Collection #13: The Herbalist


Seventy years of sunlight has dried off all the fat from Ampento’s most respected herbalist. His skinny limbs are mostly bare, apart from the ragged cloth he hangs around his waist and the broken sandals he wears on his feet. The herbalist’s workshop consists of a small hut made of sticks, and contains numerous pots in which he stores local remedies. When the old man sits down to grind medicinal herbs, flies feed from the open wounds on his ankles, indulging in flesh the man has been too busy to mend.

Every morning, the herbalist hunches over his walking stick and prays that his ancestors will expel evil spirits from the plants he wishes to collect. In the forest, he wades through dirty rivers with a large, hook-shaped machete tucked under one arm. After hacking away medicinal bark and leaves, he scrambles on the dirt to collect the shattered bits of plant. Stooped low to the ground, ants climb freely up his arms and disperse across the surface of his body.  He is too old and too tired to swipe them off.

On the return home, the herbalist stops in town for a large glass of local liquor, which wastes him in moments. As he shuffles back to his hut, he stops periodically to  retie the drawstring on his pants, rambling meanwhile about his history as a Ghanaian warrior.

At night, the herbalist dreams of his grandfather, who also possessed the gift of healing, and who blessed his kin with the ability to carry his knowledge forward. In his dreams, the herbalist communicates with the spirit of his grandfather, who demonstrates  new remedies the herbalist records upon waking. Each Wednesday, the herbalist refrains from food and drink to ensure that God will instill power within his herbs.

Not only can the herbalist navigate through the African bush, but–more importantly–he expertly ventures through the spiritual ream that reigns  over everything he knows.

2 thoughts on “Collection #13: The Herbalist

  1. Julie:

    It’s Mr. Daddy, sloth-like member of the human race. I’ve been enjoying reading your blog. Made it through #10 – #18. My favorite is this one, #13, The Herbalist. Here’s why: it’s the most journal-like, the most matter-of-fact, and it’s telling a nice human interest story. In some of your other entries, I thought the language at times got in the way of the message. Too many adjectives. Too many big words. Too many metaphors. I was looking at the words and losing the thread of what you’re trying to say. Not that I want you to be Hemingway but the idea of being the observer and the reporter can sometimes really draw a reader in (especially when you don’t have any pictures!!) You’re an excellent writer, Ms. Julie…Love reading your stuff. Warmest regards from chilly Chicago…Your real daddy

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