Today I was at the Nature Playground with Ember when I ran into a friend. My friend is a wildcrafter, wise to the ways of things green and growing. She knows where to find Elderberry, Mugwort, Chamomile, and she knows how to prepare them to unlock their powers. Elderberry to keep well in winter, Mugwort for the intensification of dreams. She shared with me that recently she had gone to the Mugwort patch as usual, but this time she felt strongly that she should not harvest from a single plant. It was like a voice had spoken, she said. You have to listen to the plant itself to know whether it is appropriate to take from them.
I had been all morning hatching a song about similar, spectral certainties, and was intrigued.
“What is it like,” I asked her, “when you listen to the plants? Does each plant seem to have its own spirit? Or does it all seem like part of the same voice, the same spirit, whether it be Madame Mugwort or Herr Thistle?”
“I do experience it as a unified spirit,” she said. “Sometimes it’s almost like I hear a voice. There was one day, I was foraging in a glade, I was going to do some harvesting when I heard a surprisingly strong ‘don’t do it! Turn back! Don’t come near us!’ I was taken aback, and stopped to look and listen. Then I saw t– right where I had been about to go, there was a man lurking, hiding himself in the bushes. He looked like a shady character. I felt like they had been warning me.”
Such is the value of listening.
Her story made me wonder, do I know how to listen like that? Could I know? Would I hear the same thing in a similar circumstance, and tune it out? Could I learn to become more open to plants, as I have learned to be open to songs, and the mystery from which they come?
“I would love to learn how to listen like that,” I tell her. “How does one begin?”
“You already know,” she said. “It’s just a matter of learning how to let it in.”