Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them. ~A. A. Milne
I’ve been spending a good bit of time with the garden guests this past week. I call the weeds guests, because we invite them, they come for a little while, but don’t stay all spring. We will let them grow tall, twisting and turning their roots tilling and nourishing and blessing the soil a bit longer before we pull them to make room for the other herbs we’ve planted.
My children especially love the weeds. It’s almost as if they can hear the plants calling them near like an old friend. Like the cats nibbling on the grass, I often find Sevi and Sage instinctively pulling at chicory and dandelion leaves munching away as they play all day on the patio. Sevi even made up a little chicory song, that somewhat resembles the ch-ch-ch-chia jingle. The children are connected to the plants in a knowing and primal way, like the animals. They don’t need to know why or what the plant is doing to their body, they just know they need it. And they listen. If they happen to grab something not for them, they know immediately and move on to something else. They don’t continue to eat a plant simply because there is something in its medicinal value that must be working for some ailment in their body. That leaves this science minded mama often dumfounded. True, we talk a lot about plants in this house, but there seems to be a deeper relationship the children have, far beyond what I may ‘teach.’ It is a constant gift and a blessing to be taught again and again through them, how simple using plant medicine can be, when we are childlike in our approach.
I don’t mean to say that learning about the medicinal qualities and constituents and safety is not important. But that working with plant medicine is so much bigger than just those things. Something I am having to remind myself constantly when stumbling to find ‘the just right plant’ and always thinking I *need* to understand why it works pharmacologically. I’m no herbal expert, but the more I learn about why it works, the more I see how important it is to engage intuition with this craft. The more I just drink the tea already.
Rechilding the scientifically minded part of myself begins with the senses. Watching my children carefully, I model them hoping to tap into that little girl who once sat under the trees staring for hours. I take a place under the ficus and listen to the breeze rattle through the leaves, wafting the sweet scent of honeysuckle behind me. I lean in and gently pet the hairy borage leaves, and marvel at the dainty fine hairs on the nettle. Finally my eyes are directed toward the chicory that has held their attention so much in the recent days. I pluck one of her tall upright leaves and taste the bitter citrus healing of her offering. I feel a freshness, my cells dancing and running to receive this nourishment. That slow intentional bite of one leaf does more for my body, than taking my bitter tincture before each meal, which is often done mindlessly and in a rush.
I am grateful for my tinctures. They offer an availability to the medicine when I don’t always have the time to spend outside. But it’s not enough. First, the plants ask that we play. Only then, like the children so easily do, are we able to realize the full potency of their medicine.
Please note that I do not advocate letting your children simply walk around tasting whatever plants they find. Everything in my garden is safe for my children to munch. They learn about prickly plants the natural way, by getting to know them and both are very respectful of the nettle and she rarely stings them. We have set very good ground rules in our home about tasting things other places whether they are other people’s gardens or in the wild. My girls know to ask first before putting anything in their mouths. Children have a natural relationship to the wild world and are very curious, especially if never given the opportunity to engage with plants in this way. Please be sure to set some ground rules before letting them explore with their taste buds.