The most exciting thing that happened to my children yesterday involved two droplets and a leaf.
Now you have to understand, my children are seven and ten.
They are not as sheltered as they once were. They attend a mainstream public school. In fact, before yesterday’s droplet and leaf experience, my son would likely have said that the most exciting thing ever his friend’s birthday party at a video game arcade.
But yesterday, the most amazing thing was two droplets and a leaf.
So, how did this happen, you might wonder?
Well, the answer is that our family did something special together yesterday. Something this mama had long dreamed of doing. I booked an herbalist to take our family on a private plant walk!
I’d considered a lot of possible locations for the walk, but ultimately settled on our own back yard as the best place to start. And I’m so glad I did! Because given yesterday’s experience, we’ll never see our backyard in quite the same way again.
Tessa the herbalist was a delight. She was knowledgable, skillful, and made the walk fun for the whole family. (Papa, interested in super foods! Mama, curious about ethnobotany! Son and daughter, interested in plants we could eat and use!)
We started on our own hillside and made our way through the neighborhood, learning as we went.
We got to know dandelion, which can help detoxify the liver.
We found plantain, growing up out a crack in the sidewalk, whose medicinal uses include reducing inflammation and helping to heal certain types of wounds.
We met willow who lives down the road, and learned that not only are her flexible branches perfect for basket weaving, but her green inner bark can be used to make a natural pain reliever.
And when we made it up to the nearby clifftops where I walk each morning, we met California sage, used by the first peoples of this land in ritual practices. (This type of sage also smells amazing, which earned it its common name – “Cowboy Cologne.”)
But the undisputed highlight for the children was the water droplets and the nasturtium leaves.
“Here, choose a leaf,” Tessa said to the kids. “Look for a big one with no holes.”
The children then held out the leaves while I took my water bottle and dripped a single droplet onto each leaf, one for each child.
Therein began the game.
The two children held their leaves like platters, trying to keep their droplet from rolling off, while the droplets slipped nimbly about, occasionally jettisoning themselves off the edges to the children’s peels of laughter.
By the end of the walk, we were all rich in ideas for how to interact more with our plant neighbors going forward.
Eric, my husband, was enthusiastic to start putting dandelion greens in his morning smoothie.
I couldn’t wait to start making dandelion root tea, and to garnish future soups with the onion flowers that grow wild on our own hillside.
And the children can’t wait for our next herb walk with Tessa, now that we all know how much more there is to learn.
So why am I telling you about this?
Well, two reasons.
First of all, this was such a great way to spend family time, and I want to share Tessa’s contact with you in case you want to book your own private herb walk for your family! (I’ll put her email below, in a P.S.)
Second, I want to share a soul learning with you.
This experience taught me about the power of fresh perspective.
So often, when we pass a thing every day, we may feel like we know it. We may simply say in our mind, “dandelion” and move on.
But think of all there is still to learn, even about the things we think we know.
I’m a nature lover, of course… I make sure to spend some time in nature each day, and with my children’s music class, Noe’s Garden, nature has always been my first muse.
But I left this experience feeling like our family had come into a new relationship with the land that surrounds us – one where we feel a greater degree of humility, curiosity, and intentionality in how we engage with may growing things that surround us.
It’s all connected, of course – coyote on the mountain, red tailed hawk wheeling overhead, milk thistle in the sidewalk crack, and us! We live on this hillside too and are a part of it all. We, taking in this beauty and learning each day how much more there is to discover.
Little ones are maters of this, of course…. If you have a toddler, you have your own personal guru of “see freshly.”
So I’ll close with a wish for parents…
When our little ones take interest in nature, be it in petal, ladybug or flower, may we take time to notice where they are looking. And now and then, may we set down our adult cares for a moment to simply follow their gaze.
P.S. If you want to book your own plant walk, I highly recommend Tessa Kappe, whom I found though Scarlet Sage. If you reach out, tell her I sent you! Tessa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org