Ten and more years ago I talked to the plants and the plants talked back, their cool green presence swelling inside my body until, like the Green Man’s pastoral mask, I felt their signature pour from my mouth, disgorged like a fountain from my interior space. I felt permeated, stuffed, full-up of poisons and foods, dreamers and drugs until I gave the knowledge they imparted a form on my page.
Slowly, slowly paragraphs grew like patches of moss. The words crept across my mental landscape, finally joining each other as the wisdom imparted by each spirit joined and created a surprisingly coherent view of the world. I shared my insights, first in private personal correspondence and later in private group correspondence. As the Green World’s geography took form in my experience I tried to sketch the nature of that reality.
The plants rose up and taught me, showed me their surprising and unexpected forms, and created bonds of allyship that endure to this day. Their spirits and chemistry got into my brain and changed me. Through their eyes I saw and I knew this world’s nature was not what I’d been taught theretofore.
Small portions of writing grew and finally the form of a book emerged in my head. I started mentally outlining the structure, a kind of guidebook to the Green World and an exploration of its interaction us ours; a spiritual field guide to the nature of my dearest poisons and protectors, a polite introduction to help people get to know the wights on their own terms.
I wasn’t alone. In apartments, homes, tents, shacks, cottages, and dorm rooms across the country and around the world other plant-people were doing the same kind of work. At the same time I was, people were suddenly hearing these green voices and feeling the pressure of thorn and root against their tongues. Compelled by a howling chlorophyll wind they started speaking – first just to themselves to clarify their experiences, then to others in their most intimate circles, than to peers across the electronic world, and finally to the public with the help of books made from the bodies of the plants themselves.
I wasn’t alone. The Green World rose up and grasped a surprising number of us, but we all felt quite alone and isolated in those early days as we struggled through chemistry tomes, anthropology textbooks, field studies forgotten by scholars and neglected by the academy for analytical flaws but still possessing gems of wisdom that confirmed our teachers’ own words.
I wasn’t alone. People flew with the help of dark green salads stuffed with mushrooms, berries, and sap to rediscover a witchcraft heritage that had dwindled but never really vanished. We made tinctures and tonics to discover the best way to amplify the spiritual presence of each herbal infant and intensify the virtues. We found that the spirit even more than the pharmacy was responsible for our flight. We found that the spirit even more than the pharmacy was responsible for our success. We found that the spirit even more than the pharmacy was responsible for our downfall.
I wasn’t alone – but I had to stop. My work with my beloved Green allies was backburnered and then entirely abandoned as profound gender dysphoria arrested my entire being and embodied experience. Being forced into a milieu of mental strain and physical stress divorced me from my plant allies’ voices little by little. They never left – they never will – but the ones I was closest to were ignored. Whether this was by necessity or simply my own inability to maintain all aspects of my Work I’ll never know.
They never left – they never will – and I made new friends where I lived. I broke a dryad’s heart and mourn her sorrow to this day. I spoke with tree spirits, yew spirits, a mountain mother, many many many spirits and voices that I never would have encountered if I’d stayed in my quiet rural garden but all the same I lost my momentum and I stepped off that path and onto another. Although no less valuable, the accelerated spirit work that the dysphoria journey made possible was not what I wanted. I wanted to lay forever in the grass, be covered over by soft bodies, and dissolve finally into a death that would result in rebirth with a million eyes that faced ever upwards toward the sun.
They never left – they never will – and in the past five and more years I’ve seen so many of the people who, just like me, were discovering the Green World and taking notes and experimenting and trying and failing and eventually succeeding. I’ve seen the work they’ve produced as a result of being able to focus on that path and I am thrilled that the world can finally benefit from this incredible source of wisdom and I am jealous that my name isn’t on any work because I didn’t get to persist and I am sad because I feel like I am not worthy of my Green allies’ friendship and I am self-pitying because there is no reason for either jealousy or sadness. There is no contest. There is no finish line. There is enough discoveries for everyone to make and anyway, regardless of what another writes or learns every plant person must learn these things on their own anyway. But I’m sad. I wanted to be part of that world and for a while I was and then I wasn’t and now I feel like I am too lost, too sad, too diminished to be welcomed back.
They never left – they never will – and sometimes I still dream about them. Those spirits are in my head, inside my brain, and their bodies have become part of my body, their chemistry part of my chemistry and these facts are inescapable. I love them with a wrenching intensity that arrests my breath and twists my gut. I’ve had to choose to ignore their voices because they tell me about the poison soil and the sickly air. They tell me about their pain and yet they are so unrelentingly brilliant and beautiful and charitable and kind that I don’t know how we can even exist on the same planet together.
They never left and they never will and sometimes I come close to stepping back on that path, just a little bit. I feel them beckon me to take just a sip, just a nibble, just a whiff and join them again for communion.
It’s easy to feel a kind of professional jealousy when encountering another person who seems to be doing similar work to what you’ve yourself spent any number of years trying to refine. It’s easy to feel resentful of others who seem to be leveraging that work – work that you have done as well – into social currency, popularity, internet fame, or social status when you feel you have not been similarly rewarded. Even if you have not sought such rewards, when you see others getting them it’s easy, easy, easy to feel disgruntled on some level.
It’d be too simple to say that spiritual life is not a contest or a race or a competition and that there’s in fact no way to measure any part of such engagement. By what metric can spiritual engagement be measured? Is it a matter of weight, density, distance, or heat?
Humility, I remind myself; humility is called for because a humble perspective contains an honest perspective of both oneself and others. Humility encompasses “enough”; there is work enough for all, there is wisdom enough for all, there is joy enough for all, there is pleasure enough for all. The plants exemplify this gentle enough while slowly, slowly, seizing back a crumbling world that does not.