By Jann Garitty
Erin Barnett works in tandem—usually via long distance—with Anna Maria Signorelli, a clinical social worker in private practice who lives in New Orleans. Anna Maria sends selected clients to Erin for flower essence consultations. After the occurrence of Hurricane Katrina, Erin prepared and sent down dosage bottles to help Anna Maria’s family, friends, acquaintances and others. Most experienced a positive “shift” in energy and reported feeling much more calm and able to cope as a result of the flower essences.
Erin contacted Flower Essence Services upon hearing of the offer to donate essences for people impacted by the hurricane. She facilitated the donation and continued to be in close contact with Anna Maria, consulting with her and others as needed. In some cases, through the course of conducting her own personal business and having to stand in long lines at Red Cross centers, Anna Maria was able to identify people needing Five-Flower Formula and supplied them with the essence. Erin said, “People were grateful to have it, and reported the usual comments about feeling calmed and grounded. The Grief Relief formula was similarly appreciated—people reported things like, ‘I would have never believed that this stuff would make a difference, but I can't tell you how much it has. I don't get as depressed as I did before. I don't have the very blue, “sit in the corner” feeling, or the same level of heartache. When I started using it, it made a total, complete difference. I almost panicked when I realized my bottle was almost empty. I need a quart of this stuff.’"
Erin continued to make customized formulas for people; “they felt like the Arnica and Bleeding Heart remedies were especially helpful, along with the Five-Flower Formula, Echinacea and Penstemon immediately after the hurricane. Explorer's Gentian, Angelica, California Valerian, Honeysuckle, Walnut, Borage, Olive and Scleranthus have also been important remedies for other hurricane survivors I've been working with over these last few months. … the essences have made such an impact on the lives of those they've touched.”
Yarrow Environmental Solution and Five-Flower Formula offered tangible results to people who, under other circumstances, would not have been open to using flower essences. “The overall response [to using essences] was positive, though it seems like people who have had the most results, are probably people who came into the hurricane event in the best position emotionally. People noticed the difference if they forgot to take their essences, and there was a sense of wanting the essences near by them. In cases of families where some of the individuals used essences, and others who did not, those who took them commented that they felt they were doing better than those who didn’t use them. These were essences such as Echinacea, Borage and Bleeding Heart in the beginning stage after the hurricane. The individuals seemed to cope, handle the situation better, sleep better and did not experience so many physical effects.”
Months after the hurricane, spiritual issues and questions of life purpose began to surface for a woman who was caring for her elderly father. It had been necessary to move him to several care facilities en route to another state. In the midst of her serious everyday responsibilities, she began reexamining her own personal values and expressed herself by saying, “How will I find the strength within myself to do what I feel called to do in light of the tragedy?” Erin gave her a combination of Penstemon, Bleeding Heart, Arnica, California Valerian, Explorer’s Gentian and Angelica which proved to be helpful.
In another instance, a woman with a long standing issue of depression experienced the hurricane, and geographic and cultural displacement while adjusting to being a new mother. She was not able to focus on where to relocate and move from her transitional home because she was too scattered, heartbroken and kept longing for the past. Scleranthus was an important essence for her in combination with Honeysuckle, Bleeding Heart, Blackberry and Indian Pink.
Olive was important for an elderly man whose house was to be torn down yet he had an almost compulsive need to clean and go through every inch of it and “inhabit it.” His home and roots were a tremendous part of his culture, and he also experienced anxiety as he saw that he would not be able to leave anything to his children—a value in which he was strongly invested. The windows of his house were boarded up—as many are—and the air was stifling inside. There was mold, stench and it was a grim situation. As a result, he was exhausted. In addition to Olive, for his anger, helplessness and control issues, Erin suggested California Valerian, Walnut, Borage and Penstemon. Later, she also included Sweet Chestnut.
Erin conveyed a conversation that she had with Anna Maria fairly shortly after the hurricane: “She told me that people were beginning to return to New Orleans to have a look at their homes. From the stories she told me, I thought that the Yarrow Environmental Solution (YES) would be most useful sooner rather than later. The toxins were everywhere, and despite taking physical precautions, people were already seeing effects such as headaches, congestion and generally feeling sick. I had thought it would be several months before anyone she knew would be going into the city, but I was wrong.”
After the Yarrow Environmental Solution was disseminated and used over some months’ time, Erin reports, “Without a doubt, the most appreciated and well-used essence was the YES formula. Every bit of what you sent has been used or is still being used. These are the kinds of comments I have heard about YES:
“This same woman told me that the conditions inside the flooded homes were such that after working in them for a few hours they would come out to find that the religious medals they wore around their necks had turned black.
Erin recently returned from a trip to New Orleans where she and Anna Maria conducted workshops on the subject of coping with grief and trauma. She reported that the hurricane season is starting again, and many residents of New Orleans are experiencing a visceral response, as is common in relation to an anniversary of a grief occurrence. She also sensed a shift in two directions: “Things are wearing thin in the city, crime is up, people’s reserves are getting pretty low, and the situation goes on and on and on. This is a tremendous concern in terms of the mental health of the residents. My sense of it while there is that some of it, [the emotion] is going underground in people’s psyches. They are tired of dealing with their physical and emotional realities; it’s as though they are just putting their heads down and plowing ahead.
“And yet, in the city things have turned and one sees many signs of survival and these must be a sign of the internal ‘life’ of the people. There are posters and bumper stickers that say “I am New Orleans and I am coming back!” The spirit is strong, unique and creatively “wild,” in the best sense, unlike anywhere else I’ve experienced. I expected to see the city mostly dead and was surprised to see how much life and commitment to rebuilding and beauty that was present: people planted flowers this year; their houses are in shambles but they’re putting out pots with flowers.”
Read another report from New Orleans: The Role of Flower Essences in Rebuilding a Healthy Community
Erin Barnett lives in Hastings, Minnesota and has been a student of flower essences for the last six years. She says that the deeper she comes to know an essence, the greater her delight in working with it. In addition to her interest in flower essences, Erin has worked professionally in two fields: hospice and sustainable agriculture. She is currently pursuing licensure as a counselor in the state of Minnesota.
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