The Healing Powers of Joe

It is an odd week because of the annual benefit auction at the craft school and so tonight is my Friday night. I get off work (93 degrees on the top of Conley Ridge today, 87 inside the coffeehouse, fans blowing) and drive straight to Joe’s Mountain Gardens. He knows I can’t walk up his driveway because of my ankle so he has agreed to meet me at his mailbox.

I pull up and look up just in time to see his limber body and a wide flash of white hair dashing easily down the mountain slope towards the truck.

“Check out the rig you’re driving!” he says, resting his hand on the driver’s side window.

“I know. A Ford F150 isn’t exactly ‘me’ but it sure is a blessing since it gets me up and down the mountain.”

We make small talk and he is all smiles, proud of the productive summer he and his apprentices have had at the Gardens. “Once you’re able, you should come on up and I’ll show you around. You won’t believe the changes we’ve made since you were here working on the irrigation ditch. It’s some pretty neat stuff.”

“Neat enough to get you on the cover of a magazine,” I say, smiling. As soon as I found out my story about visiting him was going to be the cover, I let him know the good news–but that was over the phone. In person, he is actually a bit bashful.

“Eeee,” he says, waving his hands to the side a bit, as if slicing the air. “The cover, eh? Well…” His sentence doesn’t need completion. He’s pleased and I can tell by the look on his face.

“The closest place to get the magazine around here is BigCity, NC,” I say. “You can buy it at Downtown Books and News.”

He is thankful, then hands me a bad with three handmade treatments for my ankle, plus a book on Chinese sports medicine that he’s loaned me. “You’ll need to read the chapter on liniments and the section on poultices,” he says. “But this should all do just what you need.”

I accept the bag and give him $20 in return, though he asked for only $15. “I earned good tips today, Joe,” I say, happy to be able to share.

Later, I read the chapters and apply the trauma liniment to my left ankle and the tendon lotion to my right ankle. I learn that the poultice will help later one, once all the chronic inflammation and pain are completely gone. The book also includes recipes for making these medicines from scratch, which Joe has done, growing and harvesting many of the medicinal herbs on his own land. They include myrrh, rhubarb, camphor root, frankincense, wild aconite, peach kernel, pyrite, dragon’s blood, tang kuei tails, gardenia, phellodendron bark, safflower, fennel, magnolia bark, cinnamon bark, cypres tuber, resobud bark, tiger bone, and more. Immediately, I am reminded of my early adventures at Mountain Gardens when my intense and deeply gratifying healing first began.

What a gift his practices are – on the land and for those around him. A truly fruitful, full day.

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