Sunday, July 21, 2013

Interview / One Willow Apothecaries

As I type I am emailing Asia about a custom concoction from her magical shop. Asia is one of those people you gravitate to because of the way she lives and leads her life, this was the case when I stumbled across her blog Woolgathering and Wildcrafting. She is the physical manifestation of a healer with her organic creations and kind personality. I had the fortune to ask her about her journey into herbalism, light, and interviewing this lovely creature who puts her heart and soul into her budding foray. Take a gander at her shop the majority is grown and harvested by her and heal yourself (or treat yourself) to nature's bounty. I am testing my patience for that White Pine Honey only available in Fall/Winter. 

Asia Suler
Creator, Concoctress & Herbalist
One Willow Apothecaries
www.onewillowapothecaries.com





Hello my name is Asia Suler and I am an herbalist, writer, teacher, concoctress and dreamer. 
I am the creator of One Willow Apothecaries, a small Appalachian-grown business that offers handmade and gluten-free herbal medicine. Named for the weeping willow my grandfather planted for me when I was born, One Willow is a singular devotion of love. I am also the muse behind Woolgathering & Wildcrafting, a blog detailing the two passions that shape my days. [Woolgathering: the act of daydreaming, the gathering of thoughts and dreams as one might collect fallen tufts of wool. Wildcrafting: the harvesting of herb, root, flower or inspiration from the wilds].
I live in the rain-soaked mountains of southern Appalachia where I make my home in a little blue cottage with crooked floors and old doorknobs. I lovingly tend half an acre of gardens, all dug by hand. I grow herbs and flowers and weeds. When I’m not writing to one of my pen pals, photographing a newly opened flower or finding feathers for my room, I love to ramble in the woods, collect stones and eat wild food.

What projects are you currently working on/will be working on? 

Lately I’ve been daydreaming about publishing a book—a collection of herb writing, poetry, photography and recipes for living a sweeter life. Next spring I’ll be moving farther out into the countryside. I plan to soak up that delicious alone-ness with many books and long afternoons roaming the hills of my mind. As always, I am constantly thinking about new medicinal concoctions. In the future, I’m looking to focus on more energetic elixirs, allies for healing during great emotional states, moments of transition, and transformative shifts of spirit. Next year I’ll be helping to create and debut a gorgeous herbal education distance-learning course for the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine. I’m excited about bringing this knowledge farther out into the world!




My love of nature, herbalism and apothecary came from…someplace I cannot name. 

The recognition of this love arrived during a very difficult time in my life. I was in the midst of a serious healing crisis and a seemingly endless maze of chronic pain. Inside my body it felt like everything was falling apart. Outside, the world was always becoming more whole. Nature was my solace. The sicker I got, the more I explored the underground stream of meaning, both within myself and beneath the world, in a way that forced me to redefine my concept of medicine. I needed answers, so I looked to the mysteries. I began to realize that everything I needed for healing was already around me. I fell in love with trees, held close counsel with my dreams, and sought out holistic practitioners of medicine. I learned how to truly listen to what my body and spirit were trying to communicate. Slowly but surely, I began to heal. One of the final pieces to fall into place was the realization that I had Celiac disease. This changed everything. My health went from a constantly slipping slope to something I could actually point to with pride. When I arrived on the doorstep of herbal medicine I was dismayed to find that most commercial tinctures are infused with grain alcohol (much of which is made with non-organic and gmo ingredients). And so, I began to make my own. This was the first seed of One Willow.

My work schedule is a mixture of pure joy and serious tedium.

 I grow a huge garden of medicinal herbs and spend at least one glorious day a week wildcrafting and wandering the woods. I make medicine in the wee hours of the night, before breakfast and anytime I can find a moment! I develop new classes and workshops, often in the quiet darkness before bed when I can’t sleep, and I push myself to say yes to every opportunity to teach. This, all of this, I love. Then there are the hours emailing, driving to the post office, figuring out sales tax, and endlessly reorganizing my small workspace. This, is not so much fun. I think part of becoming a graceful human being, however, is learning how to love the mundane. I am also fortunate enough to work and teach for the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine, which has been such a fateful blessing.



