Over the years, the woods, natural spaces, and persistent street plants of this city have become the most constant place and teacher in my life. Jobs, houses, relationships all shift, but I return again and again to the rhythms of nature, and it comforts, grounds, and teaches me. Every winter, the plants die. Each spring, seemingly miraculously and beyond all hope, life pushes its way up, out of the buried seeds and roots, and starts anew. This calendar is meant to be a way to remind you, simply, to slow down and look -- at the ancient trees, at the little sprouts growing up in the sidewalk, at the wispy seeds riding the air. It's a way for me to begin to share what I've learned -- the plants can teach you your own lessons if you care to go out looking for them.
Included on this page are some personal notes, some informative links to help you learn more, an interactive map so we can share where we've seen what we're looking for, and plant ID images to give you tools to start looking! Enjoy.
a personal note
The fall of 2013 was a rough one for me. In the course of a few months, I lost my job, my living situation, and more than a few friends. My experience with depression has never been devastating, but it has always lingered on the edge of my psyche, and with all stability seemingly pulled out from under me, it was closing in. With no other way to occupy myself, I started walking. It was before the days of step-counting apps (and even before I had a smart phone), but I'm sure I walked dozens of miles, trying to outpace depression and to occupy my mind and body. I walked to the woods, not too far from my house. At first, I felt angry and a little betrayed -- all the trees and plants seemed as barren and dead as everything else in my life. Where was the green I needed, some sort of leaflet of hope? I had nothing to do, though, but keep walking. And the more I walked, the more my eyes adjusted, and started to see. I began noticing what few colors were thriving, hanging on the midst of the oncoming winter. I saw small, lusciously deep crimson dots on the end of thorny branches, sprinkled along the path on Boxer Trail. I saw other things, too: bright red berries caped in flaking yellow, tangling over trees and fences; I saw slender, symmetrical vines that still held their green; and every now and then, I saw ferns, splayed and smashed amongst all the dead leaves. I began doing some research on what I saw, and learned their names: multiflora rosehips, bittersweet vines and berries, Japanese honeysuckle vines, and Christmas ferns. Rosehips were the first I saw, and the truest teacher -- I learned that they were remnants of colonial hedgerows, escaped from the eventual neglect of their planters to make their own life in the woods. These tiny berry-like forms are packed full of vitamin C, too, and could boost my physical immune system even as they encouraged and lifted my mental health, too. The woods seemed hopeless at first, but I was learning. Learning that there was some hope to be found, learning to look, learning to see, learning to seek the goodness that exists and heals, despite the darkness that was closing in. I learned that when I sought the good, sought life, I eventually could find it, despite all odds.
Learning what to look for could literally heal me.
disclaimers & details
A few notes: Firstly, this calendar is arranged in months, but, obviously, Nature has her own rhythms that (though not unaffected by humans) is oblivious to our calendar. So, the plants listed in each month gives you a general idea of what to look for, but -- its up to you to get out there and look. Who knows what you'll find, and when? Secondly, I am aware that there is a great deal of environmental work going on amongst botanists and conservationists to remove invasive plants and support native ones. There is so much more to learn! You, too, can learn more and be of assistance by getting involved locally and educating yourself. I'm including some links below, please contact me if you have more to add! I reference a wide variety of plants in this calendar, native, non-native, invasive, cultivated, street-plants, forest-plants, all kinds. My main interest is to encourage some fresh looking and seeing amongst those of us who have no idea what to look for -- so some plants here are "good" and some are "bad," but, honestly, it is difficult to moralize plants. We humans have messed up a lot of things, and we have a very real responsibility to make it right; the plants themselves, however, are just doing what they do best. Thirdly, some plants are edible, some plants are poisonous, some plants are endangered, some plants will give you a nasty, uncomfortable rash. Please be respectful and don't mess around with them unless you know what you're doing. Please tread carefully, and respectfully, always.
This calendar is called "What to Look For." Just start with that, and go from there.
images & plant IDs
Where have you seen these plants (and more)? Join the conversation by clicking on the square shape in the upper right-hand corner. From there, it should open in MyMaps and you can add your own pins!