Oils, Spoils…Are They Really Essential?

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My old friend and college roomate taught me a lot about essential oils a few years back.  I have gone through periods of diffusing them and using them daily, as well as periods of not using them much at all.  They are expensive, and I like to reserve my supply, and only use them when I really need them.  I have found these oils to be useful for many mental, emotional and physical ailments.

What a “Commune” in Alaska Looks Like.

Yesterday, my husband and I went to a well known commune in Alaska, 90 minutes from our house.    It felt like heaven to me from the minute I stepped onto its grounds.

A thirty year old man toured us around and and shared how they got started in the eighties with the orignial families.  A little about why they wanted to live this way, and where many of the “launched” second generation children are now (traveling the world, at prestigious universities…or somewhere a bit warmer than Alaska.

Cutting the Apron Strings, Flying the Coop, or Going Nuclear

He talked about his own “launch” expereince, although he didn’t call it that, they don’t use such labels.

They do however, help any young adult to launch if they want to, giving them airfare for a plane ticket anywhere in the world and one thousand dollars if they do in fact want to leave.

I adored the land, the wild parts, the parts cleared for gardens, the hand built smaller log cabins and teepees used in the summer (they still have the original teepees they lived in in the 80’s…through spring, summer, fall and through the first deep dark winter before the cabin building started.)

They have a gigantic log house that they built later, as they realized the families enjoyed being together in the winter, rather than in the isolated cabins.  It was also a much more effecient use of energy in the Alaskan Winters.


This successful “village” continues to thrive and grow.  It has been turned into a legal business.  Part of this business’s budget comes from medicaid government dollars.  They provide mental health services to people with mental health symptoms.

With the government money they are now receiving (among other revenue streams) they are almost done building the most gorgeous “barn” I’ve ever seen.

In door basket ball court? Check!  Gorgeous yoga studio/dojo? Absolutely.  A small, meditative room at the top with a breathtaking view? If you clime the beautifully designed spiral staircase to the top, it’s there.

As we were walking through the building an overwhelmingly strong, but beautiful scent suddenly overwhelmed my senses.  It smelled earthy, but with a strong citris-y smell I didn’t recognize.

“What is that smell?” I asked?  Essessential oil?  It’s amazing?

Barn Dance

I had recently accidently spilled a half bottle of essential oil on myself, and the scent was obviously overwhelming.  I really assumed they had recently spilled a bottle, it smelled so similar to me.  I felt a little silly when he pointed to the fresh cut wood on the right of me and told me it was a local tree, freshly cut.

I joked,

“Us people from LA don’t know what fresh cut wood is.”

The barn is for the families that live on the grounds to use, as well as for the surrounding community at large.

Since they started out, these families knew they wouldn’t survive in isolation,  They had to rely on the people around them.  It was always a risk, because they had been chased out of several other states they had tried to inhabit before finally being able to truly set down roots in their Alaskan home, called Ionia.

Part of the Ionia business is being a for profit mental health agency.

As such, they don’t set any sort of mandatory structure for those who live there except for meal prep and meal time.  They have what we in the mental health world call “treatment groups”, “social activities”, “nutrition” and “exercise classes”, but they don’t use these type words to language it.  They do not require any one of any age to come to come to any of the “groups.”  They let each person follow their own spirit to where it feels most inspired.  Some end up doing much more work than others, but the work gets done and done quite well.

They do have a psychiatrist they fly in regularly from the closest larger town, as well as other mental health and medical professionals.  They pay out of their small budget.  They, of course, also follow all state and federal regulations, as required.

There are now close to 50 original family members (if you include all children and grandchildren). And a few handfuls of non-family that come for small amounts of time to longer stays.  “Groups” are provided for those who live there, as well as the community at large, all summer long, as part of their government contract.

With an obvious slowing down of the community visitors when the cold kicks in.

I joked with my husband that if I ended up missing, he’d know where to find me.

All Kinds of Effective Treatment

As both a sufferer of mental health issues, and a provider to those with them,  I am always interested in the healthiest of ways to receive and provide treatment.

As the executive director of a mental health agency trying to use scarce but desperatley needed tax dollars as efficiently as possible, my husband is amazed at how far Ionia stretches a dollar, how up to date, efficient and beautiful all their systems are and the very original and unique living arrangements of the “staff” and the “clients”.

Treatment outcomes were of a curiosity to both of us, as the government only provides money to programs that are carefully tracked by them, and proven effective by reliable research standards.

And there are research scientists who have been studying the effectiveness of Ionia, on every level.

Just another Manic Monday

That night (as well as several nights previous) I couldn’t sleep.  I’m in the slights of hypomania right now.  I know when it’s happening becausee I feel the tiniest of buzzing in my brain, most similiar to a little too much caffeine…but not exactly.  I didn’t want to take medication to force sleep. (I have been trying to heal several physical health problems I am struggling with which you can read about here).

But two nights in a row without a good night’s sleep is the moderately held limit I have placed on myself to be most effective in my life.  The two nights before, I tried to fight the symptoms with my laptop…hoping it’ll make me tired  But when my brain is buzzing, that’s not always the best idea.  The night of the visit to Ionia, I knew I needed to sleep, but still couldn’t.

Then “LAVENDAR!!!!” screamed inside my head.

I have a small wood trunk I keep in the main room of the house.  It houses all my essential oils  I stumbled from the bedroom to the the trunk.  As I stuck my head  down close to the box to find the oil I wanted, the combination of smells coming from it was spectacular.  I leaned in closer to breath in the scents, as my eyes adjusted to the light.  When my eyes came in to focus, I realized my nose and eyes were directly focused on and two inches below my nose.

For a second I felt like a trained,hunting dog.  My nose, mind, and body found exactly what it needed without using the more human parts of my body it normally does, my hands and human eyes.

That was some Merlin magic I was not aware I had.  I don’t organize the bottles, and had just quickly thrown 8 or 9 of them (not including lavendar)hapharzardly in the box the day before. I don’t really use lavendar at all when when my brains not buzzing.  I have historically been a much more depressed bipolar person and use more stimulating oils far more often.

After pouring a few drops into my hands, rubbing them together, and inhaling deeply for a moment, I went and laid back down.  I was asleep in minutes.


Like Merlin,

may we put the spoils of our journey to good use.





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