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For as long as I have lived in my house, you have claimed a spot in the back left corner of my lot. I avoid you; teach my children and the neighbor kids to do the same. Several years ago, my neighbor went after you with poison but that only made you more robust; while he, ironically, got cancer. This year, I notice you encroaching closer to my raised beds and compost bin.


You spread at the same time I read Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. At the same time I become aware of plants as sentient beings who feel, form community, have will and agency. Which is to say, I glimpse the possibility of another type of relationship.


So I approach you with reverence:


"You are here for your own reasons and for Earth's reasons of which I am completely unaware. I acknowledge these purposes are beyond my seeing, understanding, and sense of time. I acknowledge you have your own agenda and you are on your own journey as I am on mine. You have a right to be where you want to be. And yet. I do not want you here."


Keen to understand what gifts plants bring us by their way of being in the world, I recall a conversation in my herbalism apprenticeship. Your being--we determined--says, 'Stay back. If you cross me, you will pay.' And suddenly, the pins, tumblers, discs and levers within a locked place inside me click and I open.


"You have been here all along offering to teach me boundaries. How often I said yes when I meant and felt no. How often I trespassed my own instincts. Made myself a doormat then festered in lingering irritation. You were speaking to me, but I could not hear you. Until now."


I am not practiced in making something I don't want, go away artfully. I am practiced in smoldering until I rage, create devastation with my unheeded need. What do you have to teach me about how to be artful in claiming space and setting boundaries? How do I summon and embody you when I need to? Did I mention you spread in my yard at the same time I want to venture beyond my self-imposed limits?


"Thank you for what I'm learning from you, for your faithful presence through the years. I did not know you are a plant ally, too. Though I can't eat, make a poultice, tea, or salve out of your physical body like other members of the plant family, I can ingest and slather your energy all over myself. You are a reminder that I carry my own boundaries. When I come across what will cause me suffering, I can call up your powerful no. When my sense of obligation and relational expectations converge similar to the red pinpoint convergence of your leaves to stem, I will remember you. Recall how you create a do-not-enter-zone for yourself. How I can create one for myself."


Water percolates deepest through permeable membranes and it is the same with knowledge. I do not learn about other beings without learning about myself too. I travel farther in the journey without when I journey within, allowing knowing to flow beyond brain to heart and gut to relationship.


"I speak to you now respectfully through the lessons I've learned from you. But I will say this again, clearly, emphatically. I do not want your physical presence here any more. I will instead carry your teachings within me. To transition you away from my home, I will uproot you after the next rain. First, I will ask you to please leave my property to go bless someone else. Then, while I put your physical body in a bag, I will sing gratitude as I receive your energy. After, I will reflect on places in my life where you will guide me. And I will fill the empty places where you once were with my expanded presence. "


Maybe, actually, we first know a thing through our gut and heart. Isn't that where we feel when our boundaries have been breached? But we've learned to shunt knowing into our minds and trap it there, so we and our knowing stay small. Maybe that is why we avoid. Why we suffer so.






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Updated: Aug 2, 2023



All around us is evidence that everywhere is home. Over and over again, non-human beings burrow and nest wherever. And yet we got it in our minds that we need a specific space to designate as home; put a fence around it, maybe build walls and draw militarized lines to claim some places as mine, but not yours. That over there is yours. And anything that intrudes over my line, into my spaces, I have to kill. We hold on to the concrete abstraction that strict variables must exist in order for us to feel home. This idea of home, a place to root, a place to flourish, being contingent on parameters outside of ourselves denies the animal and spiritual reality that we belong to everything and everywhere.


As I evict these plants from the brick walk (all except mystical mullein, connecting the heavens to earth), it is reminder that plants and animals are wiser than we. They carry their belonging to everywhere and everything within.


Maybe when we were in Eden we knew that everywhere was home and we belonged everywhere. But when we were kicked out, we began a long and complicated forgetting. And that's such a dangerous story: to believe oneself as unworthy of belonging to the everywhere and everything that was the garden, that is Earth. To believe oneself as unworthy of home, here; even as every other being homes everywhere.


