As a kid, medicine had some pretty negative connotations for me. It was yucky tasting, that spoonful of cough syrup that my parents insisted I take. “Taking medicine” was the most common reference that I was aware of it — that meant toughing it out to do something that was good for you.

It was working with Navajo community, beginning in 2008, when I first encountered a different sense of “medicine.” I was able to be involved in a few gatherings that supported Indian Health Services in the New Mexico area. I remember sitting one early morning, staring into surrounding landscape, trying to make sense of the experience that I was having of a Navajo way of being —  the beauty way — that I was being welcomed into. The most lasting words that I remember the elders speaking included, “Thank you for the medicine and gifts that you bring.”

I, and my colleagues, didn’t bring cough syrup.

Medicine can be many things. Medicine can be people. Medicine can be teachings. Medicine can be joy. Medicine can be quiet presence. Medicine can be a good question. Medicine can be time together in a well-held container.

Recently, I wrote this poem, thinking of medicine.


It is some of the best medicine
I know.

Move the caked and dried mud
that has covered you.

The bumblebee at dusk,
hovering in echinacea flowers.

The welled tears you get,
as you watch the bee in backlit beauty,
are medicine.