Speaking with Nature: Awakening to the Deep Wisdom of the Earth - Sandra Ingerman, Llyn Roberts 2015
Wood Sorrel - Llyn
Wood Sorrel and Mushroom
Imagine unexpectedly finding yourself among thousands of Wood Sorrel plants rippling across a rich, decaying rain forest floor.
Wood Sorrel patches are magical, summoning visions of nearby faeries. When the rain penetrates the forest canopy, its droplets land higgledy-piggledy on stretches of these three-leafed plants that closely resemble clover. Here, there, and everywhere, tender heart-shaped leaflets bow to gentle droplets of rainwater blessing. They spring right back like tiny bells being struck. It is no wonder that Wood Sorrel is often called “Faerie Bells.”
Redwood Oxalis, another name for the species commonly found in the Pacific Northwest, grows best in shaded, moist woodlands. Its bright green leaflets are a soft plum color on the underside with a reddish tint at the base of the stem. In late spring a fragile white flower appears on Oregon Oxalis.
Oxalis plants, sometimes called Shamrocks, radiate pure joy. The little Faerie Bells make you smile and forget about your concerns. Their presence in Pacific Northwest forests is mesmerizing.
So alluring is the “Love Plant” that I urge people to lie down upon the forest floor to appreciate them at close range. Imagine sleeping upon springy beds of moss near tender stretches of this cloverlike plant. Look what happened to Dorothy and Toto when they slept in poppy fields just outside the Land of Oz!
Kansas-bred Dorothy’s poppy-induced slumber has sparked some interesting conversations. People wonder if it was their red color or the opiate in poppies that made Dorothy groggy. When you lie amidst lush green blankets of Love Plants for midday naps, you won’t care what makes you dreamy.
The three heart-shaped leaves of Wood Sorrel are said to signify the mystery of the Trinity for Christians—as the “Hallelujah Plant”—and Celts (Seamróg, or Little Clover). Everything about Wood Sorrel is enticing, which is likely why it has so many endearing names.
Faerie Bells keep the door to life’s mysteries ajar. They grow from rich, moist humus that mirrors the fertile, receptive feminine void. A reminder of what is possible—the place of co-creation with spirit and nature—Sorrel rejects reductionist views and won’t even allow us to fix her by name.
Deer Clover, wise as she is gay, asks that we engage life inventively, understanding that not knowing is often potent beyond what others or we conclude or guess. Faerie Bells know how to frolic in the uncertainty of the ever-unfolding current of life. We can lose touch with this wonder-filled flow when we reduce life to what we believe, want, fear, or expect.
As a personal example, for years I held what seemed to be a logical assumption that my lovely black angora cat, Katie (who lived to be nineteen), would require a lot of care from me in her final days. Given this, I sometimes felt concerned over how I would meet an elderly cat’s needs.
Katie was a great teacher, as none of what I anticipated came to pass. Vibrant to the end, she simply walked into the forest one night and released her spirit into a giant spruce tree.
We can all relate to fretting over scenarios that never take place. Like Sorrel’s name play, we needn’t take ourselves so seriously or cast the future in stone.
The elusive Sour Trefoil is also known as “Cuckoo Sorrell” (not to be confused with cuckoopint). Cuckoo shows that notions can make us into complete fools. To obsessively peg life is really an effort to control life, which has little to do with life itself.
This message is timely. As the world shifts all around and we navigate personal twists and turns, why not tune in to our highest dreams—what our hearts and souls long for—instead of mentally sealing off the possibilities or even investing in the worst?
Cuckoo, the little Love Plant, encourages us to stay as centered and spacious through change as we can, leaving room for life’s design. My sweet Katie released into this deep place of potential; she literally and consciously walked off into the creative void. She and the forest planned elegantly for how to bring her precious life to a close. Had I relaxed my anxiety and expectations, I believe I would have tuned in to this earlier. Because we humans have so many ideas about things, we can miss the ongoing whispering of the spirits.
On sacred expeditions to indigenous cultures, I train myself, and instruct people on the trips, to get out from behind the camera lens, refrain from idle chatter, and forget about what we think we know and what we need to say, do, eat, or buy. Leave space for the rich tapestry of the moment. This allows the mind to merge with life’s creative force.
A compelling example of a person who adeptly blended intellect and inspiration, the mind with the soul, to do good work in the world was my dear friend John Mack, a Harvard psychiatrist whose book about T. E. Lawrence (known as Lawrence of Arabia), A Prince of Our Disorder, won him a Pulitzer Prize.
Dr. Mack’s impressive career spanned traditional psychiatry, social activism, the transformational effects of alleged alien abductions, and life-after-life. Here was a brilliant man who threw his heart into everything he did.
I once asked him, “John, you’ve worked in diverse arenas. How do you decide what’s next?”
