The idea of 13 Days of Carmen began after my daughter moved out and went to live on the other side of the country. I wanted to continue to celebrate her and make her birthdays special even if she wasn’t near me. This year is the first time I share 13 days of Carmen on this platform.
And why 13 days? Well her birthday is on May 13, so I post everyday starting on May 1st up until her birthday.
What better way to describe Carmen than to use the very plantitas she works with! 🪴
The olive tree exudes personality. It’s a gnarly sort of plant, often dancing in the wind. Although it’s branches are symbols of peace and goodwill, is anything but a pushover.
In the same way, Carmen has this incredible personality that no one can help but notice. She is kind, compassionate and sweet. However, never confuse her sweet, gentle demeanor with docility and meekness, because she is a total chingona!
One of the most impressive things about an olive tree is its persistence and stamina. You can cut it to the ground leaving a dead stump, and still new branches will emerge. And that is our Carmen – never gives up, a total fighter and survivor.
Among many of the medicinal benefits of the olive leaf is that it makes for a happy heart, supports the immune system and shows positive effects on the brain function. And if you spend some time with Carmen, you’ll be sure to receive these benefits from her as well!
Carmen and Sunflowers are just pure joy! Sunflowers are bright and cheery, and as warm and inviting as the summer sun, and if you Know Carmencita, she is too!
Being around Carmen just automatically lifts up your spirit with her vibrant, playful energy.
She is a happy flower, and you only have to see her bright smile and beautiful bouncy curls reaching toward the sun to remind you she is the human version of a sunflower.
No matter where she is, it’s hard to miss her glow and charming disposition.
**Sunflowers originated in these ancestral lands about 3,000 years ago, and have been admired not only for their beauty, but also for their nutrition and medicine.
Today’s plantita is oats because it loves to dance just like Carmencita!
Oat grass grows little seed tops that shimmer and dance in the wind. This graceful and airy plant dances delightfully under the sun. It always looks happy and energized with movement. And like the oat plant, whenever there is music, you will find Carmencita lost in its rhythm and flow.
She’s been dancing since she was little. Tap dancing, quebraditas, cumbias, salsa, trap, she’s been even known to do a little bit of line dancing. She can do a mean twerk, but couldn’t find a video, lol!
*Oats are one of the most popular anti-stress tonics in herbal medicine. I’ve learned to use them in various tea blends with Carmen’s guidance. So if you want to know more about this dancing plant, be sure to hit up Carmen for some plantita wisdom.
Today’s plantita is Rosemary. Carmen works a lot with this plant. It’s ancestral energy in drawing us back to remember is very strong.
Carmen has been on a journey of rememberance. Connecting to the memory, knowledge and wisdom of the people she comes from, and also to plants and trees, which she also views as an extension of her ancestors.
If you’ve ever had even a whiff of the scent of rosemary, you know that its bold aromatic scent has an immediate calming and uplifting effect. And if you’ve ever had the opportunity to be around Carmen, you know that she has this same impact on people.
For as long as I’ve known Carmen, her whole life really, LOL, there has always been a part of her that feels as wise and ancestral as Rosemary.
Rosemary is not just known for its spiritual rememberance. It also has so many beneficial medicinal properties. For example, it is used to stimulate and strengthen the memory. Though, Carmen still tends to forget where she places her car keys, and other things of the sort, hahahahah!
Rosemary grows beautifully and abundantly, and never apologizes for its boldness and growth.
For all these reasons it reminds me of Carmen!
When Carmen was little, her Tita Carmen, who was a huge part of raising her, used to always make her té de canela. A stick of cinnamon in boiling water, a little carnation evaporated milk and the sweetness of brown sugar.
It was like a loving and nurturing hug in a cup. Carmen loved her tecito, and always looked forward to Tita Carmen making it for her.
I suspect that is one of the reasons Carmen is drawn to cinnamon, aside from all the healing properties it offers. And cinnamon just brings a sense of comfort, contentment and delight, all beautiful characteristics that describe Carmen’s essence!
Another reason I picked cinnamon as today’s plantita (really a tree) is because Tita Carmen used to always sing a song called “Piel Canela” to Carmencita with so much love, and that sort of became our lullaby for her.
