A Cherokee story was told to me by a medicine man.
Native tales hold power and need to be shared in a specific way. Since this story is not mine to tell, I’ll paraphrase it for you and maybe, if you’re lucky, someday a person of Cherokee decent will tell you the tale whole, the way it’s meant to be shared. The short version is this:
A long time ago, on the land right under your feet, people understood more than we understand today. They translated the murmurings of the four-leggeds and the calls of the winged ones. The buzz of a bee had meaning, as did the glub, glub of the salmon swimming upstream to spawn.
Most important for us here and now, those long-ago people understood the whispers of the green world. The gentle twisting of flowers toward the sun had meaning as did the way the wind whistled through the slow-growth forests hugging steep mountainsides.
For reasons only the Cherokee can share, we lost our ability to communicate . . .
. . . And we have searched for this lost language ever since.
Understanding the languages of nature is a universal human obsession.
The ancient Greeks developed the Doctrine of Signatures, a complex code designed to reveal a plant’s medicine through observation. Everything from the color of a flower, to a plant’s growth habit, to its favorite location and soil type, was used as a method for deciphering its gifts to humanity. So a plant which could survive in the desert, for instance, was seen to have the Medicine of moisture.
The Victorians crafted a language of flowers assigning each bud a meaning — blue violets for faithfulness and vervain for enchantment. Each posey that was gifted contained a secret message encoded in its petals.
I wrote The Illustrated Herbiary as a codex which gives you a window into the unique gifts of the flowers and trees, a key to understanding their whisperings… though there is a very simple beginning to this relationship between human and plants:
Plants do something that neither animals nor minerals (nor fairies or unicorns, for that matter!) can do– they enable our breath. Plants exhale oxygen, which we inhale; we exhale carbon dioxide, which they inhale.
Their exhale, our inhale. Our exhale, their inhale.
An invisible dance, a necessary exchange.
The first thing we do upon arriving in this world is inhale and through that in-breath we come into our first contact with the plants and the green world.
Another word for inhalation is inspiration.
Ultimately that’s the magic of plant medicine: it inspires you to look at your life through a different lens, so you can tap into the collective unconscious as well as your own intuition and self-knowing.
What was your first conscious experience of the green world? Share with us over on Facebook.
This week has been all about books!
I’ve wanted to be an author since I was a kid, not because I loved to write but because I loved to read.
Last year I shared a few of my favorites with you.
This year, I asked to hear YOUR life-changing books and favorite authors…
… And I was not disappointed!
Without further ado…
What if you belong to a world more magical than you realize?
I asked myself this question over and over again during my studies in Ireland.
‘Cause, truthfully? Despite being drenched in Irish myth and mystery, I didn’t believe in magic at first. So my daily what ifs became an exercise in the willing suspension of disbelief which over the course of many months (maybe even years!) shifted my locus of knowing from my head to my heart.
So I’d asked myself What if the world is synchronous and serendipitous? What if the land is sentient and the stones have stories to tell?
I grew up in the world of the head and for a long time confused feelings with thoughts. But contrary to popular belief, the head is not an organ of feeling; it’s an organ of thinking. The brain is uniquely designed to store and sort information, to reason and rationalize. It needs feeling like a snake needs sneakers.
But I (and probably you!) need feeling. I long for the scent of jasmine blooming at dusk and the feel of linen against my skin (I know silk sheets are supposed to be the ultimate luxury but I’ll take linen’s slight nub, the washed feel of warp and weft, any night of the week). My tongue wants salt and spice and the sweet bite of chocolate, and my eyes want the soft spaces where sea merges with sky.
When I engage my senses, my heart lightens— it fills my throat, my eyes tear up, my stomach tickles a bit.
I can guarantee you I have never had this feeling crouched over an encyclopedia in some fluorescent lit library.
These thoughts were tumbling around my brain as I scribbled out the proposal for The Illustrated Herbiary three years ago. (more…)
I’ve been getting creative wrong for decades.
Let me start at the creative beginning…
Okay, not quite the beginning – which was a story about a unicorn in a bottle who washed up on the Jersey shore. After that were short stories sneered at by Mr. Leshan, the faculty advisor for the high school lit mag (I’m sure he didn’t think he was sneering but it sure looked like a sneer to me), and then countless hours, my back snugged-up to a tree on the University of Michigan Quad, with tears running down my face as I blathered through formless, emotive poetry.
On second thought…
… let’s start nowhere near the beginning.
Let’s start in the middle. Let’s start the day my Dad took me out for stone-fired pizza, back in the days I could eat whatever I wanted, and asked me why I wasn’t writing. I told him lots of things, some true and some true only through the filter of a twenty-two year old. But this one is obviously false:
I told him I had nothing to write.
You see, I’d read over and over again that authors had stories burning in their souls, characters who demanded to be let out. And I had nothing.
So for years I waited, hoping someday I’d have something to say.
I went to writing workshops and heard the spiel on discipline, on putting your butt in the chair and writing. My translation: once you had something to say, show up to do the work of birthing your idea into the world.
But I was missing the point. (more…)
Wishes rarely come true.
Wishes aren’t the same as intentions. Think about it: can you even remember half the wishes you made as you blew out the candles on your numerous birthday cakes? Did you think about them much after the moment of wishing?
A wish has very little energy behind it. It’s a thought on the wind, a vague hope.
But an intention? Now that’s another story. Or at least it should be.
Let’s start with the basics:
An intention is not the same thing as a wish.
If a wish is a vague hope, an intention is an expertly shot arrow.
Sure, every once in a while a complete neophyte hits the target (and a random wish might, too), but if you want to have any degree of success at this whole intending thing, you need to treat it like art… or like archery: you must hone your craft and become one hell of a marksman.
The best way to do this?
It’s pretty tough to hear the small, still voice of your inner divinity while juggling a job, two kids, and a mortgage.
That’s why my first spiritual teacher— who insisted that I was a modern-day priestess— admonished me never to get married or have kids or dogs or even fish!
Okay, I’m exaggerating on the fish; I’m sure she thought some koi in the pond would be good for meditation. My point is she felt pretty strongly that I should avoid decisions which tempted the noise of everyday life to pull me off my center.
And let’s face it: even for the most grounded of us, the ups and downs of daily living exert their own gravitational force.
As modern-day wisdom-warriors, our primary fight is with our own wandering attention, keeping it focused so that our energy goes where we want it to and not to the gazillion other places that are happy to have an infusion of our light.