An interview that Benjamin did for People and Plants-
How do you work with plants in the world? What is your work?
B: My work in the world is to celebrate and revel in the much-tangled interweaving between plants, animals, and humans- a tapestry so complex that all of the lines blur the deeper one looks to form a glorious, chaotic harmony. I have been talking to plants and trying my best to listen to their chlorphyllic voices since I first heard the singing of the creosote bush when I was 15. Since then I have strived to listen, more and more every day to the plants I interact with to learn the gifts that they have to offer. This has sprouted into many kinds of work.
I have been fed by the wild, more and more every year since starting to listen, and every year I try to do more to feed what feeds me. Much of my work is with food- doing my best to honor those that give their lives so that I may live, to know them, and all of the beauties and terrors that filled their lives and deaths. I do this work in the hopes of transforming the death that my hands and hunger create to be the ripe soil where more life may grow.
In the field of making plant medicine I have apprenticed myself to the most ancient, efficient and incredible makers of plant medicine, those lovely ladies whose wings carry the love of the flowers from one deep rooted to another, those who feed what feeds them so splendidly that they inspired the plants to grow more lovely in fragrance and color to entice their sweet attentions.
Basking in the reflection of the alchemy of those who live and die for the transformation of something as so fleeting as the sweet nectars of a mornings desire into the most immortal gold- a food that stays as nutritionally rich as the day it was made for thousands of years. Working in their shadow and their light has transformed every aspect of my life and the ways I approach plants.
Through both their promiscuity ( in working with any plant that offers up its nectar and pollen in abundance) and their faithfulness ( in sticking to just one species of flower for the entirety of each gathering trip) they inspire me to imagine old/new possibilities of potential of human plant interactions.
What is your passion concerning plant medicine?
B: I see plant medicine as a portal to destroy the division between humans and nature- the door to become an active dancing participant in the world all around us. An opportunity to remember that we are learned so much about what it means to be human from studying the tracks, footsteps, and wanderings of the great short-tailed shimmerer in the sky. The digger of roots, gatherer of berries, lord of the forest, catcher of fish, whose sticky paws drip with honey and who dreams the world into being all through the long winter. Most medicine we use today is plant medicine, whether you picked it from the soil and processed it your self or bought it from a store that processed it in a factory that extracted one specific property, the plants are living growing in soils and offering up their magical gifts to heal us.
Plant medicines are rich, complex multi faceted gems, who can present the face that is most needed at the moment. Many of them are shapechangers who can give what is needed most by the asker and the ingester. This is a richness and depth that most pharmaceuticals cannot begin to approach. Plant medicines have the power to awaken our ancestral memories of the living, singing, soul and divinity of every tree and deer, every stone and seed. To be healed by a plant is to indebt yourself to the plants, to be adopted by the green world: to remember that the plants are our ancestors and to step up to the immensity of the gifts we have been given and our responsibilities to the future.
In what way do you consider yourself a plant person? Share with folks why you love plants and why you work with them.
B: When I find myself in a new place the first thing I do is check out the plants, smell them, taste them, ask them their names and how they like to party. I often feel more comfortable around plants then I do people. Why do I love plants? Because they can grow out of concrete and offer up delicious fruits.
They can transform industrial wastelands into wild gardens for pollinators, animals and humans. I love them because they are magic. The creation of sugar from sunlight is nothing short of the miracle that most life is based on, and those green beauties who give it, define generosity in a way so much fuller, broader, and wider than English can begin to approach. This generosity defines freedom for me, in it’s lack of fear, it’s selfless gifting to futures I can’t even imagine with my sophisticated monkey brain. I believe plant intelligence is interwoven in the fabric of time to be both rooted in the soils of the past and breathing into the airs of the lungs of the future. I love them for their tenacity- Japanese Knotweed that keeps growing thru poison, chainsaw and concrete poured over her, for their power to bend and change reality, to give life and to take it away, I love them for their ability to intoxicate, their beauty- the ancient majesty of the thousand year old cedar trees at the grove of the patriarchs. For me working with plants is transforming myself into human soil where all of these qualities ass well as their delightful bodies may grow.
What is your dream that you are hoping to bring into the world?
B: Much of the growth of modern western civilization has been reflected on the landscape by a narrowing of diversity- the destruction of forest to create weeded tended fields of a single species, genocidal campaigns on predators to cement man’s domination of the wild. The way we interact with the world is the way we interact with each other, manifested in the oppression of human diversity- fear of what is different, persecution of diversity in culture, language, religion, appearance, and sexual expression, and the demand to assimilate often with the threat of violence overshadowing. The way we interact with the world is the way we interact with ourselves- growing into humans who don’t know how to sing, or how to listen, who are afraid of death and thus of life, who fear the dark and all it could conceal, as well as our inner diversity, predators, and multiplicity.
I dream of the seeds that sleep inside of us awakening, like fireweed that slept under the old growth forest for a thousand years waiting for catastrophe/opportunity of the great fire for the chance to thrive and bloom in the sun, to offer sweet nectar in abundance to the future. Our bodies remember. The plants remember. The deer remember. We have spent much more time as a species remembering our place in the great orchestra of life, dancing in reciprocity, than we have in this state of whitewashed amnesia. I dream of fields full of so many species, dancing together, the 3 sisters, being just the beginning of what plant co operations can be forged if we listen and learn. Dinner plates so full of stories that it takes the entire night for us to tell them and sing our gratitudes and indebtedness. I dream of farming morphing into tending, humans who ask the world what it wants instead of forcing their will. When we can see and taste the gifts of the plants in their fullness, the old wounds of psyche, and flora, and fauna will begin to heal as the dynamic human spirit takes it’s place once again beside the green beings and animal people that give it life, so that the tide may turn against the genocidal hunger seeking to consume complexity and diversity in the name of domination, dollar, and homogeny.