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Thread: Respecting Plants

  1. #1
    Head Above Water habbalah's Avatar
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    Respecting Plants

    While I'm not really an animist, I respect the fact that plants are alive and if I take them, I am ending a life. I've been working under the guideline of "if you take something, leave something", when I've done things like gather leaves, dropped acorns, etc, but I'm not sure how to properly respect a plant I'd find in the wild if I wanted to gather it. I wouldn't take an entire plant unless it was small, and I don't plan to break tree branches, but taking a flower from a bunch, tree bark, things like that, what is the best way to be respectful?
    “You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.” -- Bruce Lee

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    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: Respecting Plants

    Say thank you.

    Generally (with the exception of certain plants) they are not harmed by being pinched, as long as they aren't young enough that you are taking the first set of leaves. In fact, most plants tend to grow better with a little pruning.
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    Head Above Water habbalah's Avatar
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    Re: Respecting Plants

    Quote Originally Posted by B. de Corbin View Post
    Say thank you.

    Generally (with the exception of certain plants) they are not harmed by being pinched, as long as they aren't young enough that you are taking the first set of leaves. In fact, most plants tend to grow better with a little pruning.
    What about in the case of taking an entire plant? We have some sweet alyssum growing in our yard, for example, and they're tiny flowers. I plan to pull them up completely. One because they're small, and two because it's getting colder and they're all going to die soon anyway.
    “You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.” -- Bruce Lee

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    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: Respecting Plants

    Quote Originally Posted by habbalah View Post
    What about in the case of taking an entire plant? We have some sweet alyssum growing in our yard, for example, and they're tiny flowers. I plan to pull them up completely. One because they're small, and two because it's getting colder and they're all going to die soon anyway.
    I would be sure to leave some so that they reseed themselves (if they do that in Michigan. I don't know). If you do, you are thinking them out and the seedlings will most likely grow better.

    Or, if they don't reseed, maybe show your respect by seeding in the spring.

    My concern - as you can probably tell - tends to be more about the preservation of the plants than about an abstract spiritual thing
    Those who have suffered understand suffering and therefore extend their hand.

    I can't do everything, but I can do something.

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    Head Above Water habbalah's Avatar
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    Re: Respecting Plants

    Quote Originally Posted by B. de Corbin View Post
    I would be sure to leave some so that they reseed themselves (if they do that in Michigan. I don't know). If you do, you are thinking them out and the seedlings will most likely grow better.

    Or, if they don't reseed, maybe show your respect by seeding in the spring.

    My concern - as you can probably tell - tends to be more about the preservation of the plants than about an abstract spiritual thing
    Sure, and I understand that, and I don't plan to take, say, the only flower in a forest. Just a small amount of whatever. It's as much about being spiritually respectful as being respectful to the plants as a whole. We have a ton of sweet alyssum. Mom planted white and purple, but the white took over and they're growing everywhere, even into the sidewalk and driveway. I don't plan on touching the purple ones, because they are so few.
    “You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.” -- Bruce Lee

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    Sr. Member Herbert's Avatar
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    Re: Respecting Plants

    I always try to give the souls of the plants I end up pulling (mostly for weeding purposes) a little extra 'bonus', in the form of a shot of energy so they can smoothly sail to their next life. Sometimes I offer them jobs. But it's rather impolite to kill someone without a tip, even if their lives are devalued by shortness and lack of sapience (I mean, really, how would you feel if someone killed you and proceeded to desecrate your corpse? It might be necessary for the lesserspirits sometimes, but it's still a task to be taken seriously.)

    And let them reseed themselves.

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    Opinionated Rae'ya's Avatar
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    Re: Respecting Plants

    I don't work extensively with plants, but I have been through this exact same issue myself over the years, particularly since getting my bird, who requires fresh native flowers most days, and fresh whole branches weekly. I feel like I'm forever popping outside to tear a branch of a tree, or take flowers for Noodle... then factor in the herb plants in the backyard that I'm always snipping bits and pieces off, and the vegetable and fruit plants that we harvest daily.

    What I've worked out is this....

