. I could have delivered a whole lot of facts around plants, but I then researched the path of herbal medicine, and found it completely fascinating. Bu it also opened up a ton of questions.. like how did people know what was medicinal? Why are plants medicinal? Why do we talk about plants as if all they do is grow? What exactly is their connection with us? And so the big journey began.

In my own life, besides using a few well known wild plants for tea, I still used Allopathic medicine.  The change came with my own child. After six doses of antibiotics with a recurring middle ear infection, I went to a homeopath and he prescribed one medication which cured him almost instantly and he never went on to get a middle ear infection again. This hyped up my interest and I never went to a conventional doctor again other than for a couple of broken limbs. I began to research Homoeopathy and why it was different to herbal medicine and structured my main lessons around these researches. I bought my own remedies and self medicated, discovered my own constitutional remedies. I investigated Anthroposophical medicine and did two fascinating courses with Michaela Glockler. As a Waldorf teacher I had a fairly solid background in Anthroposophy and had read many Steiner books and attended many conferences and courses..more with a focus on education. But my desire had been lit to go deeper into the healing arts.

When my son left home, I decided  that this was a prime opportunity to change my career once more (I have had 5 careers, whats one more?). There were lots of circle arguments in my head. I was teaching in a school I loved and had helped to build. I was still needed in my role. I would have to move to Durban. (I loved Cape Town). It was a five year course. (I was not young anymore). I would have to go back to first year (intellectually I needed a challenge..I was busy with a masters in Education. Do I finish this first? What for?). I could see that based on many older teachers I knew, that teaching had a sell by date..and I was reaching it. I found it very heart wrenching to see excellent teachers being sidelined for the younger ones and then not knowing what they should do next. I could see myself become crabby and forgetting names and repeating my life story to sweet teens too polite to tell you to shut up.

I finally took a year off to think without distractions and to slowly extricate myself from my obligations at the school. I spent the year in England volunteer working essentially as a gardener in a college for autistic teenagers amongst the most amazing plants, which I could watch daily unfolding, while also learning a lot about radical education amongst damaged teens. It was run on Biodynamic lines and I learnt a lot about that side of Anthroposophy too. (See my previous posts). I spent my time observing and photographing and drawing medicinal and poisonous plants at various stages of development. At the same time I researched their healing properties from a homoeopathic and herbal point of view. I have not posted any of this up yet, but I think it is time to do so.

And so, here I am. In Durban studying Homoeopathy amongst a group of first years just out of school. (They only accept one mature student per year).20170525_084600.jpg Thus far it has more than met my expectations. At the moment it is like any other medical course, with extensive gross  anatomy with dissection and physiology, chemistry and physics (my nightmare come true). I have a little cottage at the back of someones garden and can just see the sea. There is a library FULL of homoeopathic and herbal books including on anthroposophical medicine. I have got credit for 2 subjects from my BSc and so I use this time to peruse these books and am trying to find the key that links these two great studies. I will have to do a thesis in my 5th year, and I feel this will be the direction I would like to take. So happy me!

 

Further to the course in Homoeopathy

Much of the course in first year is laying foundations in Science and Anatomy and Physiology as experienced by medical students. There are somethings I would like to change but I am withholding judgement as I am looking from a perspective of someone who has a science degree. We do basic chemistry that I find too basic and theoretical, and physics that I find too orientated to engineers driving cars although, having tried to avoid physics in my previous degree, I am enjoying the challenge, more from a mathematical perspective.20170326_100913.jpg

I am beginning to have sympathy for my matric students who chose science. Luckily my many years of teaching maths has made me very adept at manipulating it. also some things we literately did 4 times over in different subjects..this is measurement, significant figures, using SI units and rounding off. This needs more co-ordination within subjects. Another subject I find too basic is Biological principles, as most students will have done these in life Sciences at school. (although there are some delvings into microbiology) but I dont think it has been thought through sufficiently to be of value.

