The Plants Call to Me, Even in Winter

spruce tree

My friend Spruce Tree

The plants have been talking to me when I go out for my daily walks.

It’s the middle of winter and you’d think nothing would be awake or paying much attention, but that simply isn’t so.

Driven by a recurrence of depression and needing to add a new approach to my coping skills, I have made a commitment to get outside everyday, even though we are in the midst of an extremely snowy winter.

You might think that I, an herbalist, would welcome any and every chance to get outdoors, but that hasn’t been the case. In the past years I have taken more and more to snuggling (um, well, hiding) in bed and reading a book or watching television as my primary modus operandi for dealing with down and uncomfortable times.

This stopped being an acceptable way of coping when I got hit with deep depression a few weeks ago. It was clear I had to do something different. Walking turns out to have been one of the answers.

First I had to walk to physical therapy half a mile away after hurting my hip. Then I set up a plan with a coach for whipping the depression’s ass harder than it was whipping mine.

And then—the plants spoke to me.

No, not actual words from some anthropomorphized rose bush. But their energy and the quiet messages that can be felt in paying attention to that came through clearly.

snow-covered mulitflora rose vines

Snow-covered mulitflora rose vines

First a multiflora rose snagged my sleeve as I was walking back from the compost heap (I put my compost there all winter long). I unsnagged myself and walked on past the black locust trees and past where the ground ivy and cleavers grow in great profusion in summer. I suddenly felt so much love and affection surrounding me, coming from the plants. The message I received was how much they love me, and need me to be here in this world for them, all of the plants.

Another walk a few days later and the same message. And then a walk down a long patch of turf where the grass never gets that tall and there is much moss and lichen mixed in (this was before the snow began). It is a long, tongue-shaped area, bounded on either side by trees. Near the tip of the “tongue” is a big old spruce tree who contributed needle-filled twigs a couple years ago to make spruce syrup with my apprentice.

Spruce suggested I drink a tea made of its needles, and perhaps partake of that spruce syrup as well. I took some fallen twiglets home for tea.

The trees also suggested that I come visit every day for a week, and I have, those that I can reach wither through the snow, or near the plowed road.

The glory of a walk, even in winter, is the beauty of the plants, whether evergreen trees, bare trees, seed stalks, or finding the mosses and “weeds” and plant friends that stay green throughout the coldest months.

Seeing the stands of seedstalks I remember what grows there in summer. Looking over toward the pond, I think of the skunk cabbage under the layer of icy snow. Approaching the filmy-barked white birch I admire the ethereal creams and peachy-pinks of its trunk.

The plants call to me, even in winter, and I am learning to listen and answer.