I like to spend time playing with plants, both in the woods and in the garden. There is something profoundly grounding about connecting deeply with the earth, whether through my feet feeling the tree roots as I walk a forest trail or my hands burrowing in as I wildcraft, weed, plant, and harvest. This grounding helps me feel my place in the world: among the plants, part of their world, their roots merging with mine. Through them, I feel my own place in the world.
As I both weed and harvest weeds, I think a lot about them and the labels we cast on them. So much that we are used to rejecting is actually useful, from the highly nutritious amaranth and purslane that can feed us from late spring into autumn to the goldenrod that can treat allergies, colds, and UTIs to the Japanese knotweed that can nourish us and treat Lyme. The weeds remind me not to reject anyone too hastily; we are all both helpful and harmful.
The plants also remind me, again and again, to speak out against xenophobia—whether towards humans or plants—and other forms of bigotry. Their benefits remind me that we need to help feed, nurture, and heal each other. Their malignment reminds me that we need to disrupt this impulse to malign. Many of the weeds also take in both water and nutrients from deeper in the earth than the more celebrated cultivars. The weeds that do this share some of the water and nutrients with other plants, as they do their healing compounds. We, too, must get better at sharing resources.
As we engage in tshuva, the annual process of turning ourselves over and returning to our deepest selves, turning over the soil and returning to our green world can help us find our way.
Nina Judith Katz is a writer, editor, Ma’yan Tikvah teacher, herbalist, and gardener.
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