I have an invitation for you. It is an invitation to a way of being in the world, explored through the ancient method of the apprenticeship. Your teacher? They are to be found through an intuitive search combined with an invitation, a “yes” from the teacher. They will be a wild plant, tree or fungi.
The prospect is very simple, yet the ramifications are broad and the roots deep. Entering into this apprenticeship will yield results that go beyond measurement. Turn up and see what you learn. Pay attention with all your senses. Visit this being, sit with them, learn their stories, listen to them, tell them stories. The invitation is toward belonging, reciprocity and community.
I invite you to make space in the coming month to pass through a threshold. Cross an imaginary boundary as you enter a wilder place- it may be passing a tall tree, stepping onto grass, or entering a park. Leave your phone behind. Pause at the threshold, then step through knowing that you are entering an unknown place where everything might just be a little different… thresholds have been used for millennia to alter consciousness and reconnect. Leave your preconceptions with your phone. Allow it to feel weird and silly if it does. No problem.
Now wander, with an open mind and heart, paying careful attention to where you are drawn- your gaze, your ears, your feet, your touch, your attention. What invites you in? An oak tree? A dandelion? A nameless plant? Maybe a rock, a stream, a kestrel or a squirrel? Wonder and feel these invitations. Be drawn into them. Continue to wander until you settle on a plant, tree or fungi. Spend some moments there with this being. You may wish to introduce yourself, to tell it something about you (this can be in your head or aloud). Again, feel the silliness, allow the playfulness. Ask if you may learn from it and respect the answer. If you hear/feel a "no" simply say thank-you and continue to wander in the same manner, open to another invitation. Its like a job interview; we may be turned down a few times before being offered a job. Trust that this will be the job you are supposed to do.
You now have your teacher. The invitation is for a 1-year apprenticeship. Four seasons. Here are a few ideas:
· Firstly, what is this beings name(s)? Does it have regional variations? What’s the scientific name and why? What about in other languages in your bioregion?
· Is it edible? Medicinal? Poisonous?
· What folklore can you find on this being? Celtic stories? Transitional stories of your land?
· Visit this being regularly. This particular one may be gone when you return- where can you find another of the same species? How does it feel if it’s gone?
· Aim to visit it weekly, but at a minimum visit during each month. When you do visit, treat it as a friend and a teacher. It is common in such an apprenticeship to be in council, to share your worries and fears or your good news and dreams. Listen for a response. It can help to have a notepad. Some of my greatest insights came from a birch tree in Shropshire. Wise birch trees in that land!
· If it is edible, harvest some (adhering to the Honourable Harvest*** and the laws of your region) and learn some ways to prepare it.
· If its medicinal, do as above.
· Remember this is a relationship of reciprocity. What might you give in return? Traditionally one may offer tobacco. Today we might spread their seeds, protect their habitat, change something in our lives to align to the flourishing of wild nature. Be creative.
· Remember, this being is not a commodity and it is not yours. Share the gifts with your wider community (including the birds and insects) in any way you see fit.
Come back to this post to comment on who your teacher is and how the experience has been, or share your discoveries with others however you wish. When loved ones hear of your experience, they may also go in search of a teacher!
If this all feel a bit esoteric or hippy, remember its an invitation to take as your wish. Be creative and work with it in a way that fits for you. The important concept is that a plant, tree or fungi will have lots to teach us, if we are willing to pay attention. We already receive a great deal from the wild, whether we appreciate that or not. Entering into relation in this way reignites our belonging and better aligns us to the creation of a more beautiful world for the generations to come.
This blog is like a taster of my online Deep Ecology programme. If you're intrigued by this exercise, you can sign up to the course here.
***Robin Wall Kimmerer. The “Honorable Harvest”: Lessons From an Indigenous Tradition of Giving Thanks. YES magazine 2016. Available online
Ask permission of the ones whose lives you seek. Abide by the answer.
Never take the first. Never take the last.
Harvest in a way that minimizes harm.
Take only what you need and leave some for others.
Use everything that you take.
Take only that which is given to you.
Share it, as the Earth has shared with you.
Reciprocate the gift.
Sustain the ones who sustain you, and the Earth will last forever.