Welcome to my website. My name is Eric Garza.
To many, the photo above represents a wall of nameless green leaves. This is understandable given how little time most folks spend outdoors, and how few incentives there are to learn about the more-than-human world. I discern several plant species in the photograph, but one in particular inspired me to snap it while on an early-morning walk a couple days after the summer solstice. The plant that dominates the photo has many common names, among them Indian hemp, dogbane hemp, or just plain old dogbane. Its Latin name, for those so smitten, is Apocynum cannabinum.
The leaves, stems, and especially roots of this species have a variety of medicinal uses, though the plant’s phytochemistry is potent and not to be trifled with. Seeds can be ground into flour, although the return on investment of this endeavor seems too marginal to warrant the effort in even the densest stands I commonly see. My interest in dogbane focuses primarily on separating from its stems the long, tough fibers I use to make cordage. This fiber, when spun and reverse twisted to a consistent thickness, is shockingly strong and handles tension well enough to use it for bow strings.
When I see dogbane, or most any plant that yields strong fibers, I am reminded of a story relayed to me by a colleague some time ago. The story came from a Jul’hoansi elder who lived on the western edge of the Kalihari desert in Africa. The elder spoke of how each of their children is born with four threads. One thread connects the newborn child to their sense of self. The second connects them to other people in their community. The third thread connects them to their ancestors, and the final thread connects them to the more-than-human world they share the desert with. If, as the child matures, all four of these threads are adequately nurtured, they grow into thick, strong ropes that allow that person to contribute positively to the strength and resilience of their community. Neglect any of these threads, and both the individual and the community will suffer.
It seems to me that modern society, such as it is, does little to foster these four threads of connection in us as we mature. The result of this travesty is that, as adults, many of us suffer from a profound, multifaceted disconnection that contributes to all manner of mental, physical, and even cultural illnesses. This inspires in me a few questions: First, what must we do to nurture these threads of connection in ourselves and others so that we can recover the nourishing, resilient communities that are our birthright? How can we nurture these threads while navigating the culturally impoverished, ideologically divided societies in which we live? And finally, how can we nurture these threads with political turmoil, social division, resource scarcity, climate change, and all of the ecological dysregulation they entail, as a backdrop?
Questions like these inspire much of the work I do as an educator, media producer, and writer. You can learn more about my work by exploring this website. You can listen to my Healing Culture Podcast here, among other places. I also release videos to my YouTube Channel on occasion, and publish essays on Medium. The best way to stay abreast of my doings is by signing up for my monthly newsletter below, which I send out on or very near each new moon. You can also connect with me on social media using the icons below.
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