Two Coyotes summer camps

I spent July working as a lead and co-lead mentor for Two Coyotes Wilderness School summer camps in Newtown, CT. It’s been an intensely exhausting, fulfilling, fun, and challenging month. My heart feels like it’s been broken, repaired, expanded, composted, and reseeded infinite times each day, of camp. Here’s a few stories/ highlights from each week.


Forts and Shelters week
"I love photographing leaves," I told my student today. He's one of those kids that gets passionate about all the things I love. He calls me over, "Jiling! Jiling!" each time he sees a beautiful mushroom. The forest has lots of them, right now. I showed him how to make basic cordage, then he came up with his own technique for making it, and started experimenting on plants I'd never tried making cordage with, before. Yesterday, he found a rope in the woods, used knots that I'd shown him earlier in the day, and made himself a bracelet. He brought in a show and tell item this morning, which was more rope, tied intricately into a "Chinese staircase," which he proudly shared with the class, and we used as a talking object. He collects beautiful, complexly patterned, colorful leaves as we walk down the path. "What will you do with all those leaves?" I ask him. "I don't know," he answers. We discuss a few possibilities. He's fascinated by the possibility of pressing leaves and flowers, and has a sharp eye for beauty, composition, and subtle details that form such. This is just one of the 13 kids that me and my assistant work with this week. All of them are special, with unique gifts, quirks, and stories that accompany each of them. My first week of camp winds down in just two days. Today was the middle of the week. I'm already thinking about how to tie this bundle into a beautiful bow, at the end of the week. I feel exhausted at the end of each day, but also somewhat enamored with my young and enthusiastic gaggle of small fairy-like humans that have endless energy, expansive imaginations, and loving hearts, with just the right dash of trouble to keep me dancing on my toes.

On the last day of class, we hiked straight up to our shelter area, to finish our shelters. Our group had split into three different groups: the cool-boys group, the girls’ group, and the focused-boys group. The cool-boys’ leader loved telling everyone what to do, but didn’t do much work himself. The members of his group eventually joined the focused-boys group. The girls’ group tried making an experimental structure, which toppled over, so they went and joined the focused-boys group. The focused-boys group had an unofficial leader, who worked as hard as the rest of his group, who all worked together. While walking up towards our camp area, which we named Coyote Cliffs, I stopped the group. “It’s our last day of camp today,” I said, “and we need to finish at least one of our shelters. A big rain is coming.” My assistant and I were prepared to dump a bucket of water onto one of the shelters. The students discussed what to do about the divergent groups: lack of shelters, lack of group organization, etc. This led to a discussion about leadership. “A leader is the person who’s in charge,” said the leader of the disintegrated cool-boys group, who spoke first. We went around the circle, sharing our thoughts. The focused-boys group leader, now the unofficial leader of most of the group, spoke last, “A leader does what everybody else does,” he said, “but everyone respects them, because they respect everyone else. They help you when you need it, and don’t tell you what to do.” The group decided to work together on the focused-boys’ mostly-finished shelter. They worked until lunch, when us instructors transformed into coyotes, and they all crawled into the little shelter. We dumped water on the shelter, which went through the roof (still not enough leaves), while the students, all piled together into one well-constructed-yet-not-well-constructed-enough-but-well-loved little debris hut shelter, screamed and laughed as one voice.

Feather, Fur, and Fin week
Some students bring me humbly to my knees in gentle, beautiful, and magical ways. Others make me wonder why I do this work at all, as I question not only my skill as an instructor, but also my abilities of navigating the world as a human being. The week started off this way. I led the kids on a lost-proofing/ navigational wander on the first day of class, which took us to less traveled regions of the land with no trails or buildings. One of my gripes with our camp location is that it’s an old farm, which is somewhat cluttered with buildings and roads. It’s still beautiful, but not nearly as wild as I’d prefer. So, I was excited and delighted to go far uphill and explore the periphery of the forest, past all of the other areas we’ve ever been, perhaps where no group has gone, before. This was lost on our rather disorganized group. A clump of boys were rude to my face, and more than half of the group complained the whole way up and down gorgeous hillsides covered with twisting plants of all shades of green, and all manner of dramatic rock formations. By the end of the week, I gave them a 15 minute fire challenge. “Do you want to light this with hand-drill, bow-drill, flint-and-steel, or matches?” The group voted on bow-drill, and got straight to work. Students split themselves into groups: gatherers of tinder, smaller sticks, larger sticks, and the bow-drill crew. I stayed with the bow-drill crew, in the center of the circle, right next to the fire pit. The “challenging” boys stuck with me, for bow-drill. We took turns partnering up, sometimes even two people applying downward pressure hand-hold above the primary bowing person, while two other people, on opposite sides of the primary bow-er, drew the bow back and forth, and everyone else clustered around in a tight circle, singing. It was quite a project. We ended up spending about an hour and 15 minutes drawing the bow back and forth in different squeaking configurations, the whole group singing rotating fire songs, and collaborating in creative ways to create a fire, which finally manifested as a fat coal that burst the tinder bundle into flame, with a perfect fire to create delicious bread-on-a-stick flour experiments after lunch, then wild edibles pizza for the final day challenge.