Dr. Mack grinned widely, his blue eyes sparkling, as he answered, “I never do. The next step always appears; I follow my passion.”
This resounds with the philosophy of classic mythologist Joseph Campbell. His invitation to the sacred adventure of life—to follow our bliss—has become part of our vernacular. In a legendary interview with Michael Toms on New Dimensions Radio, Professor Campbell clarified:
“I’m not superstitious, but I do believe in spiritual magic . . . if one follows the thing that deeply gets you in your gut, doors will open up.”
Despite criticism and difficulty Dr. Mack’s spiritual direction was clear. He was at ease in co-creating with the fertile realm of potential.
Faerie Bells seem to offer that same encouragement, “May the force be with you, too!” Upon entering its passionate domain, never do you find one Faerie Bell growing alone; it’s easy to imagine that these delicate little plants communicate with and relate to one another.
Ants and animal herds function in a collective mind, why not plants? Could the millions of Deer Clover that dapple the forest floor be one organism, like an aspen tree or mycelium fungus?
Beyond possible biological connection, does Wood Sorrel rap with other forest plants in ways beyond what science measures? In other words, do trees and plants engage a group mind? And if so, does this collective field transcend individual ecosystems and unite plants and animals in other places on Earth?
Are we part of this unity?
Faerie Bells find us so silly.
“Yes, yes, yes!” they chime to such wonderings.
Imagine bright green leaves by the thousands, quivering like school children whose giggles are out of control. Everything is alive and communicating, a conscious field that invites us to participate.
“Explore the wild world and co-create with us!” prod the gazillions of Love Plants.
Sorrel opens and closes its paper-thin leaflets in response to temperature, light, and weather. When its three heart-shaped leaves close, they form a tiny pyramid that protects it and regulates how it receives and releases moisture.
In the same way, people are sensitive to the environment and, like Faerie Bells, open and close. Some of us are reclusive, and others love the spotlight.
These rhythms of opening and closing, expanding outward and withdrawing inward, are innate to life. Whether extroverted or introverted, we all know outgoing as well as quiet times. Likewise, we all take in air and then expel it. Spring and summer are seasonal exhalations, and in fall and winter, nature beings pull in their energy. The lakes and oceans expand as waves roll into the shore and then back to sea.
The swelling and withdrawing rhythms of water can also unfold over long periods. For example, houses built on the shores of Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan are flooding. The sacred lake is reclaiming the land and everything on it. Mayan elders in tune with the Earth’s rhythms say the lake, a living being, expands for sixty years and then recedes for sixty years. The old ones regard the dramatic rise and fall of water as a natural breathing cycle—the lake’s inhalation and exhalation.
The ancient Mayans were master observers of natural phenomena. They even tracked each day’s rhythms to harmonize with sacred cycles of time.
The expansive and retracting migration of elk in the Hoh Rain Forest, the ebb and flow of the rain, and the gentle opening and closing of Wood Sorrel mirror basic rhythms that are also within us.
Try exploring these rhythms by exaggerating them in your body:
To begin, wrap your arms and fold your legs tightly to your body, close your eyes, and tuck your chin to your chest, as if you are a snail shrinking into its shell or a Wood Sorrel shutting up in its little green teepee.
How does it feel to close into yourself?
Next, expand out by spreading arms, legs, hands, and fingers wide. Open your eyes and mouth and make a loud sigh, like a lion stretching in the sun.
How does opening out feel?
Wood Sorrel, happiest in shade and pulling back in sunlight, models shameless withdrawal. Yet when Sorrel opens it is unabashed.
“Open with exuberance or hide away in ecstasy!” says the liberated Love Plant. “No excuses are needed; the best design is to be exactly as you are!”
Feel free to continue to play with opening and closing movements whenever you think of it. Your body will become comfortable with these rhythms, which will help to ground you whether expanding or retracting.
Practice also to ease tension between introverted and extroverted tendencies and other in-and-out rhythms that may feel hard to reconcile, such as being in the spotlight or forcing mental energy to get things done in the world and, conversely, feeling quiet or folding in to regroup and/or intuit.
Little Faerie Bells remind us that expanding and contracting, moving inward and extending outward aren’t separate, but are divergent expressions in a continuum of experience.
Bridging exhalation and inhalation, solar and lunar, ebb and flow, intellect and instinct, and so forth helps us reclaim the whole of who we are.
Of the many lovely ways to court Wood Sorrel and open to its essence, one is to chew its tart leaf.
Also called Sour Sob or Sourgrass, Oxalis adds lemony, mouth-puckering zing to spring salads. A little goes a long way, as some forms of oxalic acid (which is also found in spinach, rhubarb leaves, beets, chard, peanuts, chocolate, and more) can be dangerous in large quantities. No one seems to know how much is too much, so you must ask Oxalis and start slowly.
