Can you heart the plants sing? We hear sounds from the meadows and forests with the movement of air. But, did you know that plants make their own music too?
“Since the 1970s, Damanhur—a Federation of Communities with its own constitution, culture, art, music, currency, school and uses of science and technology (www.damanhur.org)—has researched communication with the plant world. As part of this research, they created an instrument able to perceive the electromagnetic variations from the surface of plant leaves to the root system and translated them into sound.” Pretty cool, right. Extensive research is ongoing as we develop more and more sensitive equipment to help us hear, interact, understand the complexity of the plant world. If we believe we are one, then we are connected to everything. These tools give us another way to connect with and respect the plant world, to cohabit with them.
My guest this week, Jen Frey, does just that. She mentions Damanhur community, the type of equipment needed and brings this awareness to many events.
Since May 3rd Is Garden Meditation Day I thought I would include a plant song, Red Roses, for you to use for your meditation today. Red Roses, long the symbol of love shares her beautiful music. Remember all comments, and shares are appreciated. Enjoy. Judith
Beauty surrounds us, but usually, we need to be walking in a garden to know it. Rumi
Spring is here. In the northeast, we see some snow lingering, the day crisp and sunny. We’re almost ready to dig out our gardens, plot our dreams for ripe juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumbers and of course, flowers. Spring teases us with cool breezes, shows a few buds, greets us with new births and fills the air with birdsong. Another season becomes a beautiful reminder of cycles, nature’s rhythms.
My podcast guest this week, Linda Wiggen Kraft, reminded me of sitting in nature once or twice a day. When I went to wilderness school a few years ago, Native American based, not military, we were encouraged to find our ‘sit spot’, a place where we felt comfortable sitting in early morn, and/or evening, before the demands of the day begin, perhaps when the demands of the day quiet down. I enjoyed my morning time after my children left for school. I made a pot of herb tea, placed a chair just outside my meadow. As Linda mentioned, nature is initially disturbed as we move about and then when we settle in, nature comes back. I marveled at the way dragonflies flit and saw so many different species. Sometimes deer would come in, females with their offspring, munching on the grasses in the late afternoon sun. In the evening bats would fly about, though today they are endangered here and we see very few at dusk. In a sea of goldenrods, mustard yellow flowers hummed with the presence of so many bees, creating a soft symphony.
Sitting in the stillness, being present to our now, quiets us. We feel calmer, more peaceful, sharpen our observation skills and delight in whoever shows up.
I have heard folks express disappointment when a creature doesn’t show up, but that’s not the point. The point is simply to be within nature’s simplicity. Allow our self a chance to quietly breathe and perhaps be grateful and maybe merge a little bit with our land.
In planning gardens, have you considered doing a short ceremony, creating some ritual that welcomes spring? How about honoring the gift of seeds? After all, they are getting ready to burst into their full forms. We can taste their flavors, smell their peculiar aromas, we can almost taste the sun when ripe.
Today, I want to remind you to approach your gardens, meadows, your landscapes with exuberance, joy, and gratitude. If puzzled on where to plant, what new plants to bring in, sit a minute or two. Engage your senses in the delight of your space first. Walk around, notice the old stems from last year, the bare branches, lifeless grasses. Trust your inner sight, plan it out, roll up your sleeves and dig in!
What rituals do you create for beginning your gardens? Send me brief descriptions. I would enjoy hearing from you.
Thanks again, Judith
When you walk into the forest what do you see? Beautiful tall evergreens, strong oaks, and hickories, underbrush? Leaves fill trail paths as do the needles from pines, creating a softer forest carpet to cushion our steps. An animal or a bird may get our attention. We feel more peaceful as if the forest itself takes our tasks, lightens our load at least for the time we are among them.
As an herbalist, I tend to look around to see what plants are edible. And while I don’t strip large swaths of bark for medicine making, I remember that trees supply us with food and medicine. Acorns and chestnuts make a delicious flour. Twigs and pine needles make tea filled with minerals and vitamins, and nourishment.
Today I would like to go back to the white pine, Pinus strobus.
Twigs, bark, needles, and resins promote health and healing when used properly. Native Americans would use the resin and combine it with beeswax to seal the seams when canoe-making.
From the perspective of holism, I have another question. How does the tree heal itself? Our Native ancestors observed nature, using nature’s gifts from trial and error, yes but also how nature heals itself. How does a species such as an evergreen survive?
