I

was out on the plaza watching my beloved busk with his one-man-band outfit a few weeks ago when I saw a woman fluttering by in a beautiful, long, hooded beige coat dress. It was funny, I only saw her back, but there was something so familiar about her… it was almost like seeing a little piece of myself. My rational brain just thought “Oh, it’s because she’s wearing something I would wear, that’s why I feel this.”

A few minutes later, she came back down the street and stood right in front of me. “Loba??” Is it you? WHAT are you doing here?”

(here’s a little moment of Mattie being her beautiful self here!)

A little yet-untold back story for my readers here, that some of you already know from reading the Anima blog I was a sporadic contributor to for at least a dozen years: Elka has only been my name for about the past four years. Before that, my name was Loba for twenty years. Before that, I had another name that I dearly loved, and still love. (You can find out what it was here in the second story that appears).

It took me a few seconds to adjust my eyes to see this person apart from the only context I was used to.  “MATTIE, is that you???”

I’d been thinking about Mattie, I’d been wanting to contact her, but had lost track of her email and didn’t remember her last name. I figured she was probably back in Montana, where she was from.

She was one of my all-time favorite helpers in the canyon, and stayed quite a bit longer than most of our other helpers did. I have many beautiful memories of us baking together in the outdoor kitchen, sharing songs, harvesting and cooking up the wild greens of summertime with endless panfuls of homemade corn tortillas, floating in the river, doing water dances in the moonlight with our lovely & mischievous friend Evangeline, sharing tears and fears, stories of our lives and some of the powerful moments we each had on our own with the canyon.

She told me she’d been thinking of me too, almost every day for the past five years, which surprised me. It’s funny, isn’t it? That we can feel so connected to people we don’t feel called to stay in communication with? It happens a lot to me, too. There are many people in my life and heart that I think about often, but for one reason or another, or for unconscious reasons, it doesn’t seem like the time for us to say hello, I still love you. Or, to ask them, who are you now? Are you still the person I remember?

Well, it has been truly amazing reconnecting with Mattie. I got to spend a few days with her at the gorgeous place where she dwells outside of Jacksonville. We climbed hills full of flowers and ponds with her darling dog Sonoma, geese and ducks flying around above us, and sang, and cooked together in her adorable little kitchen. (She shares this spot with some kind and lovely herbalists, Sajah and Whitney, who you can meet, see photos of their home and read about their work creating spagyric medicines and more here.) And she showed me her little herbal apothecary, her dye pots and her sewing studio, where she makes such beautiful hemp garments and dyes them with plants. (You can visit her lovely website Juniperous to find out more about her work! And there’s a beautiful canyon picture on her LEARN page!) She is wanting to teach more these days, and will be presenting at the SpiritWeavers Gathering this summer!

There is a lot that moved me about our reconnecting. But one of the biggest things for me is to hear how much her time in the canyon impacted her, and still affects her everyday life. We shared similar stories of experiencing a sense of true timelessness there, and of things that can barely be put into words. It’s amazing to witness the power of connection to Source through a single earthen portal, in another person that is not physically there. To know that even someone who only spent a few months in that physical space (or even less)  can receive a depth of knowingness that can be with them forever. It’s such good and needed medicine for me to see how deeply the canyon has remained in her. It’s evident to me that the seed of that power she felt there has grown in her enormously, and has helped her to become ever more grounded in her own unique medicine. It helps affirm that it’s possible for me to carry this place of power in me always, wherever I go, and that everything I do will be impacted from this source of connection. I do know this on my own, but it’s still so helpful to actually be or speak with Mattie, and to feel the canyon that is still in her. It’s something like feeling Home, every time we even speak on the phone.

Last time I saw Mattie, I had just spent the entire day processing nettles, and had made a big pot of Potato Nettle Soup to feed my housemates and some friends. I can’t even tell you how joyful it was for me to get to feed her a bowl of this beloved, so-familiar soup in my new home, and to witness the depth of her joy, to eat this soup that she had feasted on so many times in the canyon.

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nettle harvest in the canyon

                                                            Loba’s Potato Nettle Soup

I call this “Loba’s Potato Nettle Soup” because it’s really funny to me, that Mattie generally has not-too hard of a time remembering to call me Elka, but when she talks about my food, she has a much harder time with it! In her mind and heart, she says my food will always be “Loba Food”, which to me, is pretty sweet! Maybe those of my readers that have eaten my food in the canyon feel the same way… 🙂

When we used to have the Wild Women’s Gatherings every summer, this was one of my favorite things to serve the groups of women. After a long day of ReWilding talks and activities, several of us would go out to gather a tarpful of stinging nettles, and then sit and strip the leaves from the stalks together, sometimes while singing. We’d boil up a giant potful of potatoes, throw in the heaps of nettles, some garlic and lemon, and a whole stick of butter, and there was supper! There’s nothing quite like eating hot bowls of freshly picked nettles with potatoes, wrapped in blankets and shawls, sitting by an outdoor fire near the river, watching the orangey pink reflections of sunset and cliffs glow their brightest before the slow fade into evening. It’s still one of my very favorite things in the world of food, and I have a million ways to use up any leftovers! It’s also a great way to use frozen nettles, or to make leftover mashed potatoes into something special. You can vary the ratio of nettles to potatoes as you wish– I prefer it quite nettley. Goat cheese or some other lovely cheese is a nice addition, but not crucial if you have plenty of butter or Fir Oil on hand.

Water

1 lb. red potatoes, scrubbed and cubed (or 2-3 cups leftover mashed potatoes)

1 lb. fresh nettle tops (or about 1 cup frozen, already-cooked nettles, thawed and chopped)

3 cloves garlic, minced and sautéed

3-4 tablespoons unsalted butter, or Fir Oil, or a combination

1/2- 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel (and a squeeze of lemon juice, optional)

Salt and lots of freshly ground pepper, to taste (I start with at least 1 teaspoon salt)

Goat cheese, or cubed Jarlsberg cheese, optional, or some extra butter

minced parsley, optional

Put the cubed potatoes and enough water to cover them in a soup pot. Bring to a boil, and simmer until the potatoes are just tender. Add the nettles, cover again, bring to a boil, and set the lid ajar while they simmer another 5-10 minutes, or until the nettles are just tender. Take the pot off the heat and pour off the excess cooking water into a bowl. Mash the potatoes and nettles together with a potato masher. Add the sautéed garlic, lemon peel, butter, salt and pepper, tasting. Add some or all of the reserved cooking water back to the pot, depending on how soupy you would like it to be. Bring to a simmer again, taste and adjust any seasonings, adding the lemon juice if you like. Serve in warmed bowls with cheese or some extra butter on the top of each bowl, and another grind of pepper and the minced parsley, if using.

For breakfast: We love leftovers with poached eggs and a bit of salsa.

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A 13 foot long stretch of nettles harvested for me about 2 hours from Ashland by my friend Ito (Vittorio), on my front porch last week
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