The other night I dreamt I was in a bookshop and was watching a woman do a site specific performance, she kept talking about a group of people who had been displaced. About how another group of people would find an empty home, that was somehow a blessing for them, but they should beware this fake blessing because it’s a disaster for those who left. In retrospect it sounds so specific to Palestine, but in the dream she was referring to the Pontic Greeks, which is interesting because it’s literally a place and a people I know next to nothing about.
As she was moving and dancing and speaking poetically throughout the space, I noticed that there were vines growing all around the books and the shop. The vines were a plant I have been talking about a LOT lately, varthemia iphionoides, Shtelleh, in Arabic. This plant comes from the Aster plant family, which includes other plants such as Daisys and Chamomile, and is very specific to the Levant. It took me a year and a half to discover the name of this plant, while it grows abundantly, and was surely used traditionally, it has for some reason fallen out of the main cultural landscape. Which is a shame because it seems to have potent medicinal and culinary uses. I recently learned that these plants are linked to grief, as they literally flower at the end of summer / autumn, and symbolize the transition into the dying season. Therefore, they hold the space of grief, and according to my dream, this particular plant Shtelleh seems to hold the space of a grief so deep that most people don’t even have a name for it or realize that this type of grief exists inside of them.
It is the type of grief I hear about from Armenian, Assyrian, Palestinian, Native American communities, amongst others. The deep grief of being displaced, that actually exists inside almost all of humanity at this point, because we are indeed a displaced species, yet only those with some kind of memory of it really understand that this deep, painful grief lives inside of them too. As Resmaa Menakeem says, trauma becomes decontextualized over time (i.e. ancestral traumas that we have forgotten over time, intergenerationally) loses its context and starts to look like personality traits, family and societal norms and ways of being.
I am amazed at how deep cultural wisdoms are, for me I have noticed that mythologies and insights about ancestral plants come through in my dreams. I have been finding deep comfort and resilience in that knowing, that is helping me move through the intensity of these times we are living in. In what ways do you find connection and remembrances to your ancestors?