(Essay) Sacred Datura Sings in the Rain by Sara Wright

Photo by Sara Wright

Last night I was sitting on the porch listening to the rain. The sweet scent of water wafted in through the open window as the song Tree of Life was playing softly in the dark. In my heart I was thanking each and every tree, especially those that surrounded the house for their protective canopies and for their steadfast love and support for me over the years… My Trees and plants had become Sisters; We developed deeply personal relationships and more fluid boundaries over time. This friendship, already established with apple trees and flowers as a child and young woman, intensified in my early 40’s when my children first left home.

As a woman who had been rejected by her family, Trees and plants gradually taught me how to respect myself, although I have no idea how they accomplished this feat. At some point I was no longer able to separate my love for trees/plants from this woman that I was. Both trees and plants often came to me in dreams, and occasionally a tree would utter a single word or two while I was walking in the forest, but mostly I just felt all of them caring for me.  I am convinced that trees also brought me two women who became the sisters I never had…  My gratitude for all plant life was peaking as I sang along with the song, feeling a visceral response to the rain, the night, the stillness, and a lifetime of enduring love for trees and plants.

It was in this frame of mind that I first heard something else singing. Assuming it must be an unknown tree frog I went to the screen and opened it. Strangely, the sound seemed to be coming from the west, so I was surprised that the song didn’t increase in intensity when I stepped outdoors. I came back in, entered my bedroom and opened a west window – Nothing. Returning to the porch I just stood there in the dark baffled. Where was the song coming from?

Earlier, that evening I brought in my Sacred Datura plant to protect her from possible heavy winds and the coming rain and placed the large ungainly pot on the porch table for the night.

After bringing her cross country all the way from New Mexico (much to my companion’s dismay) and settling her outdoors in Maine, I watched her first fragrant moon blossom open just days after we arrived. I tended her lovingly, carefully removing any damaged leaves, watered her frequently, fertilized her, and told her how beautiful she was, remembering how I had nurtured her as a germinating seed… All summer the plant had blossoms most of which opened around dusk much to my continuous astonishment and delight. I discovered that I could actually watch as each flower unfurled, beginning with a lavender tinted spiral that would open into the most exquisite purple tipped moonflower within about 15 – 20 minutes if I paid close attention. Needless to say I am in love with this Lady of the Night.

When I walked towards the Datura in the dark last evening, the singing suddenly stopped. I stood there rooted to the floor. Stunned. It had been the plant that was singing. My mind couldn’t comprehend what I was experiencing. When the Datura began her song again as I stood before her, I turned on a light. The singing ceased. Darkness brought the song to life again. I listened intently, awed, slipping into another state of awareness, “the space in between” where time ceases to exist, and now is all there is.

Later, as I returned to a normal state of consciousness my mind buzzed, sending me to the computer to research relationships between the Datura and bugs because by then it had dawned on me that it must have been insects that were singing from somewhere inside that plant!

I researched what botanists called mutualism and what I call relationships that develop between plants and insects (isn’t it amazing how humans continue to distance themselves from other non –human species through the use of words?). Thus far I have learned that the tomato hornworm loves the alkaloids that are present in Datura and gains protection from feasting on the leaves of this poisonous plant. Both the water scorpion (Nepa cinerea) and the saucer bug (Ilyocaris) have relationships with Datura, and night scarabs hide in the blossoms and emit a buzzing sound but no blossoms were open last night. I learned that leaf notchers puncture holes in the leaves that I had been carefully removing all summer. I also already knew that the Datura plant is pollinated by the Hawk Moth, that is present in Maine as well as the desert areas in which Datura grows naturally, demonstrating yet another relationship between two different species (A second round of research also revealed nothing).

Who was doing the actual singing remains a mystery but the further I get from the incident the less important the research becomes…It is the context in which the singing occurred that seems most important here.

The night after this remarkable incident I had a simple little dream:

I am with my brother Davey who is very young in the dream although I am my present age. My brother’s hair was shorter than it was at the time of his suicide. I am introducing him to many others and I am so proud and happy I could burst.

When I awoke from this dream I felt heartsick with grief because even though Davey has been dead since he was 21 (and I was 24) I still think of him constantly. I will miss him all days of my life… If he had lived we could have shared what would have been a whole life together… I mourn too because he was my soul mate. And when he died, some part of me died with him.

Reflecting on the possible meaning behind the dream I suddenly remembered that the one thing Davey and I did not share in our brief naturalist lives together was his love of bugs. And I had a visitation from some kind of singing insect who lived with a plant. Might this incident have been my brother contacting me from the Great Beyond?

In my world where plants start singing of their own accord in the rain, virtually anything is possible.

 

Postscript

What I could not have known the night this plant began to sing was that a potentially life changing event was also going to occur the following morning when “earth moving” would begin In Abiquiu, New Mexico. I now also believe that the Datura was also conveying in her own language (which included her relationship with an insect) that something critically important was about to happen.

Below are the words of the Tree of Life that was playing as the Datura interrupted my singing and the song. Surely, women everywhere can identify with this so often, invisible work, that we continue to do. Women are truly the weft and the warp of Life.

 

TREE OF LIFE

Beggar’s Blocks and Blind Man’s Fancy,
Boston Corners and Beacon Lights,
Broken Starts and Buckeye Blossoms
Blooming on the Tree of Life.

Cho: Tree of Life, quilted by the lantern light,
Every stitch a leaf upon the Tree of Life.
Stitch away, sisters, stitch away.

Hattie’s Choice (Wheel of Fortune), and High Hosanna (Indiana),
Hills and Valleys (Sweet Wood Lilies)
and Heart’s Delight (Tail of Benjamin’s Kite),
Hummingbird (Hovering Gander) in Honeysuckle (Oleander),
Blooming on the Tree of Life.*

We’re only known as someone’s mother,
Someone’s daughter, or someone’s wife,*
But with our hands and with our vision,
We make the patterns on the Tree of Life.

Meet Mago Contributor Sara Wright

Notes

(1) The first two verses are comprised entirely of the names of quilting patterns.

(2) I would add sister.

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Patty Kay
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Lovely! I was already with you in the flora part, and then you got to the rest and, wow! The details or specifics or even the scientific proof will never change your experience of the song. The world is better with you here! Thank you for sharing.

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