January 22nd, 2010
I like to think that most people who grow plants, even if only one pot plant has talked to it or them (the plants, that is) at some time or another. I certainly do. I feel that there is a certain affinity we humans have with plants – an affinity that cannot be explained rationally. But then, I have been caught by my next door neighbour explaining to some local kookaburras that I did not have any more meat to give them. I had my hands out, to show that they were empty, and I spoke very slowly. ‘No more, see?’ ‘I don’t think they speak English,’ said my neighbour, with a chuckle. Well, they are learning, I explained. But, I am certain that whether or not other people talk to their plants, most people would experience a similar experience of obtaining comfort, solace or just relaxation just from being around plants or natural areas. There is something sensory about the way plants affect us.
This is hardly surprising, for most of the things that happen in the world are beyond the ability of the human senses to detect anyway. We see a minute fraction of the available range of wavelengths of light; our ears hear only a small portion of the known ‘sounds'; our ability to detect chemicals via taste and smell is far inferior to that of other animals; and there are myriad of other forms of senses that other organisms possess but we do not, such as radar and magnetic sense. And even the stimuli we do perceive are interpreted through the filters of our own beliefs and upbringing.
Everyone, even the most hardened cynic, have experienced moments of heightened awareness and sensitivity. At these times we touch the mystic, non-rational side of ourselves – the side that is normally buried beneath the thick, rational skin of our exterior workaday selves.
I find that these types of experiences commonly happen to me when I spend a lot of time around plants and nature. I find that working with my garden, working with nature helps me to become attunened with the earth in a very special way. The process of attunement is one of the most powerful tools available to the gardener, for it enables you to tune in to plants, the soil, the weather and so on and in this way to take actions that will be in harmony with your garden. Attunement is beyond a rational understanding; it cannot be understood in the normal way we understand things. It can only be validated by experience, by feeling it. Neither is attunement a conscious process, for it involves a ‘letting go’.
There are no hard and fast rules about attunement; it is a very individual experience. For me it begins with quieting my internal dialogue. To achieve such a quiet mind is no mean feat, and it does require more effort than one would think. But, after I have succeded in switching off my interal dialogue, the rest comes by itself. Suddenly I will get a clear picture of where a particular tree should be planted or of some change that is needed and this knowledge comes with a great certainty, usually without any explanatory reasoning. You just know.
One way I have found helpful in developing this extra sense of attunement is to walk around the garden. Not for any particular reason, but just to feel a part of it, to feel the earth beneath your feet so to speak. Attunement is a practical skill that can be acquired by anyone. It is the skill of developing a feel for your garden – a feel for your plants – they do talk to you, you just have to stop and listen.