Advanced Survival week
“How many matches do you want? Stick your fingers on your head.” I tallied up all the wriggling upraised fingers, then made an average: three. They chose to make a three match fire. I gave them fifteen minutes to do it. At the ten minute mark, they all clustered back around the fire circle, demanding their matches. One, two, three. Three different people tried, and all three of them failed for different reasons: the first was too eager to shove the match into the tinder bundle, and stifled the flame. The wind blew out the second flame, as soon as it was lit. The third lit the bundle, then blew it out again, with his over-eager breath. The group decided that they wanted three more matches. They would do whatever it took. They elected yesterday’s champion fire-maker for the task. “If he can’t do it, then no one can.” He however, also failed: a strong wind blew out his first match, and he stifled his second. Confidence can sometimes be faulty. “Let me try,” came an uncertain voice from the back of the group. This student was also with me last week, helping me carry everything from lunches to tarps up and down the steep hills that characterize our camp location. Other students objected, wanting to give yesterday’s champion a final chance. “No,” I replied, “Let’s try someone new.” The new challenger immediately broke his match, as he swiped it across the box. A clamor rose from the group, the fresh failure close to tears at the center of the circle, broken match in hand. “It’s not over,” I spoke slowly and quietly, using my deep voice that I save for rituals and other serious affairs, “hold the match at the base. Strike firmly, and remove your fingers when the flame comes. Protect the flame, but don’t stifle it. Let it feed for a moment, then gently give it to the tinder bundle.” We placed the tinder bundle into the fire tipi structure, and the student, broken match, broken spirits, and all, successfully lit the match, protected the flame, delivered it to the tinder bundle, and gently blew that fire, the heart and hearth of our camp, into flame.

Scout Tracker week
"This is the best day of my life," said my students, stuffing their faces with wine berries as we pawed, bear-like, through the prickly bushes. I got to explain compound leaves, leaflets, serrated margins, lobes vs teeth, glandular hairs, and other basic botanical nomenclature while we explored with our hands and mouths just what it means to be fully alive and on the land, in the height of summer.

“Thank you so much for helping me carry the hot tea down the mountain,” I praised a student. “It’s no big deal,” the student replied, “nobody else would do it. I like doing what nobody else wants to do.” I asked him why. “Well, then I get to experience what nobody else really experiences.”

Every so often, a student completely blows me away. Their sometimes surprising truth of expression and innocent open-mindedness inspire me to constantly re-approach the world with new ideas, reinventing myself, and re-sparking my imagination. To see the world through the eyes of a child as a well-traveled (and still traveling) adult is a precious, albeit oftentimes challenging, gift.


Working summer camp is like running a circus. Pros include sharing topics I’m passionate about in beautiful outdoor settings. Cons include general exhaustion derived from being “on” and high energy for most of the day, while managing complex yet childish interpersonal relationship issues. I don’t know if I will do this again, in the future. I want to work with adults in a more focused manner, centering around botanical medicine, embodied creativity, deep nature connection, and earth-centered spirituality. Children are an integral piece of the picture of my life, but I’m not so sure about summer camp. I’m honing my skills as an herbalist, acupuncturist, and Chinese medicine practitioner for the next three years of my life. What’s next? What’s possible?