“Que se quede el infinito sin estrellas, o que pierda el ancho mar su inmensidad, pero el negro de tus ojos que no muera y el canela de tu piel se quede igual.
Me importas tu y tu y tu
Y solamente tu y tu y tu
Me importas tu y tu y tu
Y Nadie más que tu”
Cinnamon and Carmen! It just makes sense!
Lemon balm has heart-shaped leaves with a serrated edge. Its aroma, especially when crushed, is spicy-aromatic with a lemon-like, invigorating smell. Like lemon balm, Carmen has a refreshing, loving and lively energy!
My mom (her Tita Ofelia) nicknamed her “agüita fresca” because of this same reason. So think of Carmen as the perfect summer drink on a hot, humid day after eating a spicy pepper! LOL!
I read that over a thousand years ago, this plant was used to fortify the heart and treat melancholy. If you are having a challenging day or your heart is feeling heavy, a little dose of Carmen will go along way!
Lemon balm is so versatile, grows easily and comes back year after year. How does that translate to Carmen? She has so many skills, passions and creative outlets. She is always learning, evolving and engaging in new experiences. And she is a consistent, trustworthy and authentic human being.
Also, I read that lemon balm was cultivated as a good food source for bees, and it is used to support the bee population! Carmen has a great affinity to bees and all that they represent, but more on that in another post.
From the bees wax Carmen uses to make salves to the honey she uses in her oxymels to make yummy vinagrettes, and even her keen photographic eye for capturing bees, there is no doubt these little powerful beings hold a special place in Carmen’ heart.
One of the aspects I admire so much about Carmen is her love for people, her dedication for serving her community and her values of cooperation, collaboration, honesty, and hard work – all important qualities of bees.
She is just turning 29, but in such a short amount of time, she has dedicated so much of her life in acompañamiento with folks fighting for dignity and a better life. She, more than many people I know, clearly understands what it means to “work together.” She’s never interested in the spot light nor the recognition.
Like the bee, she understands the greater good of the collective, and works because the work itself is important. She knows there can’t be liberation without cooperation. She knows transformative work requires honesty and undeterred focus. And she is driven For the love she holds deeply for the people she serves. The way bees are driven to serve.
It doesn’t matter whether it is the queen bee, the worker bees or the drone bees, all bees understand the importance of their role and that each bee’s purpose is interconnected. Each individual works selflessly to serve one another. There is a s a beautiful harmony created through their cooperation. These are the qualities I see deeply engrained in Carmen, and why she is committed to her community.
And while bees have a strong work ethic, they also know the importance of stopping to smell the flowers. Carmen also understands there is a time to enjoy life’s nectar and a time to keep nose to grindstone. And even when she is working hard, you’ll be hard press to not find her with a smile on her faces and a spirit full of joy! Bee spirit helps to remind her of the delicate balance between the two.
Bee photos by @carmenelidaa
Chamomile is such a gentle, sweet herb just like Carmen. When Carmen was Chiquita another tecito we used to make for her was té de manzanilla to alleviate her cólicos or stomach ache. I remember also using the tea to wipe her eyes when they were irritated or she was fighting an eye infection.
Like chamomile, Carmen is easy-going, friendly and well-liked. She has always been completely She has a calming presence that puts others at ease. Chamomile begins to bloom in May, and they love full sunlight. Carmen was a May baby, and there was nothing she enjoyed more than the sun rays of summer.
Chamomile definitely reminds me of our summers with Carmen – leisure summer days spent under the nurturing warmth of the sun and sunny soothing breeze.
Whether it was hanging out at the beach and playing in the sand, spending a full day of reading at the Coronado library, hanging out at Balboa Park while she full-on soaked in the fountain, or just having a pic-nic at the park, the days were just so simple and easy with Carmen. She made it easy to be in the moment, easy to enjoy the simple pleasures.
Chamomile flowers remind me of that delicate innocence that is still very much Carmen’s essence. That part of her that still makes it so easy to be in the moment.
