When I’ve been most depressed in my life, I’ve turned to flowers. They could reach inside my darkened spirit and touch my heart. They lifted me up just a little, enough to help me carry on.
I’ve always been connected with plants. My earliest memories include plants: smelling gardenias (we lived in South America), eating mangoes and tangerines right off the tree, watching a miniature-cucumber vine twining up the side of my house. I adored the way tomato plants smelled. By the time I was five, my mom had taught me the European tradition of making flower garlands to wear in my hair.
All of this was really good, and important, because in the midst of what might have seemed a semitropical paradise there was very nasty abuse going on. I lived in a community that was ostensibly Christian, but their version of Christianity was authoritarian and punitive, and hid a deeper, very damaging cult within it.
Growing up as a young child in this environment was hellish. The plants that grew all around me were a saving grace. They were safe, hospitable, beautiful, and undemanding. They couldn’t hurt me (even if they had thorns) the way humans could. Their energies and their spirits were a haven for my soul and spirit.
I wasn’t consciously aware of this, of course. I just gravitated toward plants, any and all, and spent time with them. I loved walking in woods and fields, down city streets, greeting the plants and looking at gardens. I always knew the names of some plants, and in my teens I started teaching myself about them, getting to know them better.
In my teens I became aware of the power of flowers to reach inside me and change something fundamental. I didn’t even know I was depressed, I just could barely function and get about. When I walked down the street from my house I would look at all the flowers popping up in the spring; I knew where all the crocuses were, the daffodils, the tulips and forsythia, the budding magnolias. I cannot give you an explanation, but seeing them was vital to my continuing to struggle on.
In my thirties, in another city, I again would note where all my plant friends grew, following the succession of plants, flowers, seeds from spring to fall. They were dear to my heart.
When I moved to that city 26 years ago, I wanted to put down roots, both figuratively and literally. I planted a rosebush in the yard next to my building. It didn’t make it, but my gardening chops did. Well, they developed, let’s say, with a lot of coaching from the plants!
Along the way I learned how to do all sorts of wonderful things with plants. How to get colors for my yarn and fabric, how to make medicines, what wild plants are good eating, how to decorate my house with wreaths and bouquets made from my favorite plants. And I learned to listen to what the plants have to tell me, by their colors and form, by their whispers in the wind, by the energy they share with all of us. I learned how to let them bring their healing into my heart and body and life.
The ways that connecting with plants have helped me are myriad. Sometimes it’s been just lifting my spirits by seeing a plant friend. Sometimes it is the taking myself out of myself while working with the plants—preparing a dye bath, making a tincture or oil or vinegar, putting plants to dry for later use, making up a tea blend in the morning.
Other times it is the involvement with the plant world and nature. Walking in the fields or woods or down the street, greeting my plant friends, collecting flowers, leaves, roots, for medicine or dye or wreaths or my dinner-plate.
Digging in the earth in a garden is life-changing. It puts you in touch with the earth and earth energy, and brings you into your body.
When I first began gardening professionally, which meant a lot of time with my hands in the dirt!, I was terribly uncomfortable in my body while gardening. I hadn’t spent much time connecting with my body in my 40-plus years of living, and the connection with earth brought me into my body. It took time for me to get comfortable being more in my body and aware of it. I’m glad I allowed myself to do that, because I am much more comfortable in my body now, and I really love having my hands in the dirt and feeling that very visceral connection with Nature.
I feel like plants helped save my life. They certainly helped rescue and maintain my sanity. I am deeply grateful for the gifts of the plants in my life. I hope that you may find a way to bring their healing presence into your life.