I’m excited to be teaching a plant course in September through Portland Underground Grad School. It’s called Decoding Plants: Seeing Urban Flora with New Eyes. If you’ve been wanting to learn plant identification or just sharpen your skills, join us! We’ll be meeting for four fun Saturday mornings, starting each session at Overlook Park in North Portland. We’ll draw plants, go on plant walks in different habitats and learn plant families.
My motivation for teaching this course (besides loving all things plant-related) is a desire to help heal the disconnect between people and nature. It seems to me that so much suffering in the world right now is rooted in this disconnection. I believe that our sense of belonging and our ability to feel whole and purposeful are intimately linked to relationship – with ourselves, with others and with the earth.
Maybe we all sense, on some level, that we’d be happier if we had a chance to dig in the soil or grow something, or spend time in wilderness. We don’t even need to get out of the city to do those things! This city is full of plants and nature, ready to connect with us. We can learn so much about ecology and about ourselves by slowing down and gaining a closer understanding of the other beings around us, regardless of whether they are considered ‘native’ or ‘invasive’. By understanding, we gain empathy and then compassion, and then we’re closer to feeling that we are indeed part of nature. When we’re working from that place, it seems to me we’re more able to advocate for the health of nature and for our own health, and to work towards a life that is sustainable and fulfilling. When we have a tangible sense of nature’s abundance and regenerative properties, it’s easier to act from a feeling of abundance and generosity instead of the fear of scarcity that drives so much discord.
There are a many things that are out of balance in the world right now and I believe healing the earth and healing our culture are intimately connected. So, how does learning plant families relate to all this? Knowing the plants we see helps forge a sense of connection with the places we live and travel, and a feeling of belonging in the world.
Seeing plant patterns is an efficient and fun way to start learning lots of plants. (If you’re not familiar with the taxonomic system, you’ll be amazed at how it organizes the nearly 400,000 plant species on Earth into manageable and relatable groups. We’ll just start with 12 families though!) Just like when we meet a new person, when we learn the name of a plant, who their relatives are and what they do and like, we come into relationship and it opens up possibilities. You might find new foods to cook with or use as medicine. You may take new notice of the changing seasons, as you watch plants react to weather and day length. You’ll see more interconnectedness all around as you learn about the many relationships plants have with pollinators and other insects, fungi, birds, and animals– including us!
Portland Underground Grad School is a community of learners that believes education should be affordable, accessible and relevant to your life right now. “Never Stop Learning.”
Check out week-by-week summaries of the course at the link below. Hope to see you there!
Saturdays, September 10th – October 1st || 9:30-11:30 am
Meets at Overlook Park Picnic Shelter || 1599 N Fremont St.
Four weeks, $100 || Space is limited to 20 students.
Register at Portland Underground Grad School