Author, Books, Writing

Walk like an Outlander, with Mindy McIntosh-Shetter – @outlanderbotanist

Hello, bloggers!

Welcome to another beautiful, fall day in Alabama. I am absolutely in LOVE with this weather. I sincerely hope it’s just as beautiful wherever you find yourself today.

As per usual routine, I have a fabulous guest for you today. I am so happy to introduce  you to Mindy McIntosh-Shetter


Walk like an Outlander

Ok, I know if you are old enough you are hearing that song from the Bangles. You know the one – Walk like an Egyptian, which was playing today while I was out for my run. Oh, how the world works and serendipity pokes its head through the curtain of life.

As a child of reason, which we all are of that era today, I have never really found much use in neither love stories nor simply hoping for something to happen. I was raised to believe that hard work was the solution to everything-including dreams but some dreams are harder to achieve as I would learn later on in life.

Serendipity’s head would poke out again one evening at my dad’s. After a long day working on the farm, we settled down in front of the brain cell sucking machine called a television to watch a new series produced by STARZ called Outlander. As my great Scot-Irish luck would have it, one of the most scandalous episodes would be on. Please keep in mind that this is not an Outlander spoiler free zone if you have never seen the show or read the books. Now that you know that let’s move on. Well, it was the prison, Jamie, and Black Jack Randall episode that was quite graphic. Well, in just, I was embarrassed to watch this with my dad. I mean, it covered topics that I really did not want to explore nor talk about with my father but here we were, sharing time together so go with it. In the mist of hiding behind pillows and a blanket, I heard lavender oil. Lavender oil I said. Really, I do not think they used it for this purpose I said to myself. I mean I had written about lavender and knew the scientific reason why it works. See this is what I do for a living, I teach people gardening skills, horticulture, botany, and science through blogs and videos. So making a mental note about the plant, I decided I would do my own research into the topic. I mean, I could be making a mountain out of a mole hill. The author of the Outlander book series could have simply just put that in without researching if the plant was used for this purpose.

The next day, I started doing my own research and yes lavender was used for this purpose among other things in the 1740s. This is where my journey began.

Diane Gabaldon’s journey with this story started off when she asked God to help her write something that affected peoples’ lives, which she has. The series of books continued to grow and are labeled historical fiction. The popularity of the books was a reason why STARZ adapted the books into a television series, which is one of the most successful to date. While I could go on and on with accolades for the book series and STARZ show, you may be wondering what this has to do with lavender.

Well, the more I did research on the plants mentioned in the books and television adaptation the more I became intrigued. There were plants I had heard of and others I had not. I researched their use in the story and in real-life. I gathered information on how to grow the ones I was not familiar with. All the while just for me, just to have that information but……..a nagging idea kept popping into my head. You know the one, the one idea that hovers around your brain never really leaving but you can push it away to get work done and then it reappears when your mind is quite. That idea, the one that you feel a calling to do either from God or Spirit guides leading you to where you need to be.

Before going on let me say this, one of the things on my bucket list was not to write a book. I have done a lot of writing as a blogger for over ten years but I never thought of writing a book. What gave me the courage to just looking into it was the female main character in the Outlander series Claire. She was a “thinking outside the box,” non-conforming woman like me. The type that society tends to define with an unlady like term used in dog breeding. Yes, my aggie background is coming through. I really wish society would define a woman like that as a female cat, which is a queen. Anyway, I could see myself in Claire and have been in many situations just like her, except the time traveling. When in college, I was frowned down upon by my male classmates solely based on the fact that I was the only woman in the class. I have also been in the classroom when race and sex became an issue. I have learned the lessons of conformity, which never end well and for Claire forced her to change who she truly was in both the 1940s and 1740s. While the conformity in the 1740s was for survival, the poker face she kept on in the 1940s was for her child. But even the best makeup cracks, this is what happened to Claire. Whether society or her husband of the 1940s was ready or not, Claire was going to live her life being true to herself regardless of the cost.

As so many times, nonfiction ends up mimicking life so was my journey with Claire. We seemed to be one in the same. Forget the love story, the Scottish history, and sexy men in tartan, I was interested in courage, which can be defined as having the belief in oneself to the point that you can leap over that comfort zone and never look back. For Claire that meant hiding who she really was in the 1740s to marrying a man she, at the time, did not love. It also meant leaving her cosmic lover for her child and going back to a man that she no longer knew for her child in the 1940s. Once there in the 1940s trying to conform to society’s standard of what women were supposed to do. As you can image and as the name applies, she was an Outlander defined as an outsider, which was not a compliment.

This was a mirror image of me-female aggie in a male dominated world who thought “outside the box.” In the past, this character trait, as with Claire, was not something I treasured but as I explored the idea of writing a book on herbs, it became clear to me I needed to follow this path regardless of where it lead. I did my homework as Claire did when she was planning her journey out. I placed all the facts on the table and then scattered them to the wind. I have never approached anything with caution and I was not going to start now. At that point, I frankly ran over that comfort zone. I kept going until it felt right. At that point I started writing The Unofficial Book of Herbs. Once again I was an Outlander-a nobody in the book and publishing world, but I really did not care. It was a path that I was meant to take. Just as Claire was destined to be a doctor, I was cosmically and/or spiritually moved into this direction as an author.

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Today, I straddle the past, present, and future very much like Claire. I dress in 1740s clothes to do videos on modern equipment for the future. My journey has lead me to create my own YouTube channel the Outlander Botanist by which I teach people dressed in 1740s clothing basic gardening skills along with how to grow the plants mentioned in the Outlander books and STARZ show. While the underlining message is not one from Outlander it is one of caution. If you do not learn about these plants today, they can be gone in the blink of an eye and to taking a saying that has been tossed around lately; yes “plant lives matter.”

Yes, my story is different and some may say unique. I have learned a lot of Outlander life lessons. Yes there are life lessons in historical nonfiction if you take the time to look. Just like me, Claire was and continues to be an outlander. Yes I said continues since the story is continuously being written with no end in sight, which is great. The most valuable part of Claire’s character is the fact that she can be a role model for all those girls out there dying to be true to themselves but really not knowing how. In response to Claire getting into medical school and graduating, several people posted pictures of women in their families who “walked like an Outlander” and became doctors. One favorite example was a photo of a woman in her graduating attire representing the first female doctor to graduate from this particular medical school. Yes, this is a prime example of what it means to be an Outlander-an outsider. But not every walk needs to be as drastic or defined as the first of whatever. “Walk like an Outlander” can simply mean stepping outside your comfort zone, taking a chance, and not worrying that it will work out as serendipity pokes his/her head through the dark clouds of self doubt. I have learned that I may not understand why at the time but later on the pieces of the puzzle come together to create that moment. That moment when everything is right in the universe and I have again figured out that this is where I am supposed to be regardless of what my family or society thinks.

So in just, take a chance in life. Hold your head up tall and take that first step toward “walking like an outlander.” Yes, it is scary but believe it or not it will be a journey of unforgettable experiences that will span a lifetime.

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Thank you so much for joining us today. Please help in supporting today’s guest with likes, shares, and comments!

Until next time……………………………… Stay Creative!!

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