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Lessons on Lust from Balsamroot

Lessons on Lust from Balsamroot

Have you ever felt the undeniable pull of plant lust? I can't deny it; I'm not immune to this desire. Most of the time, when I'm harvesting plants, I feel a deep connection with them, they're old friends. I can hear their voices clearly. But lately, I've been traveling and encountering plants that I don't see in my usual surroundings. They're familiar to me, but seeing them in their natural habitat makes me positively giddy.

Let me tell you about a recent experience where I let my desires overpower my better judgment. Picture this: miles away in the backcountry, I stumbled upon hillsides blanketed in balsamroot flowers. The sight was so breathtaking that my jaw literally dropped. It was as if a vibrant yellow quilt had been spread across the land.

And that's when it happened—plant lust took hold of me. "I want you," I whispered to the balsamroot. My mind quickly weaved a tale, convincing me that it was the perfect time to harvest their roots. (Spoiler alert: it wasn't. Ideally, roots should be harvested in the fall when their energy is replenishing beneath the earth.)

I went through my mental checklist: abundance—check, healthy stand—check, public land—check, permission—uh oh, did I have permission? I asked the plant, but my own internal voice was so loud that I couldn't hear any answer. Greed shouted a resounding "YES!"

Without hesitation, I began digging up the roots. Dig, snap... and there it was—a small piece of balsamroot in my hands. Its fragrance was heavenly, and I couldn't resist taking a deep sniff. But then, a weight settled in my belly, and I heard it.

"No," whispered the plant, so faintly, so softly, that it was almost imperceptible. "You don't know me. You're a stranger."

In that moment, it hit me hard. I had impulsively grabbed and pawed at a plant, a being I hadn't even taken the time to introduce myself to. I hadn't sat with this beautiful creature; I had merely tried to take from it.

Filled with regret, I brought my hands near the wound I had caused and apologized profusely. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I didn't listen. I didn't truly ask."

To my surprise, the plant's response wasn't one of anger or resentment. Instead, it forgave me and offered wisdom. "I forgive you, child. Visit us, but do not take. You are a guest in these lands."

It struck me how plants don't hold grudges like humans often do when they're hurt. Instead, they gently teach us a lesson.

I share this story with a hint of embarrassment as a reminder to myself and to all of us. Even in my brief lapse of judgment, I learned a valuable lesson. Once again, I'm grateful for the wisdom of our plant allies. They show us that plants can heal us without us needing to consume them. I will continue to try and be an advocate for these plants and our earth, who, although we are taught otherwise, do have a voice that can be heard in the stillness if we quiet our own desires.
Jul 17, 2023

Thank you for sharing your moment of enlightenment. I learned that everything is alive, even a rock. It just moves a lot slower. My mother-in-law used to refer to “rocks with character”. And a friend with a massive garden used to give as gifts his giant “beets with character”.

Jul 16, 2023

Apryl, what a beautiful story. I had to read the plant forgiveness/don’t hold grudges part several times. In that short span of sentences, I realized how quickly I identified with the guilt you felt from causing harm (habit-stuck in the guilt mud). It was an almost physical effort to accept this other easy and gentle way of the plants. Super imagery of the fields too! Thank you!


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