The subjects that are excellent are Anatomy, Histology and Physiology. There is a lot of detail and it is done in a very physical scientific way which may seem alien to homoeopathy that is more instinctive and artistic and appears unscientific, but, as with Steiner, I feel that one has to move through science to the artistic Goethean thinking. luckily I have a background in anthroposophy, and so, as we go, I form my own interpretations using the threefold method, polarities and fivefold influences of the etheric. also the animal characterisations of the organs.

The library has wonderful books, including some Steiner and Anthroposophical books that I have been reading. I have done two courses on Anthroposophical medicine..the etheric and the astral, and this has helped me to determine these influences. There is another course in October outside Cape Town that I want to attend, but my budget is quite tight and I will have to fit it in to my study leave and be back..which means additional cost for airfare.

I am living on my inheritence..so I see this as a gift from my parents and an uncle and an investment in myself. There is not enough time to work at present, but perhaps in subsequent years I will be able to adjust my time.

Also at the same time I am doing my own self study on the homoeopathic plants. Samuel Hahnemann did not put much score on the doctrine of signatures in plant morphology but only in symptoms, as he found it more rational..and it certainly is, but having been a teacher of Botany and being interested in medicinal plants for years, I am investigating their form from a Goethean perspective and relating it to their healing capacities. homoeopathy uses Like cures like in symptomology, so I am looking at the potentising effects and reversing the allopathic uses, as it seems that Homoeopathic remedies undergo a reversal in their effect when potentised. In subsequent blogs I will publish my findings. Paracelsus followed this principle.

We are also receiving lectures on the principles of Homoeopathy, which we really enjoy and do far too little of at present. It just whets the appetite. Also we are doing some basic diagnosing methods and observation of surface anatomy by a dynamic woman.

Or highlight of the week is the Human dissection, and what has impressed me is the departments commitment to provide this skill despite difficulties in obtaining bodies, but also the reverence with which they deal with it. We all attended a dedication ceremony where we acknowledged the gift of the body and the life that lived it. Our group always says thank you in entering the dissection room and when leaving. We also signed a abbreviated Hippocratic oath.20170301_084948.jpg

The slides behind show an acknowledgement of the cadaver from birth to death likening it to a sunflower seed from seed to field of flowers presented by our wonderful Histology and physiology lecturer.

This is our equally wonderful and talented anatomy lecturer introducing a pastor who is an ex-student, who dedicated the bodies.

Another lecture that is interesting for me is called Personal and professional development, where we discuss deeper issues like “who am I” and “why am I here” and have to keep a personal journal. This appears to have been introduced this year as compulsory for ALL students. I have a suspicion that this subject was introduced in order to accomodate dissent, as previous demonstrations have been damaging. (possibly recommended by Jonathan Jansen who had to deal with more extreme cases of racial dissent in a conservative city) It certainly teaches respect for others simply through the humanising of the subject..ie you are a human first and a student second.

I have mentioned the support at DUT before, but it really is tangible here. DUT, being such a mishmash of cultures and creeds could, and maybe has been a hotbed of dissent. But these opportunities allow us to interact with each other as human beings and this diffuses dissension, as we see each others struggles.20170224_105123

A cross section of the SA country in 4 days

I seem to do a lot of things in four days (see previous posts). The last time was London..well there its kind of a whole country in a few square miles. Well, this time I went across South Africa to Durban by the sea from Cape Town by the other sea. Why was I so foolish? Well I was heading for an interview at Durban University of Technology to study Homoeopathy next year. Only 2 places offer Homoeopathy, the other one is in Johannesburg, so there was really no choice. Also, they only take 35 students per year and ONLY ONE “mature” student..and that had to be me.

