The Many Things I’ve Learned From Plants

Throughout my lifetime, I’ve learned many lessons from plants. And now, as we navigate through a changing social climate to build a future of true and just freedom, I look to the botanical world for guidance and clarity. Like humans, each plant is remarkably unique and offers a multitude of wisdom. True diversity is essential to the natural world, and humans are no exception. Our individuality is key to the balance of all things. If ever there was a time to listen and learn, it’s now.

In their own way, plants model the diversity that is inherent to the natural world. There are some plants completely dependent upon a relationship to survive and there are others that contain all aspects necessary for self-fertilization. Neither is more right or perceived as wrong, instead both are upheld as commonplace states of nature. These days, I find myself thinking often about our incredibly symbiotic relationship with plants and how that pertains to us, humans and animals. There are species that depend entirely on animals to reproduce as humans equally depend on plants for food, medicine, and the air we breathe. We depend on the relationships that surround us, just as plants do. Our communities ground us, keep us safe, and encourage us to be the best versions of ourselves. There are plants that desire to live harmoniously within other plant communities, and in fact need them for survival. Through complex pheromone systems, plants communicate with one another to warn other plants of predators. Their internal warning systems release certain chemicals into leaves for their own self preservation, while sending out warning chemicals to plants of the same species within the area to help defend the entire group. Like humans, plants protect and care for each other. That safety should encompass every member, not the select few. Cultivating compassion is vital to the survival of our own species. It’s time to take responsibility for how our own actions affect other beings both that which we can and cannot see. It’s time to open our minds and our hearts to all people.

Without our uniqueness, we cannot create the intricate portrait that is life. Fluidity is something we struggle with as humans, but it’s innate for plants. It is entirely natural for a plant to root itself in overlapping categories. Lavender, for example, is capable of being both calming and stimulating. This is called bi-directional capacity. There is intrinsic wisdom within the plant that kicks in when it comes into contact with your physiology. This allows the plant to adjust to your needs, rendering it capable of two seemingly opposite actions. The longer I study the intricate weave of the botanical world, the clearer I can see. People, like plants, are fundamentally capable of being many things at once. Wife, daughter, Medical Herbalist, Buddhist, hiker, dog lover, teacher, student — this is me. The way we appear to others physically does not define the multitude of identities we hold inside. Plants change color radically, either throughout the year or throughout their life cycle. There is no need for attachment or discrimination to a particular appearance when it is everchanging. Our identities should not be defined by one thing. There is an inherent need within us that calls for difference, that thrives in communities rooted in diversity. Let’s celebrate and honor our divergences and see the harmony in them. If we are capable of such diversity within ourselves, then why would we shame others for their own differences?

Today, tomorrow, and ever after I encourage you to look to plants for inspiration on how we can better ourselves and our communities, while deepening our connection to each other. There is no judgement — a plant does not judge me, nor I it — there is only silent acceptance. We are here together, needing each other, sharing worldly space, and if you’re lucky, consciously communicating. There is an infinite wealth of knowledge in the natural world that we can learn from. Plants have the ability to show us how to interact with others. And if you listen, they will teach you.

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