    - Plant spirits are connected in ways that human or animal spirits aren't. Trees are individuals, and are a little closer to how we would view an animal spirit, but as you get down towards shrubs and flowers, it starts to get a bit more... diffuse. If I go out to my strawberry patch, there is a spirit of the strawberry patch... not of the individual strawberry plants. I think this is largely due to how the plants reproduce... plants that multiple via runners or bulbs and spread out like a little community seem to have a community spirit. So if I were to rip up one strawberry plant, I wouldn't be killing that plant's spirit, but reducing the number of vessels that the strawberry patch spirit inhabits. Does that make sense? When it comes to things like carrots, it seems to be about the spirits ability to reproduce... if I rip out every single carrot, then that spirit has nowhere to live and I've effectively 'killed' it. But if I let some carrots go to seed, then the carrot spirit lives on.

    - Plants have a different view about life and death than we do. They are much more connected to the 'circle of life' type attitude than most humans are. I was actually taught this lesson by a giant Tingle tree that most people would consider 'dead', as it had fallen over. Torey and I went to a place called the Valley of Giants in Western Australia a few years back, and it was a really amazing spiritual experience for me. As we were walking through the Tingle forest, I was attempting (with success) to connect to the trees and that landwight of the forest. As well as the giant live trees, there were some fallen ones that had been left where they were as a part of the guided walk. I touched one of them as I walked past and it was still 'alive'. It wasn't in the ground anymore, and it didn't have actual life... scientifically it was dead... but spiritually it was still alive. It taught me that what a plants physical body dies, it's spirit is still a part of the land spirit complex of the place. It's spirit dies very, very slowly, and even then it's not the spirit 'dying', but being absorbed back into the environment around it. It's spirit dissipates rather than dies. This does apply to natural causes only... if a forest is felled en masse, you've killed that forest and all those trees and the spirit is gone. But if a storm rages through and some trees are felled, they are absorbed back into the rest of the forest spirit and sort of taken in by their neighbours, by the landwight, and by the ecosystem of the forest itself.

    - Plants that are foodstuffs don't seem to mind that much, because they are absorbed into us. This is actually on my spiritual to-do list... to work with the spirits of foodstuff plants more closely and to see the difference between homegrown and storebought. But the carrots don't seem to mind being pulled up and eaten. The asparagus doesn't seem to mind me chopping off it's spears when they get to a certain height. But my mum's garden is mostly self-propagating. She lets some of the plants go to seed each year, and sometimes collects seeds to use the following year. I think that plant spirits stay connected to their seeds in way that human spirits don't. When we reproduce, a new spirit inhabits the foetus. When plants reproduce, it's like their spirit extends into the seeds, so they are literally continuing on through their offspring. Trees and bushes seem to be a bit different though... they split off into new entities.

    - Chopping off a branch is not the same as chopping off someone's finger. The trees that I take branches off seem to be more concerned about HOW I take it off than what I remove. If I cut it off smoothly, they seem happy for me to take it. If I try to break it off and it tears, then there is more damage done to the tree and they don't really like that. When I cared for rosebushes, my relationship with them actually strengthened as the years went by and I pruned them regularly... the pruning allowed them to grow more healthily the following season, so even though I was chopping off branches left, right and center, they didn't mind in the slightest.

    - How much you take matters. Taking one branch and rotating which trees I take from seems to be well accepted. But I think that if I were to take from the same tree every week, which would affect the tree's ability to be healthy itself, then I would be in trouble for that. This MAY be specific to Australian Eucalypts, because that's the only tree I ever take full branches off... but Eucalypts will actually drop their own branches when it gets too hot or if there are not enough nutrients (never sit directly under a gum tree on a hot day), so they don't seem to care much if you take one here and there. I've read that when wild harvesting, you shouldn't take more than 10% of the plant's harvestable produce, or more than 10% of the plants in the area. I'm sure this is just an arbitrary figure that someone came up with... my experience is that it's the plants chance of reproducing that matters. Which means that for each plant, how much you can take will depend on the plant species, how it reproduces, and what time of year it is.

