Ananda at Plant Journey's is hosting this months blog party, on plant spirits, devas and the like. Everyone has their own way of communicating with the plants and the spirits inhabiting their life forms, and their own way of envisioning those spirits.
Each plant has a unique energy and in my experience, personality. People often ask me how I can remember so many plants, their latin and common names, and their healing magic. For me, each plant is like an individual friend, one that I come to know as an individual, with it's own name, and quirks, and strengths. Have you ever been out watering your garden and inexplicably, one particular plant seems to be trying to get your attention? Or perhaps you wake from a dream in which you were using or dreaming about a certain plant? Maybe you've had a very deep spiritual connection with a plant during a time of crisis or healing? Or maybe you are just drawn to a plant on a regular basis throughout your life? All of these can be ways that the plants speak to us, in their language without words.
Today I'll share a story of a very special plant and plant spirit that shared a very moving experience with me. Some of my readers may think I'm a bit crazy, or off my rocker, and others will nod their heads knowingly.
I was living in Tucson, and hadn't even really started to study herbal medicine in great depth yet. But I've always had a fascination and connection with plants, and it was no different then. I was in a challenging time in my life, a job that sucked the life out of me, a relationship that didn't nurture my spirit, and in a landscape that was altogether unfamiliar to me. I woke up one sunday morning in early summer, my partner at the time long since gone on a bike ride. I don't remember now if I had had a dream, but I awoke with this overwhelming feeling that I had to go and find a tree. I was to find this tree and leave a gift. I didn't know what kind of tree, or where to go to find it, but I knew it must be done.
I fashioned a small string of special beads, and jumped in the car with my journal and water bottle, and began driving up the mountain. At some point, I felt it was right, and I pulled over into a parking area for a trail head, and I began walking.
I walked for a while, looking at all the trees, wondering which tree I was supposed to find. Until, I found it. It was a scraggly, old juniper tree, half the branches already dead, and the roots exposed by a cut in the soil where water had eroded the dirt. I clambered down the hill off the trail to where this tree was and sat down. I offered my small gift, and suprisingly, my eye was drawn to a large crystalline stone within the tangle of the roots. To me, it was a gift in return.
I sat down and opened my journal to write, suddenly was flooded with feeling. I remember writing down, stream of conciousness, thoughts that were coming to me, and sitting there, in the dirt, with this old juniper tree communicating to me, and sobbing uncontrollably. I felt the sadness of this old tree, and the joy. In my mind she became the spirit of a grandmother, a wise elder mother, long white hair, brown skin, and a sharp eye.
I can't pretend to know how, but there was a bond forged that morning between me and this juniper tree, and a spiritual connection that was undeniable. I still have the words written in that moment, and the stone which she gave to me as a gift, a reminder perhaps. It was the most powerful experience I had ever had with a plant up to that point, and I was struck by the import of it. She was beautiful, kind, strong, wise, gentle and firm. She spoke of years of drought, and years of plenty, times gone by, and years before the road cut through her homeland. Of all the people who walked by on that trail and never noticed.
After a while, when it was right. I packed up and drove home, with that moment treasured in my mind and heart forever. I went on with my life, in my soul sucking job, until several weeks later, when a fire started up in the mountains. It raged for weeks, and the town cried to see the towering clouds of smoke filling the air. They said the mountain wouldn't be the same for 500 yrs. All the old growth trees, gone. The village of Summerhaven, gone. Acres and acres, burned to the ground.
Once it was out, I drove up the road again to see the destruction. I drove past the canyon trail where my Juniper tree had lived, and saw devastation. The whole canyon, burned, stumps of oaks, blackened ghosts. And I realized then, my juniper tree was gone. Burned.
Had that great old tree somehow known that her end was near, and called out for someone who would listen? She called to me and when I came, she gave me her parting gifts. She shared with me her life-force in those hours we spent together, and then she was gone. She gave me a very great gift indeed.
Her physical form is gone now, but this juniper tree spirit is with me still, and serves as one of my very important spiritual ally's and teachers today. Every time I see a juniper tree I am connected with the juniper grandmother spirit, strong, wise, kind and giving. She's helped me countless times, asked and unasked, has come in dreamtime, and has shared many an afternoon wandering the hillsides in the desert foothills.