Go find the oldest living plant you can and chill out with it. For me, the closest, oldest things are grove of oaks in a park in the midst of a Kaiser Permanente office tower. This little oasis survived the ravages of progress. Get out Google Maps and find the nearest spot of green park land.
Whenever I walk by a particularly old tree I stop and pat a patch of smooth bark and speak to it. Usually I tell it what a good job it’s doing and what a nice old tree it is. I don’t know when or why this started exactly. All I know is that it feels life affirming to do so, and so I continue.
I also stop and smell the literal roses – and the jasmine, honeysuckle, and lilacs which release scent during the day, plus the angel’s trumpets which let down their luscious perfume at night. Many flowers aren’t scented. It’s a fun game though to guess which ones are. Which blooms to smell, and which leaves to crush (lavender, rosemary, geraniums) becomes a fun game to play as you walk around the neighborhood.
If you are in a miserable, cold, wet, or snowy winter that feels more like a wasteland than a winter wonderland, go buy some flowers or a plant or a pomegranate. Somehow find a reminder of the nature to place you in the bigger cycles of birth, death, and renewal.
Contemplate the lifespan of things much older than you. What was happening when this old tree was planted? What stories have transpired under its limbs? What are you planting today? What will happen to them in another 200 years? What will the land around them look like then?
I swear I feel some kind of physical sensation when I touch plants that ages beyond the texture of their leaf, the smell of their bloom and the feel of the smooth bark. I welled up with tears last week when I put my hand on the trunk of a twisted, tortured bonsai which probably spent a few hundred years clinging to a wind torn cliff over the ocean. Perhaps there exists some life force which allows me to feel some of its energy. Perhaps it merely triggered my own associations of being twisted and torn up in life’s storms. It doesn’t really matter to me which is true. What I know for sure is that reminders like these enrich my days. I treat myself and others more kindly when I connect with the part of myself which regards age as wisdom and holds that our torments shape us into something beautiful, whether we want them to come or not.
I don’t know if there is magic, like the energy flowing from a plant into me, but I do know my life is better when I allow room for it. Placebo effect or not - I’ll take it. From someone who was at one point a hardcore rationalist that’s saying a lot, but I’ve found it to be more rational to try things and see if they improve my life than to declare out of hand that a practice or exercise is baloney. Experimentation is, after all, the heart of the scientific method, right?