I look around the closing circle in the final moments of the last day of camp, allowing my eyes to rest on each individual, memorizing the faces of all of my students, the other instructors, the forest, this circle. I inhale this moment into my consciousness. I want to--- and will--- always remember this feeling of being simultaneously full and empty, my heart a richly aching and pulsating rhythm in my chest. I’ve given so much that I feel totally drained. I feel completely full, for the same reason: I gave all I could. It’s like creating herbal medicine, or a piece of art: I give all I can while creating it. I surrender the rest to the great mystery: chance, fate, life, whatever you want to call it. I call it magic. And for all of this magic and more, I am so very grateful.


Montana Herb Gathering reflections

I've come to realize that it's not what classes I take, but how I take them. It's not where I go, but how I experience it. It's not life that sculpts me, but rather I who sculpt my life. It's not the notes that make the music, but rather the space between the notes. The quality of relationships created between classes, rather than the amount of information accrued in classes. The inspiration from classes, rather than the information.

True, I don't get complete control of the matter. But, "how" is often more powerful than "what."

I taught an adult course at an herbal gathering for the first time, at the Montana Herb Gathering, this summer. It was a quick course, on basic flower and leaf anatomy, and how to key out a plant using a local flora. I over-prepared for class, talked as quickly as I could, breathed deeply, let go, and watched my students learn, explore, and enjoy botany. I loved it.

The gathering took place at Canyon Lake Ferry, at the Montana Learning Center: a small cluster of cabins set against a stunning backdrop of lake and sky. Most people camped, while others stayed in cabins. There was a small herb fair vendor area, between the cabins (where classes took place) and camping. I camped on the edge of a peninsula cliff, sleeping and waking to the sounds of water, birdsong, and crickets, admiring the mist creeping across the moonlit waters by night, sunlit ripples by day.

A comfortable camaraderie was cultivated at this gathering: we ate meals together, with ample time for milling around, meeting new friends, celebrating with old friends, and swapping plant and life stories of all sorts. This year's gathering was smaller and more quiet than in previous years. This being my first time here at the Montana Herb Gathering, I appreciated the coziness and intimacy of having less people. The classes ranged from scientific to energetic, and everything in between. The general participant demographic also ranged from experienced herbalists to first-timers, with a range of ages, some families, and a general peacefulness and joyousness.

I enjoyed most of the classes that I went to, but was easily distracted. Around 4 classes took place simultaneously within each 1.5 hour period. Most of them sounded interesting, so I would jump around from class to class to see different teaching styles, and get a general potpourri of all the different classes.

I start Chinese medicine studies this autumn, so was particularly interested in Miles Coleman's classes, and how he approaches western herbs with Chinese medicine philosophies. My most memorable class though, was simple yet profound, and not information packed at all. In fact, quite the opposite. Sarah Bunting is a young woman like me, and also somewhat fresh to teaching at gatherings. She led a plant meditation class, reading us a story about "Night Singing Bear" that she received from Usnea, before we went off on our solo plant meditation explorations. Sarah's Usnea-inspired story and profound yet playful approach to this work is deeply inspiring, a reminder for why and how I hope to continue walking on and exploring this plant-based path. 

Highlights of my time at the Montana Herb Gathering occur around and between classes, usually in the evenings. I went swimming everyday out to the closest island in the lake, the exhilaratingly cold water stimulating, waking, rejuvenating, and delighting my senses, the blue sky a blessing to my eyes, every breeze and splash of waters into my face and eyes a kiss from the divine. Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) grew in abundance around the water. I brought both of my classes (adults' botany class, and kids' plant-based arts class) down to the waters' edge, where we discussed, keyed out, drew, and immersed ourselves in plants. I visited the Henbane every morning and night, watching it grow, smelling it, rattling its seed heads, and sticking my face into its sticky witchy leaves and flowers. People made a bonfire in the firepit at the waters' edge, every night. I came down to the water on the first night, planning for a quiet date with Henbane, but instead surprised to find a group of people chatting around the fire. I socialized a little, then slunk out of the circle, down to the water. I drifted into a Henbane haze, a waking dream that wove my understanding of my place in all this, even deeper into the fabric of my being. Evening song circles by the firelight, Henbane, and water filled me with joy.

At dinner one night, I interviewed organizer Jim Nymeyer about his work with herbs, people, and Chinese medicine. Two other Chinese medicine people came and joined in the discussion, which became a miniature class. I ended the evening learning a taiji practice for cultivating my inner awareness, balancing my organ systems, and grounding my energy before and after working with clients.

