Meet Jenna. Jenna has been a gardener at Coral Bay Organic Gardens in St. John for the last two years, where she has fallen in love with plants. Gardening is a creative art, and like other arts, can be done in countless ways. It is a clear give and take. You feed the plants nutrition and love, and they grow to give love and nutrition back. The more you give, the more you receive. There is much wisdom to be learned from plants. I spent a summer as a plant lady around Boston and was fascinated with the insights about life that would reveal themselves naturally to me throughout my days. Working with plants is grounding, fulfilling, peaceful, and inspiring work. It is powerful to get to know a place by digging your hands in its earth, and empowering to eat the food you grow. I believe one of the best things we can do on earth at this point in time is to figure out ways to heal the dirt, and live in balance with nature, through the practice of growing organic food in a sustainable way.
Coral Bay Organic Gardens are a real gem of St. John. They have been growing food there for 20 years, and also sell supplies to get your own garden growing. They were started by the husband and wife team of Hugo and Josephine, who specialize in growing greens, which are a food high in nutrient density, and can add a good dose of iron, magnesium, and calcium to your diet. My personal favorites of their crops are the (best I've ever had) arugula and the delightful sunflower sprouts. They also grow fruits and vegetables, as well as a variety of fresh herbs for your cooking pleasure. You can purchase them at the garden center in coral bay and at starfish market in Cruz bay, or enjoy them at one of many restaurants around the island.
We decided to do a design based off an embroidered panel by the Shibipo people in the Peruvian Amazon. They are a culture who has a rich tradition in plant medicines and are carriers of a song pattern tradition. Life is a song and everything can be sung. They weave and paint their healing songs into cloths. The cloth then carries that healing energy to those who look at it. Jenna and I bonded over our love for Peru, which is what inspired this choice in henna designs for her palm. It was the first time I have ever drawn one of their patterns. Every time I try a different style, it is like learning a new rhythm and can take a few times to learn its flow, but then as I internalize the pattern, it flows more naturally. I like this idea that everything has a pattern, whether it is sung or painted, or lived, or felt. To hear one of their songs, check out this video.
I once took a plant spirit medicine class, which introduced me to the idea that each plant has a spirit and that it is the spirit of the plant that heals us. Through meditations, one can connect directly with the spirit of the plant, who will teach you how it can heal you (rather than reading it from a book or learning it on an intellectual level). The healing power of plants is something we may take for granted in our modern world, but has existed all over the world in endless ways. I have been interested in this idea in regards to the henna plant and is another reason I love henna! It has long been regarded as containing Baraka (divine blessings) in Morocco, which carries joy and luck into the lives of people to whom it is applied. The experience of being henna'd is wonderfully relaxing, which allows people to open up, that is the first step in the healing process. It is also inspiring, which instigates positive action in our lives! I will be interested to learn more about the healing powers of henna as I grow with this plant and its traditions.