Wild Coyotea

Herbal Alchemy Inspired by California


92 and Loving Life

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My grandpa, Clifford Brothers, is 92 years old. He was born on a farm in Western Massachusetts, the oldest of 6 children, to two alcoholic parents. At 16, he dropped out of school to take care of his younger brothers and sisters because his parents were unable (or unwilling) to do so.  He never graduated high school, but joined the Navy at 21 and travelled around the world during WWII, stationed in San Diego and the Philippines.  He married my nana, Thelma Shortsleeve, his childhood sweetheart, despite the efforts of each family to prevent them from doing so.  Thankfully, they moved away to California in the early fifties to start anew.  My grandpa worked for many years as a prison guard as well as an insurance salesman. My nana was one of the first women to attend UC Davis as a medical student, where she became a nurse practitioner.  My wonderful nana, Thelma Brothers, passed away 8 years ago.  My grandpa was understandably devastated, but through the community of the Healdsburg Senior Center, he found a new passion for life. His whole outlook changed – he started taking classes, including writing classes, which surprised my family.  He now writes poems and stories regularly, and was published in a book by his writing group, Tuesday Morning Memories: An Anthology. He lives alone, cooks for himself, drives around town, and makes friends wherever he goes. 

Here is an inspiring story from the perspective of a ninety-two year old man!

A few weeks ago I read an article by a man who was 88 years old. He wrote about his life and all the memories he had lived through. Now that he was old as he described, it made me think about myself at 92. Our lives were certainly different, comparing backgrounds. He was brought up in a stable and well-to-do background. He felt as if his life was complete and about over for a man of his age. How negative, I thought, sure he is older but the whole world and adventures lie before him to discover, if he only would open his mind to explore the wonderful word we are seeing today. 

The discoveries in space, science, medicine, curing so many problems of living longer, to still be full of vigor. The world is exploding with new ideas and knowledge every day. What an exciting time we are living in.  

I marvel at the new discoveries that have happened since I was born. Yet I feel it is only the beginning of life and the future. What an exciting time to be living in the 21st century.

I did not think about all things in the past. There are so many wonderful memories in my life that would take a book to detail them. I am living today 92 years old, the future is what I am excited and concerned about.  We control our own desires and wants in how we want to live, in negative or positive lives. I choose my own way – how to live my life. I have seen too many seniors give up instead of standing up to look around at the world. There is still time to live for tomorrow instead the year of yesterday.  When I lost my honey of 62 years, I had negative thoughts. My world came crashing down on me. Wow. I had known about the Senior Center – it was time to explore and see what it was really like with other seniors.

I was surprised to see vibrant people writing, making art, exercising and empowering their health. I stepped into the group and found life was exciting and wonderful. I became alive and was looking toward the future instead of thinking about the past.

I even had some stories published in a book by the seniors, to my surprise.  What a wonderful group of human beings, living in today and not yesterday. It was a new beginning in my life. Do not let people say, “You can not do that.” Do not listen to them, for they have given up. Keep up your positive attitude and before you know, wow, I could be 100 in 8 years!

If I have offended anyone by my writing, I apologize. My eyes are open and I welcome positive ideas.  I hope we will see you in some classes at the Healdsburg Senior Center due to my thoughts. I appreciate all the help – we can make this world a better place to live.

Grandpa with my sisters and I: Califa, Gwen + Ash 

Grandpa with my sisters and I: Califa, Gwen + Ash 

Responsibility: From Humble Beginnings

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 responsibility |riˌspänsəˈbilətē|

noun ( pl. -ties)

the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone : women bear children and take responsibility for child care.

the state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something : the group has claimed responsibility for a string of murders.

the opportunity or ability to act independently and make decisions without authorization : we would expect individuals lower down the organization to take on more responsibility.

(often responsibilities) a thing that one is required to do as part of a job, role, or legal obligation : he will take over the responsibilities of overseas director.

[in sing. ] ( responsibility to/toward) a moral obligation to behave correctly toward or in respect of : individuals have a responsibility to control personal behavior.


In a culture that values youth, beauty, new gadgets, and fast food, the word responsibility can seem scary – or even worse – boring!  I have actually found power in the concept of responsibility as it relates to being accountable for my own life. 


When I take the definition “the opportunity or ability to act independently and make decisions without authorization” I feel compelled to act responsibly, as it indicates freedom of being.  Being responsible, I can make my own decisions without anyone’s approval.  I take the risk, I get the reward.  However, this still may seem like an abstract or “pie in the sky” concept.  How could responsibility actually be rewarding?