Now, I didnt realise that Durban was further away from Cape Town than Johannesburg and even further than Windhoek in Namibia. 1700 km to be more or less exact . Thats more than the whole of England from top to bottom. (England is 1349km from John O’ Groats to Lands end). Okay, we dont have lots of villages where you have to go 30 miles an hour to slow you down.  We have long straight and hot roads that go straight there, right? Well not quite. So I estimated that it would take me 2 days to get there quite easily at 100km per hour on average..I didnt intend to drive at the average speed of 140 like other South Africans. Well, it didnt quite work out like that either. Also I have a millenium Toyota (ie over 15 years old)…but it has a reconditioned engine.20160818_112845 I did consider flying, but not only would I have spewed huge amounts of pollution into the air (apparently 6 to 47 times as much as by car per person! Especially short flights, as the runway fuel is the most damaging. http://www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2015/09/evolving-climate-math-of-flying-vs-driving/). Besides, I am still in travelling mode, and wanted to get an idea of the country I had been neglecting for so many years. What is South Africa like now? The last time I had been to Durban was 10 years ago, when my son and I went for a round trip to see all the skate parks with his BMX on the back.

So off I set, visiting my dear sister along the way. She lives in Riviersonderend, a sweet little village 200km from Cape Town, with many skeletons in the cupboard. But thats another story better told by her.

A quick cup of tea, and I had to get a bit further..like another 400km to George. Looking for a place to camp was not so easy…it was out of season so everything was closed at about 5. I finally found a rondawel (a typical South African round building..last used in Europe at stonehenge 3000BC, for those who dont know) where I spent the night. .serenaded by frogs, as it was on a river. I finally nodded off at 12pm, woke at 5am to continue my drive. (5 hours sleep). I went for a little walk before I left in the morning, and found some wonderful medicinal plants everywhere. Although this place was a typical RESORT, in the most typical south african way.(.including the black and white TV),

it gave me a sense that it was a haunt of some sangoma or other.

There was a beautiful landscape across the river where an irritating sound came from..like a couple of flies, and I realised it was workers riding lawnmowers over a golf estate. Welcome to civilization. 20160930_064457

Following wrong directions, and realising my Afrikaans was not as good as I thought, I headed off, got a speeding fine for going 78 in a STUPID 60 km zone (downhill on a pass outside a built up area. Consolation was that the fine was only 400 rands as opposed to 2000 in Britain for going 37 in a 30 zone.) Realising I was on the coastal road which was much longer than any other, I decided to cut inland back to the short cut road I intended to be on, on an old road I hadnt been on for years..thinking that it must have improved. (It used to be  a windey dirt road..very beautiful) Prince Alfred Pass..yes, colonial throwbacks everywhere..George..prince Alfred…Baden Powell drive (the coastal road outside capetown), Durban (sit Benjamin D’Urban).

Well, it was very beautiful still..if not more so, as it is now a reserve of tropical forests and ENORMOUS trees..but the road is worse.

Well it took me 3 hours to go 75 km. Not only because I couldnt go more than 30km per hour, but because it was so beautiful, I HAD to stop and photograph. I WILL be back to look properly…but not in the rainy season, as I can see that the roads wash away regularly. I did come across a strange sculpture at one point.

From here to karoo..dry straight hot roads..beautiful in an endless way. I had lost a lot of time and had to get to Port Shepstone (colonial) at least, as my interview at DUT was at 9.30 am the next day.20160930_113608

Well, it doesnt help to calculate when there are road works along the way..you know, STOP wait ten minutes (and go). This Karoo town had ENORMOUS cacti. 20160930_132125

It was getting dark as Ii went through the edges of the Transkei. This was when the roads lost all their signs, started winding up and down hectically and no one dimmed their lights..it also started to have waves of thick mist and light rain. The views were likely spectacular, but I could not see them, where I was going, where the next town was and how far away..so I drove blindly. By now, my neck was killing me and my bum was totally numb, and my eyes were glassy. I stopped in a typical one street town for petrol..nothing else was open for trade..not even KFC. Luckily I had some dry biscuits and cold tea in my flask. .

At this point, I knew I would need to drive through the night to get anywhere.

