Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sitting with plants

Ask anyone who works with plants, and you'll find that we all have our reasons and rituals for spending time near the leaves, stems, flowers, and roots. For me, I first noticed at 18 that while living in the center of the city, if I didn't get out into the green for a week or more, I started to feel a little crazed and off-balance.
Being outside in the company of plants now, my mind wanders and ideas spring to life. I may have long internal conversations that work through long forgotten issues, and almost always I am humming a tune. It is calming, quiet, relaxing, and more than anything - real. No matter what mood took me outside, it will be lifted and more serene in short order.
So when I saw that Pam Montgomery was leading a day class at The Rosemary House on Plant Spirit Healing, I cleared my schedule and signed up. It was a delicious day! She was able to lend fact to a lot of what those of us attending were already sensing, and added intention and focus to everyday interactions with the world of green. I picked up a copy of her book so that I can get more involved in what was taught.
The day started with a table full of perfection from Nancy's Sweet Remembrances kitchen. She made the marscapone/pistachio strawberries that I fell in love with at their 40th anniversary celebration, as well as scones, and some sweet bread loaves. I was trying to resist, but could not. Fruit, teas, and coffee were served as well. I might add that she was hosting a shower at her tearoom in just a few hours, but everything went as smoothly as silk.
Tables and chairs were set up under the enormous cedar and holly trees, and I nestled in, feeling almost hugged by the trees. My friend Lorie, who never fails to crack me up while adding wise asides, was at my table, and it was an extremely pleasant surprise to find that Betsy (who often writes for the magazine) and Carol were at the next table over. Of course Nancy and Susanna were there - so it was great to see so many friends all at once! The weather was magnificent. The deep blue sky, early Autumn breezes... just beautiful. I'm so glad we were outside.
The morning discussion centered on plant intelligence and our relation to the origin of plants. Pam told us about several scientific studies, including the Gaia effect, in which plants have changed to take up increased carbon dioxide in order to maintain the environment. She talked about how proximity with plants releases oxytocin in humans, which explains the relaxing effect we experience in the garden, meadows, and woods. Lots of fascinating facts that verified those instinctual feelings.
We then wandered around the garden, looking for a plant that called to us. One of the first things I noticed was this plant growing from a chimney three stories up, but considering that we would be sitting with our plant...
I moved on to a lush, inquisitive hops vine. We spent 20 or 30 minutes with the plant of our choosing (or perhaps those that had chosen us), opening up to the personality of them, seeing the strengths, differences, specialness in the essence of them.
We broke for lunch (another delicious array from Sweet Remembrances), and then went back to work. One of the most amazing things that Pam shared, was that although people make this seem difficult and *hard*, it is not. "The plants do all the work," she said, "It isn't rocket science." So we just have to open up and allow them inside our hearts. We sat with our plants some more, and I will say that the hops and I had an interesting time together. I was shocked. I know how this sounds, but while *I* wanted to go in a certain direction, the hops had an entirely different idea - so that's where we went.
We all said our goodbyes, and I wasn't sure I'd taken away all that much from the class. Sleeping on it crystallized it. It was a wonderful, enriching class.
Many thanks to Susanna Reppert at The Rosemary House for consistently bringing in great herbalists to teach each fall! We are so lucky in this area to have such wonderful learning resources. In just a couple of weeks I'll be wandering down the road in the different direction to the Farm at Coventry, where Susan Hess will be hosting Phyllis Light for two evenings of Appalachian Herbal Healing.
Note: I snagged the picture of Pam from the Green Nations website, and the book picture from Amazon.


nocton4 said...

great post, am loving your blog and catching up with older posts as I have only just found you.
happy days x

Shelley said...

I'd love it if you would share some more about your experience of sitting with the plant you chose. How did the hops lead you in a different direction than what you were intending? I'm intrigued and curious about the process.


Tina Sams said...

well, without getting too personal, looking at the brave, flexible, soft, yet slightly prickly nature of the plant, I wanted to forgive something fairly recent. Instead, the plant wanted to go WAY back. It was just a matter of letting my mind follow along - and my heart.
I realize that is very vague, and I don't mean to be. It really is that simple, though. First finding a kinship or communication, and then listening.

Shelley said...

I appreciate that you responded to my question.

Your explanation makes perfect sense to me - "finding a kinship and then listening".

Thank you, Tina.

Laura said...

This sounds incredibly awesome! Thank you so much for posting it and for expanding my horizons. I'm putting Pam's book on my wish-list. As an urban herbie, I am so grateful for this information, and I agree that it is so important to what the plants wish to "tell" us. Very cool stuff!

Marilyn said...

This sounds like a very special day, one I would have so enjoyed.


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