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Being a Plant Ally

 Photo courtesy of  Rodion Kutsaev   
Photo courtesy of Rodion Kutsaev   

Every year the first days of spring hold magic for me.  

When the earth begins to thaw, it’s fragrance beckons me to withstand it’s icy chill and plunge my hands into it. Pulling back leaves, searching for new life, both green and insect, never fails to delight me.  It seems that all worries fall aside when one’s nose is close to the earth, eyes wide and watching. What can be more wonderful than the push of crocuses and daffodils, as they spear through earth, fallen leaves and last year’s debris? A child that checks on these babies on a warm spring morning will be amazed and satisfied at their progress by the end of the day.

Plants have held my heart captive for decades. With joy I watch them emerge. With tenderness I care for them, whether planted intentionally or volunteering along our woodland path.

 Susan Leopold, partaking in her favorite hobby.
Susan Leopold, partaking in her favorite hobby.

Earlier this week I interviewed Susan Leopold, PhD, executive director of United Plant Savers.  Susan also talked about her early childhood passion for plants, tenderly caring for a patch of Lady Slippers in her back yard. While listening to her, the thought struck me that children intuitively know what adults often forget to value: that plants are a connection to the sacredness of life.  

Somehow the magic potential of new beginnings held within a seed calls us to remember our own beginnings, and begs us to remember why we are here.  

Protection of these plants, especially over-harvested at-risk plants should be a routine part of our existence. To do this we must tap into our childlike wonder and affection for new life and the miracle of the seasons.  Spending time with our noses close to the ground, our fingers in the earth and our senses awake reconnects us with the beauty that is the cycle of life.  

Ready to get started? Here are three simple steps you can take to become a Plant Ally:

1. Plant something.  If space permits, a garden provides a sanctuary of healing for you and the plants that thrive there. Even a potted plant, carefully tended on your windowsill can help you develop an intimate relationship with the plant world.  Learn the latin names of your plants, and if used for medicine learn how they are used.  If you take herbs as medicine, grow at least one of these plants so you can “know” it better. Skip the gloves, let your hand get dirty when you work with the soil and plants.

2. Never harvest anything from the woods without a clear knowledge of what it is, and whether the plant is at-risk. Instead, if a wild plant intrigues you, sit with it, observe it, draw it and journal about it.

3. Use common herbs for medicine that are easily grown in your geographical region, even if you do not have a garden.  While plants from distant lands are often touted as the ideal cure, often the remedy you need is growing in your backyard.

And finally, support the work of United Plant Savers.  This organization works hard to safe-keep medicinal plants and is a valuable resource for anyone who wants to learn more about plants. Even a small donation of $5 will help them spread their work world wide and prevent extinction of threatened species.

Susan will share stories of her adventures with plants far and wide as the Opening Keynote Speaker at the MidAtlantic Women’s Herbal Conference, September 30-October 1. She will also be teaching a class on plant medicine on GingerJuice VIP, April 25. 

Watch Susan’s interview and get inspired!

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