50km from Port Shepstone (more colonial), driving through cloud banks, I decide I was going to crash..as in sleep, if I didnt want to crash..as in accident. So I turned off the road into an inlet…there were no lights, so I assumed I was in the middle of nowhere, folded back my seat and slept uncomfortably.

In the morning I discovered I was in a sugar cane field. At least I knew I was close to Durban. I got going at 5 (another night of 5 hours sleep), coffee at the garage and off to Durbs by the sea via a convenient motorway. I wisely decided to leave the sight seeing till later.

Durban was a revelation of hooting taxis and busyness. I dont think it was the safest place, judging by the security walls.

I hadnt had breakfast, but decided to find my place of Interview. Of course I hadnt banked on the fact that because of the #Feesmustfall protests, the place was closed. Luckily I found an open gate. and found that the interview was still on. I hastily bought a couple of apples from a vendor…they do not have breakfast places in downtown Durban.. only chicken outlets..it was a bit early for that.

I was last to be interviewed, as my case was special..being so “mature”, so I was only released at 12. No tea was offered only water. All the Interviewees were YOUNG..still at school and very nervous..so I had some use in allaying their fears. These were pictures of some of the homoeopathic remedies on the wall.

I was interviewed by a true cross selection of the Durban population: Afrikaans, English, Zulu and Indian..all women. It was a good interview, and I was instantly offered a place..the only “mature” student. After that, I realised that I could eat a horse, raced off to the waterfront and finally sat down to an ENORMOUS breakfast with coffee served in a POT, while looking over the sea front. BLISS.

I will report further on the trip home.

 

 

In an English country garden

I know the song “How many flowers do you know in an English country garden” And although I know all the names, many I have never seen until now. It makes me realize how colonial my education was.

So at Christmas, I discovered Yew trees and Yew hedges (everyone has one)20160522_143432,Holly bushes with sharp spiny leaves

and Of course mistletoe in every tree that had lost its leaves. Some trees are highly infected. Mistletoe is usually high up, but I managed to get some down without breaking my wrist this time. 20160124_124403

Trees are also overtaken by Ivy 20151009_162425that you see only when the leaves fall off, and they give the trees a ghostly outline so that you can imagine them stomping through the Lord of the Rings, as visualized by JRR Tolkein. When we sang Christmas carols in the cow barn (see previous blog), I knew them all. But they took on another dimension when we sang “the holly and the ivy”. Here we are making wreaths with holly, ivy and yew.  20151207_102635

 

Then, as spring came I discovered more. Our childhood cows had been called buttercup and bluebell, but I had never seen any, and now I have, and all the others in an English country garden:20160516_140440

Daffoldils I had seen, but not with such abundance. In spring they pop up anywhere and everywhere. 20160321_084754Snow drops pop out at the same time.  Forgetmenots (the little blue flowers seen below) once you have seen, you cannot forget, bleeding heart..yes they really look like hearts.20160616_140538 Cow parsley is every where and these wild garlic that have amazing edible leaves.

England definitely has a major guardian angel who gently waters everything just as much as needed. Brits complain about the weather, but without it they would have a very boring country. Everything grows so abundantly..no wonder it is seen as the land of goblins and fairies. Gardeners hardly need to plant a thing, but they have to spend hours cutting things back..lawn mowing takes place at least once a week, not because people like cut lawns, but if they didn’t, there would be in a jungle within a week. Here I am cutting back read that has clogged the rivers. most of winter is spend clearing the abundant growth of the summer.IMG-20160208-WA0002Things grow so fast. I was away for 2 weeks and literally everything had doubled in height when I came back.

