The Dream of the Earth: A Return to the Wisdom of Roots, Leaves & Flowers
A truly human intimacy…. is needed. We are returning to our native place after a long absence, meeting once again with our kin in the Earth community…. participating in the original dream of the Earth.
You’ve been here before, but you might not remember. Look around and breathe in the sweet vanilla scent of the summer breeze, that’s the Melilot. And don’t step on those little thorny plants, they’re quite sharp. Here, take my hand.
Oh, look at this one! Her flowers are lapiz blue, tiny and tubular. They’re so small that we could almost miss them among the more brazen purple Snapdragons and paper white Prickly Poppies. But hear how she calls to us, and see how her vibrant petals draw us down to look more closely. The Earth is always calling us closer to her, we need only awaken our senses to her courtship. As integral parts of her body we are each able to participate in the constant love affair within her. This great dance in which all aspects are at once consuming, creating and nourishing the other parts of the whole.
The plants speak to us through this great romance, beckoning to us to come closer. Inviting us to eat and be eaten, to heal and be healed, to love and be loved. The love of the Earth is consistently honest, passionate and expressive. Not one to hold back her feelings, she surges and quakes, burns and withers in accordance to her motion and emotion. While we cannot trust the Earth to always protect our bodily welfare, we can trust her to act according to need, to promote diversity of life and to express herself in the most unpredictable and beautiful ways. She, and so the plants, are benevolent but not benign.
In the stillness I looked inside and saw the wound laid down within all of us… The wound that comes from believing we are alone amid dead uncaring nature. And then I took a breath and began to share stories of a time when the world was young, when everyone knew that plants were intelligent and could speak to human beings… A time when it was different.
Our kind is forgetful and has wandered far from the dream of the Earth, leaving many of us lonely and disconnected. We ask questions like “why are we here?”, “are we alone?” and “is there any meaning?” Our ancestral mothers knew the land they lived on as their own grandmother, and the green nations as friends and allies. The meaning was in the living, and living was a celebration of both pleasure and pain. How could they be alone when the spirits spoke to them on the wind and the animals came to them in powerful dreams? We say there is no one left to teach us the old ways, but even now, the plants remember and dwell always within the dream of the Earth. It is the reality that we are each born into, and that we often spend most of our lives trying to find a way back to. In the dream of the Earth, we remember that the plants speak to us, that the animals are our kin and that our source is just below our feet. In this reality we are each (plant, beaver, woman and bird) an integral part of the story and every piece contains the necessary magic to remedy the rest, to create wholeness. In this place, our wisdom extends back to our ancestors, when we learned from spirits and badgers and from little blue flowers, just like this one.
Don’t you want to know what she’s saying? Silly girl, you’ll never get to know her from way up there. Come down here, get on your hands and knees, stick your nose in the dirt and look at the underside of a single carefully serrated leaf. Ah, now you are a little bit closer. Let your vision slip out of focus, like you did as a kid, and watch the shifting images of plant and earth and rock and sky until you can see the way the patterns link and fit together. Now you are even closer.
Place your face inside a Morning Glory or one of the Sacred Daturas over there, observe the light that filters through the thin skin of petal and pigment. See the texture, veins, marks and scars that make each flower as individual as your own body. Notice how the pollen of every flower is different, the taste and weight and color of it. Breathe deep, breathe in the flower’s breath, you are almost there.
Dig your fingers gently down into the ground. Feel the threads and fibers of the roots below. Sense the life that pulses from the living soil, bacteria and insects, the flow of sap through a thousand roots that tangle and weave, that range over miles, carrying back nourishment from far away. Look! The plants are not still, only subtle. Watch our beautiful little blue one. See how she bends and curves, moves this way and that. How her leaves fold in and expand outwards depending on the angle of the sun, the temperature of the ground, the moistness in the air. She dances an eternal dance that is unique just to her but is also intertwined with the larger dance of this ecosystem, this continent, this planet and the whole of all life.
Lay here for a long time, all night even. Be still until you begin to hear her hum, to feel the vibration in your throat and belly and fingers, until you know this song as your own heartbeat. Until you recognize it as the anthem of the Earth rising up through the plant into you. When this happens, you will have entered into the dream of the Earth, the timeless and cyclic center of all flowering. And you will have a portal, the one door that leads back into your true self. In our hearts, we know that we can only come to know ourselves through our roots, our birthplace, our home.
