During this heat wave that is hitting us, we were out by the River taking photos for a book that we are writing on Palo Gardens and Plants, and our daughter was walking with her father who was taking the photos. Most of the River here is shallow but he entered a deeper part and told her to wait for him. I heard our daughter call out excitedly, she had found Wild Mint growing right on the river bank. Standing with her feet in the cold river she said "something told me to smell this plant and it is mint". Sure enough it was mint, and the same variety of mint that we had purchased at a herb festival for our garden the month before. It is mountain mint that is native to this area, so we had wanted to reintroduce it to our Land.
I was very proud of our little 6 year old, not only for accurately identifying the mint upon smelling it, but also because she was listening to her Spirit who is guiding her. It also is a wonderful example of what we are going to be including in our book concerning the Palero's Garden! The mint was growing only 30 feet away from where our daughter's father had first put her in the river at the age of 8 months old. She has been going to that river ever since, and there are many medicinal plants growing wild in that area that we enjoy identifying and appreciating, but we had never seen mint here before!!!
Many of us have to go to Botanicas or supermarkets to purchase mint. We do not know where or under what conditions that mint is grown or what variety of mint it is. There are hundreds of different varieties of mint- we grow 7 different varieties here. This particular River has a very profoundly strong Spirit, and we have spent a lot of time over the years up and down this river, because there is also large hills on both sides of the River with lots of beautiful rock formations and old forest, and even a waterfall off the beaten trail. This river was tremendously beautiful on this particular day and its Spirit resonates all around, so this mint is growing right in that resonance and utilizing the water from the river to grow because it grows right on the bank itself.
Right next to the river grow all the plants necessary to create a spiritual bath or travajo, or bilongo to pull the energy of this Spirit that can flow around obstacles, clear out old debris, renew life, and refreshen over heated situations. In fact we had come to the river to refreshen ourselves from the intense heat that we had been working in. You can see the mint in the photos among daylily leaves (sharp long spiky ones), I am pointing to the mint in the upper photo. There is no comparison between harvesting your plantas personally from this type of location and buying them in the store. There is also no substitute for teaching your children right from birth to be at home in the natural world, Mother Earth.
24 years ago the Tata was working with his Elder in Palo, and was instructed to go out into the city streets and harvest whatever plants called to him, whether they be plants growing through concrete cracks, by the railroad tracks, in parks, at the edges of back yards or what have you. Then he was to prepare spiritual baths for both himself and his whole family. He did this many times, even though at the time he generally was not identifying what plants he picked. Today this practice has evolved to a whole different level as we have gardens and forest right on our Land that we harvest from and we have a growing body of knowledge concerning the identity and spiritual and medicinal properties of the plants. Having walked this road, the Tata of our Munanso is very encouraging to others to step outside the rigid boundaries of reliance on commercial outlets and to begin to engage their own Ancestors to bring forth the plants that they need for their spiritual progress. There were many baths the Tata created at that time that were very itchy (although he knew how to identify poison ivy and avoided that plant!) however as Paleros we know that sometimes that is exactly (meaning itch) what is needed. I do recommend plant gatherers be able to recognize plants such as poison ivy, poison oak, sumac and other poisonous plants in order to avoid making a spiritual bath that can cause a painful rash.
Our 6 year old (and 4 month old) are the direct beneficiaries of this trail, as our journey to gain wisdom on the many plants that are used spiritually, nutritionally and medicinally is directly feeding their growing wisdom. I am happy and proud that our 6 year old knows far more about plants that either the Tata or myself did at 25 years old! She is also clearly exercising her Spirit, as we are always testing her. We do this because we do not want to raise a subordinated, disempowered Yayi! It is moments like this when we get a glimpse of how much more powerful a practitioner of both Palo and Taino our daughter will be than we will ever be!!!