always ask and other lessons from stinging nettle

17 05 2010

Today, little A and I went down to the river (to pray) to gather nettles.  We were excited to see how much they had grown in the last couple of weeks.

When we got to the nettle patch, I was surprised at the size of the nettles.  Two weeks ago, these little creatures were not more than 6 inches high.  Today, many of them were three times that.

Now, it is my humble opinion that if you are going to decapitate anything you should always ask, nettles being no exception.  Most plants are actually quite gracious that way, and freely offer their tasty leaves to eager hands and mouths. Nettles, especially, like to be asked.

So, walking into the nettle patch, giving thanks for their generosity in helping me build my body, I started to pick. And every time I asked consciously, the nettles didn’t sting me.  And every time I asked, didn’t listen to the answer and picked anyways (usually through distraction) I got stung.  Needless to say, nettles are a fantastic journey in mindfulness.

As an aside, I must say that before I entered the “forest” I gave an offering to it of sacred herbs.  Some place offerings at the specific sites, to specific plants.  Most of the time, I feel drawn towards offering to the larger area, as it is just as important as that one patch.

Picking stinging nettles with a two and half year old, super curious being is a very interesting game.  In one way, I certainly did not want little A to get stung.  I don’t enjoy it too much and I thought it might be an overwhelming sensation for her. On the other hand, this is how children learn and a nettle sting isn’t going to hurt her in the long term.  The former belief seemed stronger as my mother is visiting tomorrow and I could just hear her saying “and you let her pick nettles with you?!”  ;P

However, little A was more curious in the wild raspberry canes growing around the nettles than the nettles themselves, though she did touch a few just to prove to be that they didn’t want to sting her.  Thanks nettles for teaching me faith. 🙂

One of the patches that I go to is being overgrown by garlic mustard, which is a pretty invasive species, though quite delicious.  The nettles were telling me that they wanted a little space from the mustard so I went to pulling out some garlic mustard.  There was quite a lot of it there, as garlic mustard is a pretty efficient reproducer and grower, much like dandelions.  As I pulled I asked the garlic mustard to come out of the ground and leave some room for its friend nettle.  It was quite cooperative and after pulling about 50 plants, I got distracted and starting pulling without asking.  So, what happens?  I step, with my bare feet, on a nettle plant!

Now, this may seem inevitable to be stung on the feet when going bare foot in a nettle patch, but it’s never happened to me before.

I stopped pulling out garlic mustard and left the rest of the patch alone.  I felt a little embarrassed.  :blush

When we finished picking nettles from a couple other spots on the trail, we turned back towards the baby car (read: stroller) to head home.  The nettles were in a plastic bag and little A was very adamant about carrying them.  Once we got to the baby car she wanted to cuddle with them and “keep them safe on her lap”.

She discovered a hole in the bag and decided to pet the nettles that she loves so much.  Coming again to the place of indecision, I told little A that nettles could sting her so she might not want to touch them.  “No, mama,” she said, “nettles no sting me.” And she continued petting them inside the bag.  And she was right; she didn’t get stung.

Another lesson of nettles: children are very good at bending the laws of time and space.

As I’m pushing little A home she finishes cuddling the nettles and starts to “play a game with them”.  She’s kicking them and laughing and telling me that nettles are funny and playful and they like to play with her.  She says she’s made a new friend and they make her laugh.

Next lesson from nettles: everything is alive and interacting in glorious ways with us always.  Children are so wise and perceptive to pick up on it. As I age, I am glad to have little A and nettles to remind me of the magic in all things, especially the wild.

Tomorrow morning we will eat nettles for breakfast!  Delicious!  And I will hold inside of my body, to create my cells out of, all the lessons that I received today.





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