I have had numerous jobs in the food service industry: bussing tables at a white tablecloth covered hell as an eighteen year old, being a hostess at a “California cuisine” restaurant where the owner regularly fired people for no apparent reason, working in the kitchen for a good friend catering weddings (do NOT come in the kitchen unless you are the event coordinator, we do not need to make you a special meal because of your gluten sensitivity), passing hors d'oeuvres for celebrities and people who would rather pretend you are invisible than say “no thank you” to my small plated treats.  Some of these experiences were enjoyable, some down right miserable, but all served a purpose.  By taking these jobs, I was able to pay my bills, travel, make independent media, have a flexible schedule, and participate in various creative projects of my choosing.  However, I didn’t feel fully empowered because so much of my time was given to others without complete personal fulfillment.  I knew that I wouldn’t always be working these jobs, but I didn’t have a “long term plan”.


July of 2013, a friend introduced me to Jessica Koslow of SQIRL, a high-quality, farm-to-table brunch spot in my neighborhood. I needed work and she was hiring.  I didn’t think I would be taking yet another restaurant job but my bank account told me I better find something ASAP, and this seemed like a great opportunity. I was able to be a part of a business that was serving the best food, coffee, I could walk to work, and I loved my co-workers! I had been making kombucha and herbal tea blends at home for years, and Jessica allowed me to experiment with some new beverages at SQIRL. I was grateful to put my creativity to work in a culinary setting!


I had a great passion for wellness and natural healing, and I was going in the direction of creating myself as a holistic wellness expert. I had finished a year-long course certifying me as a Health Coach with Institute for Integrative Studies in NYC.  I continued blending herbs at home, spreading the word of #herbalalchemy via Instagram and Facebook, starting to invent myself as an Herbal Alchemist – something new and unique to me.  To bring the definition of responsibility back into the conversation, “the state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something” - I was being accountable to myself for creating a new possibility for work and lifestyle that I felt fulfilled by, and I knew this could transcend the day-to-day work I was in at the moment.


Eventually another chef, Greg Arnold, recruited me to conceive a beverage menu for Mesa Verde, a new plant-based restaurant about to open in Santa Barbara.  This was truly a dream job.  I was given full reign to invent herbal teas, super-food smoothies, juice recipes, and innovative kombuchas. I started playing around in the kitchen before the restaurant opened, being creative, fully immersed in my art of alchemical beverages! It was very fulfilling.


I knew this wasn’t the end game. People started asking me, “What’s next?!” “Are you opening your own spot?” “Where can I buy your kombuchas?” Starting a storefront or restaurant is a huge responsibility, one with much risk and stress and paperwork involved, and though I considered it, I knew this was not the time.  Eventually the concept of Wild Coyotea came into focus: I could make herbal blends, package them beautifully, and sell them in my own online store!  I started saving money, working on the blends, taking steps toward this dream.  I decided to leave LA, move back to my family’s property in Northern California, and use my resources wisely. Although I was giving up a dynamic lifestyle in Silver Lake, Los Angeles (my favorite neighborhood + city), I knew I would be much more focused and grounded in Sonoma County.  These decisions were actually quite easy to make when I realized what it was I wanted.  I was taking responsibility for my own life, making plans, taking the steps, knowing it would be a lot of work, but very rewarding to have my own business!


Wild Coyotea is still in its infancy. There will be more herbal teas, more smoking blends, more handmade products in my store to come.  There will be more collaborations, tea parties, and eventually I will sell my products in stores.  I have my work cut out for me!  I wear many hats, am head of all the departments: production, shipping, marketing, newsletter, blog, events, product development, accounting!  By taking this on, I have created much work for myself, but also a sense of pride and love and optimism that wouldn’t exist if I was still working for someone else.


Not everyone needs to own a business or even start a big project, but I hope that this will inspire you to be accountable to yourself for your life.  Make adjustments to raise the bar of your own fulfillment. Make plans, ask for support, cut back on excessive spending and start a little savings account.  Whatever it is, you are the one that gets to choose. Enjoy your life, take on this new year with a heart full of personal responsibility!

At Cinespia in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Summer 2014 with my Ritual Smoking Blend

At Cinespia in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Summer 2014 with my Ritual Smoking Blend


With Love + Encouragement,

Califa Coyote Weiss