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Growing for Balance

 Plants thriving even in small places near you can bring happiness. Photo by  Annie Spratt  on  Unsplash
Plants thriving even in small places near you can bring happiness. Photo by Annie Spratt  on Unsplash

Now it behoves anyone, who desires to be a skillful herbalist, to be present when the plants first shoot out of the earth, when they are fully grown, and when they begin to fade.  For he (she) who is only present at the budding of the herb, cannot know it when full-grown, nor can he (she) who hath examined a full-grown herb, recognize it when it has only just appeared above ground.

— Dioscorides, AD 60

The February blues feel like a real thing to me.

Endless gray days combined with a damp Pennsylvania chill can get a grip on one’s soul, turning optimism into despair. From what I can tell, it is not just winter that can drag a person down.  A cacophony of noise bombards us, not from cars honking on the streets, or airplanes flying low overhead, not from sirens in the distance, or dogs barking in the back yard.  That kind of noise can actually be a comfort to me, familiar and cozy, as long as it doesn’t wake the baby (not my worry any more).

The noise that burrows into my psyche, robs my sense of peace and distracts me from a purposeful focus on creating meaning comes from the very medium I am using to write this: the internet. I don’t have a TV, but from what I can ascertain by visiting my mother-in-law, that modality falls into a similar category.  With my super smart phone in my pocket, the virtual world follows me everywhere I go and everywhere I turn in that arena someone is clamoring for my attention.  A barrage of “look at me” and “buy me” posts and emails sail into my inbox incessantly. Sometimes I do not know how to cope with the constant need to prioritize what arrives in front of me. I am there looking for valuable content to use and share with my patients and readers, and yet the ball of yarn has become a tangled mess in my basket.

My frustration has led me to identify practices that keep me present and mindful of my purpose and of the real world around me. My lifeline is the world of plants.

When I am ready to bag up my phone and laptop and toss them off the nearest cliff, I give myself a time out, literally.  

Leaving my devices to their own device I will venture outside alone.  Resisting the urge to document every last little discovery for Instagram, I will take in the world around me and let it flow through me without grabbing at it.  I’m fortunate to be surrounded by woods and hillside that provide endless mini-adventures, tangible and scent-laden.  Still my heart aches for the warm spring breeze and the chance to dig my fingers into the soil and be part of the garden as it springs to life.  This year my garden is a blank slate, as we recently moved onto our farm, leaving behind my beloved perennial beds. The soil near the new house needs amending before I can even imagine anything beyond grass growing there. Recently, for inspiration, I pulled out a book I purchased twenty years ago, A Garden Herbal by Anthony Gardiner. That is where I stumbled on the opening quote for this piece, one that resonates so deeply with my personal experience.  In his introduction Gardiner writes:

“The chance to grow herbs, even in the smallest of spaces, is a means into a better way of living.  These infinitely useful and rewarding plants lead you into a world where you feel part of a process that has been going on for thousands of years.”

“Even in the smallest of spaces” plants bring balance, satisfaction and even joy. Consider an orchid reblooming on your windowsill. How much more fulfilling is such an event than a thousand Instagram posts? The beauty of the internet is learning and connecting, such as learning how to grow orchids successfully. The key is to walk away from your device inspired to bring out your genius. For me that means keeping balance and staying in touch with what thrills my heart: plants of all shapes and sizes.  And the dirt they thrive on. 

Join me live with Christopher Hobbs, Thursday March 1, 12PM EST, The Chaga Dilemma

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