Michael Moore, the herbalist, died of kidney complications on February 20, 2008. This is a tribute I wrote for him then.
Michael Moore was one of my most important and influential herbal mentors While it was not unexpected (he was on dialysis) it is a sad occasion.
Michael was an important figure for me in my understanding of herbal medicine. Though I did not meet him until the early 1990’s, he was already known to me when I first started attending herb schools and events in the early 1980s.
Please excuse the self-indulgences within, it is often easier to talk about Michael through my own trials and tribulations as an herbalist and hopefully, this will help illuminate the person he was.
I feel that to honor Michael, it is important to also talk about him as a real person.
And he was quite the person. I believe the term for him would be ‘a character’. Having taught and attended his school for a number of years, I was fortunate to have had the chance to spend time with him and Donna, his partner (also an herbalist). What I want to add to the MM discussion is what a quirkbomb he was. Michael loved center stage, and one of the things I had to learn was to keep my mouth shut in class because Michael was a master of the cutting riposte (and I thought I was good here). He had a number of odd names for me, but if I got too blabbermouthy (a trait I cede too), I was certain to be call 7Shtibles. I don’t know what it meant, but it was and remains a weird term of endearment from a master of weird.
As I started to write above, when I began studying herbal medicine in the early 80’s, Mr. Moore along with his percolations and persnickety use of science was often frowned upon. His appreciation of numbers (1: whatever, etc) was seen as anti-herb somehow. As if science detracted from our love of the plants. This changed over time, and he was an early influence for me that one can incorporate science into herbal medicine and that it does not take away from the beauty and mystery of plants and the ways we use them as medicine. I have been enthralled by the sciences most of my life and so meeting a non-reductionist science-leaning herbalist was helpful and encouraging for me.
One of the ways that Michael helped me was by allowing me to teach botany at his school in 1994 and 1995 (and in later years again). This was incredibly important to me, as it helped me gain confidence having my name associated with his. And so I re-entered the fray of herb school after 10 years of self-study. It was not always easy, being subordinate to such a large force of nature, but I got what I hoped for; direct information to vexing herbal questions, access to someone with a great theoretical mind, much more depth about physiology and the ways plants influence it, and the community of students. Just being around an herbalist with such a depth of love for plants was extraordinarily eye and mind-opening.
I can feel Michael’s presence when I teach. His use of colorful (read; swearing) language, his jumping around from point A to point M back to point G and eventually to point B. In other words, he was a permission-giver to those of us whom love to digress. And swear. And opinionate. And the way he felt comfortable showing the corners of his mind and challenging students ideology lives on in his students.
I already miss Michael knowing I cannot call him up with some odd question (I believe the last one was about interstitial cystitis). Damn that guy was approachable in his own patented way. And affordable. I have always been impressed on how affordable he made his school. He could have charged twice what he did or more and still filled up. Whenever I asked him about this he would always grumble about not wanting too many BMW’s in his parking lot. It was clear that Michael was dedicated to making herbal medicine available. These are perhaps some of the most important things I have learned from him, and can hopefully carry on.
Thank you Michael Moore. You have touched many of us in ways that will help influence herbal medicine in a, plant-loving, critical-thinking, ideology-questioning, affordable way. You live on with us.