Listening to Plants, not Talking to Plants

I went out into the garden, to choose which leaves we’ll share dinner with. Brushing past the Basil, allowing its scent to rise into the air, breathing in aromatic communication. What is this plant telling me? This terpene tongue is the widest spoken language on Earth. It’s more powerful than English as it speaks across the Kingdoms and can be broken down into syllabic information. Plants & Animals sharing conversation, revealing who they are in this moment and what they offer in the wisdom of being. This delicious smell I’m consuming tells me that this Basil is edible, pungent and uplifting. But what does it say to the other kinfolk in the garden bed, and the grasshoppers hiding under the foliage?


When I was little, I thought life had one truth at the mountain top, and if I studied with the highest and most credible sources, I would be able to understand this truth, and understand myself in the process. I never did find that pyramid; it seemed each peak I climbed was the bottom of another question. I exhale into myself these days, allowing a maturity to take seat in the seekers place, that allows truth to be buried within the experiencing of life, amidst the multiplicity. Like a water colour painting, truth bleeding from one line to the next, both flow and form simultaneously, solely pertaining to no one colour but rather the experience of colour within oneself. Experiencing colour requires many colours of contrast to bring the tones out.

My experience of a delicious pizza friendly aroma has me licking my lips, but to the smelling facets of an insect it may translate to ‘Stay away - I bite’, and to the neighbour plants it may be a friendly community service announcement saying “Look sharp, we have visitors.’

Of course this kind of communication happens readily between plant-plant life and plant-fungi through a negotiated mutualism under foot. A fungal hyphae reaches out, and threads itself around and penetrates into the root of the plant. The deal seals over, and the connection of symbiosis is consummated. Two beings hooked in; a neural connection akin to Tsaheylu by the Na’vi in the world of Pandora. Except this one fungi is hooked into many, many plant beings, and once wed, the fungi reduce competition between plants in the neighbourhood allowing a richer diversity of flora to express. The nervous system of the soil united with the photosynthesising lungs of the canopy. The role of root is now exchanged to the fungus, and payment made in phosphate & nitrogen for carbohydrate sugars. The currency of the Earth.

But how do the walking factions of consciousness tap into this communication express lane? How might we allow the flow of nutrients up gradients too competitive and scarce to distribute ourselves, when we don’t have tails capable of bonding in sacred symbiosis? I sit and wonder these things, whilst shopping for pizza topping in the backyard. Something is missing. The words of Leonard Cohen sing with me; ‘I could not feel, so I tried to touch’. And what if, in our touching, we objectified the very thing we wished to understand by abandoning the very part of ourselves that experiences knowing. So that we might only ever look, without seeing. And walk, without landing.

What does sage have to tell me about community? And this untamed oregano, what does he know of cooperation and sacrifice? My mind starts wondering about the compatibility of flavour. These herbs companion to tomato and to one another so harmoniously; do these flavours translate to a cooperative temperament in their growth cycles of life too, or only when on the sourdough?