I wake up here in this little shelter, surrounded by the love of my life – Earth.
Although it is just me in this simple wooden structure, I am not alone.
The walls are open on all sides and I wake to see my relatives.
A cherry tree to my right, a hickory tree in front of me with sister ivy growing up the trunk, wild lettuce, poke, plantago, burdock and dock, just to name a few of the relatives keeping me company.
As I type, there is an insect on my right middle finger which I do not know by name but know by relationship. The bane to some existences – the fear of many minds – but a relative to me that I appreciate in wonder.
I reflect on how much of my fellow humanity would have spent a night in fear here and awoken uncomfortable and poorly rested. Yet as my eyes open, first focusing in on the diversity of green that surrounds me, I feel such a deep sense of comfort, of belonging and of my place in this world.
My only stress this particular morning is the rumbling of the cars on the highway beyond the forest and the dog barking a couple hundred yards away.
My eyes move from the plants beyond the walls of my open shelter to the jars full of a variety of plants on the shelves within. I see my love bottled up in these jars. Herbs that I brew my herbal teas with. Cabbage transformed into sauerkraut through my intentional relationship with bacteria and wild fermentation. Walnuts, chestnuts and hickory nuts reminding me of my busy Fall of foraging. Each jar has a story of place and time within it. My physical nourishment is contained within these jars, but so is my spiritual connection to Earth and to my plant and animal relatives.
There are no posters, no decorations, no items for the sake of sentiment within this temporary home of mine. Yet, there is more character and sentiment here than in most homes I visit that have been packed full of store-bought decorations.
I sit in my bed. The sun has risen, but it is still early morning light. I stretch my body and remember that I am here. I know this is the only body that I have for this life, so I vow to take care of it. Today I will take care of it, but many days ahead I will forget and neglect it, not to the utmost degree, but to a greater degree than I would like.
I hop down from my bed, in which my many jars, books and a few food processing tools are stored underneath and I walk toward the front door. By door, I mean a sheet of cloth that hangs across the opening to the small field outside.
I check my drying black cherries, of which there are much fewer than when I last looked, as Brother Raccoon had enjoyed a 6 a.m. snacking this morning as well as a squirrel friend yesterday evening. I am not dependent on these cherries and I know that these cherries are also our animal relatives’ food, too.
I am first called to tidy my space, as a Robin does to its nest each day. I sweep the wooden floor, shake out the cotton mat at the entrance and put away a few glass and metal dishes. I check my bubbling ferments, my dehydrating sea salt and my drying herbs in the baskets over head.
The small sticks I have collected from the woods along with some scrap pieces of paper light up in my small wood stove to create energy to transform cold spring water and dried herbs into a hot medicinal tea. This morning it is wild bee balm, mint and mullein I am sipping from my pint jar. I feel the heat entering my body and loosening up my stomach. It stimulates my digestion and awakens my mind.
My stomach is near empty, coming into the last hours of my intermittent fast. My bowels are asking to be emptied. I walk to my Toilet Paper Plant – Plectranthus barbatus – and pinch off a few soft leaves. Next to it sits mullein, my second choice of toilet paper. Nearly within arm’s reach, I lift the lid of my toilet and take a seat. Beneath me is not an elaborate system of pipes and sewers, merely a bucket full of my last week’s droppings, covered in dry sawdust. I let go of yesterday’s meals, drop in the soft leaves I have just used and cover it all up with a handful or two of sawdust. The minor amount of smell that escapes the sawdust dissipates into the endless open air that surrounds my outdoor toilet.
A day lies ahead. A day in which I will walk in balance between living in harmony with Earth and existing in a society that has become largely disconnected – stuck in the rat race of life. The world around me is not living with the same values I’ve designed on this little nook of land I call home. Some days I never leave and those are often my most peaceful and present of days. But my plant relatives are not asking me to to stay here with them each day. They have another plan for me. I am their servant. They send me into society to remind others that they, too, are here. That they, too, have a place in this home we share.
Indeed, they have been here long before us, holding relationship to this land that our modern society is only just reconnecting to. Thousands of Indigenous cultures already have known this – have lived it – yet many of them have lost it, too, as colonization and materialism have paved over land and cultures. The plants send me out into society to bring their messages and I share as they request me to. Amid the hectic pace of life, I am comforted because wherever I go they are there with me growing through the cracks of the sidewalks, rebounding from pesticide poisoning on the sides of the highways and holding strong in patches of forests, fields and edges throughout the lands I travel. They are a constant reminder of the resilience of Earth and a poignant reminder that should we manage to change our ways, we will be embraced by Earth and the plants and animals we share this home with.