I remember tasting my first wild mustards, cress and dandelion greens. I knew I was being entered into… While I only half-listened to the to the talk of people, I immersed myself fully in the language of the green… Everything in me felt green. I felt the plants singing in me, making me their song.
There are countless ways of entering this state, many people ingest psycho-active plants to gain easier access to the plant world. Some use forms of meditation or trance, and others, especially children, seem to fall into it without even trying. Often we need a good teacher to show us the way, and sometimes it’s easier alone. Once you’ve re-entered into it, you’ll need less help returning each time. Eventually you’ll realize that the dream of the Earth is the only reality and it will be impossible to see anything else.
While there’s no one right way to initiate a relationship with the green world, certain understandings will help you on your journey. First, recognize that all plants are psycho-active, that all (even maple trees, even marigolds) have a definite influence or action upon the psyche, and it’s not always necessary to ingest them. Depending on your own affinities and needs, your entire sense of reality can be changed by a plant as simple as the wild rose, or a common weed such as dandelion. This can occur instantly or over a period of time, what is most important is how you approach your relationship with the plant.
It is not half so important to know as to feel.
Go to the plant with openness and awareness, releasing any preconceived notions of what the plant’s “properties” are from your consciousness. Instead, observe how you feel (physically, emotionally, spiritually) when you are near the plant, during harvesting, while burning the plant as smudge, when you eat its body as food or ingest the tincture as a medicine. Cultivate a reverent attitude, for these plants are our teachers. Much older than our own species, they are infinitely wiser than us in the ways of the Earth’s dance. They have seen the complex and interwoven web of life develop, expand, change with each generation. They have much to teach us.
Our little blue flowered friend here is a native Gila Sage. Little is written of her in the literature, and though she shares some of their healing properties, she doesn’t have the familiar sagey smell or fuzzy leaves of many of her relatives. She has escaped the notice of most, yet I felt her call from the moment I first saw her standing among the mugwort and alders. Like many sages she calms anxiety and relieves feelings of extreme stress, but has a special way all her own of grounding us firmly in the dreaming of the Earth. Not the cold, hard perspective our culture calls reality but the lucid fluidity that forms the molten core of our blessed planet. It is with her assistance that I have healed my once hurt and ungrounded spirit, and it was her calming touch has allowed me to grow into the healer I am becoming more and more each day.
There are holes inside all of us. Holes that can only be filled by certain plants. Empty space needing tree or stone or bear. Emptiness that can only be filled by some of the other life of this Earth…
Pay attention to your intuition and inner ear. Listen when a plant calls to you, even when it’s not the plant you expected, or even wanted. You’d be surprised how often much maligned plants like Ambrosia (also called Ragweed) turn out to be powerful teachers and medicines. Every plant, from the littlest Chickweed to the most volatile Poison Ivy to the oldest Oak has a message to give. The message may be one of simple healing or great love, but it may also be the immense hurt and rage of the wounded Earth rising up to teach us in a new way since we could not hear her gentler messengers. Whatever the teaching, listen closely. We have heard only the roar of human voices for too long, and now is the time to be quiet.
Try not to pick plants that represent what you already know. Don’t pick an Oak tree because you think you need to be strong. Forget everything you think you know. Listen. Just listen, because it may well be that instead of strength you need the flexibility of the Willow, the visionary dreams of Skullcap or even Elder’s ability to break and regrow from the roots. Let go of everything and let the Earth touch and transform the vulnerable center of you. Allow the plants to recognize you, and with their help you will learn to recognize yourself.
Knowing the plants, and the whole of the Earth, is not just sensation and knowledge, but also commitment. Commitment to keeping your heart open, your senses alive, and to a reciprocal relationship in which you use the wisdom of the plant in a meaningful way. To heal what is broken, to maintain the sacredness of self and land and to protect the interconnective web of life. But most of all, to pass on this precious gift of awareness to our generation and the next. To teach the children to hear the plants again, to return to the dream of the Earth.