on the flirtatiousness of plants

A few years ago, I read a book that changed my life. The book was The Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era; A Celebration of the Unfolding of the Cosmos by Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry.

The book was the first time I truly opened my eyes to the beautiful vibrancy of life, to its cycles of life and death and creation and destruction and the neverending cycles of recreation. To the fine line between creation and destruction. To the way that everything becomes itself. To the fact that everything is simultaneously exactly the same and completely different. To the fact that humans do not act on everything–everything acts. The ground supports us, our food feeds us, our clothes keep us warm.

It was incredibly eye opening for me to think this way, instead of thinking that I walk on the earth or that I eat my food or wear my clothes. It reminded me to have gratitude for everything around me because everything around me is doing something to me as much as I am doing something to it.

In the book, they word this by saying that “the universe is a communion of subjects rather than a collection of objects.”

A few weeks ago, I watched a video that brought this idea home for me in a concrete way that nothing else ever had.

Michael Pollan gives a plant’s-eye view

Michael Pollan, in this video, presents a radical view of plants. That plants guide their own evolution and domestication more than we do. His idea says to me, and has been showing up in this beautiful, explosive floral Philadelphia spring, that plants are flirtatious.

When the plant flowers, it is doing the same thing to us and the bees that women do preparing for a date, or that I do when preparing for ritual. They are getting dressed up, putting on their makeup and their sexy outfits, and presenting themselves to us so that we will choose them, pollinate them, let them go on with their lives.

I can’t get this idea out of my head. Now, as I am walking or driving around town and I see my favorite daffodils, or a beautiful tulip, or a lovely, lush lawn, or a grove of azaleas, I see plants that are seeking the approval of the buildings and grounds people.

It’s not that we’re picking the prettiest trees. It’s that the trees are purposefully becoming as pretty as they can so that we will want them. The difference is small, but is just another reminder to me of the agency of the world. Of the way that everything acts as the subject of its own sentence. A reminder of how relationships form the core of life. The plants need us to choose their beauty just as much as we ourselves need that beauty in our lives.

Relationships and beauty. There is Life.

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