When we arrived, Don Francisco took us out into the garden behind his traditional Maya home. He is a healer, you see, and his connection to Tierra Santa, the Earth, is deep. He understands the cycles of growth and harvest. He knows how to identify a plant in all its stages, from seedling to harvest, from dry season to wet. He has the vast library of information hidden within his mind of how to combine and use more than 500 types of plants that grow in the wild jungles of the Yucatan. And he feels and communicates with the energies of nature, the guardians of plants and animals, the elements and the old gods, both old and new.
In his garden, that looks more like a bit of jungle grounded by ancient limestone reef, he grows a bush to drive off bad vibes (mala vibras), a vine to cure snake bites, tiny flowers to protect babies, limes and bitter oranges, and a vast array of plants both for medicine and beauty. He walk us through the plants and over the rocky ground and doesn’t neglect to introduce us to his teenager chickens and young turkeys. He even has a pig in what looks like a tiny Maya house, and cenote fish from a nearby cave.
Going to see this healer, this herbatero or shaman as some might call him, is not just a time for cleansing and healing. It is a time to make connections with his family, his home, and his world. For long before you sit on a small stool in the room where incense burns and a crocked wooden table works as an altar, you connect with his kitchen. You smell the smoke from the open fire burning under the comal where the tortillas are made. You ask all the grandchildren their names and they draw pictures for you. You see the corn crop drying in a dusky, dark room and you marvel at how it will feed the family for a year. And you listen as Don Francisco happily explains each detail to you, answering all your questions with care and opening a window to a way of living that is filled with contentment.
And so when you finally sit on that little stool, with lemony scented clouds of smoke floating up around you from the incense placed under the chair, when you finally feel the tapping of the ruda sprinkled with sacred water from the cave on your head and shoulders, when you finally hear the chanting of prayer in Yucatan Mayan, you breathe in the energy of the connection of all the experiences, and your heart is warm and open.
It is all so humble, so non-assuming, understated, simple. And it is all so powerful. It is hard to find words to describe the power of the humbleness. So unexpected, so stabilizing, hope giving, life-changing. You know you will never be able to use words to show the colors of what happened in those moments, but you know something inside you changed.