On an unseasonably warm spring day, The Uplands hosted a Radical Plant Walk led by Marguerite Uhlmann-Bower, Traditional Clinical Herbalist / Consultant and retired R.N. The day began by acknowledging the ancestral homelands of First Nation Peoples, offering gratitude for the earth, and agreeing to a respectful approach with plants and nature throughout the workshop. The group was primed for a “radical” approach by noticing the ways we depersonalize, commodify, and at times vilify the plant world in our everyday lives and language. Marguerite explained that with a radical mindset to foraging, “…we deconstruct and dismantle colonial ideologies of superiority, privilege, extractive mindset and white supremacy.”
The group was introduced to several plant allies growing as “weeds” in The Uplands’ garden, including milkweed (a host plant for beloved monarch butterflies that offers spring nibbles if prepared carefully), ground ivy (an oregano-like, low-lying plant), and mugwort (a tall, enticing plant with sleep-promoting qualities). Marguerite also familiarized the attendees with the dynamic duo of yarrow (feathery looking leaves and white flowers that can halt bleeding) and plantain (an inconspicuous plant that soothes bites, burns, and scrapes).
After a transition to the shade of Cheriklo, Uplands’ black cherry grove, Marguerite brought out a device called Music of the Plants. Developed in an intentional community in Italy dedicated to understanding the function of nature as a living, intelligent force, this device can translate the electromagnetic impulse of the plants into melodies. Marguerite hooked the device up to purple bee balm, and the group enjoyed the sweet tunes under the cherry trees. Dandelion had a chance to play, too, and Marguerite accompanied their music with her words of admiration for the detoxifying plant.
The gathering ended with a group meal featuring plants foraged and prepared by Marguerite. Delectable nettle quiches, leek hors d’oeuvres, wild garlic mustard butter, and purple bee balm tea were enjoyed by the wild plant enthusiasts. With bellies full and minds expanded, the guests left emboldened to continue their personal journeys of radical plant relating.