Being Here Now in Earth Time with Plants

This post appeared first earlier today on the Transition Network Social Reporting project as part of a week on Deep Time

Day of the Dead, Autumn 2012

Yesterday afternoon as I was gathering sweet chestnuts from a nearby wood I remembered an early post on the Transition Norwich blog by Jon Curran, Help from an Unexpected Quarter.

000 Chestnuts (JC)-140x105Written in autumn 2009, three years ago almost to the day, the post describes Jon’s discovery not only of sweet chestnuts in the wood beyond the garden, but of his wife’s experience of foraging with her grandfather as a child. It was the first time the subject had come up in the twenty years since they’d known each other.

004 IMG_8442-220x165Connecting with plants, whether a huge old oak, wild nettles, curly kale or a sunflower, helps us to be rooted and in touch with the time and place we’re in. It takes us out of the senseless, amnesic repetition of mechanical clock time and into the time of the planet, of seasons and weather. A bigger now. In that rooted earth time, you stop running around, you get your bearings, you start to remember.

002 Image1697-165x220Looking over these past years at the Transition projects and events I’ve been involved with, I’m struck how infomed by the seasons and natural cycles most of them are: The Low Carbon Cookbook’s monthly gathering and cook-up of the current leaves, fruits and vegetables growing wild or in our gardens; Happy Mondays at Sustainable Bungay’s Community Kitchen catering for 50 people as seasonally and locally as possible, whilst providing incredible, low cost meals using recipes from all over the world; this year’s Plants for Life series of workshops and events on plant medicine.

And everywhere at all times the plants informing, teaching, being.

Reconnection with Nature has consistently been the most popular label on The Transition Norwich blog, This Low Carbon Life, now in its fourth year, with over a thousand posts published since Jon’s Sweet Chestnut piece. The bloggers have celebrated all the seasons with several photoblog weeks. Here’s a piece by John Heaser on High Summer from 2011.

Dimensional Shift During the Transition Conference

Flint - Image1582-240x180During this year’s Transition Network conference I went on the Transition Town Tooting Well-Being Walk. We stopped to visit a community garden, and Charles Whitehead showed us a neolithic flint tool found whilst the group was preparing the vegetable patch. The effect was extraordinary. As I placed my thumb into place where others’ thumbs had been thousands of years ago, right there, in the middle of a city garden, I felt a shift of dimension, as if I had expanded downwards, upwards and around and everything was held, now, in a vast moment of planetary time.

Earth time is not history, those endlessly repeating cycles W.G. Sebald writes about so clearly in The Rings of Saturn. Sometimes it feels like we are meeting up (again), to get something twisted straight. Last year, Occupy Norwich and several local Transitioners organised a memorial march up to the Castle to commemorate Robert Kett and the Norfolk uprising that took place in 1549, known as Ketts Rebellion:

Ian lit several flambards as we stood at the spot where [Robert] Kett was killed, and listened to Andy Wood, professor of social history at the UEA, talk about the commonwealth and the people’s struggle for fairness and liberty in the face of a “hard-hearted” elite. (from Walking the Time-Line – A Torch Song by Charlotte Du Cann)  

1549, 2011, 2012…

Even on this march I found myself in a conversation about plants. A herbalist called Kit said she thought the plant for the Occupy movement should be rosemary. For strength. For keeping the heart and spirits in good cheer. For remembrance.

003 Memory Marigold and Sunflower Seeds 2-400x137

Since September 2010, the Low Carbon Cookbook has been a work-in-progress, examining the provenance of our food from the garden to the smallholding to the industrial food system. At the May Meeting this year, we played a game where each of us asked the person on our right hand side to tell us the months a particular fruit or vegetable was in season.

000 Summer Fruit Gary-240x180None of us fared too badly but none of us got 10 out of 10. We were eating seasonally, just not always remembering when things were in season or when they weren’t!

This week, as if out of nowhere, cabbage has suddenly reentered my awareness and my kitchen. I don’t seem to be able to get enough of it at this time of year, especially the red kind grated in salads or cooked with juniper berries in the oven. Tomatoes on the other hand are not quite so present as they were a month ago.

Plants for Life

000 image2298-lowres2-240x180The end of another year approaches. The Plants for Life talks, walks and workshops I have organised in Bungay are also coming to an end. In January we began by connecting with our roots, and moved through the seasons. We had sessions on biodynamic growing at the end of winter, and walked with weeds and learned about hedgerow medicine in spring. We made plant oils at midsummer, and hawthorn berry tonics and wine ‘for medicinal purposes’ in autumn. The sessions have formed the basis of a new arts, culture and well-being group to begin in the new year.

If I had just one thing to say about connecting with plants as living systems of the earth it would be this: the plants keep us in time; they rise, they scatter seed, they fall. They are where they are. They are in the bigger now. That’s what they connect us with. They bring us home.

Photos: Sweet Chestnuts* (Jon Curran, October 2009); Teaching a Medicine Herb workshop, May 2012* (Sarah Nicholl); Corn, Chillies, Fruit at Happy Mondays Mexican Fiesta September 2012; Neolithic Flint in Hand Tooting Well-being walk, September 2012; Memory of Sunflower and Marigold seeds, September 2009; Summer fruits brought by Gary Alexander to Stranger’s Circle, outside Norwich, 2009; Raising a medicinal glass of homemade fruit wine, Sustainable Bungay, October 2012 All photos except* by Mark Watson


One response to this post.

  1. Living big via plants. Good one. Like it.


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