Reconnecting with Earth: Lessons from Blackberries

By Susan Wulfekuhler

Spring weekends often find me indulging in one of my favorite pastimes, stalking the wild nettle.  Stinging nettle thrives in the lush, moist forests of the Pacific Northwest where I love to hike as spring unfolds.  Looking for nettles on the greening forest floor sharpens my attention.  Picking and eating nettles, I feel my slow winter energy begin to stir with nettle’s signature spring “wake-up” call.  Nettle brings a quickening in body and soul.

As the years have gone by, I’ve noticed more patches of my blue-green medicinal ally being taken over by Himalayan blackberry, an invasive non-native introduced as a food plant in the 1800s.  The blackberry thrives in the same disturbed, moist soil favored by nettle.  Over time, I’ve noticed that left to its own devices, blackberry always wins.  It is a master of abundance, a model of resilience.

A few years ago, growing tired of unsuccessfully ripping the blackberry out of my special nettle patches and struggling through a difficult time personally, I decided this plant had much to teach me about creating abundance.  I spent a summer “apprenticing” myself to blackberry, listening to it and observing it through the growing season.  This is what I learned from blackberry about developing resilience and thriving in times of change:

  1. Spread your seeds by providing food for others.
  2. Provide delicious food for a diversity of beings.
  3. Use more than one pathway to create abundance.
  4. Look for a vacuum (niche) and fill it.
  5. Go for the light.
  6. Be tough.
  7. Persevere.
  8. Stay firmly rooted in the earth.
  9. Adapt to changing conditions.
  10. Protect your creations–be thorny when you need to.

If you’d like an opportunity to connect more deeply with Earth and the Universe, check out the Northwest Earth Institute’s Reconnecting with Earth course and create a group in your community.

Susan Wulfekuhler lives in Corvallis, Oregon.


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