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Talking to the Woods
Having words with the flora and fauna
WARNING: This post contains strong language which may not be suitable for young readers or people who have an aversion to the words poop and m*therf**ker.
Walking and Talking
Here it is, the tail-end of 2023, and I suddenly find myself ensconced in middle-aged personhood — yes, me over here with my thickening physique and newfound fearlessness at expressing my own opinions, even those that are contrary. I also find myself walking in the garden, talking to trees, plants and wild animals, both large and small. Talking out loud. And often.
It might be greetings to early morning squirrels or salutations to a newly budding shrub. Audible comments made to flora and fauna for no reason at all. Which is to say that once I replace my sturdy, denim jeans for ankle-length, flowy skirts resembling nightgowns to wear on my daily trail walks, the transition to Forest Witch will be complete. And I look forward to it!
I could guess where the scientific community sits on the issue of talking to plants and whether or not it truly makes a difference in their growth. Yet verbal encouragement has been a staple of the average plant caretaker’s tool box for many decades. Maybe longer.1 I don’t have any data to back up this method of nurture, but I do know that it feels right to talk to plants.
As an equal opportunity land owner, I don’t support discrimination. I don’t believe in talking to some plants and giving the silent treatment to others. I don’t focus my diatribes on flattery and encouragement alone. No. I talk to the nasty flora as much as to the benevolent. On any given day, an innocent bystander might overhear me saying, “You’re the star of the show” to the young Koto-no-Ito maple, or exclaiming “You’re safe here; I’ll take good care of you,” to the latest volunteer madrona to land near the garden. While someone might just as likely hear me yelling, “You’re going to die today, motherfucker!” to a new-found patch of blackberry or holly.
I do this. I do it often. I believe in verbally shaming and intimidating invasive plants as much as I do in encouraging and caressing those that we’ve collectively decided are the most beneficial, prized, and worthy of our coveted garden spaces.
I’m not sure if there’s an appropriate definition these days for what constitutes an invasive species. Ultimately, one could argue that Homo sapiens is the most invasive species of all. Or will prove to be, at least for some period of time. But I do know there are some truly bad apples out there on the back 40—plants that arrived unannounced and uninvited to suffocate the more historically thriving ones, the latter of which the birds, insects, and pollinators have relied on for centuries in order to survive.
Hence, the cursing. I feel justified in my vocal rants, and maybe the blackberries and butterfly bushes and ivy don’t get their feelings hurt. Maybe they can’t be shamed into not growing back. But it feels just as good to belittle a creeper as it does to compliment a stunner.
Did I mention that I miss the barn swallows? It’s so quiet and clean here now without them dashing around the house and pooping all over the deck. Sigh. This must be why the previous owners planted the Japanese and Chinese maples, magnolias and Parrotia trees all around the house — the vibrancy of the pink-red-orange-copper colors streaming onto the white walls of the house makes me forget, for a little while, that most of the birds have left for their winter adventures, and I won’t see them for quite some time.
The tiny ones have returned. And just a few weeks ago I was lamenting that I would never see them again. The trail is generous, indeed.
In an amusing coincidence, the photos above were taken exactly five years to the day when I photographed the same type of mushrooms on these trees.
And finally, some good ol’ fashioned moss: velvet of the gods.
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Has anyone done research on this? When did it become ‘ok’ to talk to plants? I mean, women were burned at the stake for behavior that was far less controversial than encouraging a violet to bloom by touching it softly telling it how beautiful it is.