Bittersweet: Prelude to the Season of Saying Good bye

Last week my family spent time in what I call “mi casita de gracia”— my little house of grace. This house, a Monterey colonial built by my grandparents in 1936, passed onto my mother, and then came to serve as home to my family (in various years) and to my brother’s.

House of Grace - photo by Jane Valencia
House of Grace – photo by Jane Valencia

For the past two summers, my family and I have taken time to clean and clear the house, removing the plum forest (delightful trees though they are) that had sprung up and taken over a third of the backyard, and tending to the needs of the house. The house in this transition time has been largely free of furniture and “stuff” — just having what we need to stay there comfortably, and for my older daughter to live there during the past year-and-a-half. Tending to the house and the yards in this open, sweetly empty space has been nourishment indeed, a reaching into the tilth of extended family connections, our own continuing story in the Bay Area (even though we are staunch citizens of the Pacific NW), our heritage and matrilineal connections, the grace of home, and the kindness of the plants.

Late summer is that time of nourishment, of first harvest, and of tending to the nourishing Earth of ourselves. It’s a time for resting into the replenishing sweetness of our lives and to digest and assimilate what the year has offered so far. Yet we are poised between the resplendent activity and demands of Summer with lives in full motion, and the season of release and small and large deaths that comes with Autumn, and so for me — I find a bittersweet quality emerges: I love and take nourishment; I rest into whatever I can (and find that my thoughts too are eager for rest; it’s a little more difficult to rally them into focused action!). And I begin to meet the aspect of “letting go” that Autumn brings — to wonder what will be asked of me or that I will demand of myself.

In the case of mi casita de gracia, I’m saying good bye to this sanctuary  and home-away-from-home for my family and myself so that my brother’s family may move back. This is the cycle of things with this house, and it tells a larger loving family story. I feel and taste the bittersweet of loving a place and time, and letting it go. Again.

As women in family and community, we all have stories that cross the years, even decades. We are like the plants in that way, nestled into a ground that is our lives within a warp-and-weft of ecology: relationships, stories, the comings and goings around us and that include us. We are rooted in the ground, and, like the plants, we have an intelligence that threads through the minerals and soil that might be rich in places and desperate for nourishment in others. We too are in communion and community with each other, and with our more-than-human kin.

In the Mother Earth of our lives, we, like the plants send out root-tips of self, probing in many directions for the easeful (if possible!) and right ways through that will feed our family (yes, plants have families too) and ourselves, and welcome growth and resilience, and our fully expressed and healthful natures. Like the plants, we have helpers. In their case, for instance, mycelium offer a “world-wide web” of connection that allows nutrients and chemical information to pass from a plant to non-local relatives and even to other species. The world below our feet is far more cooperative, bustling, and amazing  than we may have been raised to believe!

In any case, we too have helpers in the sightless realm, in the dark and living earth of our lives. Plants in particular have a special relationship with us humans — and, I believe — are particular allies to women. The relationship goes back to the beginning time, and it has everything to do with shared ancestry and our biological/archetypal directives regarding giving and receiving. The plants are this way too. More about that another time.

First Harvest: Blackberries! - Photo by Jane Valencia
First Harvest: Blackberries! – Photo by Jane Valencia

And now for a little Plant Medicine Poem-making. Read the questions, muse on them some (but not too strenuously: It’s late summer after all! –not the time of year for rigorous thinking!). Then set them aside to go to the next part of the exercise.

Late Summer Pondering With a Plant

1. In this nourishing, abundant Earth/Mother Earth time of year (as opposed to the “bones”, stones, metals, and minerals time that comes later in the year) what is your “first harvest”?

2.What work have you done, what situations have you experienced, that you are now digesting? Assuming that you’ve been ingesting good quality “food” (life activity!) what are you assimilating into your being? How are those experiences strengthening you to move into the busy harvest, storing, up, and letting go season that is Autumn?

3. If the experiences are not so apparently nourishing, what is your body and being doing to move them along and out, and how is that going? Is there a way you can transform those experiences into something that is genuinely nourishing? If not, is there a way you nudge the release of the bitterness, sadness, or even toxic nature of those experiences?

4. What are the stories that are alive for you right now? How might they an expression or “next installment” of your ancestral story (whatever those words call up for you)?

Okay, so you’ve read the questions, let them settle some into the soil of your self. Now let them go. You are of course welcome to journal with them at another time.

At this point, hold the following notion without trying to identify just what you are thankful for: “I’m thankful for the gifts and nourishment of the year so far.” Place your hands on your belly (you may feel silly doing so, but humor me 🙂 ). Then drop you hands and the thought.

