Sunday, November 03, 2013

Everything is Medicine

Guest Blog by Martiza Alvarez

Mother Earth’s breath was deep. Her winds swirled delicately across my skin. Her red-tailed feathers circled above the warm cumulus clouds. She smiled tenderly to Sweet Water’s story and song. Her marigolds laughed in delight like tickled children. She swayed low in white dress, enamored by swirls of smoking tree sap and buffalo skin heartbeats. She was awake, hosting the migration of visitors from around L.A. She was alive.

Photo: Clare Fox

On the 13th of October of 2013, with the support of the Metabolic Studio and the California State Historic Park Foundation, Olivia Chumacero, Executive Director of Everything is Medicine, spearheaded the first annual CEANOTHUS L.A., Flower Festival & Parade.  It was a day to honor “the one-and-only, drought-tolerant, native soap-sudding bath blossom flower: Ceanothus!”  This historical zero-waste event was held at the north end of the California State Historic Park’s thirteen acre Anabolic Native Garden.   Located a few miles north from downtown Los Angeles, the garden is a pristine home to a revived native flora and fauna. The Anabolic Native Garden thrives as a result of over eight years of advocating and tending for the protection of these various plants.
Sweet Water singing: Photo by Janie
Prior to Spanish and American colonization, this land was the largest village for the native Tongva people. In fact, many of the same plants that have been revived, like the ceanothus, jojoba, hummingbird sage, salt bush, deer grass, and white mountain sage are just some of the plants that took root thousands of years ago. All were honored and skillfully used for utilitarian, cultural or culinary use by the Tongva the Chumash and many other native tribes throughout California.  Although at times they may appear dry or dead, they too, just like the bears, are in hibernation. Their drought tolerant nature permits seasonal blossoms.  Today, the Anabolic Native Garden has fully blossomed into a public space for all who wish to partake in the care and preservation of these timeless treasures.

Ceanothus: Photo from Everything is Medicince website
On the weekend of the 13th, while others commemorated Columbus for the “discovery” of these lands, Tongva elders, Japanese Taiko drummers, Brazilian dancers, Tlingit storytellers, Mexika danzantes, and over four-hundred visitors came to the Anabolic Native Garden and took part in honoring the ceanothus. 

It was a day of shared knowledge, stories, song, dance and lots of fun.  Children, elders and adults danced together. And everyone partook in the opening procession down the organic dirt path,  parading around the circle of marigolds, singing and dancing to all the life above, below and everywhere in between.  We gathered in a large circle and held hands, unified under the sun. Our roots were from all over the planet.

Aside from celebrating the native flora and fauna, the purpose of Ceanothus L.A. was to shed light on the current campaign by Everything is Medicine to change the Los Angeles city flower from the Bird of Paradise to the Ceanothus.  Originally from South Africa, the the Bird of Paradise was brought to California in the 1800's via Europe. At that time is was highly eroticized and coveted by the well-to-do. In the 1950's, Manfred Mayberg, the president of Germain Seed & Plant Company, succeeded in making the Bird of Paradise the official city flower of Los Angeles.  No doubt, the plant is beautiful to look at. However the Ceanothus is drought tolerant and its deep celestial blue to light lilac buds are an elegant sight to admire. In addition, of the 50 existing Ceanothus species, 41 are native to California. Its dry or fresh bud has been used as a natural soap, organically creating suds on the palm when kneaded with water.   The branches have been used to make baskets for utilitarian and cultural use, and the stems and leaves contain high amounts of calcium. 

By the end of the celebration, many enlightened  Angelino’s  signed on to the petition to  change the flower of Los Angeles to the Ceanothus.  As the volunteers and clean-up crew folded chairs and tents, the sun made its journey across the city landscape to the west. The gophers settled in their holes and the chirping birds flew back to their nests.  And in the same way that we asked Mother Earth for permission to sing, to dance, and to show Her our love and appreciation, we bid her farewell and a good night.

To sign on to the petition for Ceanothus:



msedano said...

Maritza, thank you. I love ceanothus and wish i'd known about the event. and welcome to la bloga!


Amelia ML Montes said...

Wonderful! Thank you Maritza! Abrazos to Olga tambien.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the beautiful tour and informative teaching. I too wish I had known of this lovely and inspiring event. CONGRATS on your premiere bloga. ♡♥Adriana