The final evening of the gathering, the kids put on a hilarious and adorable play about how the fairies saved the plants and pollinators from GMO's and Round-Up, which basically meant that they put on colorful elaborate costumes, and chased each other around and around the tree of life (a ribbon-bedecked tree in the center of our circle). I couldn't stop laughing, especially at the "queen of the demons," who was a little boy who attended my kids' class, who kept hinting, "Wait 'til you see my dress," all through my class. He howled louder than all of the other demons, and opened his eyes and mouth so wide that I thought they might pop out. Then, we had a "botanical fashion show," (more light-hearted laughter and celebration). This cultivation of relationship with people and plants is truly a celebration.

The Montana Herb Gathering is currently looking for more people to join their Board of Directors, which recently went through major changes. If you are an herbalist living in that region, then consider joining a group of dedicated herbalists promoting plant-based awareness and education in the state of Montana, and beyond.


Jiling’s Herbal Medicine- Making Classes

Come join herbalist Jiling and learn how to make your own herbal home remedies, with the plants that grow around you. Each class includes a tea party, lecture, and demonstration. Students make and take home a useful natural product with recipes, further resources, and an abundance of information and inspiration. 

When: Wednesday nights (6:30 - 8:30 PM), October 14 - November 25
(Come for one, or all, of the classes)
Where: State Street Art University (810 State Street New Haven, CT)
Cost: Sliding scale $25-$50 per class. (Includes materials fee. Contact Jiling for trades, if needed.)
Register: Contact Jiling at LinJiling@gmail.com or 626-344-9140

The Classes
10/14- Welcome to Herbalism
10/21- Gathering, Processing, and Storing Plants
10/28- Creating Tea
11/4- Oil Infusions and Salves
11/11- Making Tinctures
11/18- Sweet Medicine
11/25- Incense, Dreaming Herbs, and Flower Essences

The Classes (detail)

Welcome to Herbalism (Oct. 14)
Come experience and experiment with a variety of herbal medicine making techniques and menstruua (solvents). We’ll introduce making teas, tinctures, vinegars, honeys, and oils. Further topics may include preparing salves, sugars, glycerites, flower essences, elixirs, oxymels, incense, and food. Students are invited to bring their favorite preparations, recipes, stories, and more to share after class!

Gathering, Processing, and Storing Plants (Oct. 21)
Once you know what plants do, how do you utilize their resources? We’ll explore some local edible and medicinal wild plants, then discuss ethical wild-crafting tools and techniques, and plant harvesting, processing, and storage methods and considerations.

Creating Tea (Oct. 28)
Teas are an ancient way to ingest plants, which is still ritualized in many traditional cultures. We’ll share a tea ceremony, then prepare teas, infusions, decoctions, and topical tea applications (washes, compresses, poultices, steams, baths). We’ll discuss some local delicious and nourishing plants for tea, then formulate a useful and delicious tea blend.

Oil Infusions and Salves (Nov. 4)
Our skin is the most exposed part of our physical body. We’ll discuss skin-care, and create a luxurious aromatic skin-healing oil infusion and salve.

Making Tinctures (Nov. 11)
Tinctures are plants extracted in alcohol. They’re easy to make, transport, and ingest. We’ll prepare tinctures with fresh, dried, and other plant materials with the folk method, and scientific method. We’ll discuss formulation, cordials, elixirs, and plant actions. Other possible topics include organoleptics, Ayurvedic constitutional evaluation, vitalist energetics, and balancing the five flavors.

Sweet Medicine (Nov. 18)
A spoonful of sugar truly makes the medicine go down. Sweet medicine is often delicious, as well as medicinal. Just don’t eat it all at once! We’ll make honey infusions, syrups, glycerites, and pastilles. Students will bring home a yummy medicinal honey infusion.

Incense, Dreaming Herbs, and Flower Essences (Nov. 25)
Working with plants on a ritualistic or energetic level can complement any self-care or therapeutic practice, and enhance the process of coming to know oneself, in relation with plants. We’ll discuss plant connection exercises, dreaming herbs, the ritual usage of plants, and how to make flower essences. We’ll make an incense blend in class, for students to take home, and continue the journey. 


