2014 is the Year of the Teapot for Mark in Flowers, and I’ll be on my UK travels visiting people and places and demonstrating how to connect to the plants growing locally and the kinds of teas you can prepare from them.
For several years now I’ve been leading talks, walks and workshops introducing people to wild, feral and cultivated plants in all sorts of places: hedgerows, woods, town streets, roadsides, gardens, car parks, wastegrounds and riverbanks.
And with all sorts of groups and individuals: from transition initiatives in Belsize Park, Norwich and the one I’m active in in Bungay, Suffolk, to community beekeepers, neighbours, festival goers, permaculturists, artists, scientists, herbalists, younger people, older people and more. Always the focus is on where we are and what’s growing on around us, on the living systems of the earth right at our feet.
Learning to pay attention to plants reconnects us in a simple and direct way to the places we live in and the planet that sustains us. And anyone can do it. We all eat, drink and dress in plants, and we take them as medicine. We make art and build with them. We garden with them. They condition the very air we breathe.
My sessions provide a space and time for the multi-faceted nature and value of plants and our human connection with them to be considered. They are a modest way of keeping the door open in a time when most people, plants and places are seen just as resources to be exploited, not seen at all, or both.
They are a way of touching base with the physical places we are in and being where we are rather than wishing we were somewhere else.
They are also practical, friendly, fun, informative and open to anyone and everyone.
And as a response to a rapidly changing climate and the overuse of fossil fuels, these sessions are a small contribution to relocalisation and a lower carbon way of living, too.
And at some point there is ALWAYS a pot of tea.
What’s In The Pot?
A pot of tea is a simple thing. An inexpensive thing. Drinking tea in some form or another is something that billions of people do every day. In my sessions we drink tea with conscious awareness of what goes into it!
It’s not just plant material and hot water. It’s not just stuff. It’s what the plants are connected to, what they connect us to. When I add lemon balm and anise hyssop along with ten other herbs to the pot at Bungay Community Bees’ summer open day in the local community library, I mention that bees love both of these plants, so having some around is a good thing for them as they struggle in the face of modern industrial agriculture’s excesses.
I also mention that just brushing past lemon balm and taking a good deep breath at the same time is enough to lift the most flagging of spirits. I might add that the leaves of anise hyssop make an excellent tea for coughs, fresh or dried. And that both these plants are in the mint family. And don’t forget their wilder cousin white deadnettle, which flowers for most of the year. Bumblebees love it and its medicinal properties are legion. Make sure you keep some in your garden. And put some leaves in the pot too!
I’ll get people talking: have you grown or used these plants? What for? Let’s share some of our knowledge with each other. Tea-drinking is really a community thing!
If you’d like to host a teapot session (groups of 8-25) with accompanying Talk, Walk or Workshop, see HERE for info and contact details. And watch this space for updates on the travelling teapot!
A pot of tea will never seem the same again!
Images: A teapot and a bunch of Suffolk plants and herbs framed by Transition Tooting’s 2013 Foodival; Plant man illustration*; Walking with Weeds April 2012; Keep Circulating with Rosemary in the Common Room Norwich February 2013; Herbs for Resilience winter teapot February 2013; Yarrow, Elderflower and Echinacea winter tea, February 2014; Mark Brown sniffs the wonders of lemon balm at Uncivilisation Festival, Hampshire August 2013
All pics MW except *from Healing Plants P.151, ed. W.A.R. Thomson (MacMillan 1978) artist credit unavailable
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