Pages

2/3/14

The Healing and the Honeybee: La Abeja Herbs

Today I am overjoyed to present to you all this rich an inspiring interview with Sophia Rose, herbalist, nutritionist, and proprietor of La Abeja Herbs Initially inspired by Sophia's products and her beautiful instagram feed, I reached out to her to ask some questions about her products (this is when I learned that we are both roses). Wanting to learn even more, I asked her if she'd like to do an interview for my blog, and she graciously agreed. Finally, in this new year, I sent her these questions which she answered more fully and wonderfully than I could have dreamed. 

Fittingly, today is Sophia's 24th birthday - the perfect day to publish these stories that she has shared with us. This is also a perfect follow-up to Friday's health care/self care post, for those of you who read it.



tell me, please, a bit about yourself. where did you grow up, and is there a place that you call "home?" what parts of your childhood influenced your work that you do now?

My name is Sophia Rose.  Growing up I was "Sophie". Then at 16, "Sophia" [my real name].  In the last six years, it's seemed natural to begin to include my middle name--bringing me to today--as "Sophia Rose".  A name is a great thing, a destiny; something to aspire and grow into.  Everday I feel blessed to be Sophia Rose.  Sophia means wisdom and Rose means beauty--esoteric beauty, the beauty of the wild.  It is, by my estimation, a blessed reminder to be called Sophia Rose, and to be predestined + encouraged to embody wisdom and wild beauty.  I was born and raised in Austin, TX.  I grew up swimming--almost religiously--in Barton Springs, a natural aquifer-fed pool a few blocks from my house. The feeling I got from plunging into that icy water and then warming my body again almost instantly on the threateningly hot Summer pavement, the pecan trees rustling above me, the itchy grass on my child skin.  That felt like home.  

 
Austin has grown exponentially and changed almost inconceivably over the last decade.  It is one of my greatest sadnesses that it no longer feels like my home.  Last Spring, my father, feeling similarly, left Austin--the place he'd called home since moving there from Mexico City at the age of fifteen--and bought a peice of land in Crestone CO.  His house there is nestled in the foothills of mountains fourteen thousand feet tall.  It's surrounded by PiƱon trees, and complete with an orchard of young fruit trees, a lushly-planted geodesic grow-dome, and an 18-foot yurt.  


The yurt has become my ultimate hideout and something close to what one might call "Home."  There is little else than brings me greater pleasure than spend hours on end, sitting on the porch of the yurt bundled in wool blankets three deep, playing my singing bowl, and marveling at the planetarium-perfect night sky of a place so remote.


I am still discovering how my past has informed my present.  Time is a funny thing.  I often experience my life somewhat all at once--it is both beautifully poetic and vaguely disorienting.  I was given very free reign growing up and was, therefore, quite certain that anything was possible.  And not just that anything was possible but that I, Sophia Rose, could do it.  I thought of something and then leapt into action without much considering whether or not it could be done.  In high school I opened by first business, DIGS vintage -- actually a glorified yard sale in my mother's garage complete with my friends spinning vinyl and popsicles for everyone.  I was 15 when my aunt suggested the venture--noting how freakishly good I was at selecting 1960's designer vintage from racks of neon track suits and tired slips.  I didn't give it a second thought.  I just started spending my afternoons sifting treasures from the refuse at The Blue Hanger (a clothes-by-the-pound warehouse) and told my friends. I think that is where my strength lies in most things that I do--the fact that I am totally unversed and uninterested in The Way Things Should Be Done.


how long has La Abeja been alive, and how was it born?

The Short Answer // Two and a half years.  Born by way of misadventure.

The Long Answer // La Abeja was borne out of the passionate devotional love I felt and continue to feel for Honeybees.  In 2011 I was completing training and clinical residency at the North American Institute Of Medical Herbalism.  At that time I was in the clinic seeing clients a couple days a week and in the midst of writing my thesis, the Magikal + Medicinal Uses of Solomon's Plume. My greatest joy that year was gathering and crafting all of the wild medicines for the clinic's apothecary.  I felt as though I had truly found my calling.   

Up until that point in my life, I'd felt that my Soul's Path had been fairly clear--I'd always known my next step, even if only vaugely.  But as my graduation from NAIMH drew near, I felt totaly uncertain as to how I wanted to proceed, as an herbalist or otherwise.  One evening, I was alone in my bedroom--high up in the Rocky Mountains--four months into the punishingly windy subzero Winter.  I was watching Queen Of the Sun, a movie about colony collapse disorder and the implications of life without bees.  I was suddenly overcome with a mix of grief and joy and fervor.  Tears streamed from my eyes and I clutched at my breast, gasping.  And while I was moved by the film, it wasn't the reason for my tears.  They were, rather, the result of my realization that I was meant to devote myself, totally, to the stewardship of Honeybees.  


