Infused Imagination: A Story The Plants Can Tell You

An Infusion for you - photo by Jane Valencia
An Infusion for you – photo by Jane Valencia

In the above photo, my plant friends and I have created a “brew that is true” (if I may randomly quote from the Danny Kaye classic movie, The Court Jester) — an infusion of real magic just for you. Be warned! You’ll need to drink with your imagination. But that is no large task when you allow yourself to ease into the enchantment that is the timeless and time-honored relationship that plants and us human folk share. If you are ready to taste this manner of story and song, read on!

A quick note about infusions

A nourishing infusion is a brew of herbs that has steeped for 1-4 or more hours (depending on plant parts used) to extract plant constituents to make a restorative, extremely healthful, almost food-like beverage.  The infusion I’ve started above is a mix of flowers (which I would normally only infuse for up to an hour), leaves and ripening seeds (which I would infuse for at least 4 hours). Usually you use dried herbs (though I use fresh Lemon Balm leaves above).

Typically, one puts an oz. of dried herbs in a quart jar, and pours just-boiled water on top. Then you let it sit for 4-8 hours, strain out (pressing the “marc” — the plant material —  to get the full nutritional benefits), and drink throughout the day.

A lot of info exists about making infusions. Here’s a great article by herbalist Rosalee de la Foret to really get you going. The point about infusions that I want to make right now is that infusions nourish you on all levels of your being. The plants offer nutrition and help balance your whole body — that includes our mind and spirit too!

In our “imaginative infusion” we’ll dip into a spirit way of experiencing the plants.

Wandering With The Plants

In a nourishing infusion, tea, extract, food, or other creation ,the plants talk with our bodies and wander with our spirits. In an imaginative infusion, we don’t have that physical communication, alas! Still, I hope to give you a taste of some lovely plants with whom we human folk have had a long-standing relationship. Here are the ones included in the brew above.

Lemon Balm - photo by Jane Valencia
Lemon Balm – photo by Jane Valencia

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) – a lemony aromatic herb that gently guides you into “Quiet Mind”. Quiet Mind is the restful and receptive state of being in which our senses and hearts are open and softly curious. Included in our plant magic infusion we have her glossy green leaves.

Leaves in any plant are about communication and about intermingling — as they take in sunlight and transform it into the body of the plant. I invite you to entertain the notion that leaves have the active ability to interweave heaven and earth. They do this physically in our outer world, and, when ingested, smelled, or welcomed in any way, in our internal world.

When you taste a leaf, you ingest transformed sunlight (and minerals from the soil, and so on) by way of the unique nature of the plant you’re enjoying. So, a communication is taking place. When you work with the leaves of a plant, you can invite that solar — even stellar — aspect of reality into your being. Tend this idea with your imagination. That intermingling is happening within you as you read and ponder!

Dandelion - photo by Jane Valencia
Dandelion – photo by Jane Valencia

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) – that boisterous, cheerful herb that will keep you company wherever you are. The sunbright flowers offer you a dash of courage and fun. Flowers on a plant represent their highest spiritual expression, and Dandelion’s expression is that of the sun and a bold sense of self.

So, enjoy those Dandy flowers! Cook with them (they are edible), throw them on salads, toss them into stir fries, make Dandelion flower fritters. Take courage with Dandelion, and take good cheer. Be creative with Dandy, and be your kid self. Allow Dandelion to help you bust through whatever seems like impermeable pavement in your life. As you (no doubt) well know, Dandelion is at home and herself wherever she is.

Red Roses - photo by Jane Valencia
Red Roses – photo by Jane Valencia

The red-pink petals are Red Rose (Rosa gallica). Who doesn’t love Rose? Rose offers deep love, a wicked protective grace (think of her thorns), and helps to ease trauma and grief. I feel I really don’t have to introduce you to Rose! Just go find a Rose plant and sit beside it. Soak in the beauty of Rose, and drink up the intoxicating heart-sweet scent. Be brave: touch a thorn!

All of Rose is good medicine. When we touch the thorns (or when they grab hold of us) we are reminded that even our “thorns” are medicine too. Rose helps us embrace the gifts of our whole nature, sourced from both wounds and blessings.

Milky Oat Tops (Avena sativa). Oats as a whole plant are a true Mother Earth food and medicine. Oat Straw and Oat Tops nourishing infusions are mineral rich, a source of magnesium and easily absorbed calcium and more. Milky Oat Tops — the ripening seed full of “milky” fluid — are particularly beneficial to those who are exhausted and feel absolutely depleted in just about all ways. Here’s a link to an article by herbalist Kiva Rose about Milky Oat Tops. For a Milky Oat medicine song and more musing on Milky Oats head over to my video and post here.

For our imaginative infusion, let’s focus now on experiencing the deep rest of the earth, the comfort of the mother, the possibility that replenishment of our deepest nature is here for us, rebuilding and restoring us from the inside out. If it’s possible for you, go outside right now and lie down on the ground (feel free to lay a blanket down first). Allow yourself to enter the timeless realm — the eternal moment — and feel the length of your body supported by this expansive ground that is the whole world.

Can’t do this physically? Then drink of this experience with your imagination! See if you can smell the earth, feel the terrain, hear the bird song or breeze. What, if anything, changes for you when you rest into the earth and ocean of your being?