    - What you take matters. With the trees, I try not to take new growth branches. I have taken new growth branches, but only when there is a concentrated patch and it looks like they would benefit from being thinned out anyway (sometimes the branches are so heavy that they are drooping down, and I get the feeling that it's okay to lighten the load a bit). Cutting off dead branches is not always well accepted... this I was taught by a bush at my previous house, which had started to die off (lack of water I think). I was cutting off all the dead branches so that the new growth had a chance and it didn't look so terrible. But it wasn't getting any better, even with extra water. When I asked it how to help it, it told me to leave it alone. I stopped pruning off the dead branches and kept watering it, and it started to come back. So just because a branch is dead doesn't mean that the tree doesn't want it!

    - Let them know what you are doing. I always walk around the tree and look at the branches, then find one that I think will be okay. I touch the branch and tell the tree this is the one I'm taking. Then wait for a second and see if I get a feeling from the tree. Then I cut it off as smoothly as I can. I do the same for flowers that I'm taking off. Fruiting trees and plants don't seem to care... their survival is not dependent on the fruit they produce, so they don't mind what or how much fruit you take.

    - I actually don't give anything back, aside from my thanks and my respect. I care for the plants in my yard, ensure that they are watered and fed and that I'm not doing anything to their detriment. That seems to be enough for them. Neglected plants get a bit funny about you harvesting from them, but cared for plants don't seem to. The trees don't need me to do anything for them, and they seem to be happy with a respectful relationship. The rose bushes used to demand blood the first few years I had them (they'd been neglected by the people before us) but after a while they stopped biting me.

    - Weeds. I feel the need to say something about weeds here lol. Weeds don't seem to care about being killed. In some cases, I swear they just see it as a challenge. It seemed like no matter how many weeds I'd pull up, a new one would sprout the next day. I don't really know much about the biology and reproduction of weeds, so I don't know quite what impact pulling weeds has on the overall weed spirit. The only weeds that seem to care about being pulled up are the really big, well established things with the giant roots. The little ones are very laid back.

    - Invasive plants. I take a 'greater good' approach to life in general, whether that be plants or animals. I prioritise the ecosystem as a whole, and the big picture of the landwight. So killing weeds and invasive plants is not actually an issue for me. Yes, I am killing plants and spirits by pulling out the entirety of an invasive plant community, but I'm okay with doing that because it's for the good of the landwight and the other plants in the area. I'm also fine with killing invasive species en masse in certain circumstances. Life is life... whether we want it there or not. But you can't exist without killing things, so you just have to work out your moral compass in respects to how you prioritise life and work out a way to live with the fact that you've killed something (rather than live in denial about it). Most spirits seem to respect that.

  8. #8
    Head Above Water habbalah's Avatar
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    Re: Respecting Plants

    Quote Originally Posted by Herbert View Post
    I always try to give the souls of the plants I end up pulling (mostly for weeding purposes) a little extra 'bonus', in the form of a shot of energy so they can smoothly sail to their next life. Sometimes I offer them jobs. But it's rather impolite to kill someone without a tip, even if their lives are devalued by shortness and lack of sapience (I mean, really, how would you feel if someone killed you and proceeded to desecrate your corpse? It might be necessary for the lesserspirits sometimes, but it's still a task to be taken seriously.)

    And let them reseed themselves.
    Honestly, I have no real connection to my body. It's just a container for my soul and my spirit. Once I'm dead, I don't care what happens to my body (I will likely donate it to science). I'm not devaluing plants. I just don't have much experience with it. When I was picking up things like fallen acorns, I left pennies behind (to give back).

    Rae'ya, you have given me a lot to think about. Thank you.
    “You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.” -- Bruce Lee

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  9. #9
    Supporter kalynraye's Avatar
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    Re: Respecting Plants

    I was taught if I take part of a plant, I give my thanks and leave part of myself in return. So if I take leaves, bark, flowers, and the likes I leave a few strands of hair.
    "If you want to know what a man is like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals." -- Sirius Black

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  10. #10
    Head Above Water habbalah's Avatar
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    Re: Respecting Plants

    Quote Originally Posted by kalynraye View Post
    I was taught if I take part of a plant, I give my thanks and leave part of myself in return. So if I take leaves, bark, flowers, and the likes I leave a few strands of hair.
    This actually sounds like a really fair exchange.
    “You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.” -- Bruce Lee

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