Chinese medicine school: update and fundraiser

情愛的親朋好友家人們, 希望你一切平安 事事如意 基玲準備八月份進入美國的一個中醫學院​ (AFEA)​ 學針灸和東方藥草學 希望能兩年之內回台灣三四個月請跟我報告如果你打聽到美好的工作機會! 我想要跟台灣的中醫師學習 還有回師大上一些課 請跟我分享你的意見 感恩 祝開心 健康 生活豐富 美滿 ---基玲

Dear friends and family,

It's midnight on the full moon. As I type, the moon shines her light on me through the window, with the trees blowing in the wind, cricket song, and the smell of mountain wildflowers. I hope that this summer full moon finds you healthy, happy, and well, wherever you are. For those of you who I just met, it's good to connect again. I send group email updates every once in a while, usually every few months. For my "old" friends, thank you for your continued friendship and support. I am nothing without you.

This is a long email, with many big changes, and big questions. Here's a quick synopsis of my long email:
- I start graduate school in Chinese medicine (acupuncture and herbs) at the Academy for Five Element Acupuncture (AFEA) in Gainesville, FL this August. I'm going into debt for school. Any financial assistance would be greatly appreciated. Here's my little fundraiser:
- I'm looking for a job that fits me and pays well, where I can keep learning, sharing, and playing. I'm currently in New Haven, CT but can relocate.
- Suggestions for teaching and traveling are especially welcome, especially if it involves traditional Earth-based healing modalities.
- I would love help with fundraising, marketing/ business skills, time management skills, and connecting/ networking with Chinese medicine/ similarly oriented people.

… and now, keep reading for more details!

I chose AFEA because of its connection with nature, elements, and Chinese medicine. After visiting and considering many different schools, I primarily chose this one for its convenience: the first two years only require me to be on campus for a total of about two months each year. We have a 20-30 day intensive every 4 months. The third and final year of the program is a clinical residency. Three years will fly by. The first two years accommodates my nomadic lifestyle, allowing me to continue teaching, playing, learning, and exploring in different areas between intensives. The third year will better meet my need and desire for hands-on learning, but require staying put for one whole year.

I am still searching for a homebase, and am still primarily drawn to the desert southwest (especially New Mexico) and northeast (especially Connecticut). I love the wild and dramatic land of New Mexico, and am also drawn to her similarly bad-ass people. I have many friends and work-related connections in Connecticut, and the northeast. I struggle with living in over-developed Connecticut though, and miss the wilderness of the west. My seasonal lifestyle can currently include "living" in both places, but my apothecary and library don't fit into my car anymore, nor do my other creative projects that are community-oriented, such as clinical and teaching engagements. I'm looking for jobs in other places, especially outdoor education/ herbal/ healthcare/ yoga teaching/ etc possibilities, especially around New Mexico or other more montane areas of the southwest. I would like to explore being in the southwest for an even longer period of time.

My upcoming graduate studies in Chinese medicine at AFEA are the biggest investment of my life. Just tuition and fees will add up to about $63,000. I pay around $6500 every four months. School hasn't started yet. Just looking at these crazy huge numbers feels like flushing my life's savings down the toilet, as well as investing in debt for the next dozen years of my life. But, an older ND said to me, "Think of it as an investment in your future and the future of others, instead of going into debt." I'm trying to look at it that way.

I've work-traded through many different trainings and experiences, and lived frugally for all of my adult life. My biggest fear in entering grad school is this money thing, and going into debt… er, making this investment. I've never done this before. My biggest draw is reconnecting with the medicine of my ancestors, cultivating a deep understanding of the human body and its relationship with the world, and becoming one who can serve many.  

So, I am now, for the first time, seriously exploring how to make more money. I need money now to pay for school, to pay for something that I really care about, which will help me grow. I'm looking for creative ways to make lots of money in fulfilling ways that utilize my skills in a good way, where I can happily contribute lots, while continuing to grow as a healer, teacher, and human. I am happy to travel. I am most excited to be in the southwest or northeast parts of the USA, or in Taiwan... but I am also open to other ideas. I have the most experience with, and most love, nature-based education, and traditional (sometimes called "alternative") healing arts. I teach many things: herb classes, nature-skills, yoga, improvisational movement/ vocalization, and meditation. I'm looking for ways to live cheaply, work fulfillingly, and create financial abundance to fund my education. If you have suggestions for work-related opportunities, or if you hear of anything that could fit what I just described, or just feels right for me, then please let me know! I am searching, and open.

