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  • Jennifer Jewell


Mama Maiz greeting, asking permission and gathering native cedar for its ancient healing properties




Happy Equinox!

With the return of spring in the northern hemisphere, even with snow on the ground and storms in the forecast, you can almost feel as well as see the quickening pulse of our plant communities - green buds breaking through damp soil, buds swelling and coloring up on bare branches, sap rising. It is a time of year when the raw power and medicine of plants feels fully present in all that goes on in the garden. The colors, the scents, the flavors - strong and dynamic and essential. Full of vibrancy. I thought this was a good time to enjoy one of the Cultivating Place Best Of programs. This one a moving conversation with Blanca Diaz.

Happy new season to you - enjoy.

Nurturing – that’s what comes to mind when I think of the work of Blanca Diaz also known as Mama Maiz. Blanca is a practicing doula and herbalist whose work takes her around the country teaching and practicing plant based healing. She nurtures new mothers as they prepare to bring new life into our world, and she nurtures plants for their wisdom, healing and beauty. She nurtures community from the ground up and as she says: "I'm sharing what I've been called and been given permission to share.”

Mama Maiz is also a native plant advocate (though she happily uses the medicinal power of non-native plants too, "because why wouldn't you, if they're there?") , and she views native plants (and our relationships with them) as a foundation for building community, for restoring landscapes and for honoring ancestors as we make our way forward.

One of her greatest hopes with her work is that in teaching other people to build similar intentional and respectful relationships with their native plants, they will come to reassess what they mean by "medicine" and by "health". Her work illustrates the power of tending and learning about your own sense of wellbeing as being integral to the well being of the other peoples, plant communities and landscapes of your place.

Blanca’s relationship to plants for their medicinal properties supporting our well being derives originally from her parent’s directing her to plants in their back garden as a girl. Her mother’s fresh brewed herbal tea remains one of her strongest memories of the healing power of plants - especially plants that have been tended with care and prepared with intention. Blanca's education continued under the mentorships of elders from Mexico, from the native communities of Southern California and with Western Herbalist leaders.

"We’re always healing as individuals. As physical and spiritual beings,

we’re always finding ways to grow and to transform and to shed,

and plants are really some of the main allies I have in this process.”

- Blanca Diaz, Mama Maiz

Currently, she continues to nurture and educate others about this knowledge and these important relationships in several key ways on both personal and communal levels - through advocacy and safe space held especially for women of color and non-binary gender identification, through healing circles and workshops, through the educational outreach of guided nature walks and through the connective power of social media.

As for her own gardening practice, Blanca caringly tends to both wild and cultivated spaces for the plants and wildlife that thrive in these spaces and for the many benefits she derives from being in healthy, respectful relationship with these spaces. As Blanca points out, no matter where you live and garden your native plants groups, your native peoples and other educational resources are worth finding and becoming involved in.

Blanca and I discussed at length the richness of the resources in her area of Southern California: the Wishtoya Chumash Foundation, the Chia Café Collective, and one of its elders Barbara Drake, as well as Julie James and Green Wisdom Herbal Studies.

Blanca Diaz – Mama Maiz – joins us this week via Skype to share more of her own garden journey. For more information on Blanca and her Mama Maiz work, follow along with her events, and messages and images of healing on Instagram, Facebook and at her website:

Hope you enjoyed the Vernal Equinox message I mailed out to subscribers yesterday. I am so looking forward to the new sound of Cultivating Place incorporating the loving music of MaMuse. If you didn't read your seasonal note and request a sample of the new Cultivating Place theme music and song - check it out here!

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