by Melisa Prieto
Remember what you’re learning. Turmeric, lemon, ginger, honey. Make a paste with turmeric and honey, lick the spoon, twice. Feel the thickness trickle down your throat, massaging the discomfort. Water’s done. Pour it up, pour it up, add the ginger slices and let it rest for a bit. Let yourself rest. As if it were that easy. It’s been four days with bronchitis, I look at my medicine books. Some have dried herb remnants, some have fingerprints of cayenne. I am trying everything. Grab a pot, boil water. Add drops of eucalyptus, lavender, and tea tree essential oils. I clear my desk off. Bills, to the side, ‘Cien Años de Soledad’, to the side. Sticky note with a reminder to call a financial advising service, to the side.
I put the pot on a towel and stir in the oil. Oil and water move together. In my feverish haze I stare at the ripples, it smells so good. Blue, magenta, metallic yellow; oil is oil. It reminds me of the car oil I would see mixed with the rain in Bogotá. Carrying the dirt in the streets, downhill, into the alcantarilla. Never mind that; all that is far way. Sixteen years later and I’m here, still here, reconciling what home is, where home is, with bronchitis and oil.
I feel the burning of the tea tree open my bronchioles. lt tickles. I cough until my ribs hurt. I’m tired of this shit. It feels like I’ve been intentional about this grief work for two years now, and am grateful for its purpose, but I’m tired of this shit. It began as a necessity to go inwards. Alone, on my own, to sit with myself. That was year one. The digging I did in that year was painful, and I grew, read, breathed, was silent, patiently letting myself weave in and out of sickness. Learning that trauma became too comfortable in my body, and forced migration settled in my lungs. In those years, I began to study Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and learnt to connect to my body using roots, herbs, and through my relationship to food. TCM teachings share that the lungs hold grief, they support the throat, and direct energy down to the intestines. I try to find the connection between loss and bronchitis. Between the grief I am holding in my body from my recent breakup and death of my paternal grandmother, all in the same week, I’m shook. I breathe into the aches in my body and the tightness in my chest as I inhale the steam from the oil-water, water-oil. Healing yourself has a way of forcing you to go back; all the way back. The abusive methods of the English language flattened my tongue, twisted my throat to close up my vowels, cut up my liver, thinned my intestines, and bruised my legs- making sure I could never go back, but couldn’t move forward. Stuck, I continued. An immigrant child, older sister, unprofessional translator, expert weight bearer.
I remember the first time my mother taught me to pick eucalyptus hats. The rough texture of wood lined with wax or hardened sap. Fragrant, brown and cone shaped, painted white on top. We used to collect them off the side of the road, after eating arepas y jugo de mora on the days she was able to pick us up from school. Bogotá traffic, sun shining, horns blaring. Everybody is trying to get home. I never really minded the traffic, it gave me more time to take in the trees that lined the streets. The bright magenta flowers arching up walls into roofs, and, most importantly, enough time to go through each grocery bag in the back seat. I grabbed a mango, perfectly ripe and warm, begging me to peel and devour it. The heat of the car slowed that moment down, as I slowly peeled the skin, and bit into its flesh . Sweet juice running down my chin. Just then, I saw my mother fling open her car door, run to the side of the road, bend down, and begin to quickly pick up small pieces from the grass into her hand. This woman, wearing brown transparent stockings, in a pencil skirt, was almost on her knees in the grass, on a busy street in Bogotá. Her child alone in the car; hands full of mango. She ran back to the car, smile wider than her face, hands full of twigs, branches, and eucalyptus hats. She threw them into the passenger seat, locked the door, and sat in silence. My home. Eucalyptus and mango.
When I was 7 years-old, I was admitted into emergency care with pneumonia. I had been fighting
As I had struggled with lung infections my whole life, my mother continued to soothe my cough with this sticky sweet sap for the next two weeks, combining it with natural fruit juices in the morning, and sitting with me to drink bone broth in the afternoons. Agua y
Eucalyptus has supported and healed me through a recurring core health issue. Time and time again, I have come into contact with it in different forms, first as a plant in my
Medicine making to heal myself and my loved ones is a commitment to transnational healing, crossing borders and rooting here. I recognize that working through lung infections with grief work is also root work. I am starting to understand that grief work is continuous, and dealing with grief and trauma is not limited to this lifetime. It is a strange realization to have. The trauma I carry in my body is from many women before me, as relentless violence against Indigenous, and Afro-descendent women
Use what you have. Every remedy I have sought in this period of illness I already have in my home. This idea that committing to plant medicine means buying expensive products at the natural health food store is just as synthetic as the medical industrial complex itself. In my process of connecting with plants and learning my
In these two weeks of healing my body from infection, I supported my lungs with essential oil steams, soothed my throat with the medicine of honey, and nourished my intestines with bone broth to support the immune system, strengthening my intestinal flora. I used onions
Melisa is a Colombian born, Toronto raised, fat, queer, mestiza woman, unapologetically loving her body as political resistance. She is a Child and Youth worker, herbalist, artist and workshop facilitator on conversations of sex and pleasure.