by Amy Dadachanjia
” You are a Princess of equal standing.”
This is one of the (many) things that Christopher said to me that touched my heart. If I’m honest with you, then aged 27, I was looking, searching, yearning for a teacher, someone who could mentor me to deeper insights and see me and value me and my potential. I didn’t know this consciously of course but there it was.
I had travelled the world always being drawn to herbals, healing and land and in the far-flung Byron Bay I decided I would study herbal medicine – I could have done it there and then but I chose (for a reason unbeknownst to me) to fly 10,000 miles back to London to study at Westminster. A year or two later it was clear that part of the learning (in so many ways) was Christopher.
On the first day there, he had a group of students assigned to him of which I was not one and I remember wishing that I was as there he was smiling and looking magical …. but it didn’t matter. I fell asleep in one of his classes and he seemed to warm to me (he didn’t take offence, he cooed at me and the whole class turned to see) – he warmed to me as a person as he did with everyone in different ways. He could just make you feel special and seen and understood.
That year I spent many days with Christopher, travelled with him to the Scottish School, went on camps and pounded the streets of London. All the while feeling so blessed to be learning from him.
At some point he dropped the bombshell – that we had a future being friends, that we were of equal standing. It was not something I was quite ready to hear – for what of my teacher? Now I see it as the biggest gift he could have given me.
Christopher didn’t really see himself as the teacher, or the one with more power. He was revered and respected and loved it was true but he was humble and sometimes blasé. He was a man with a great dedication to herbal medicine and baby herbalists. He was so committed to herbalism and projects and the future of herbalism while so diligently researching the past and present on so many different levels.
I was a sanguine young person with hunger in my eyes that he fed to some extent but really he was imparting the magic. That magic which he shared with all. I felt blessed and special for a little while. But it was just ego. The real magic was in the sharing – the sharing!
If we are diligent and work hard and work together we achieve so much more. If we find our path and believe in it and yet remain open to other thoughts and experiences we are stronger for it. If we listen to the plants then cross reference and read physiology books we will be more knowledgeable, if we think our knowledge through and try and speak it out loud we will formulate our understanding and if we gain understanding then we can change the world. We can change the world! We are changing the world.
Christopher was an advocate for changing the world. From tiny things like making onion syrup for a chesty cough to rewilding and sharing the herbal knowledge across the lands.
I was out walking yesterday thinking about writing this and thinking of Christopher and I came across a whole swathe of coltsfoot. Immediately I was almost there with him chatting about it, seeing his long fingers gently caress that little plant whilst wondering where the fairies were (making us all laugh and engaging us in the process). He was into fresh simple remedies yet understood the most complex presentations and philosophies.
If there’s anything I learned from him as a teacher it is to engage with your path, to engage with your medicine, your plants, your people.
If there’s anything I learned from him as a friend it is to value your friendships and give as much as you take. To value yourself within that friendship and to value your friend. To see the magic in the other and all around. To believe in the other, the otherness and always ask the fairies first.
It was a slow lesson for me – spanning 15 years but I slowly learned to believe in community and sharing and self. To let go of fear and research my own beliefs and ideas – to articulate them – share them. So while he talked of vervain and betony and mugwort (which of course are all some of my top plant allies), he really shared the power and magic of togetherness and otherness, of self-belief and listening, of being open and receiving as much as being able to give.
I understand now there may not be one teacher, one mentor, one inspiration for each of us, but he sparked the flame that still burns and with that fire I feel the confidence of that friendship and sharing and am forging my path and finding my tribe so we can change the world together in gratitude and wonder.
Amy runs the Wild Apothecary in Gloucestershire set in an old walled garden and plant nursery. She sees patients there and teaches herbal medicine, plant allies and rewilding from her home a few miles away on the edge of the Cotswold hills.