The above is just a short inspirational wander with the plants, but hopefully this brief infusion stirs your senses and awakens you to the possible in your own relationship to the plant world. These green folk engage in so many ways with our lives, nourishing our breath and body via landscapes that include the terrain of myth and soul as well as our emotional and physical spaces. How do you taste and experience the gifts plants have for you in your many-layered reality? Please share your stories in the comment box below!

 

How Do *You* Wander Into Magic?

Come out my front door with me. The chickens are enjoying my over-wintered kitchen garden.

Plain Old Chickens - photo art by Jane Valencia
Plain Old Chickens – photo art by Jane Valencia

I can’t help but turn some of the soil. The Easter Egger hen, Turtle Island, focuses her keen eyes on earthworms revealed … and other goodies.

Gardening With Turtle Island - photo art by Jane Valencia
Gardening With Turtle Island – photo art by Jane Valencia

A wander into the forest led me into communion with an emerging patch of Stinging Nettle. A number of Nettle tops return home with me, to give themselves as a delicious soup to my family.

First Nettles - Photo by Jane Valencia
First Nettles – Photo by Jane Valencia

What magic do you discover just outside your door? And where does that magic lead you? What your eyes and heart discern, what your ears pick up, and the scents your nose inhales — that mix of things you notice is unique to you. If you were to jot down what you notice with all your senses, and what memories and thoughts and emotions spring into your mind and heart, you would have a Map of You, a sketch of the terrain of your soul.

Go outside — or stay inside if you prefer. Look and listen. Feel and discern. The world is far more layered, far more personal than we imagine.

If you wish, please share a little about what you notice right now. If you feel brave or curious to do so, I invite you to make some guesses as to what of your inner ecology is revealed.

Happy journeys!

Wondrous Summer Camps For Your Family

As you know, I instruct with the Vashon Wilderness Program. Each day with the kids is truly a magical experience. Kids develop an intimate relationship with nature that translates to deep connection to themselves, each other,  and to community through ways that feel like play and are play! You can read about our Coyote Mentoring approach here. This is the creative mentoring style that I bring to all my work, including here at Forest Halls.

This year VWP is offering truly wondrous summer camps. If you are on the island, have connections to our island, or want an excuse to pass a week (or more!) on our beautiful, relaxing island, do check out the camp descriptions and see which ones may be a fit for your kids or for the special child in your life. We even have a camp this year for kids and their special grown-up!

I’m super-excited  to be teaching in three of the camps (listed below). And I am delighted to be teaching within an incredible team. All of the instructors with VWP are top-notch, and each one is caring, skilled, and possesses their own unique magic which they love to share. Read all about VWP’s instructors here. You can read about me as an instructor too :-).

All of the camps promise to be fun and fabulous, and woven with story–the stories threaded into the themes of the camp, the stories that we create together, and the inner story that each participant uncovers for themselves by just being who they are in nature and with one another. Again, check out the info on the full offering of summer camps, as well as for more info on the camps in which I’ll be teaching.

Want some glimpses of camp adventures? Here are two posts I wrote about teaching the 4-6 year old camp last year:

Magic By The Pond – A post about our day, plus a fun challenge/opportunity that you and your kids can engage with together.

Magical Forest Music – This post starts with activities you can do with your family, and concludes with a snippet of how we (kids and instructors) co-created musical magic with the forest.

Note that enrollment opens on Feb. 1, and is first-come, first-served!

Woodland Ways: Faeries and Elves Nature CampIMG_0097

Ages 4-6; July 6-10, 9am-1pm

We will learn the quiet, mysterious ways of the forest fairies and elves to become invisible, follow the hidden trails of our animal friends, create forest feasts, construct ephemeral shelters, and more.

Cedars and Saplings: Forest Family Adventure Camp MG_5476

Ages 4-6 and their Special Grown-up; July 13-17, 9am-1pm

Nature is home to many families of creatures, including yours! Bring your mom, dad, aunt, uncle, grandparent, or other special grown-up for this unique week of nature connection – together!. Magic, mystery, and adventure await as we uncover our special relationship with the birds, plants, animals, and each other through gentle nature wanders, sensory awareness games, stories, songs, nature art art and more. Price includes one camper and adult family member.

Secrets of the Greenwood: Herbal Magic Camp for Girlssummer 2014

Ages 7-10; July 27-31, 9am-3pm

The plants have special messages for you, and the trees speak of a mysterious mission. Come enter the hidden world of the greenwood! In this farm and forest adventure we’ll learn the secret language of plants and discover their healing power. We’ll make fairy feasts, forest folk remedies, flower essences, and more.  We’ll make friends with plants and each other, play super-fun nature games, share stories, sing, follow mysteries, journal, adventure in the greenwood, and so much more. Come discover the magic of the herbal world around us and our unique relationship with these green beings!

In this camp we are pleased to spend part of most days at Sister Sage Herb Farm. This farm is where Sister Sage sustainably grows and nourishes the medicinal herbs used in their hand-crafted remedies sold at Pikes Place Market and online.

Once again, enrollment opens Feb. 1 and is first come, first served. Visit the Vashon Wilderness Program website to find out more about the above camps and more!