I sat with Aloe Vera. Photo by Jane Valencia
Aloe Vera, far-reaching and many-armed. Photo by Jane Valencia

Go to the nearest plant to you, inside or outside.

1. Introduce yourself to the plant (you can do this silently!) as if to a cousin you’re just meeting who you’ve heard has his/her own quirky and wise ways.

Example: Hi, Aloe Vera. I’m Jane, you know, your 70th cousin once-removed? [ok, dear Reader, you don’t have to say that part]. I’d like to sit with you a bit. Seeing as we’re sharing the same house and all, it feels about time … and, oh, I wonder what you make of this … [see next question]

2. Place your hands back on your belly. Now offer your apparently empty hands to the plant.

3. Drop your hands, and just sit with the plant, noticing anything you can about it. If you can, do this for 3-5 minutes, or longer if you’re enjoying the time and have it. Feel free to touch the plant, smell it, exchange breath with it, imagine things about it. How is this plants doing, healthwise? Is its soil right for it? Is it thirsty? Does it have any other needs? Does it seem vibrant or luminous in some way? How did the plant come to be here? Feel free to wonder about anything you like regarding the plant.

4. When you feel complete, thank the plant, give it a little water if you’d like. Journal about what you noticed. I like to journal in the present tense, as if I’m experiencing right now what I noticed a short time ago.

Example: I notice your many limbs, and the gentle, evenly spaced “spikes” along the edges of your nature. Your sturdy arms, some sealed off and “browned” where I’ve harvested you for your gel to heal burns and bites. The soil is dry but you are a succulent in good health. Yet surely you need a larger pot, and some care. Let’s see what I can do for you …

5. Let your experience rest. Take a break, wander about. Do something else for a short or long time. Then come back.

6. Time to fill in the blanks! Try to go with thoughts/images that spring to your mind as opposed to over-thinking this bit. It’s ok to be playful with this! By all means, do not attempt to be profound!

Name of plant:

Descriptive phrase about the plant:

Name some quality or ability that the plant has for you:

How might that quality/capability nourish you as you reflect on your  “first harvest” time:

Now, put all those phrases together into a First Harvest Plant Medicine Poem:


Aloe Vera
far-reaching and many-armed
Your ability to heal and keep making new arms
Inspires me to bravely put forth my own.

Care to share your experiences and your plant medicine poem? Please comment below!

Post by Jane Valencia

If You Were Sculpted of Flowers

Welcome to Women’s Nature Ways. We’re delighted you dropped by! For our first post, please enjoy some amazing art Stacey discovered of human organs sculpted from flowers, as well as a bit of fanciful imagining.

Lungs - by Camila Carlow, Eye Heart Spleen project
Lungs – by Camila Carlow, Eye Heart Spleen project
Uterus - art by Camila Carlow, Eye Heart Spleen project
Uterus – art by Camila Carlow, Eye Heart Spleen project

Artist Camila Carlow created a series of 13 images of human organs made from flowers and other plant material, of which those on this page are three. Read more about Camila Carlow and her Eye Heart Spleen project here.

In Women’s Nature Ways we celebrate the beauty and awesome mystery that exists within and around us — particularly by way of our own bodies, and of the plants. These images provide a lovely inner landscape for beginning that journey.

Leafy women (greenwomen) and women made of flowers are archetypes found in art and folklore. In a medieval Welsh tale, for example, the character Blodeuwedd is a woman made of oak, broom, and meadowsweet flowers.

Imagine that your lungs, heart, and uterus are made of flowers, berries, vines, seeds, leaves? Which plants are where inside you? Settle into that imagining.

Resting within your leafy, flower-filled self, what do you smell? What do you feel? Taste? Touch? Hear?  Cradle the notion that the plants and flowers in this imagining are both you and not you (but part of you). What might they have to communicate with you? Open your mind and heart. Receive whatever comes your way in the dreaming.

Heart - art by Camila Carlow, Eye Heart Spleen project
Heart – art by Camila Carlow, Eye Heart Spleen project

… Then, with a thank you to your flowery, leafy self, come back to who you are in the here-and-now (or think you are!)

We each have lungs, a heart, a uterus. Perhaps our organs are not flower-and-leaf filled, but they are certainly nourished physically, in part, by plants.

What are your organs to you? Do you regard them as you, not-you, something else altogether, or not at all? What might they be communicating to you? Rest into the possibility that your organs  (as well as many other aspects of yourself) might be talking with you all the time. What might they be saying? And are those words/fancies/feelings different from before, when they were plant-sculpted lungs, heart, or uterus?

With a thank you to your organ-ic self (forgive the word play!), come back to your usual orientation of self.

Has anything shifted in your perception of you?

Share any of your thoughts and musings below!

Post by Jane Valencia