“The enriching, internationalising and animating project I have championed is also a project that converges with much poetry and literature. It is a project of re-animating the world, and re-making ourselves as well, so as to become multiply enriched but consequently constrained members of an ecological community.”
(Val Plumwood, Nature in the Active Voice )
My name is Alice. I am an ecologist, educator and writer of Australian colonial-European background, living on Wiradjuri land in central-western NSW. I am interested in how we think about plants and how we relate to them in a rapidly changing world. The challenges of these times (e.g. climate change, extinction rates, massive social inequalities and injustice) are calling us to think differently about our relationships with each other, and with other-than-human beings.
This is an experiment in living more intimately with plants. I plan to grow seedlings, and take them with me wherever I go for a week (perhaps they will also take me where they go). Here I will record my (our) experiences using poetry, story and photography. Inspired by the work of many others in re-imagining rich multi-species worlds, I hope to explore some key ideas:
- Writing nature in the active voice (Val Plumwood)
- Making Kin beyond expected family and species boundaries (Donna Haraway)
- Arts of Noticing (Anna Tsing)
I welcome comments, questions and feedback.
I have chosen three plant species of personal significance as my companions for this experiment.
Honesty (Lunaria annua)
This has been a favourite garden plant of mine since I was a child. I remember playing in my Grannie’s garden and slipping the papery moons of the seed pods between my fingers, to separate the translucent layers and release the flat brown seeds. This house and garden has been almost the most constant place in my life since childhood, but last year the time came when Grannie could no longer live there. The day before the keys were handed over to the new owners I slipped into the garden and cut some stems of honesty, which have been adorning my bookcase as a dried flower arrangement in the months since. In my zealous permaculture days I scoffed at the idea of growing plants with no obvious practical use. Now though, I think honesty may be teaching be that beauty is its own kind of nourishment.
Yam daisy (Microseris lanceolata)
I learned about yam daisy (Murnong) when reading the incredible book Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe. This book asks us to re-examine the label of hunter-gatherer given to Australian Aboriginal people, presenting compelling evidence that in fact they practiced sophisticated agriculture for thousands of years. This includes practices of ‘sowing, harvesting, irrigating and storing’. Yam daisy was one of the most important and most widely cultivated food plants. Plants such as this could play an important role in developing more sustainable agriculture in Australia. Trials are already under way to grow yam daisy and other species on a commercial scale. Importantly, this is being led by Aboriginal people. I am interested to get to know this plant and its history, and what it can teach us about reconciliation, as well as agroecology.
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)
One of my favourite edible weeds- common, easy to identify, nutritious and, in my opinion, delicious. In my research for this project I discovered that in Europe purslane was a well-known cultivated garden vegetable for two thousand years. Oleracea means ‘eaten as a garden herb’. It’s a great source of omega-3 fatty acids (Thanks to Brill and Dean’s book Identifying and harvesting edible and medicinal plants in wild (and not so wild) places for this info). I’m interested in how we define weeds, and the role they could play in a resilient and sustainable food system now and in the future.
This project is performed and written on Wiradjuri land.
All photos are my own unless otherwise acknowledged.