fall plant teachers

wendell berry helped me rethink the idea of teacher a while ago.

teachers are everywhere. what is wanted is a learner. — wendell berry

and then lama rod owens deepened that thinking even more: you don’t have to ask a teacher to be your teacher. you can just start learning. sometimes we get caught up in the idea of being in a formal, explicit student-teacher relationship. maybe this happens because of how conventional industrial education systems (aka most public schools) have taught us just one way that relationship can look. but his influence has shifted me. anyone/anything can be my teacher if i relate to it as such. but i digress…

at the beginning of fall, i adopted these as my plant teachers for the season:

here are a few learnings:

burdock flowers when they die become these magical little spike balls or burs. the spikes a brilliant evolutionary mechanism for the seeds, which are inside the ball, to travel. the spike balls get attached to animal fur and travel with the animal then, when something finally pulls the ball off or apart, the seeds disperse. fucking dope.

burdock burs - the museum of thin objects

goldenrod flowers transform in the most magical way as they mature. they go from itty mountains of tiny golden flowers to what looks like piles fluff. i didn’t even realize until this year that the fluff on sticks i’d seen for many years was goldenrod. wild.

goldenrod in fall

goldenrod in winter

american aster is way more common than i anticipated. it was definitely one of those “once you start looking for it, it’s everywhere” kind of things. and i definitely owe my attention to goldenrod and aster to robin wall kimmerer and her book, braiding sweetgrass.

willow weed… i didn’t pay enough attention to to learn anything. i guess that, too, is a lesson of sorts.

gingko nuts smell funky! but when you rip open their flesh, there is a funny little seed in a hard hull. it looks sort of like a pistachio. i learned from my friend and colleague bernice that one way to consume them is to cook them up by roasting them in the oven. and then you smash them and eat the solidified green gelatinous situation inside. not a taste i was initially fond of but totally acquirable.

thank you, plant teachers!

other plant teacher posts:

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