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A Perspective on Plant Spirituality By Shea Smith W

hen we plan our classes at HAALo, we choose topics that our community is

“buzzing about” or about which we see a pattern of questions happening regularly in our shop. Recently, we’ve had a steady stream of conversations with our customers who come in to share whispered conversations of “talking to plants” and “hearing things.” We always inwardly listen intently and then assure our customers that they are quite sane and have not had some sort of mental breakdown. “Whew!!” They generally feel normal but this business of hearing plants … well, that’s just weird! But it’s not. At least, not in

our world. Many, many people who are sensitive, observant, and deeply connected to the natural world feel “plant-speak” or hear the languages of our green friends. Some of us can remember childhoods full of talking to the outdoor elementals, only to be told it was our imagination or that we should stop being so childish and grow up. No wonder as adults we question the validity of our experiences—is this just our so- called child’s imagination again? I would encourage you to not dismiss these intimate interactions, but instead get curious, as you would with a stranger who has sent out the mildest of gestures toward flirting with you. Would you just think, “Oh geez, I’m imagining

that glancing of eyes, and that spark of interest?” No, you’d be secretly delighted and curious. Consider plants to be the ultimate flirts, the Teachers of Teachers.

They send out tendrils of secret, subliminal communication constantly: “Yes—see us! Inhale us, eat us if you wish, use us for medicine, respect us. We are here with you always whether you notice or not. We visit, we depart, we rest, we come back, sometimes we stay indefinitely, but we are most definitely aware of you. We have survived for hundreds of thousands to millions of years. We have an Earth intelligence and lineage of experiences you cannot even imagine in your extremely short Homo sapiens existence.”

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not imagining a conversation. You are stepping into a deeper level of understanding, hearing a language primordial, and remembering a long-ago awareness of our connection to nature. One of my first remembrances of nature- speak came from a forest of trees when I was 5 or 6 years old. I was sweeping a path through the pines, clearing the needles to make a hallway to my kitchen in my secret home of the trees. The branches were playing and encouraging me to use them as secret passageways and hidden doors into new realms. I distinctly remember hearing a pine tell me of a secret room, in the base of her trunk on the other side and hidden by a boulder. I curiously scrambled over the rock and indeed found a hollowed- out home to woodland animals. Another

tree in New

Mexico called out to me once from a trail when I was a teenager. As I

came upon it, leaving my path 20 feet behind, I found it too was hollowed out, with a hole deep inside its roots begging to be explored. My young-adult mind rationalized that I must have heard an animal and that this couldn’t possibly be any more than a diseased tree. I pity that young woman 35 years later. Now, I would smile, thank the tree, make a small gesture or token of respect, and listen for however long it took to hear the rest of the conversation.

I like to think that I’ve wizened up a bit. At this point in my life, trees, plants, flowers, insects, animals, mushrooms—they are all friends in varying relationships, just like my human companions are.

There is the black widow spider in the corner of my bathroom ceiling that I grudgingly became friends with many years ago. She was a terrifying beauty that hung out daily above the toilet and I watched her carefully … very carefully. I came to understand her through a year of multiple daily observations as I used the seat five feet below her. I watched her movements, the beauty of her shiny, ebony exoskeleton. The warning of her red belly. I knew she moved at night and hunted in a web she had built in a nearby window because I saw teeny droplets of spider poop every day when I would wipe the windowsill. I faced my fears of her dropping down on my shoulders or head when I needed to use the bathroom nightly, and I trusted our intricate relationship: We could both terrorize each other but chose to respect our territories.

It was hard, though—I hated looking up on a full-moon night shining through the skylight and not seeing her in the corner or window. My mind

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