|An image captured on my last nature hike.|
By picking up 'these' reference books are we limiting our curiosity and hindering our intimate communication with the natural world? Books make mistakes but earth does not and if our goal is to really connect with nature then we must re-ignite that relationship, allowing the plants, rocks and animals to teach us. After all, they’ve been here a lot longer than us. And just to clarify, I’m not talking about identification guides or books written by our elders. ID guides and our elder teachers are much needed in building this long lost relationship as well as resources from folks who are developing their own relationships directly with nature aside from just book knowledge.
Perhaps, it’s also our need as modern Americans to want an answer right away too. But there is much detriment in that approach. We are all different and things affect us all differently and by solely referring to a reference book limits our innate knowledge and cheats future generations of new knowledge, which is really just lost knowledge. And yes, this approach takes a lot more time but, there are practices that help and a community that can build upon your findings.
So how does one begin this practice? There are several approaches to take in re-kindling this lost relationship.
Journaling is a great place to start. Go outside, walk around your neighborhood or local trail and keep your heart open in order for your senses to receive messages from the natural world. You may find that an aroma captures you or it might be a branch moving in the wind that has caught your eye, go with it and find its source. Once you locate it spend some time observing the plant. How does it grow? Upwards, outwards. What’s growing next to it? Does its scent make you feel a certain way? Write all your observances and experiences down and you may want to take note of how you were feeling before beginning your exploration. Take this journal with you everywhere as you may run into this plant unexpectedly in your daily life and it may carry a new or different message for you, or you can just use your notes app on your cell phone. My most magical learning moments do happen unexpectedly. For plants, the Doctrine of Signatures greatly supports this process of discovery too, it's been used for generations by folk herbalists, for those not familiar with the Doctrine of Signatures they are traits that plants have that closely resemble various parts of the body shedding a little light on what the plant’s affinity might be.
|On a roadside in South Colorado spending some time with mullein.|
Another way to build your knowledge and relationship is to make a plant, rock, gem or mineral your partner. Keeping it close to you for as long as possible. Observe how your spirit and daily interactions are affected during this time with your partner of choosing. And once again, make note of how you were feeling before you engaged in the relationship. Once you are comfortable with this process you might abandon our journal, and that’s okay as long as you feel you are absorbing the messages you are receiving.
When appropriate, with plants, take some ample time experiencing them in different ways. For example, taste one just by itself when fresh and then dried, make a hot or cold infusion, burn it to release smoke, and/or make a tincture. Most importantly, when experiencing your plant take your time. It is rare that we actually sit down and really experience these plants because we usually move on to our next task or whatever else is on our agenda and when doing that how do we know when a plant is really affecting us or if it’s a combination of our physical actions and overall environment? The focus on our physical and emotional reactions thus becomes diluted. If we actually make a ‘date’ with our plant of choosing and set aside some time to fully experience it we can learn so much more.
|Partner for the week, Island Pitcher Sage (Lepechinia fragrans).|
“In using them we gain experience and insight. Additional information is supplied by their taste, smell, touch, and appearance. The natural history, stages of growth, and environmental niche supply additional knowledge. Chemical constituents contribute to our understanding, but they are not the basis for a well-rounded knowledge of either the medicinal properties, or the personality of the plant,” says Matthew Wood.
We are the makers of our medicine and we are and have always been a part of nature. I spoke a lot about plants in this piece but most of this can also be translated to rocks, gems and minerals. Animals too! Just need to be a little more creative with animals and that's really a whole other blog post in itself. But, here's a few tips. We can focus on birds when outdoors, tide pools, or the tiny insects in our garden. Sometimes a feather will be in our pathway, pick it up, make it your partner, if you so desire, learn from it. Animal traits are patterns in themselves and can help us understand their medicine. The earth trusts us so very much, let’s start to trust it and in turn ourselves.
|Guinea Fowl Feather. Protection for an adventurous spirit.|
|Our local water source, the Rio Hondo which is connected to the Santa Anita creek.|
Here are a few sources that guide me in connecting to nature, but the best one is always, nature herself: