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Connecting with our Plants

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It’s time to plant seeds. For those of us in mild-winter climates fall is the best time to plant cool-weather annuals. For those of us in any climate, it can also be an ideal time to plant perennial seeds (they often have cooling or cooling/warming requirements which are naturally met by  overwinter germination. Why not have nature do the work instead of fiddling with stratification and the rest?). And it’s a good time to plant wildflower seeds (after all, when does nature do it?).

So I was already tuned into seed when I got my fall letter from the miso company I patronize*, and found an article by Christian Elwell about planting seeds in a way that’s designed to strengthen plant/human communion.

The article describes a Siberian healer (real or imagined), Anastasia, who says that one of the big problems in plant/human communication is that plants no longer know whom they are serving.

Think about it: we grow huge monocrops of plants, plants which are often untouched by human hands, and which get attention only from machines. Our culture thinks of plants sheerly in terms of production.

But every gardener knows that there is far more to plants than that. We know that plants satisfy our souls in some way we may not be able to describe but would be devastated without. Gardeners also tend to be more aware than other human beings that we need plants: for the air we breathe, for the food we eat, the places we live in, the clothes we wear, the medicines we take, and for that valuable soul-sustenance.

What we might not quite be aware of is that plants may also need us. And not just for our CO2.

Humans and plants have been working together for thousands of years. But in the last several decades, humans have been separating themselves from plants more and more. According to Anastasia, plants need the feedback of our being. They need their souls fed by us. When we withdraw our personalities and attention, plants suffer.

One way to heal this lack is to plant seeds imbued with our consciousness. Anastasia recommends a three-part method for doing this. The first step is putting the seeds to be planted under the tongue for nine minutes, to infuse them with the invisible but tangible messages of our bodies.

The second step is to put the seeds in our palms, and breathe on them. Breath has holy meaning in many cultures; in ours, the word “inspire” means to take in breath or spirit. And by the way, seeds breathe, too. Just very very slowly. But that’s how they manage to keep viable for years (sometimes centuries, or even millenia).

The final step to conscious seed-planting is to  stand barefoot on the ground where we will be planting the seeds, and hold them  to the sky.

If we are planting a large crop (Elwell plants rice), we can just do this with a few of the seeds; they will communicate the messages we’ve given them to the other seeds.

Sound whacky? Maybe. But to me, it sounds like some of the less formal rituals I like to do when I plant, and it sounds worth trying.

Gardening and wandering in the woods has led me to a clear understanding: plants are sentient beings. In fact, I’ll come out of the closet and admit that for me, everything is sentient: I’m an animist. Working on that assumption can completely change your life. In fact, working on that assumption might be just the change our fast-moving produce-produce-produce culture needs so badly.

So, even if you think treating seeds this way is crazy, why not try an experiment, if only to prove that it doesn’t work?  Plant some seeds without this attention and some with it. See if you notice a difference in the growing plants, the flowering, and the harvest.  Or yourself.

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* If you haven’t tried it, South River miso is an entirely different experience than other misos.They make the miso in wooden tubs over wood fires, doing everything the traditional way. At first I wondered why their miso was so much more expensive than others. Then I tried it, and all was revealed: it was the difference between a bottle of table red and a bottle of fine vintage wine. (And no, they aren’t paying me to say this: it’s unsolicited enthusiasm.)

{ 8 comments… add one }

  • Nell Jean November 10, 2009, 4:01 pm

    Hmmmm, wonder if it would be just as well to hold the seeds of Datura and Castor Bean under my arm or someplace benign, rather than holding them in my mouth?

  • Helen at Toronto Gardens November 10, 2009, 5:12 pm

    Though I can’t quite picture myself doing this ritual verbatim, I do embrace it symbolically – in the sense of a deeper communion with and respect for the natural world, which is our own “growing medium.”

  • Nancy Bond November 10, 2009, 8:56 pm

    “…plants satisfy our souls in some way we may not be able to describe but would be devastated without.”

    Perfectly said! I love the idea of this ‘spiritual planting’, this communion with our gardens, and I would certainly try it. You write the most interesting posts, Pomona!

  • Town Mouse November 10, 2009, 8:57 pm

    Maybe just singing them a song will be ok too?
    But really, I wish kids would learn how to do this. How to connect. How there’s more than just stuff… Interesting thoughts.

  • Pomona Belvedere November 11, 2009, 10:35 am

    Nell Jean, good point: the article was about food crops. I don’t think I’d want to hold datura or castor bean seed in my mouth, either.

    Helen, some forms of bodywork say that imagining the movement gives you 90% of the benefit of actually doing it!

    Nancy, I think a lot of your own posts are all about this kind of communion.

    Town Mouse, I certainly think the seeds like music, too, and a song made just for them sounds ideal. It’s true, it would be really cool if this were part of our educational curriculum. I have a friend who teaches gardening for schools under the guise of nutrition, but she does a lot of stealth work in this direction.

  • Steve November 11, 2009, 7:45 pm

    I agree with Nancy and you as well. A peaceful and shared beginning is not just something pagan. Well, maybe it is, come to think of it, but they were also right about so much we have now relegated to mental disrepair. I applaud you for your depth of interest in life itself – which, in the end, is what you write about in such wonderful detail.

  • joeltheurbangardener November 14, 2009, 8:28 pm

    Yeah, a little wacky, but it is an interesting hypothesis for sure. Okinawans are the longest living people on the earth and most of the are gardeners – coincidence? It’ll be fascinating to hear how your new seeding method actually works.

  • Meredith December 11, 2009, 4:19 pm

    Just make sure to get non-treated seed raised 100% organically before you stick them under your tongue for 9 minutes. But I may be trying some parts of this ritual… I already treat my garden as my meditation, and I’m with you: the whole is sentient. Sometimes people think I’m nuts when I’m convinced I commune with not just birds and flowers, but tomato roots and leaping insects and pollinator colonies. :)

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