Over the winter the WWB Book Wise pick helped us to discover how animal culture could inspire us to live more wisely. Well move over homosapiens and mammals because here come the plants! The Spring Book Wise selection ‘Lessons from Plants’ by Beronda L. Montgomery explores the ‘nature of being’ from a plants perspective. Maybe it’s time we start taking some notes on how to thrive from the plants growing in our backyard.
Beronda’s first lesson from plants in the book is about ‘selfhood’. A strong sense of self is needed to survive and thrive in this world, but what plants have perceptively figured out is you don’t have to go it alone. It turns out plants are masters at working their social network. We’ll get to this in the Q&A, but don’t get the wrong idea. You won’t be reading a how to book with a bullet point list of directions. This is hard core botanical science presented by a distinguished Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology who has a passion for plants and a gift for illuminating all the important lessons we can learn from studying and observing living plants.
Beronda Montgomery invites you into the world of plants, and through deeper understanding and insight she guides you to a fresh way of seeing the world through a plant’s awareness. After reading ‘Lessons from Plants’, you might start asking yourself “What Would a Plant Do?”
P.S The book size itself is ideally compact and perfect to take on the trips you might be taking this summer. That’s if we all are careful and get vaccinated! Happy trails and hope your outdoor adventures are awe –inspiring with your new found awareness of botanical plants.
Laura Connolly, Founder of World Wise Beauty
Lauroly Opening- Welcome Beronda, I am so honored to be speaking with one of ‘Cell’s 100 Inspiring Black Scientists in America’. Some people might see the title of your book and think “what could a plant possibly teach me”? People have different affinities for plants, depending on where a person is on the continuum of valuing other living species. For example, some may value a beautiful plant as adornment for their home, but think nothing of trampling or poisoning plants out in the wild. I thought we would start with your introduction titled ‘A Sense of Self’. Below are your opening words …
“Imagine a life in which one’s entire existence must be tuned and tailored to the changing, and at times harsh environment. A life in which there is no potential for escape.”
Lauroly Q- When you stop to think about it, it is really astounding how plants bloom, grow, and flourish. What makes a plant a ‘being’? What gives them a ‘sense of self’?
Lauroly Q- So just as we have self-awareness, plants have their own self-awareness. Your biggest achievement in the context of this book is you have made a plant relatable! In your ‘Friend or Foe’ chapter you walk us through the complex decisions a plant has to make in order to survive and thrive. The words competition, collaboration, and loyalty to kin sound a lot like human behaviors. Yet, we learn from your book, that plants also have sophisticated sensing attunements when it comes to their social networks and their environment. You call them ‘energy budgets’. Reading your book, I thought of a Kenny Rogers’s song and lyric “You got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them”. I may have a song in my head for everything, so don’t mind me! What can we learn from the wise ‘energy budgeting’ plants do?
Lauroly Q- What you described is a pretty sophisticated way of being. We now can see there are wise lessons from plants about energy management we can apply to our own lives. It wasn’t lost on me! Another fascinating part of your book is where you explain the “Three Sisters System” which originated with Native American peoples. There is so much wisdom in this agricultural approach which focuses on leveraging complementary strengths. The quote you shared from ecologist Robin Wall Kimmerer “All gifts are multiplied in relationship” drove home the wisdom of this approach. Your personal example about integrating the domains of parenthood and self-care from a Three Sisters mindset is a great real world example. Perhaps you can share that example after you give us a quick us a quick overview of what the “Three Sisters System” is.
Lauroly Closing- I love your personal example because it highlights how one activity nourished a sense of well-being for both of you. Thank you so much for joining me Beronda and sharing the wisdom from your wonderful book ‘Lessons from Plants’. Your book comes at an ideal time, as we are all spending more time outside and slowing down to notice botanical life all around us. Reading your book, we can walk, notice, and marvel at the intelligence of plants with a new found awareness. The wisdom we cultivate from paying attention and learning from plants is we just might find harmony in working cooperatively and productively together on this planet.
Beronda Montgomery Closing: Thank you Laura for the opportunity to share time and space with you and your readers. What a beautiful reflection to take with me – especially as we begin to see hope of emerging from a global pandemic, I am deeply hopeful for the harmony and reciprocity that we may cultivate collectively.