Gail Ulrich, beloved New England herbalist, author, friend, and mentor to many, passed away July 23, 2000, surrounded by her family and close friends at her home in Shelburn Falls, Massachusetts. Diagnosed with an aggressive form of colon/liver cancer in May, Gail ardently followed a succession of treatments that encompassed a wide spectrum of healing arts, but, tragically, the cancer had already seriously progressed.
Gail was widely known in the herbal community not only for her many contributions to herbalism, but for her warm, vibrant personality. She was the founder of Blazing Star Herb School, a founding member and president of the North East Herbal Association, and was the founder and co-director of The New England Women’s Herbal Conference and of the Healing With Flowers Conference. She authored Herbs to Boost Immunity, and owned New England Botanicals. She was known internationally as a popular teacher and herbal educator.
Death brings to those of us still on this journey an ever deepening awareness of the gift of life and those who are closest to us bring us many gifts in their passing. The stories of how she touched our lives continue to circulate and help to keep her flame alive. They will be forever part of the landscape of our hearts. She was one of my dearest friends, a sister in spirit, and co-worker in the green. On my last visit with her, a few days before her passing, I asked her if she was afraid. There was a long, labored pause before she answered, "No. I just feel like I’m climbing a big mountain." She reached the top and soared.
Gail lives on in the hundreds of people whose hearts she touched through her kindness and her teachings will continue to thrive through the lives of the hundreds of people she taught. The Women’s Herbal Conference, a gathering she dreamt of and seeded many seasons ago, will continue as a living monument to her.
A few weeks before Gail was diagnosed with cancer, she had asked me – had asked several times, in fact – to send her a poem I had read to her months earlier;
"For years I never knew whether the twilight was the ending of the day or the beginning of the night. And then suddenly one day I understood that this did not matter at all. For time is but a circle and there can be no beginning and no ending. And this is how I came to know that birth and death are one. And it is neither the coming or going that is of consequence. What is of consequence is the beauty that one gathers in this interlude called life." – W.O. Abbott
There are few people I know who walked the beauty way more than Gail did. May her journey be in beauty, beauty before her, beauty behind, beauty above and below. Beauty all around. May she know beauty always in her heart and continue to spread beauty on her journey into the spirit world. In the spirit of the green. – Rosemary Gladstar
Here in the Wild Fields
by Gail Ulrich, 7-30-80
Here in this wild field devic spirits surround me.
The very being and essence of sunflowers,
Black-eyed Susan, Wild bergamot and
In this quiet kingdom,
The sweet cacophony of birds
And drone of bees I am at peace
My medicine is here
I need no doctors, no shamans,
I am bathed in color and sound
Violet heals my spirit
Golden yellow heals my mind
Sun and earth glorify these devas
I need no shaman
My medicine is here
In this wilderness
Is my medicine