Many years ago the north-facing slope of Marble Mountain was covered with Ginseng. I discovered this about the mountain I live at the base of after meeting an old timer who, in the past, hunted the Ginseng. He told me, with his distinctive Vermont accent, that years ago he would go “sanging” in the mountains. I thought it was so sweet that he would go and sing in the mountains and said so to him. He laughed and said, “No, sanging, you know Ginsenging.” He said the mountain once was covered with the plants that produced the “old man root”. Today there is one plant of Ginseng, which I know of, on the entire mountain. Ginseng, whose essence is of longevity and wild vitality, no longer roams this mountain in great numbers. The remaining Ginseng is but a shadow of the grand tribe that once flourished here and yet, the echo of this survivor rings with the possibility of the vibrancy that once flourished here. To lose the essence of Ginseng in these mountains would diminish the vitality of not only the land but the people who walk this land. Could the loss of Ginseng in so many of the northeastern woods have contributed to massive chronic fatigue in the human inhabitants? Could it be that the essence of Ginseng is necessary for our vital existence, to feed the flame of our spirit that keeps us alive? When contemplating these questions, providing sanctuary for these survivors, whoever they may be, becomes not only important but imperative.
Sanctuary has a two-fold role to play for our native plant brothers and sisters. First, it is a refuge, a place that is safe from molestation. Plants that are in sanctuary know they are being kept safe with life-giving intent. This knowledge by the plants brings about a heightened level of positive response to those who care for and enjoy the sanctuary. Cleve Backster’s ground-breaking work with plants clearly shows that plants respond to the people that engage with them. By attaching polygraph electrodes to plant leaves Backster showed that plants respond to the mere intent of doing harm to them. Likewise, during a business trip, when Backster had the first thought of returning home, the plants in his office responded positively to this knowledge.
The second role of a sanctuary is that of sacred space where the “Holy of Holies” exists and communion is shared. When a botanical sanctuary is seen in this light it becomes a living church/temple where communication with the spirit of plants occurs. The loving intent of creating a sacred and safe place for native plants causes plants to respond with equal, if not more, loving vibrations. Within a sanctuary one experiences relaxation, peace, vitality and a 0ver-all sense of well-being. Here the common union between plants and people – breath – can be intentionally shared. The exchange of “greenbreath” with plants in a sanctuary, where one is placed in the fold of intentional sacred space with plants responding to safety and care, is a primary experience that brings profound healing. Our hearts open wide as the prana of “greenbreath” carries the vital essence held to give life, otherwise known as spirit. In this open-heart space we move into syncopation with the rhythm of Earth taking our place in the vast web of life as a co-creative partner. Botanical sanctuaries not only save our precious native plants from unconscious predation they provide healing at a source level by feeding our essential nature so that both plants and people are held in life-giving balance.