By Meaghan Thompson
During a recent dinner conversation with friends, the subject landed on the meaning of place and how one can have the feeling of being “home.” One friend said they didn’t particularly feel at home anywhere, that they could pack up and go as they please. Others expressed how they wouldn’t want to leave their places of home because of the bonds they felt with the land. As for myself, I fall somewhere in between, able to pack up and go as I please, while still forming a sense of home with the land I inhabit. Over the past year I had the opportunity to live and farm on a beautiful piece of land in West Virginia. Along with the flowers, herbs, and vegetables I grew in the gardens, I made a point to plant as many native plants as I could throughout the meadows and forest. All the while knowing I would be leaving the place with which I was forming a bond.
A few days after that conversation I sat by the stream that cascades down through the forest where I had planted some calamus (Acorus calamus) and wild ginger (Asarum canadense). A realization came to me. For most of my life I have never lived in the same place for more than a few years. Since childhood I have always been moving. But no matter where I am, I do what I can to make it feel like home. Since my early twenties this has very much involved plants. Even when I know I will be leaving, I devote my time to establishing a garden for food and medicine, meeting the plants that already live there and introducing, (or in most cases re-introducing) new ones. Yes, it can be very hard to leave my green friends behind, but the work is always worth it. I know the plants will continue to grow after I am gone and be a blessing to the next person.
Thinking of the land I recently left, I am happy about the native plants I brought there over the past year: bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), wild ginger, wild yam (Dioscorea villosa), sweet Cicely (Myrrhis odorata), false Solomon’s seal (Smilacina racemosa), wood betony (Stachys officinalis), calamus (Acorus calamus), echinacea (Echinacea spp.), scarlet beebalm (Monarda didyma), and butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). I think fondly of the green ones that were already there: yarrow (Achillea millefolium), goldenrod (Solidago spp.), St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), ghost pipe (Monotropa uniflora), black cohosh (Actaea racemosa), and pink lady’s slipper (Cypripedium acaule). I planted elderberry, white pine, spruce, and persimmon trees, but oh how the glorious oaks, maples, sassafras, paw paw, and poplar trees that made up the majority of the forest there were ever so gracious to me. All of the green kin in that place I hold so dear to my heart—I will always see them in my minds eye and feel their spirits.
In my new home I will continue to plant a garden, re-introduce native plants, and learn as much as I can from my green allies already there. Wherever I am I will do my best to enrich the land as much as possible. Perhaps it is my duty to be a pollinator, spreading love one plant at a time. Perhaps I should walk through the meadows and woodlands casting native seeds wherever I go making the entire world feel like home. I am always hoping the next human finds and recognizes the treasure of plants that surrounds them and that they will learn from the green ones and feel the love and joy that the plants graciously bestowed upon me.