Medicinal plants are abundant: I had also never seen Equisetum (horse tail used to make silicea) in real life, and here they are everywhere and considered a weed.20160531_104356 My landlord has an amazing witchhazel in his garden. 20160104_144516Never mind the magical plants of lore: ragwort and hemlock was difficult to find, but it is related to our own blister bush that blisters your skin when you touch it. 20160524_084934And then there is foxglove, from which digitalis, a heart remedy is made. It has an incredibly tall flowering stalk, often 2m tall!20160604_131506At christmas there is little flowering, but there you see Christmas roses, which I know as hellebore, a witches poison and cure. I have  yet to find any of the nightshades that are abundant in SA, but deadly nightshade is found here. This is lungwort, long used medicinally.20160527_084509

Plants used as wool dyes: woad, used as a blue dye magically changes its colour, weld,  and orange madder roots have astounding colour.

I also saw familiar plants that were obvious relatives of ours, like the heathers that are like our cape ericas., and arums of various kinds., and pelargoniums of all kinds.

Weeds are weeds here too, but harder to distinguish as weeds. When I asked about it, I was told that anything in too much abundance is a weed. Where we prize nettle that is an annual in SA, here it is perennial, with invasive underground stems, and HUGE and vicious to touch. It makes me think of the Grimms fairy tale of the seven brothers, where they turned into swans and their sister made cloaks of thistles to free them from the spell, and I cringe at the pain, as I have been stung many times.

The most difficult weed to remove is Dock that has extensive underground roots, and of course many many Dandelions..these seem to seed much quicker than ours..one day they are yellow and the next they are ready to blow away.

The trees I am only just discovering, but there are amazing wild plum bushes full of berries: these black thorns, prunus spinosa, produce sour berries used in Black berry elixir or Schlen elixir used for recovering from illness. Also hawthorn, cranberries, currants and of course Blackberries everywhere (a weed here that has to continually be cut back).

There are many that are too exotic for me, but I nevertheless find them amazing. Rachel, who landscaped much of Ruskin Mill did an amazing job. There are always flowers in the garden. As soon as the daffodils die, the tulips pop up their heads and there are some flowers that I have never seen before that are magnificent.

 

You definitely cannot see evolution as an accident if you live in this world. It makes me wonder why Richard Dawkins is a Brit.  The mathematical skill of each plant is too astounding. Here, from  biodynamic perspective, you get more than a glimpse of the working of the planets on the plants.

I really think that most Brits do not appreciate how much they have the Goldilocks effect here wrt to perfect soil..not too much clay, not too much sand, not too stoney. And the smatterings of rain that keep the soil not too wet not to dry, the lack of insect pests. Its interesting that there are so few insects. I have seen only one butterfly and spring is well on its way. Snails and slugs are here in abundance. At Ruskin mill, I know the abundance of earthworms are deliberately cultivated and there are so many per square inch!

Of course there are very few indigenous plants as so much has come from other places that no one really knows what indigenous English plants are, really, as with the colonization of much of the world and the legal and illegal moving of plants to Kew gardens and subsequent cultivation in everyone’s garden, what is an English plant, really?

Brits love their gardens. A good lawnmower is essential in summer, as the grass grows so quickly. A common phenomenon is a village opening their gardens for viewing. Of course, they charge for the honour, often linked to fundraisers for a British hospice (as if the British government doesnt do enough. You would swear people were neglected in this country. Very few British charities look outside the country, and really, Brits do not know about need. They are an incredibly comfortable lot!) Anyway I went to a open garden on the queens birthday (her second one) in a small village called Box (its a name of a plant, if you were wondering). 20160612_135851I was first amazed at how many people attended these. All the gardens were very sweet and trimmed within an inch of their lives. Why do people topiarise every small tree or bush! I must say, Gods tree shape is much prettier. Most topiarised trees end up looking like hooded bandits. Perhaps its for wont of something to do. I also find that they overdo the spring colours that end up clashing badly. Everyone beds in colourful annuals that they buy from their local nursery that end up looking so false and twee.

Everyone has a hanging basket somewhere.20160606_103816

Going for drive, I came across whole fields of flowers. Here is a field of poppies as far as the eye can see, and next to it a field of buttercups. For me, God is a much better creator of gardens.