When Carmen was little one of her favorite foods to eat was a bowl of black beans with some shredded cheese on top and a corn tortilla that was a little bit crispy, a little bit burnt cause it was left a little too long on the comal.
Our Tita always had a pot of beans she always made with epazote. We thought the epazote was just for flavoring, but it turns out it is a carminative, which means it reduces gas in the gut and alleviates abdominal cramps among other things
Our Tita often added epazote to other foods such as sopitas, mole de hoya and chilaquiles. I suspect its medicinal attributes were part of why it was a go-to herb for our Tita, who learned it from her mom, who learned it from her mom, and who now was passing this plantita wisdom down to Carmen.
When Carmen was little our Tita used to pat her on the stomach in a circular motion, repeating, “pedito, pedito, pedito to get Carmen to release gas, so she wouldn’t have cólico or be bloated. She also used many herbs like epazote which were full of flavor, nutrients and medicine to heal us and keep us healthy.
Even through song, Carmen was learning about plantitas from a young age as I remember our Tita always singing El Yierberito by Celua Cruz and gesturing to Carmen to dance as she sang it:
“El yerberito llegó, llegó
traigo yerba santa pa’ la garganta
traigo keisimon pa’ la hinchazón
También traigo albahaca pa’ la gente flaca
el Epazote para los brotes
y con esa yerba se casa usted”
I continue to make black beans with epazote, and Carmen makes them, too! Carmen still loves a bowl of black beans with shredded cheese and a crispy,semi-charred tortilla.
This wisdom and knowledge of plants and medicine has been kept alive by our mothers and abuelas. Sometimes we don’t necessarily recognize it as such, until many years later. Our mothers and abuelas are the stewards and protectors of this knowledge and way of life. And this is a legacy that Carmen continues and honors as she develops her own relationship with plantitas and pachamama. Now she is la Yierberita!
Tulsi also known as Holy Basil, symbolizes purity and is considered to be a sacred plant, especially in India, where it’s from. It a plant of deep connection and spirituality.
Carmen introduced me to this plantita, and it immediately comes to mind as I try to describe what Carmen has meant to me from the time she was born. From the moment I saw her wide almond-shaped eyes, button nose, and perfectly heart-shaped lips, I fell in love with her. Though before she was born, I could feel her pure light growing inside of me and knew that I was ushering a very special life into this world. There is no other way to describe her than to say she is the love of my life.
Tulsi is viewed as a bridge between heaven and earth, and regarded as the manifestation of the divine. There is no doubt that Spirit brought Carmen into our lives to teach us how to love, how to be pure of heart and how to heal. Tulsi has a heavenly aroma and it is said to bring balance to heart, mind and body, and this is exactly what Carmen brought to our lives.
Her joyful light, innocent heart and sweet energy had such an effect on us, she inspired us to grow and heal in order to be deserving of the honor to guide her and support her through her journey. Tulsi is belived to promote life-long happiness and a depth to life that only comes from being connected to something greater than oneself.
According to ancient texts Tulsi is glorified as the one who helps in bringing people closer to the divine. Carmen opened our hearts more than we could have ever imagined. Until her, I didn’t know I could feel this much love for a being, and my journey has been to share this love with the rest of the world. It is this love that has brought us closer to the divine.
The gentle, humble, light-hearted, authentic and pure spirit is such a sacred gift to us. Her light radiates in all that she does.
Ever looked up at a Jacaranda tree and just felt pure bliss? That’s the feeling I get every time I look at Carmencita.
One of my favorite quotes from The Color Purple is one that Carmen pointed out to me:
“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. People think pleasing God you s all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.”
Carmen was God’s way of pleasing me, of giving me something beautiful to look at and admire. She hates it when I stare at her, but I can’t help it! She’s pure magic to me.
Jacaranda trees thrive in full sun and love sultry days. When they show their color, they are bold, radiant and unapologetic. If this doesn’t describe Carmen…
My grandma and my mom used to always say, “Mira que jacarandosa es Carmen,” from the time she was little. Jacarandosa refers to someone who is joyful, lively and graceful. And it is a term that exemplifies the very traits that make the Jacaranda tree so vibrant.