I don't know how we begin to remember. I just know that in this country, the number of unhoused humans is currently 600,000 while there are over 110 million displaced people worldwide, and 1.6 billion people live in inadequate housing. Is this what happens when we don't know that all beings belong to everywhere and everything?


But Eve knew. And before her, Lilith.


Knew they belonged to everything and everywhere just as everything and everywhere belonged to them. Knew home as a given; knew you carried home as birthright within you. That's nothing to punish.


That is the true story of Eden. That is our deeper story. Can we remember?



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I've been gardening for the last eighteen years, the entire lifetime of my middle daughter. Can you imagine? Being and doing a thing for a lifetime? Being known and defining yourself a certain way for a lifetime?


For instance the plants you see beneath my colander: violets, day lily, wood Sorel (or pickle weed), broadleaf plantain, dandelion and lambs' quarters (or pigweed). For a lifetime, I've known them as weeds. As a farmhand and a gardener, I've diligently removed them to plant what I've understood--for a lifetime--as food.


But as you know, I've been on a journey learning these plants. It started with observation: they come back every year; insects pretty much leave them alone; they thrive without water. Observation led to inquiry: they're edible; they're nutritious and delicious; they're medicinal; pollinators like them; they're good for soil. Inquiry led to relationship: let them take over the garden beds; let me learn how to work with them.


I half-heartedly planted what I'm used to planting around and among these new friends. Because you know, I've been doing it for a lifetime and wanted to see what would happen.


For one thing, I water less. That feels good as we continue to vacillate between intense, erratic 100-year storms and persistent drought. For another, I can harvest this salad mix weekly and they keep growing. That feels good because I'm in direct relationship with Earth's abundance. And another thing, I also enjoy these beauties as tea. Which means, as I dry them, I'll have tea through the winter when they're dormant. Which also means I won't have to buy tea.


But my favorite part is this. When I see the so-called weeds pictured above flourishing in my garden beds, I feel contentment knowing they aren't just for me. They benefit soil, pollinators, rabbits, birds, fireflies, and I'm sure other beings I'm unaware of. All sorts of beings rely on them and yet they continue to thrive from early spring to late fall then come back again year after year. There's community happening in my garden. How amazing is all that?


By contrast, the tomatoes, squash, brassicas, eggplant and so on that I've tried to grow benefit the Japanese beetles, squash vine borer, and cut worms so much so that they decimate them. And because I've known myself as a gardener for a lifetime, I kept trying to grow what I was supposed to keep trying to grow; buying seeds and seedlings each spring, feeding and housing yet another generation of squash beetles and hornworms. Not so amazing.


You could say there's community in that scenario too. But it's a dead end. These annuals can't survive the insect pressure, constantly need water, need soil amendment, and need to be replanted. It doesn't make sense to persist in the ideas I've had about growing food, or what food is, even if I've invested a lifetime doing so.


Getting to know the violets, lily, Sorel, plantain, dandelion, and lambs' quarters is changing me. I take the same approach--observation, inquiry and relationship--toward aspects of life and myself that I've spent a lifetime judging as weeds. Maybe the qualities persistent in us serve purposes we can't comprehend yet because we've defined ourselves in particular ways, maybe even battling ourselves in order to be a particular way. Maybe the weeds inside us are life-giving gifts we actually need to thrive. Maybe the things in our lives we wish to dismiss are nutrient dense in ways we can't yet imagine because we're stuck inside a particular story that causes us to be dismissive of what we've not yet developed relationship with.


Sometimes I wonder if that is the opportunity inside climate change. Maybe we're invited to reimagine ourselves so we don't rot on the vine of our worn out notions of who we are, what Earth is supposed to be like, and who others are or are not supposed to be. Since Earth is evolving, using what we're doing to the planet to redefine Herself, maybe we're invited to evolve ourselves.



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The plants to the right, alongside the colander: white onion blossoms, purple sage flowers, a sliver of onion stalk, and oregano.




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dissolving distances between self & other 
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