I had an interesting conversation yesterday with Betty, a Washington County, PA Master Gardener. She had called us at The Mesa to ask questions about Medicine Wheels. It turned out that she was a registered nurse who also ran a plant nursery and was planning a presentation for an upcoming Master Gardener seminar in the spring on the concept of “Healing Gardens”. She had read a book about Medicine Wheel gardens and had found our website when searching the internet on the topic. Betty said that she had some questions about things like the Four Directions colors and if there were specific traditions about planting in Medicine Wheels so she could include them in her upcoming PowerPoint presentation.
At first I just listened as Betty did most of the talking without a break. She had not understood a lot of what she had read about Native American customs and kept asking more and more questions without giving me any chance to respond until I just had to interrupt. I started to tell her about the ancient tradition of Medicine Wheels and how the idea of planting gardens in them seemed to be a more modern idea. What began to become clear to me as our conversation continued in a more shared fashion was how different my world has become from most people’s because it is structured by spiritual awareness. That, and the fact that Betty was noticing something.
Betty explained to me how she had become aware of the concept of the healing nature of gardening and that she wanted to combine her desire to help others that she had heretofore expressed only through her medical vocation with her personal interest in plants. She was excited about the medicinal herbs she already had growing, and kept asking questions like how to know what color plants to plant in which part of a Medicine Wheel. I could tell that her background in biomedicine had her in a box. What was missing seemed to be a felt sense of the spiritual connection possible with The Wheel, the Plant Nation, Mother Earth, and within true healing; the Spirit part.
I went on to tell her that Medicine Wheels were many things, including real and interactive vortexes of spiritual energy and connection that were palpable to me. I did my best to find words to describe to Betty how Native American wisdom sees the interconnectedness of all things, (Mitakuye Oyasin, or “All My Relations”) and how that relationship is honored with mutual respect, gratitude, and offerings of thanks-in-advance for what is asked for.
Then Betty began telling me a story. She had been having an open house event at her nursery where there were activities for children. Several were in attendance, gleefully romping around the gardens. Suddenly, Betty spied a curious sight. No less than five garter snakes had come out of the weeds to sun themselves and were all in a line, each coiled up neatly, basking in the midday heat. A northern water snake had also come out of the pond to join them when the children began to notice their presence and started shrieking. Some of the kids’ parents started saying things like, “I know what I’d do… I’d kill them right quick.” Betty saw the opportunity for what she herself described as a “teachable moment”. I was impressed.
Betty went on to convey to me how she told the children that if they settled down and just left the snakes in peace, they wouldn’t hurt them. She also related how snakes are beneficial parts of Nature, explaining how they control other garden pests. While she recognized that seeing all of the snakes together was a sight she had never seen and might likely never see again, Betty talked about it as if it was a totally random occurrence. She was “getting it”, I thought—but only part of it. I told Betty that those creatures presented themselves to her, the children, and their parents for a very obvious lesson about tolerance and coexistence. What I could feel was missing for Betty was the concept that they might have done it in an orchestrated fashion—on purpose.
Betty also went on to tell me how she has designated part of her many acre garden as a “Fairy Trail” for kids. She talked about fairies in a way that suggested she believed in their existence and had a kind of respect and fondness for them. I told her about the concept of working co-creatively with Nature devas (creational spirits) to grow healthier more productive plants, citing how people at Findhorn in northern Scotland were able to grow robust, healthy plants in pure sand with the help of local Nature spirits.
At some point in our discussion, Betty started talking to me in the displaced way of speaking I have noticed many people unconsciously employ, using the pronoun “You” when she was really talking about her own experience, as in; “You feel bad when people do such and so…” when she was really referring to her own sadness instead of mine. I passed on that teachable moment, (Re: The Power of “Languaging”, a Mesa Creative Arts Center workshop.) because she was hinting at something—her own awakening:
“A lot of people like to garden, because they like to have flowers around,” Betty said. “They’re pretty. When people are serious gardeners… after a while you begin to notice something bigger. You feel something else that you can’t describe. You don’t have words for it,” She added. “I can describe it,” I offered. “That’s part of what Kate and I do. We help people find ways to talk about uncommon experiences in plain words.”
I went on to tell Betty that the “bigness” she and her gardening friends had been experiencing was a level of connection with Nature that has become uncommon in our techno-driven lives. It is so uncommon, in fact, that popular culture no longer has much language to describe it. I told her that we have found that a lack of such language can make people shy about admitting their experiences—even to themselves, making them easier to pass off as “not real”.
I did my best to give Betty a sense of how greatly we have muffled our ability to sense the vast spiritual energies, patterns, and consciousnesses present in Nature, both by our blind race to dominate her and by filling our space with man-made frequencies that cancel them out or distract our attention. I could sense that some part of her knew exactly what I was talking about whether she could describe it or not.
To me, my conversation with Betty was a tiny shred of evidence that people are waking up, and that there is still hope that Humanity will change for the better. I’m seeing and hearing more stories like Betty’s everywhere I go these days and find them deeply gratifying and encouraging proof that Creation has a plan that we, in the end, cannot completely resist.
Betty will be out to see us in a couple of weeks to learn more about the Medicine Wheel, Nature Spirits, and Native American wisdom first hand. Her story is a reminder that modern life being what it is, if we spend enough time in the garden, allow ourselves to silence our minds, and be seduced by the moment, sometimes—in the still quiet amongst plants, bugs, soil, and sun, something still manages to get through our dim awareness and touch us. It is proof of what Indians say about things that have real power having that power whether we believe in them or not. Nature is reaching out to all of us and will work its way through our defenses the way water will always find the tiniest crack to seep through. Like Betty, part of you wants desperately to taste and savor it. The Light is winning, drop by drop.