The Jacaranda tree also has many medicinal properties. Hot Jacaranda leaf baths treat wounds and skin infections and the tree also helps in the treatment of acne. I’m Sure Carmen will be creating some kind of soothing and healing bath blend with with the leaf and flower of this magical tree in the near future.
Carmen uses sage to make hydrosal, tea blends, salves and agua florida, among many other herbal goodies. And she has a way of collaborating and co-creating with this plantita that shows there is a reciprocity of wisdom and respect between them.
If you have ever smelled sage, you may agree that there is something very ancient, yet familiar about this plant. It has this “you are home” effect on your senses. It’s energy reminds me of a wise grandmother.
I don’t know if you’ve had the experience of meeting someone for the first time, but having that immediate feeling that you have known them forever? This was the feeling I got when I met Carmen for the first time. She felt like home, like we were continuing a connection we had made a long time ago.
Carmen brought with her this amazing wisdom that would guide me to create the most amazing journey here on earth. I became her mother at the very young age of 18. Whenever I’m being overburdening, which is hardly ever, I joke with her and tell her she picked me as her mom, so she is stuck with me now, lol! Though I truly do believe that children pick their parents and come to us to help us heal and teach us how to love if we listen and pay attention to their wisdom. That is exactly what I did, though trust me si didn’t always get it right.
She guided me at every step of the way to be the mother she needed me to be and become the woman I needed to become. She continues to do this now.
Folks always say there is no instruction manual that children come with, but there is. The instructions come from their bright, loving souls and the ancestral wisdom they carry with them. Of course there is all the earthly complications of ego and personality we all develop, but somehow intuitively I was still able to connect to her soul’s wisdom.
Just this past Mother’s Day Carmen and I spent part of the day in conversation and in the midst of it, I felt so grateful for having a daughter with such an old soul and profound wisdom. There are very few people in my life that I can engage at this depth with, and to be able to do so at this intimate level with my daughter is truly magic.
Happy Birthday mi Chiquita!
Carmen came to this world to love and be loved. She has been unconditionally wanted and accepted. She has been surrounded her whole life by people who love and cherish her – from her family, to her friends, to her teachers and co-workers. I can’t remember a time when Carmen wasn’t loved and uplifted by the people in and around her life.
From the time she was born, she’s been at the center of our lives. So much so, that My dad, her Grandpa, nicknamed her “the chief.” My mom, her grandma nicknamed her agüita fresca, because she says Carmen’s essence is pure and refreshing. Her dad, with no hesitation, planned every trip we took across the country to watch her perform in the vagina Monologues or March at an action for Fair Food. He was that quiet supportive force. To my Tita Carmen, Carmen’s great-grandma, Carmen was everything. And when I say everything, I mean, from the moment Carmen was born, she dedicated the rest of her entire life to her.
We have always been very clear that loving her means allowing her to bloom in her own time in her own way. As she continues to evolve and find her own unique path and purpose in life, there isn’t anything any one of us wouldn’t do to support her.
Carmen has such a generous, loving heart that it doesn’t surprise me that she found a partner like Julie who is also a beautiful loving light.
And it goes without saying that even her closest friend are amazing beings of light that also radiate pure love. It makes sense that Carmen is surrounded by all this love for she is radiant love herself.
There was a knowing amongst us to get out of our own way so that Spirit could work through us to support Carmen’s purpose. And that was very clear to me, especially in my case. Even though I was very young when I ushered Carmen into the world, and had a long way to go with my own healing and awakening, somehow I managed to do a lot of things right by and for Carmen. I could fuck up all sorts of things, but intuitively there was this knowing that guided me to be what she needed despite my own shortcomings.
So for this 13Th day I am selecting Linden as the plantita that absolutely exemplifies Carmen and the opening of the heart and her (and the plant’s) limitless capacity to love.
Just the other day Carmen made me a cup of Linden and oat tops tea. The steeped sweet flowers of Linden have been used in folk medicine to promote relaxation and relieve anxiety. It eases the tension and constriction of the heart muscle by lowering blood pressure. A softening of the heart is the effect of a warm cup of Linden tea and time, or a lifetime, spent with Carmen.