Let’s look at a wound that trees have to handle, a broken limb which creates an open wound. These open wounds on a pine and others expose the tree to different fungi and pathogens by infiltrating the center core of the tree, the hardwood. The hardwood is the largest part of the tree, the middle of the tree. When the living barrier, the Cambrian fails, is penetrated, the hardwood starts to soften which weakens the integral structure of the tree. While limbs breaking etc are part of a tree’s life cycle and they learn to deal with these occurrences to some extent, trees use resin to heal these wounds. The tree uses the resin which not only heals the wound but contributes to their longevity. We see this to some extent in our native forests.
White pines produce resin we think of as sticky, very hard to remove, thick and a problem when dropping on the metal exterior of a car. The US Forest Service tells us:
“Resins are plant products that,
- are not soluble in water,
- harden when exposed to air,
- do not play a role in the fundamental processes of the plant, and
- are generally produced by woody plants.
Resins are produced in special resin cells in plants and are also produced when an injury occurs to the plant. Resins can be produced through the bark of a tree, the flowers of an herb, or the buds of a shrub.”
However, let’s go back to the pine tree. With the loss of a limb, resin seeps in, in an attempt to create a band-aid for the empty spot. It creates a seal and hardens. It is this observation that prompted our ancestors to try resin for sealing as in canoe making and for wound healing.
The dot I hope I connect here is this: we have learned much from nature. If that is true, and I believe it is, why are we disregarding her now? We forget about the forest community filled with so many species each with a purpose and a role. We forget to give thanks for her gifts. We forget to use the gifts she brings. In simple ways, such as tea making we can bring nature home. And, science, field observations, and tests are proving that we have harmed water, air, and soil to our detriment.
Ellen Moyer, Ph.D., this week’s podcast guest, is committed to sustainability and creating solutions. We can go over the problems again but we’ve done that. Now is time for practical action. Check out her website for a free gift: 55 things simple things you can do right now to make a difference.
What are you doing that reduces your carbon footprint? What about this earth moves you? As an herbalist and educator, I enjoy teaching about her gifts. Whether trees or plants, animals or resources, she offers much. What have you observed in nature that applies to us? We’d love to hear from you.
This blog continues to focus on soil and our relationship to the earth beneath our feet. I would like to share a quote from Michael J. Roads, from his book, Conscious Gardening, with you. A conscious relationship with the soil reaches us on a deeper level. Soil components react with our brain chemicals and create a feeling of peace. I hope that as your gardening begins you reflect a moment or two on the amazing world that exists in dirt. Soil, dirt, is the seat of all our fertility on the planet. Each of us can make a difference with the choices we make. Organic fertilizers, organic mulches, organic insect sprays fill the pages of our cyber worlds and are only a click way.
“Care for the soil with conscious attention. Be aware and conscious of the soil as a living medium. The soil is alive, and it is your responsibility as a conscious gardener to support and value that life. It is estimated that the weight of life in the soil far outweighs the weight of all humans, animals and creatures that live on the soil. That is a sobering thought. It is up to us, as conscious Beings, to support this natural balance, in however small a measure, by the care and intelligence of our actions in the garden.”
(P.80.) Conscious Gardening by Michael J. Roads.
Can we walk more softly upon this earth, this soil, this dirt beneath our feet? I hope so. Remember we are caretakers here honoring our commitment to co-create with nature and all her aspects. Stewardship is a responsibility and a privilege.
Take a moment and walk barefoot if you can today. Touching the earth this way keeps us grounded and connected. Like the tiny Hummingbird, we can be conscious gardeners simply by “doing the best we can.”
Happy Planting. Judith
Dirt: the Movie features an exceptional woman ( one of many) who became an environmental advocate in her native lands. Wangari Maathi won the Nobel Peace prize in 2004 for her many efforts to improve the conditions in her country, Kenya. In 1977, she began the Green Belt Movement which helped woman plant trees to provide wood for cooking, fodder for livestock, material for fencing, protect watersheds and stabilize the soil improving agriculture. She has helped and encouraged the plantings of millions of trees.
She tells the story of a Hummingbird in the movie, inspiring and rich with the flavor of Africa that goes something like this:
Fire broke out in the forest, raging and burning. The animals rushed to the river’s edge and watched as their forest burned not feeling they could do anything about this devastation. A Hummingbird could not stand this and decided to do something. It went to the water’s edge and picked up a drop of water and rushed to the fire and dropped it on the fire to help put it out. She went back and forth and back and forth much to the others surprise. The elephants and other questioned her, how could this possibly help? How could she make a difference? The Hummingbird replied: I am doing the best I can”.