How do you go about finding the perfect blend, scent, combination?
 First, I have a feeling. A resonant nudge deep inside of me that says “yes” (or perhaps, “oui” if it’s feeling Parisian). Sometimes I simply hold the names or images of all the herbs or essences in my mind at once, substituting one or the other, until something energetically clicks into place. Like a silent bell, ringing. Of course, I am always observing how others formulate and studying traditional herb combinations, but the ultimate decision seems to come from a place before words. Often times I feel like my formulas or blends have already asked to be made, and I am simply trying to follow the finesse of their delicate directions.

One thing I am definitely wanting to try are your honey blends
My honeys are available seasonally.... aka. whenever I’m in the season to make them! I recently ran out of my winter batches and have been dreaming up a summer concoction. I love to make both slow and quick infusions. I think honey is one of the true mannas of this earth. I once infused a sage honey for over a year, it was exquisite! This August I’ll be debuting a new honey, so check back to see what sweet new incarnation appears...

My Lifestyle is both quiet and constantly buzzing.
 I think about plants and flowers, the spirit of the world and the purpose of my life on a daily basis. I write poetry, ask for guidance, give gratitude, and consult the stars. I work constantly, and often feel as if I’m being propelled down a mysteriously dim, yet destined, path. I make time to camp out in the woods and congregate with good friends. I am a part of an incredible community of people here in the Asheville area. My friends are kind, compassionate, conscientious and seriously badass.  Some of my closest friends live off the grid, canning meat, collecting berries, building beautiful homes and processing animal skins into the most gorgeous buckskin clothing you’ve ever seen. I am constantly inspired by my community, not only its individual members, but by its closeness and communal dreaming of a better, more sustainable world. I am blessed to share a home with one of my best friends and serious soul brother. Staying in with him on a Friday evening is a real treat. We relish our time together, blending banana ice cream, picking tarot cards and coming up with new dance moves in on our tiny retro-tiled kitchen.  




I create blends that are non-GMO, gluten/grain-free
Medicine should be made from the purest, safest most loved ingredients on the planet. Part of what makes something medicine, is the intention and care behind its creation. All of my medicine is made with non-GMO alcohol and herbs because I believe in the perfection of nature. I don’t need to go into how scary genetically modified food can be – it is literally destroying our environment and our health. The rise of Celiac and gluten-intolerance is directly tied to the way in which we have modified, distorted, frankensteined and degraded our most ancient foods. I believe in honoring and respecting whole plants, and whole people, so I craft medicine with the most unadulterated ingredients I can find. 

We love tea! Tell us about your tea blends/processes & what are you own personal favorite types of teas. 
I absolutely cherish tea. One of my favorite things is to go to my apothecary and select herbs based on the whims of the moment: the smell in the air, the feeling I woke up with that morning, the conversations of friends at the dinner table, the season, or the hour. Creating synergy between herbs and water is like composing something akin to a symphony. One Willow’s tea blends all arose from common mixtures I make myself! Long Day Done is a direction translation of my favorite go-to tea combination for the close of a tiring day. My most adored tea herbs include: nettles, tulsi, anise hyssop, cardamom, chaga and whole vanilla beans.


When it comes to wildlife and plants, which specimen are you personally most fond of?
Oh, there are just so many! I fall irrevocably in love all the time, harboring minor obsessions with a particular flower, bird, vine or tree. Recently, though, I have fallen under the enchantment of Lady Slippers in a big way. A rare orchid, they only bloom for a few weeks every spring in these mountains. I wait for those weeks like the withdraw of the tide. When the Lady Slippers open, I rush out and veritably bathe in their sight. To me, it feels like the world of the fairies opens and magic, always possible, is right at your fingertips.

5 Things that Heal me

  • Candlelight 
  • Tulsi tea
  • Swimming in wild water 
  • Remembering my dreams
  • a Clean kitchen and the whole evening to cook

What do you find beautiful and/or inspirational?
Anyone or anything that lives directly from their heart.
The poetry of flowers, their exquisite differences, from budding, to opening, to falling.
Old baskets and hand woven rugs. Trees in winter, a full day of rain. Stones, Grandmothers and real-life love stories.