After sitting with this realization, I sought out an apprenticeship in Northern Michigan and made arrangements to spend the following Summer and Fall working as their chef while I learned the ways of the apiary.  After six months of anticipation and an epic cross country road trip, I arrived at the farm.  It was pretty much immediately apparent that--for reasons I won't enumerate here--that my being there was not going to work out.  I was devastated, as well as totally alone, thousands of miles from anywhere even remotely familiar, and without a single plan for the rest of my life.  I could have been thrilled at the spaciousness and infinite possibility now available to me, but I was not.  Far from it, in fact.  I was terrified and in a great deal of distress.  Unsure of where to go, I sought refuge in a state park in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where I wandered aimless through the woods and was greeted by one of my most beloved and familiar plant allies--Solomon's Plume, about which I'd written my thesis just months prior.  I was heartened by what seemed to me a good omen.  I waded listelessly in lake Superior, wrote incoherent postcards to my friends, and generally waited for Something to happen.  

And then it did.  An old friend + teacher of mine, then living in Wisconsin's Apostle Islands, invited me to come and stay with her--"for six days or six months", as she put it.  My heart leapt at the opportunity to join a kindred spirit in a beautiful and uknown land.  I made my way West across Michigan and into Wisconsin and boarded an expensive ferry to the remote island where she lived.  While I was there I spent countless hours wandering through idyllic forests in nothing but a 1950's pin-up style swimsuit, nibbling wild thimbleberries and raspberries as I went, and laying on the mossy earth, greeting the elusive Ghost Pipe flowers which inspired the stuff of my dreams. 

 I sat in crumbling antique lace beneath a faded parasol each afternoon selling Rose Petal Elixir, Herbal Insect Repellant, and various other botanical ephemera to bikers + tourists outside the only bar on the island.  There were challenges that Summer to be sure, but much of what I recall are the Halcyon days spent swimming tirelessly in the icy waters of Lake Superior, bathing in solitude in the lagoons at dusk, and sprinting madly down muddy dirt paths toward some unknown magic.  All Summers have their logical conclusion in Autumn, and this one was no different.  I began to long for Home, but I knew not where that might be.  

I was not yet ready to return to Austin, seemingly empty handed and with no skills to begin keeping bees as I had hoped + planned.  I had a dear friend in Albuquerque at the time who offered yet another open-ended invitation, and so I decided venture South to visit her.  After an epic solo journey through the Badlands of South Dakota and with a brief stop in my beloved Colorado, I arrived in the Land of Enchantment where I slowly began planting seeds, so to speak. 


 I felt strangely at home in this unforgivingly hot and unfamilar concrete city with its intoxicating Mimosa trees, and psychedlic Prickly Pear blossoms.  There were thrift stores on every corner and--prize of all prizes to someone who's been living in a trailer for many months--I had access to a real kitchen in which to cook my meals and refrigerate my food.  In a way I was in heaven after living in the middle of the woods with no running water.  Perhaps in the end I stayed for the bath tub.  Anyhow, despite the fact that I was still unsure of whether or not I'd stick around, I began to make gallons of sauerkraut and various salves, tinctures and teas.  I submitted applications to farmers markets; began to plan classes I'd teach.  One thing led to another and I met a man named Michael -- an old farmer who took me in and invited me to use the vacant casita on his land to teach my classes out of.  He felt instantly like family; like I'd known him forever.  I stayed.  I taught.  I made my medicines and began to see how deeply people were affected by what I felt called to share and create.

Back in my bedroom in the Mountains of Colorado, perhaps the same night I watched that movie, perhaps another night, I had begun a website for my herbal consultations under the name of La Abeja Herbs.  La Abeja, of course, means Honeybee in Spanish.  When I sold my Rose Petal Elixir to the vacationers and locals on the Island, I'd continued to do so as La Abeja Herbs.  However, it was not until I arrived in Albuquerque, and began to use the little casita on Michael's farm as my apothecary that La Abeja truly came to life for me.  My class attendence grew and my apothecary line found its direction.  I started to see more clients and eventually took on an apprentice.  We've since moved from the farm into a collaborative space in downtown Albuquerque with four other woman-owned businesses, The Hermosa Collective.  Since the moment I had the realization that evening in Colorado, my vision has changed and evolved. That vision now includes many other things that I've found to be medicine besides plants--I make a line of leather goods and talismans and now incorporate much more ceremony and emphasis on the Sacred Feminine into my work.  So in a way, I have done exactly what I set out to do--honor the bees--by remaining fiercely true to their deeply feminine spirit of healing, love, and interconnectness.  I do hope to soon have one or two hives at The Hermosa Collective and to add more in the future.  Viva La Abeja!