Each of us has our dreams. Do you ever get discouraged? I know sometimes I do. I see the problems with land use, mono crop agriculture, the rm pesticides cause on soil and bees and wonder how long will it take us to wake up and reclaim a relationship to this earth? to this soil we walk on every day? When I hear about folks like Wangari Maathi who made a difference one step at a time in the face of adversity I am reminded to simply do the best I can.
What does the hummingbird mean to you? This little bird delights us with her flying ability and how she stores food in early fall. These birds seem to migrate south based on shortening daylight. The hummingbird finds its primary nutrition in insects. They especially love baby spiders. Nectar gives them instant energy for their high metabolic needs but the fat, oils, minerals for their overall needs come from insects they find while flying or in the flowers they seek for their nectar.. And contrary to local lore, they do not suck nectar through a “straw” but grab the sweet droplet of energy with a tongue.
In my dream work with animal totems I found that the hummingbird is associated with air (intelligence, higher thought, the ability to see the bigger picture.) They seem to be constantly in motion, rapid wing beats which represents persistence and a feeling on endlessness or infinity. Many cultures in the Americas believed the hummingbird represents rebirth.
I would like to suggest that we spend a few moments today contemplating this marvelous, tiny creature. Spring is here in New England and soon these delightful birds will be back.
Persistence, knowing I am enough, and knowing I am doing enough in this moment are great personal, daily reminders. One more question: do you dream of hummingbirds? Let me know.
Enjoy this wonderful day. Judith
Most of us are fascinated with rainbows, are we not? Thunder, lightning, swirling storms clean the air. When conditions are right a rainbow forms giving us a spectacular show of color that can simply be enchanting even magical. Of course legends abound about the significance of this phenomena perhaps a gift from the gods. Beautiful and majestic a rainbow feels like a gift.
In the field of nutrition and herbs rainbows have an interesting place. The rainbow is an arc of light whose colors are sunlight refracted by water molecules. When we look at the world of herbs, keeping with this theme, we see the same colors reflected in the edibles and medicinals in nature. We know from nutrition studies that each color in foods signifies a variety of nutrients but especially an array of anti- oxidants. From purple to red and all colors in between we have a compliment of substances that have the unique ability of scooping up harmful byproducts which leads to a healthier environment within our cells, our biology. Oxidants contribute to the aging process. Whether flowers, leaves or roots we see antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin A, C, E represented, sometimes in trace amounts sometimes in significant amounts. For example, dandelion leaves, 1 cup chopped, have 112% RDA of Vitamin A not to mention 19 mg of Vitamin C.
These leaves also have a wide variety of B vitamins and minerals. This compliment of nutrients is recognized by our biology and though dandelion may have an affinity for the liver, gallbladder and kidney systems it does contribute its nutrients and support to the whole body.
When we eat a variety of foods from the color spectrum we support foundational health and vitality. When we choose different herbs varying our choices the same thing happens: we ingest a variety of nutrients in various amounts that supports our biology. Homeostasis is maintained, synergy occurs in a holistic way. Holism, the third concept I wish to highlight, is a concept I will repeat over and over in that we are a part of the whole. The macrocosm, the universe, is in the microcosm, the individual, and all that that implies. A holistic approach to health means we choose those modalities that support us on a mind, body, spirit level.
In the not so distant past, herbalists chose some herbs for their effect on the psyche, to enhance romance and chase away the blues. With our mechanization of the herbal industry we take away some of the spirit, the energy of the plant that goes beyond the science. My teachers have taught me to give thanks for everything I pick, harvest and use, for my food and my medicine. It is said that when we acknowledge this plant kingdom in this way they can work more holistically within us. Holism is about relationship.
Homeostasis, synergy, holism, three broad concepts incredibly relevant in the understanding and application of herbs in our healing and in our kitchens.
My Native American elders often referred to the merging of cultures here in North America as the place of the rainbow people. Isn’t fitting that science is meeting the legends and confirming that when we eat a rainbow of colors we are supported on all levels of our being. As above so below, comes to mind.
Maybe rainbows are the gift of the gods.
Autumn is here. Many plant cycles of bloom have ended. Yet our eyes will feast on the vast array of colors in the natural world around us as autumn dazzles us with her dance. . I ask you to give thanks today for the food and medicines you need.
Enjoy your day. Judith