Plants and their deeper truth

megan putting up nettle in our drying barn

|By Steven Martyn|

In these first days of summer I am swept away with the beauty and fecundity of the land. The mad race to get the gardens in, harvest plants like nettle, horsetail and clover before they set seed has me running along side the rest of nature so fast I seldom even stop to look around. I recently brought a chair out to the garden so I could hammer in some tall stakes for a pea fence. There was also a potato crate left out from planting the last year’s potatoes. A few days ago I put down my jar of water on the table-like crate so the long grass wouldn’t swallow it up and sat on the chair to have a drink. This happy accident, of these two objects ending up side by side in the garden, has led to a lovely daily ritual. Sitting, drinking, breathing and looking at the vast wonder that surrounds me. I don’t call this a ritual lightly. The chair has become a throne, the table an altar, a sacred space for the deep appreciation and admiration of nature. And not only does this settling into love and awe benefit me, but like all those who are loved it feeds the plants and the land Herself. This lesson isn’t just about nature and gardening, but taking the time to feed all aspects of our life which feed us and give us a life worth living. So now my perpetual motion now has a few calming pauses during the day. After thirty-five years of gardening, I finally get it, garden furniture!

lovely nettle

I’ve also been doing a fair amount of teaching this spring in the Toronto area, Killaloe and at the farm. Most of the workshops have been herb, wild food and gardening related. One thing that’s striking me more than ever is the difficulty in conveying the magical quality of herbs as entities, as agents of.. healing. We are so often pulled into the allopathic mode of explaining how or why a herb works. But to me this type of explanation feels so hollow and objectifying. As though it’s just of coincidence that we discovered these healing properties of plants and that the named “active” chemicals are the only factor involved in the healing. Unfortunately, this scientific approach is generally what people expect, and when you give them any other type of explanation, such as an energetic, mythical or First Nations rationale it is often met with quiet doubt or disdain. Then not only does it feel like the herb has been diminished and that I have betrayed a confidence, but also that I am viewed as a little flaky or less credible. Yet I know this gathering of majestic kings, in the guise of humble local plants, have beyond a doubt healed myself, my family and friends and millions of people down through the ages. Does this not demand we address these healers in an elevated language of poetry that evokes or hints at their miraculous truth? A truth that we have all felt in Nature, that is too unbelievable for our overly rationalistic brain to admit, a truth that is as big as the sky and as hard to remember because it is always there in the background.


The truth is that it is not a coincidence that these plants can heal us and it is not just their chemical components that do the healing. Like all beings their physical makeup forms in accord with a deeper spiritual template. The chemicals are secondary to the spirit. The truth is we have co-evolved with these plants over millions of years. These plants have literally made us and so of course they are capable of bringing our inner disease into emotional, physical and spiritual harmony. Like a mother to her child Her nurturance fortifies the immune system and Her love takes away our dis-ease. I think everyone would admit that to explain what a mother does for her child strictly in terms of chemistry misses the mark. With this in mind, look again at your food and the miraculous “weeds” that surround you. The Sacred Gardener farm helps infuse this appreciation into those who come.