Books & film share your favorites!
[Films] Bright Star- This movie is piercingly beautiful. I can’t watch it unless I’m ready for a tidal wave of emotion, but I love it.
Before Sunrise- Now, then, and always.
[Books] The Secret Teachings of Plants by Steven Harrod Buhner – I love all of Steven Buhner’s work. He is constantly inspiring me to revel in my multitudinous nature. Feed all parts of yourself (herbalist, poet, mystic, shaman) and leave no stone unturned.
Soulcraft by Bill Plotkin – A must read for anyone looking to delve deeper into their unique path in this world
The Seth Material by Jane Roberts – These books changed my life. It was like finding the open door from which sailed my life’s most constant and blissful breeze.


Who inspires you?
I simply adore Mary Oliver and Rainer Maria Rilke. I’ve also recently entered into a deep fascination with the German mystic, writer and composer Hildegard von Bingen. Her music shakes loose something ancient inside me. I like to light candles and listen to her cantabiles before bed. Of living inspirations, I am thoroughly entranced by Robert Moss and his dream work. I am also deeply in love with the music of a dear friend of mine, Owen Scott Gibbs. I am constantly inspired by his songs. His music has been a place of profound catharsis for me. Everything that he creates is seriously, ridiculously, soul-achingly beautiful.

I live in the United Sates and it is a new place, still trying to figure out how to forgive itself and reconcile it’s inexhaustible beauty and indescribable wounds. Of all the places I have travelled to in this country, a handful are burnt indelibly in my mind: the Olympic peninsula and the Grand Tetons, Route 1 and the Blue Ridge Parkway, the amber expanse of Northern New Mexico and the endless lakes of Minnesota.

Guilty pleasures?
Whiskey. Long Drives. Perfect Food Bars (this is actually a problem) and Taylor Swift.



In 5 years I want to be reveling in the beauty of my life. 

A big garden planned with many generations in mind. A fresh stream running across the land I call home and the time to linger with both feet in its cold flow. A shelf for every tincture bottle, herb, book and stone. A balanced existence full of home-cooked meals, fulfilling travel and lots and lots of time to wander the woods without aim. A life partner who inspires me and an ever-blooming understanding of love.  Continuing to work and live as healer, in new incarnations of purpose and place in this world. Pets! Poetry! Maybe children on the way...
If for a day, you could be any animal (of land, sea or mythical) which would it be?
A great whale I saw once in my dreams.

Dream vision board, what would your ideal day consist of:
Awaking with the memory of many powerful and uplifting dreams. A long leisurely breakfast with fresh greens and a good book. Packing a small lunch and exploring the woods alone. Meeting new plants. Finding a talisman that helps me to hear something I needed to know. Arriving home to the warm smells of a home-cooked meal, nice wine and the perfect mix of music for my given mood (expansive, happy, alight). Slipping into an outfit I love and dancing with my lover in the kitchen. Kisses, a bath, a long conversation in bed. Falling asleep with just the light of the moon.

One piece of advice is to find what makes you come alive

What allows the days to feel golden, your skin precious and new. Find your passions and cherish them like raw stones, for they are the guideposts to your most sacred life. You are meant to be fulfilled. You are meant to experience great joy...rhapsody. You are here to give the gift of yourself to the world, and that begins with finding the small delights that coaxes your inspiration into flame. When you are able to inhabit this terrain you come to know yourself in the most passionate way. You arrive at the impeccable and everlasting understanding that you, truly, have the power to create the life of your dreams.


4 comments:

  1. beautiful...inspiring...beautiful!!

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  2. Blissful to read so much in depth about the enchanting founder of One WIllow Apothecaries, Asia Suler! She is a fascinating person!

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  3. Blissful to read such an in-depth interview with Asia, the enchanting founder of One WIllow Apothecaries. She's a fascinating person!

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  4. An amazing woman as well as herbalist, teacher, and writer! And that opinion comes even when I set aside all bias! :-)

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