September 11, 2023
Earth Connections, Healing Gardens: Shaman Jesus Garcia
Shaman Jesus Garcia’s heartening welcome started the day just right when we headed to Uhland, just east of Kyle, on a lovely cloudy morning in early April.
Serenity greeted us as we stepped into his family’s large backyard, home to The Herbal Action Project’s enchanting healing spaces that support children, families, teachers, and budding herbalists.
“What’s beautiful about this garden and the lineage that I grew up on is essentially all has to do with my grandparents and their lineage as Earth workers and tending the land, farmers and also curanderos. Curanderos are very much like shaman considered that they also work integrating holistic and traditional root work of herbal medicine into the kitchen, into the practice of community,” Jesus told us.
In 2020, when schools went to remote learning, he and his sisters—formerly teachers in Hays County—decided to foster homeschool support. “And we do that with education by not only the emotional aspects of how we feel and how we integrate our emotions with the garden, but also the education on how to be a better parent, how to be a better service for the land, and also how to be that child that we once were to bring wonder into the spaces that we’re cultivating,” he said.
When his family left Mexico, his father settled them in Uhland. Discovering that their land had been mistreated, he saw the opportunity to regenerate its barren soil. Jesus carries on its renewal.
After storms damaged trees, he and the children wove together branches and twigs into healing harbors.
In the floral and fairy garden, broken limbs from oaks turned into a safe support system for children who have been traumatized. Embraced by flowering comfrey in spring, by summer Mammoth sunflowers shield the child-sized hut alongside twining blackberries, fresh for sweet picking. “That gives this opportunity for us adults and elders to really think about how we were as children and how we want to foster this education and create our own safe spaces in the garden,” he said.
In the essence therapy bed, bordered with fragrant roses, morning glories, sunflowers and blackberries, they cater to the teenage spirit. “We have medicine here that really supports the essence and the connection of spirit of healing for the teenager who has been brokenhearted.”
It’s also home to a few brokenhearted cats who wandered in, now healed, safe, and gregarious. A cute tuxedo supervised us all, including director Ed Fuentes, grip Steve Maedl and intern Nastassja Collak.
Equally friendly chickens run the place during the day until safely penned at night. Jesus told us that the cats team up to protect them from potential daytime predators. The spirit of caring community runs deep in this sanctuary.
Since plants and their qualities ground Herbal Action’s caregiving, many of them bear medicinal qualities, including Yerba Buena in the tea garden.
“We plant roses for softening the spiritual self. And this connection actually came from my grandmother,” he said. “The yellow is very much identified for spirit healing and opening up our softness and figuring out our boundaries within others and other things in the world that probably should just keep a little bit away from us.”
Heirloom roses, sunflowers, and chia frame one end of the food forest.
I never realized that we could grow beneficial chia here! It’s the “toothed” one on the left; sunflower’s on the right. “This is the traditional Aztec chia, the black chia. And my grandmother has been growing chia for some time. So that’s an ancestral herb. These are seeds that we’ve had for generations. So, they’ll just keep on dropping and keep on supporting the same areas,” Jesus said.
In Mexico, his grandmother also grew mushrooms for ecological health and health for her family. Now, Jesus and the children grow them from spent blocks distributed by the Central Texas Mycological Society. When lightening struck a fruiting mulberry tree, they used the broken limbs in their mushroom (and fairy garden!) forest. Photo by Nastassja Collak.
“And the children really love playing with the mushrooms because it inspires them to really call upon them for something ethereal and we are so enamored with the connection by the magical fairies,” he said.
Here’s his grandmother’s recipe: Briefly sauté mushrooms with a little bit of butter, oregano and calabacitas (squash). Serve on a bed of rice.
Jesus also encourages us to play, play, play! Discover the fun and wonder of being a kid again, even on a swing that takes us high above our worries, or gently rocks them away to the tune of birdsong.
Or, just take a comfy nap! Photo by Nastassja Collak.
His wise advice: “As a preschool teacher, my initiative started to really bring this education to not only the fundamentals of the schools, but to also bring this at home. Wherever you are, whether you’re in an apartment, whether you’re in a small space, anybody can cultivate and learn from each other as far as community on how to grow plants, how to really apply them into our kitchen, and how to really gravitate towards them as spiritual and medicinal medicine.”
Thank you for stopping by! Linda