Life is always better in the garden. Outside the interior landscapes of buildings and mechanized structures, there is a world that sings in cacophonous harmony. An omnipresent place where trees rattle in the breeze, frogs bellow in the bog, and the songbirds take the high notes. All the insular stresses that give weight to the day to day grind lift and diffuse in the garden. I take it all in, each inhalation carries with it the sweet perfume of aromatic herbs, flower blossoms, and damp earth in perfect concert. With an exhalation I breath air for the plants, and the small whisper that leaves my throat synchronizes with nature’s ongoing song.
The healing potential of nature is all around us, from the crisp clean air of the forest to the weeds that emerge in our vegetable gardens, every plant has a function, every animal a purpose. On our small farm outside of Frenchtown, New Jersey we do our best to mimic the wisdom of the natural world in the spirit of collective function. The field is home to a mix of interplanted trees, berries, herbs, and vegetables that yield healthy food and medicine, as well as provide habitat for the myriad of species that comprise the functioning ecosystem. All individual parts taken out of context seem superfluous, but when understood in unison are equally indispensable. Tending the garden and fostering connections between parts, we can develop a relationship with the natural world, and begin a process of healing from within.
Transitioning our farm from a depleted landscape to one of abundance began with the plants. Hundreds of years in monocrop grain cultivation had eroded most of the once fertile topsoil, and left an acidic compacted subsoil inhospitable to many cultivated crops. And yet, emerging out of the muck, medicinal plants - weeds, flowers, brambles, and bushes - crawled across the landscape. These plants grow in the depleted ecosystems where other plants cannot. They are the pioneers that initiate the transition from depletion to abundance; slowly shifting the ecology, revitalizing the soil, and commencing a process of renewal.
Medicinal plants can play the same role, and likewise serve the same function, within our own internal ecologies. These are the plants that detoxify and remineralize depleted systems, soothe and repair damaged connective tissue, strengthen immunity, and prevent disease. For millennia human beings have recognized the value of these sacred plants, and distilled their knowledge into cultural healing traditions transferred from one generation to the next. Understanding the function of these plants, stewarding them, and incorporating them into our lifestyle, connects us to the wisdom of our ancestors, and indeed, the great wisdom of an interconnected universe.
When we conceptualize ourselves as separate from nature, we are mere interlopers who can only visit and observe from afar the miraculous beauty of the world around us. But, when we understand and attune to the intricate and complex system of relationships that comprise life on earth, we are nature; working in harmony with the world around us. The view from outside is lovely, but life is always better in the garden.
Please join me for “Medicinal Herbs & The Mind Body Connection,” a workshop on June 28th at DIG Lambertville. Register here!