I hope to continue developing my herbal business/ work/ skills through school. I'm currently teaching, doing some clinical work, and wildcrafting/ making/ selling products. I most enjoy teaching, and doing one-on-one clinical work. I have no prior experience as a business person, and would love help in understanding exactly how to start a business, business possibilities and logisitics, and general business skills, especially the fine art of marketing.

I started teaching at herb gatherings, and love it. I just taught my first herbal series at my current home, in CT. I had low attendance, but thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing, and learned a lot from the experience. Please let me know if you have suggestions for other places to teach, such as gatherings, retreat centers, etc. I am willing to dream big, be bold, and step large into the world. I also know how to, and am willing to, be small, and rise up slowly. I understand that it's a dance. And here I am, asking for your help in the form of support: ideas, experience, connections, and...

Fundraiser! I'd rather not just take donations, but would love to give you back something in return. I haven't thought of what is small and easy to give to many people. If you have ideas for this too, then that would be appreciated! I started a fundraiser for my studies, here:
I am just using my business page, instead of a crowd-funding site, because I am unfamiliar with the pros and cons of the crowd-funding sites, and this is just easier. Suggestions are welcome, again! (And, always.) Any donation is helpful. I have over 2000 friends on Facebook. If everyone just donated $5, then I'd have $10,000 which would greatly benefit my scholastic investment. I don't have perks for a $5 donation, but have perks for other "donations"... basically, raising my prices for herbal medicines and consults, for the fundraiser. But, just buying my stuff helps some, too. My goal is to fundraise $6000-$8000.

There aren't many scholarship opportunities for graduate studies in Chinese medicine. But if you know of any, then please let me know! Or, do you know anyone who is financially well off, and looking to fund an inspired young person who's looking to inspire others in turn? Or know other creative ways to fund graduate studies, for a low-income Asian-American young woman who turns 30 in January? Well, please keep me in mind, and let me know. I feel like I'm joining the system, a system that I pulled out of a long time ago in disdain, and am now returning to, in hopes of creating positive change: one person at a time clinically, and one group at a time educationally.

A few more logistical queries/ considerations:
- I have to travel to Florida three times a year for the next two years. I'll either take the plane or train, depending on my distance from school. What are your ideas on cheap travel, or cumulative travel points?
- Intensives are 20 days each, and I'm looking for good places to stay, preferably close to school, which is in downtown Gainesville, FL. I found a place to stay 15 miles from school, but am also looking for alternative options, especially with good people, in a place that I can worktrade to stay. I am also looking for good community around FL.
- I already started taking online classes. I'm only taking one class at a time right now, but it's already been tough juggling work, school, and life. Time management is an ongoing challenging learning opportunity. I welcome your suggestions for fun and effective time management skills. I get distracted easily. I make lists every week and every morning to prioritize and organize my life and needs, but still never have enough hours in the day to get it all done.
- Connections. Now that I'm more formally engaging in Chinese medicine studies, I'm reaching out for more Chinese medicine connections. If you have acupuncturists and herbalists that you love, then please connect me with them! Part of school includes observation hours with diverse practitioners, and point location practice. Regardless of school requirements, I love meeting fellow healers that I can exchange ideas, information, and inspiration with. I love learning, and am always delighted by fresh techniques, perspectives, and stories.
- I want to return to Taiwan for 3 months, within the next two years. If you somehow hear of work-related opportunities there, then please let me know! I could only substitute teach English there part time, if I'm only there for three months. Subbing is hard work. Alternate ideas are great!

What a long message. Thanks so much for your patience, support, and interest! As always, I'd love to hear an update on your life too! Thank you for all the ways you walk in my life, and in the world. May all your brightest seeds of intention sprout forth into the most majestic plants of prayer-fed-possibilities that even you could not have ever imagined possible. And may you continue to feed those beautiful dreams of yours with your hard work, soft heart, and delicious life. And, enjoy.

With love and gratitude,



If you could have “perfect health,” what would that look like? How would you feel? How healthy do you feel right now? Which parts of your body feel in pain? What kind of pain is it? What parts of your body do you hate? Which parts do you love? When do you feel the best in your body? When do you feel the most alive?