Rediscovering Our Weed-Like Qualities

Absorbed by the day-to-day of our lives, we find it hard to pause and appreciate the simple things; the lush green of the plants, the scent of the flowers, the flight of the birds. And as we spend more and more time in front of the television or our digital devices, the agility of our senses continues on a downward slope, and our disregard for nature goes rampant; which manifests in our apathy towards the attacks of which it is a victim, not only her, but ourselves, her inhabitants. How can we reactivate our love of nature? And even more importantly, what can we achieve when we nurture that love? The answers to these questions are what give direction to the work I do as a cultural agent and educator.

Foraging for berries at Concrete Plant Park

In order to explore those questions mentioned above, and in collaboration with our partner, The Walton Avenue School, we conducted a series of workshops for parents that we called “Wellness Through Nature in the Garden: Rediscovering Our Weed-Like Qualities”. The goal? To think, discuss, and understand the ways in which we embody many of the qualities of our good sisters the “weeds”. This is not a new idea: we have more things in common with plants than we care to notice.

As it turned out, in one of these three encounters, we went beyond the boundaries initially thought for our shared time together: the school garden. One quiet morning in June we took the bus to the Foodway, a foraging public space at Concrete Plant Park where we allowed ourselves to return to our past as foragers, smelling the bushes, tasting the berries, snooping, inquiring, touching, and asking important questions: why Is it illegal in NYC to eat off of wild trees? Why should we capitalize on every business opportunity? Can we re-envision cooperative models of survival? Is it right to profit from Mother Nature?

Artwork by a parent using dried edible plants from Concrete Plant Park.

During our last meeting, with leaves and flowers that we collected at the park and dried afterward, we framed our reflections on the ways in which we resemble our sister weeds. “Attention,” someone said, “both plants and humans need attention.” And as the poet Maria Oliver once said, “attention is the beginning of devotion”; and as later the educator Ann Pelo would complement, “and devotion is the beginning of action”. How do we want to activate ourselves to love and protect our home, the Earth?

By Maria Caicedo

Cooking and Gardening Coordinator