Becoming Grounded: get to know your local plants, and use them (with respect!)

I was so happy to find this chickweed! I’ve only found it tucked in lawns before, and this stuff is so big and succulent. I’ve always loved its Latin name: Stellaria media. The flowers look like tiny fairy stars... The chickweed is getting dried for infusions and to make an herbal skincare oil. I haven’t had much success with fresh plant oils of “juicy” plants like this—they always turn out kind of skunky (still usable), I call them pepperoni oils. Chickweed is really soothing, excellent for dry skin conditions. You can also eat it fresh! I was maybe going to use the garlic mustard in a pesto (I’m on a pesto kick—but it’s no surprise given the reappearance of all these fresh greens) but we cooked it up in night’s dinner, a leftover tagine.

I find that at a certain point in learning a new language while simultaneously being immersed it in, when I learn a new word, I suddenly hear it everywhere whereas before I didn’t pick it up at all. I noticed the same thing just as strongly when I started studying herbalism and learning to identify different regional plants. Suddenly, I saw them everywhere! Along the roads I drove every day, in the lawns of friends, and by riversides, and near buildings I frequented—even surrounding my own home! It’s a wonderful, exciting feeling. It’s the delight of a child, the open receptivity of the Beginner’s Mind.

I’m getting inspired by dyeing fabric with plants again, and I’m also having so much fun discovering who grows here (since we moved here in late Fall when many plants were in their last stages of life). Learning about traditional/local dye plants is only broadening my appreciation and awareness for the wealth & abundance all around us! It also makes me either a great or terrible person to go for a walk with, depending on your interests…..

For me, and I think for everyone given the opportunity, learning to identify and getting to know the names of the plants (and all non-human beings) around you is incredibly grounding. It creates a deep sense of belonging, the comfort of familiarity, rooting you deeply—not necessarily to your physical/geographical location, but to the Earth herself. Using these plants for food and medicine and adornment and celebration begins to develop the vital relationship between Human and Earth. You begin to see the interconnectedness and interdependence of all things. This mindset is something often lost on the modern, Western human, and we can see how dangerous, detrimental, and devastating that loss has become, for the individual and the collective and the Earth (because it is all connected).

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