The flavorful Love Plant’s fresh and dried leaves are also good medicine. Rich in vitamin C, Sorrel has been used to abate fevers, sore throats, swelling and stomach problems, diminish(es) bleeding, and help(s) other ailments.
Despite its being magical, beautiful, tasty, and healing, many view Sorrell as a nasty weed. Hardier than it appears, it stores energy deep in its roots. Deceptively resilient, Sorrel is prolific as well as difficult to kill. Yet those rugged roots that are the bane of gardeners serve a high purpose. Small but effective Wood Sorrel can extract heavy metals from the soil through its tough tubers; it cleanses the environment. We can work with these natural cleansing mechanisms of nature to restore our ecosystems. Phytoremediation elicits the help of plants such as Oxalis to clean up toxic lands.
It can also be transformational. Just note how you feel upon discovering in the forest a seemingly never-ending patch of clover-leafed Sorrel. Hang out with the gazillions of Love Plants, and just as they extract contaminants from the land, these little light beings will lift the angst right out of you.
It is impossible for me to hold on to difficult feelings when I come across them in the forest. They make the world feel as fresh as forest air. Easily seduced by Sorrel’s love spell, my heart cracks open every time.
People often ask how I can live in such a dark and isolated part of the world that receives up to fourteen feet (yes, fourteen feet) of precipitation a year. I sometimes struggle with the wet, dark environment where I live. One of the many gifts of this challenge is to bask in the energy that pours from all the life here. This green-plant paradise gushes oxygen and light, a force we can feel.
Living in darkness also pushes me to seek the light within my being. This light in our virgin forests is the Wood Sorrel, bright spirits ready to teach us that life is but a fluid dream. They support the bridging of divergent rhythms and help us merge and co-create with the creative feminine force.
The little Faerie Bells lift us to love and entice us to remember that nature and we are one. As we work together with the natural world, we transform our environment and nurture our souls.
Muse with Wood Sorrel and engage her wisdom in your own backyard or forest. If it doesn’t grow near you, muse with nature beings that have similar qualities: a field of clover, grasses or flowers, a grove of trees, flocks of birds flying by, or whatever calls to you.
Find a comfortable place to lie or sit, either indoors or out in nature. Ensure that you will not be disturbed. If you are inside, feel free to turn on a drumming track or other relaxing music.
Take a few deep breaths. Relax more deeply with each exhale, allowing your body to grow pleasantly heavy.
Imagine lying in a moist, lush forest amidst a huge patch of Wood Sorrel. Take all the time you like, simply relaxing and settling more deeply into the earth amidst an endless patch of Faerie Bells. Feel the love and light like a radiant mist all around you; make this experience as real as you can.
With each breath out, Faerie Bells naturally lift and lighten whatever you are ready to release. Don’t work at this; merely witness and allow it. Know it is happening.
What is bubbling up to find ease?
Practice this way for some time, simply being with Sorrel; allow its vibration, light, and love to infuse you and to ease whatever constricts you.
Take as long as you desire.
When you feel ready, freely explore the following:
What am I afraid of? At what times do I feel negative?
How do I keep a lid on my deeper expression?
Take some time.
As you explore, imagine where these qualities that limit you live in your body. Where in your body calls your attention?
Place your hands on these areas of your body, and invite Faerie Bells’ light to concentrate here with each inhalation.
You do not have to hold to life so rigidly.
Sense these places soften and become more spacious as Faerie Bells’ light saturates them with each breath.
Invite the held places to loosen.
Ask yourself, “What does it feel like to open more and relax? What’s possible?”
Feel goodness and space. Sense the life glow being breathed into you and awakening the creative feminine force.
As you breathe, imagine how easily a dream could replace a scheme.
Continue to breathe Faerie Bells’ light, inviting new possibility and potential to fill places of habit and worry. Soften the grip of limitation.
Breathe love, light, and space. Feel Faerie Bells’ light infuse and surround you.
When angst arises listen to the spirit of the Love Plant, which whispers to you about unity with the life force.
Take all the time you like.
When you feel complete with this experience, do some gentle stretching.
Now would be a good time to walk to a park or natural setting. Feel each movement and footstep open you to wonder and possibility.
Consider collecting nature items on your walk, such as dried twigs and leaves. Then select a place to craft these into a form that reflects how you now feel.
Co-create something beautiful, allowing nature to show you what form it would like to take. Have fun with this.
As you fashion an object, invite possibility to come alive. You can even speak aloud to nature and the realm of potential as you craft your item. Let the fertile feminine void hear your desire to manifest with it, to live ecstatically.
When you feel complete with the item you have crafted and the intentions you have infused it with, express your gratitude to the Earth.
You may, in fact, want to offer your creation to the Earth. Or, you can place your nature item in a special place in your home as a daily reminder to open your heart and relax your mind—to allow space for the fertile feminine force so you may co-create with her.