It is not uncommon to know people who believe they have had a past life or even multiple lives. I know a woman in England who actually went to a “past-life reader” to confirm what she has believed for some time. For the sum of a hundred pounds or so, she was put into a trance. If I remember correctly, the entire session lasted some hours. And what did she learn? She found that in a past life she was a noble lady, married to a powerful lord, who was not congenial. And in her unhappy state she had a paramour, one of the men working for her husband. What I found curious about this reading of her past life was that it mirrored to some extent her current life. And he, the current “paramour,” also got a reading, on the same day, and it mirrored what the noble lady’s reading was. Perhaps her past life was reliving itself in her present…. who knows?
Now if I were to imagine my own past life, it would probably not be one of privilege or title. Even though from most people’s accounts, the majority of imagined past lives seem to be so. I imagine my past life to have been close to nature. Perhaps it was lived in a forest or surrounded by lush vegetation of different kinds. I wouldn’t pay over a hundred pounds to have this confirmed however. My intense delight at being in a forest – just walking through one and being surrounded by so many different trees and shrubs – is enough to make me imagine that such a past life could be probable. Coming upon a mushroom, edible or not, is enough to make a walk through the woods or anywhere a special one.
Perhaps I was a farmer or a farmer’s daughter — one who would often go into the woods to search for edible mushrooms or to pick wild berries. Or, since I am fascinated by the healing properties of plants, perhaps in a past life I was involved with the making of “simples” – simple cures concocted from herbs — for ordinary people. Whatever my past life or lives may have been, I would not go to a past-life reader to have it confirmed. I am living that kind of past life now.
I was born in the city – Manila to be precise – and it was not until I was 11 that I saw rice plants growing in a flooded field for the first time. I mistook them for spring onions! The tint of that green is one that I have loved since. The other kind of green that I love is one that has blue and grey and purple highlights within it. The kind of green that cabbage leaves in the shade take on. This blueish-greyish-purplish green I remember seeing for the first time in my teens and being so impressed by it, when one of my brothers grew cabbage in our backyard. The first kind of green was introduced to me by my other brother, the oldest one. For years these plant encounters have lain dormant within me and I had not put too much significance onto them until now, so many decades later. I find it quite curious that the seeds for my love of plants and gardening were sown way back then. And they have to come to life only when my life and my own senses were ready for them.
Despite having lived in cities most of my life, it is in the country that I love to be. I find a certain comfort in doing the things that country women in the past might have done on a daily basis. Having a cottage garden with herbs for the table as well as for healing, a few flowers for simple posies or just to brighten up the table, putting up some preserves with fruits in season, going off to the woods to gather fungi or wild berries – such are the simple joys that I love about country living.
Living in the city of Bonn, I find that it is still quite possible to indulge my love of these traditional country activities. I came upon a lovely lady named Waltraud Wosch at the Munsterplatz one day, and was truly enchanted by her and her homemade liqueurs and cordials, as well as her preserves. I also bought her book of recipes for preserving and bottling fruits and vegetables, and which also gives some homemade remedies for colds and other minor ailments. And, most interestingly, I found that in it she also gives her perspective on life, based on her encounters with nature. Her perspective, amazingly enough, mirrors my own.
I quote from her book, Marmeladen und Andere Köstlichkeiten aus der Welt der Blüten und Früchte (Jams and other Delicacies from the World of Flowers and Fruits, Monschein Verlag, no date).
“Probleme…kann man sehr gut lösen, beim Beerensuchen im Wald, oder man setzt sich einfach unter einem Baum, so wie die Japaner oder Chinesen, die dann innerlich ihre Probleme mit dem Baum besprechen. Sie glauben gar nicht, was einem so alles in den Sinn kommt, wenn man so vor sich hin pflückt. Hier eine Beere, ach die ist ja noch schöner…, dann ein wunderschön gefärbtes Blatt. Wenn ich mich dann umdrehe und die Sonne lacht mich an, sehe ich hier und da schon langsam den Herbst kommen. Aber im Moment noch nicht, denn heute spüre ich noch den leichten Sommerwind in meinem Gesicht und freue mich auf die Beerenpracht, die um mich herum zu sehen ist. Hier und da stehen noch ein paar schöne Pilze. Und wenn ich dann mit meinem prall gefüllten Körben auf dem Weg nach Hause bin, danke ich Gott, dem Wald und der Natur um mich herum, denn meine Seele ist gestärkt fur neue Ideen und Taten.”
“Problems are very easy to solve while looking for berries in the forest, or sitting under a tree, as the Japanese or Chinese do, confiding their problems to the tree. You would not believe what comes to mind when one goes to pick berries. Here is one, oh and there is another even more beautiful… and a wonderfully coloured leaf. And then I turn around and the sun smiles upon me, and I see that here and there autumn is slowly coming. But not at the moment: I feel the summer wind on my face and I am happy with the splendour of the berries that I see all around me. Here and there stand a couple of beautiful mushrooms. And when I head home with my baskets fully laden, I thank God, the forest and nature all around me, for my soul is strengthened with new ideas and activities.” (p.70, italics and translation mine).
Today I am thankful for my brothers as well as my mother and sister whose love for plants and gardening they imparted to me, quite unknowingly. I am also thankful to live surrounded by nature, close to a forest, and to be able to experience all the joys of country living. One of those joys is making jams and jellies from fresh fruits, preferably given by friends or picked from the wild. I have now made 3 jars of quince jelly from half of the quinces given by my friend; the other half is waiting for me. Joy!