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Talking to Plants

The teens are all back at school but autumn routines haven't taken hold. It still feels like summer. There’s sweet green grass and bees buzzing from one bright late bloomer to the next.

I notice this because I spent this morning talking to plants in the YMCA field near the elementary school where all three of my children went. There was construction, gravel and graters and beeping backhoes close by too but somehow the din of crunching metal and wheels didn’t bother me today.

A friend sent me an email about the class. “This is a workshop where you will be introduced to the art of plant communication. You will learn how to connect deeply with a plant ‘in the field’ and receive its medicine or gifts. To receive this wisdom from the natural world, we need to put aside the doubt of the rational mind and open to the wisdom of the heart. Sitting with plants, taking in their beauty, honouring them with a token of your appreciation, and ingesting them in various forms, begins the process of ‘heart entrainment’, opening you up to their unique essence where they begin to share their gifts with you.”

I am new to this "plant talking". I have a few house plants and there was already a garden when I moved in. The previous owner was a real green thumb. I’m learning to weed and prune things she planted and have added a few of my own. I like how I feel after digging in the dirt. So when I saw the idea of taking a workshop on talking to plants, I'm intrigued.

The instructor is a slight woman with long, wiry hair pulled back under a pink baseball cap and elephant harem pants who has worked with the spiritual dimension of plants for over 20 years.

She clears the space and offers us a natural bug spray of cedar or artemisia. Artemisia? Never heard of it. The common name is mugwort. I sprayed myself and reeked like earthy urine. No wonder it naturally drove bugs away.

I sit in a shaded gazebo with 8 other women. “Shuffle and draw a card from the deck,” she instructs us. The deck had pictures of plants and a little booklet that described their healing properties.

The first woman pulls a vivid blue cornflower with a fuzzy grey stem. The next draws maiden pink with beautiful frilly flowers with a cherry red ring. Note: I only know their names because I read them on the cards. Now it is my turn, I shuffle. I want a showy one. Instead, I get artemisia. The bug spray plant. Not frilly at all.

Artemisia (mugwort) in the YMCA field, Montreal

Would anyone notice if I put it back and draw another one?

But then I read from the booklet: aids in accessing our higher selves, reminding us of who we are. Artemisia connects us to our soul, helping unlock energies that are keeping us from manifesting our full potential. As medicine it’s used in digestive problems, high blood pressure and irregular menstruation. It’s also a liver tonic. Spiritually, it’s a magical herb of feminine energy offering vitality, protection, good luck.

Hmm. All of that resonated with me.

Then walk the perimeter of the field. The instructor stops at a few plants, names them and moves past. “The idea is to let the plant call you,” she says. “You might feel a magnetic pull to a certain plant or group of plants. Ideally the plant should be in the flowering stage because that is when its power of attraction is at its peak".

There is clover, dandelion, cornflower and yes, mugwort. Slowly people in the group stop and sit for conversation. “Address it by name and introduce yourself as you ask for permission to spend some time with it. Listen with your heart for the answers.”

I round the chain link fence towards the sidewalk and there, climbing and stretching broadleaved and bold, is a morning glory. A whole wall of vibrant azure trumpets on twisty vines. Its power of attraction at its peak.

Morning Glory on Royal Ave, Montreal

But for some reason, it's not holding my attention. I look down and notice another plant, quiet and still. And despite the morning glory’s magnetism, this little shrub has attracted a very busy bee. He is moving from each tiny, innocent daisy-like blossom to the next. Like the mugwort, I realized whatever this simple plant is, it had something to teach me. I stood there for a half an hour watching it and the bee. The busier he gets bumbling and pollinating; the more steady and grounded she is – her white petals and sunny yellow centre open to this give and take. It was a moment of stillness I couldn’t have imagined happening on the edge of the sidewalk, four blocks from my house.

When I returned to the group I looked up the plant.

Wild aster.

Aster helps us surrender and adjust to our life experience. It supports being content with what is rather than wishing things were different. It fosters the practice of being where you are without distraction. It allows for endless expansion while maintaining centre; savouring life experience; living fully and consciously; promotes courage and adaptability.

Wild Aster on Royal Ave, Montreal

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