chapter 16 – vanessa, paradise farm, and the finale at soap creek valley



I arrived in town one afternoon fresh from the Greyhound bus and waited on the side of the road in Corvallis for Vanessa to come and meet me. I knew she was married, so when a truck pulled up with a couple inside smiling, I knew it was them straight away. The man gave me a welcoming hug and said “You must be May, I’m Bob” I said “I’m Jane, are you Vanessa’s husband?” He said “No, but welcome to Corvallis anyway! Are you here on vacation? Where are you from? Oh and this is Elizabeth” His wife Elizabeth smiled, greeted me with a little wave from the passenger seat, relaxed and open, like it was every day they met and greeted random strangers off the bus….and so the conversation went on.

When Vanessa arrived (and they had found May) we waved each other off like long lost friends. That was my introduction to Corvallis.

Vanessa is a natural beauty; gentle peaceful energy kind of Celtic goddess-looking women, with auburn tousled hair and a big smile. She is the first woman I have ever met who studied with Susun Weed; having spent a Summer at the Wise Woman Centre near Woodstock over 12 years ago, and who I learned SO MUCH from in the short time we were together….


We soon arrived on Paradise Farm; an organic vegetable garden with a few poly-tunnels and the most delicious fresh fruit veg of the knobbly organic variety and flowers; I had a blast walking through the poly tunnels and picking the odd raspberry and strawberry and admiring the courgette (the BIG aromatic tomato vine smells reminiscent of hanging out with Judy at dear Trigonos in North Wales). Smells have this ability to ‘take me back’ somewhere in the most powerful way.

Soon I had I met all the plants and animals (and people) in Vanessa’s care…Charlie Artemis Mama Ninja Apollo were first in line for strokes; and suddenly I felt the warmth of the day and this beautiful relaxed vibe from the land come over me and I started yawning endlessly! I felt so cared for by Vanessa, who supported me immediately in getting some rest, laid out a blanket for me under the tall tree next to her home, and invited me to stay there as long as I wanted to, no agenda, nothing to do. I lay down gratefully, my body on the earth, and I drifted off into a doze.


Charlie the Labrador was also having a snooze in her favorite nap-spot underneath the house and was snoring like an old man(!) The sound of her contented grunting was often heard from various places around the house as a distant rumble, an endearing background sound; a contented dog who loves sleep as much as I do!!

Later we put up the tent that was going to be my home for the next two nights which I got giddily excited about because the flap opened out to a view of a beautiful field; and then we fried up some delicious fresh chard and courgette with brown rice and some of Vanessa’s yellow dock herbal vinegar which blew my mind – a completely new flavour, herby incredible and healthy.


Vanessa’s kitchen in her mini-home (built beautifully on a flat-bed trailor and in theory, moveable!) is what I dream about – jars of tinctures, infused herbs, fermented things concoctions and brews on the surfaces; the kind of place I would have got very excited about as a child… Things brewing, different wild herbs used appreciated and loved.


I followed her as she moved gracefully and slowly through the flower garden, smiling gently and greeting her plant allies one by one, whispering how beautiful they are and introducing them to me sometimes by their Latin names and sometimes by their common one, stroking the leaves and speaking beautiful greetings to the flowers. She explained the Shamanic Practice Susun had taught her of sitting in meditation next to the herbal ally that calls out the strongest to be worked with, sitting with it every day until you feel the message coming; how it can assist you, what it has to communicate. I approached Vanessa’s plants with a love and reverence I have never experienced with plants before. We picked flowers at the height of the sun’s course across the sky and dropped them into a huge jar with water and left them in the sun for the energy of the light to infuse the water with the perfume and scent of the flowers. The taste was divine; like honey nectar and perfume. A drink of the Goddess made with love and care for the workshop slowly gently and with respect and it felt soooooo good gently exploring and selecting chamomile, calendula, fennel flowers, spearmint, peppermint, rose, lavendar, californian poppy, marsh mallow, yarrow, daisy, dandelion, montbresia and motherwort.


Over the couple of days I spent at Vanessa and Peter’s place I sat outside in the sun a lot; the weather was dreamy and the porch was shaded by the big old tree giving us gentle cool breezes through our hair as we chatted.


We also harvested some Calendula flowers for massage oil infusions; a glorious basket of sunshine, and soon it was time for the women’s gathering and the finale on my tour.


We headed over to Soap Creek Valley – home of Andrea – a gorgeous soul who loves to open her beautiful space to like minded people to share and unwind there. This was the stunning view from the deck where the workshop was held.


We set the place up and the women came; a wonderful group and the best ending to the tour I could possibly imagine.


It was a celebration of sorts; several of the women were in their menopause and described it as like going through an initiatory process, as a mixture of being 12 again with joy and energy, but with this cosmic sense of deep one-ness and worldliness. What a powerful positive experience and something so encouraging to us not yet there. We need more of THAT support in our culture.


What started as a sacred circle for sharing became a wonderfully participatory workshop. Debbie from Bell Pine Art came all the way from Eugene and it was INCREDIBLE meeting her at long last and I truly hope we get to meet again one day at Bell Pine Art Farm.


I also got to meet with Rachel – a woman who had made the initial connection with me and was willing (but unable) to host me while I was in the area, and who I loved finally meeting.


The workshop was so rewarding and special; one woman explained how she now saw she been holding on to her pre-menstrual experiences and carrying them through into menstruation, making it more difficult for her during the time of ‘release’. Something I could really relate to.

Another felt it was an empowering experience for her as a menopausal woman to feel a solid and new place for her in the circle, to be able to support those menstruating as they come through.

Others said they felt ‘grounded energised and and inspired’ and were appreciative of my reference to menstruators and bringing up gender around these kinds of workshops. I couldn’t be more happy to have shared this work with such a genuine fabulous group of people (and the youngest man I have ever presented this to – sweet sleepy baby Leif at 4 months old on his first ever social outing…! What a guy!)

And the women also really loved the ecofemme products I had brought to the workshop too – I love demonstrating them and talking about how to look after them. They are soooooooo the way forward in my mind!!


Thank you dearly women!!!! And farewell for now XxXXXX


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