Posted 12/20/2019 12:11:43
Category: Think Pieces
This month Stephen Buhner, modestly self-described "plant person," held what was reported to be (please, Stephen, say it ain’t so!) his last workshop. The workshop was entitled, “Gaia’s Mind: The Secret Teachings of Plants.” It was based on the contents of a book Buhner has coming out next year. Held in Virginia, at a 4-H camp on the banks of the clean, swift Mechums River, we convened in a log meeting house and slept in bunkhouses by the river, on slabs of thick oak, with daylight sneaking through the walls, as well as, I would learn, critters.
Posted in the camp’s bathrooms was environmentally sage advice: If it’s yellow, let it mellow. (I see you turning up your nose but honestly, when you think about it, gallons of water for a single flush, how is disposing of a few ounces of pee in that manner not wasteful?)
Each day we had a window of time in which to enjoy breakfast and lunch however we pleased. But at suppertime, all hundred or so of us gathered at an appointed hour. We stood in a circle and held hands. We sang blessing songs before partaking of fresh, organic, mostly locally grown, mostly vegetarian food made from such in-season ingredients as wild nettles harvested by the river, and berries and beets. My body hummed with the vibration of it. I felt so healthy! Thank you, talented herbalists and chefs at Sacred Plant Traditions.
On our lunch break the first day, as I and some other women stood with our feet in the river, we spotted, downriver, a group of young men swimming in what looked like the buff. Suddenly, one of these young men started swimming at a good clip toward us. When he came to within several yards of us, the young man stopped swimming. Squatting in shallow water, he hugged his knees to his chest. He sat for a few moments. Then all of a sudden he rose up out of the water like Neptune and strode boldly up the riverbank. Reflexively, I’d turned away as the young man stood up. When I saw the startled expressions on the faces of a couple of the young women I stood with, I whispered, “Is he…?” “Yes,” they whispered back, “he is!”
One of the things Stephen Buhner is fond of saying is that NATURE LOVES SEX. He swears that everything in the universe is constantly engaged in lovemaking, from the creation of rain to the sipping of nectar by the hummingbird. Another thing Stephen taught us: NATURE’S PATTERNS REPEAT THEMSELVES. Have you ever contemplated the fact that the female human reproductive system is almost identical to the reproductive system of a flower? Or that the human male reproductive system is the female system, in reverse? Isn’t it profound! Human beings aren’t just related to other human beings, they’re related to everything!
At the end of the first day of class (which was intense), while cicadas sang their incessant, single-noted song, I went back to the bunkhouse to get something from my bag. It was that time of day when the sun’s rays are soft, when birds sing ever so sweetly. Looking out the window toward the river, I watched a group of women of varying ages undress, lay down their clothes, and wade through pools of golden light. The light on the water shimmered with and followed the women’s movements. The sight of those women in that sun-bathed river caused something in my heart to push up into my throat. The thing in my throat pushed up into my eyes. What was it about the sight of them, walking naked, beautiful, vulnerable, into the water that had moved me so? What was it about that young man walking buck naked through the middle of the day that so tickled me?
At supper the first night, I met a woman who’d arrived the day before. She told me of her late-night discovery that she shared her bed with a mouse. Now, I will stand right beside a snake and ask him how he’s doing, but let a mouse appear on the scene and I turn into a screaming, blathering spasm of terror. When bedtime came for me that night, I sought divine intervention. And just in case it’s true, as Stephen Buhner and others teach, that we have the power to communicate with other organisms, I sent out a silent appeal to all the mice in the vicinity: Hey, listen up. Please hunker down elsewhere for the night, okay, this bunk’s taken. I know you’re little but you scare me, I can’t help it.
Then I went to sleep and I slept like a baby, with no visits, so far as I know, from any creature of any kind.
The second night, I wasn’t so lucky. As I prepared to turn in I saw, perched upside down by the top of the window, a spider the size of a child’s fist, with a leg span wider than a mug. My bunkmate across the room said it was a wolf spider, assured me it was harmless. I didn’t use to think I was afraid of spiders, but this was the first time I’d had to contemplate sleeping with the Arnold Schwarzenegger of spiders perched at my bedside. Calmly, I assessed the situation. I estimated the distance from the top of the window, where the spider was, to the bottom bunk, where I would be sleeping, and tried to take comfort in it. I put my pillow on the end of the bunk opposite the window. Then I took my roommate’s word for it and climbed in. Sometime after falling into a deep sleep, I was awakened by a woman’s startled cry.
Stephen is also an accomplished musician. He entertained us that night with song and guitar, accompanied by a superb flutist. Returning from the bonfire gathering after the concert, my top bunkmate, a woman who looked to be in her early 20s, had come upon the wolf spider while climbing, with her flashlight, up to bed. I sat up, blinded by the flashlight, and shared with her what I’d been told. But she wasn’t having it! Considering how, once she was horizontal, she and Mr. Wolf Spider, who had not moved an inch, would be just about toe to toe, I could see her point.
I remembered that in my mess kit was a wide-mouth jar, and I asked the young woman to keep the flashlight trained on the spider while I retrieved the jar. I said a quick prayer and climbed onto the wooden chair beside the bunk. I asked the spider to cooperate. Then I tried to trap it. The spider was positioned in such a way that I couldn’t get the jar flush against the windowsill. Whenever I tried to place the jar over the spider, it merely scooted through the crack in the sill. So I held the jar under the spider and, with one quick but gentle motion, used the lid to push it in, then dispatched to the woods, where I let the spider go. The next morning, when I ran into the young woman at breakfast, she was so grateful she called me an angel. All I can say is, thank God it wasn’t a mouse.
We’ve had considerable rain this month. My house is humming with the vibration of water crashing over the dam a half-mile or so away. I love it.
Image: Flor de la Vida (Flor de llama) (Flower of Life) (Flame Flower)), 1943 - Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)