what (and who) inspires you in your creative process? 
I am inspired by natural rhythms--in the world within and without.  I structure my life--personally and professionally--around the cycles of the Moon.  I begin all of my new medicines and projects on the New Moon.  Many farmers make a point to plant seeds during the waxing moon, when there is, cosmically, the most potential for things to grow and flourish along with the waxing moon.  Harvests typically follow on the Full Moon, a time thought to bring the highest yield and richest reward, not just for crops but for all things one chooses to cultivate.  I press all of my medicines on the Full Moon and take time to reflect on all the gifts that have come into my world over the course of the last cycle.
I am, of course, inspired by the plant world in all its many and nuanced forms.  When I take the time to be still and listen deeply to their teachings, I feel strengthened in all parts of my Being.  Working with wild plants is what makes me feel most Human.  I am inspired by the smell of the soil.


where do you live now, and what do you love about it?
La Abeja Herbs is based out of Albuquerque, NM.  I spend most of my time here--teaching, writing, working with clients, and making medicine--but I often return to Austin, TX where I was born and raised and where my mom's entire family still lives and make extended trips to Crestone CO where my father lives with his dear wife.  In Albuquerque I spend most of my time working in the Apothecary and exploring the Bosque (the area around the Rio Grande River) and the Sandias (the mountain range just East of the city).  In Crestone I spend most of my time hiking with my dad's dog or retreating into my yurt to take hot baths, write and vision, or make medicine pouches by the woodstove.  In Austin I am always kept busy reconnecting with friends and family or spending time basking in the familiar scent of the woods where I grew up.  The Spirits of these three different places each feed very different and necessary parts of me.  I can't stay away from any one of them for too long without hungering for the essential and distinct nourishment that they each provide.


are there any future visions you would like to share with us, for La Abeja?
I would love to continue to develop a yearly cycle of traveling and teaching.  Last Summer I spent two weeks as the resident herbalist at my favorite hot spring in Colorado and then headed West to cover the Telluride Mushroom Festival for a friend's magazine.  I plan to do both of those things again this Summer as well as visiting El Cosmico in Marfa, TX to teach and hold space for ceremony in their dreamy tipis and wood-fired dutch tubs. Also, an old friend recently invited me to teach at Spirit Weavers Gathering in Joshua Tree this May.  So, I hope over the next few years to settle into a rhythm of teaching, exploring, and connecting with loved ones as I travel and then nesting, dreaming, and creating back in Albuquerque or Crestone.

I also intend to start working more with groups of women.  I'd like to hold space for sacred circles that gather regularly as a way to teach, learn, share, and immerse ourselves in what we hold most precious in our feminine hearts.  This may also overlap with my vision of rethinking my apprenticeship program as a more immersive experience where a few women at a time come together for thirteen moons and learn, not only from me and my practice, but from one another, as well as from the experience of working closely with other strong + compassionate beings.



what is one of your own favorite rituals for restoration or relaxation? and a favorite ritual to inspire creativity and production?
I spend time in a wild natural place daily.  My favorite thing to do at dusk is to walk through the ancient cottonwoods that line the Rio Grande and simply sit in the vast stands of Yerba Mansa that punctuate parts of the Bosque.  Each day when I do this--usually as the sun is setting and the crows are coming to roost--it brings profound joy to my heart to know that even in the middle of downtown Albuquerque, there is nature that remains untamed.

It is also essential to the health of my body, heart, spirit and business to take time for moonlodge each month when I bleed.  This is the time when I am most creative, most psychic, most visionary, and most deeply attuned to my Spirit.  It is the time when I feel most Myself.  By taking time to rest deeply, nourish my body and spirit, trust whatever arises during these four to five days of each cycle, I am able to be so much more vital and resilient the rest of the month.  During my moonlodge I spend hours writing, painting, creating.  I am able to listen more deeply to what all parts of me are asking for.  It is a gift!  I treasure this time and taking it is what allows me to hold space for others in an honest and profound way the other 23 days of the month.


Thank you, Sophia Rose, for this inspiring and eloquent interview! And thank you to all my readers who are most certainly enjoying reading it. May these stories fuel your own creative fires and provide certainty in the dusty corners of your dreams. May we all have what it takes to blossom and grow in our work and in our livelihood. 

If you'd like to keep in touch with Sophia Rose and follow her on her journeys, you may do so on all or any of the virtual roads below:

shop //
classes //
blog //
instagram // 


all photography copyright La Abeja Herbs

5 comments:

  1. what a great interview! very inspiring. i follow her on ig as well and can't wait to pop over and check out her shop :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Love it! Be back later with more comment <3

    ReplyDelete
  3. Loved this and will pass it onto another aspiring herbalist

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you so much for posting this. Your mother (a friend of mine in Lake Tahoe) shared this interview with me and it helped to greatly catalyze some transformations I've been meaning to undertake. First of which involve leaving the internet for one full moon cycle. Keep on finding beautiful and inspiring people to share with the world!

    ReplyDelete
  5. What an EPIC story, thank you for sharing the inspiration. Really rings true and resonates with me

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for commenting! Even if I don't reply, I read and appreciate every single one of you. xo