Fascinated by Ferns

Spring is in full force, and I am fascinated by ferns all over again. Fiddleheads, in particular.

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Shade-loving ferns have existed on earth for nearly 400 million years, making them among the oldest organisms on the planet. When they are just starting out, clusters of newborn ferns look like a family growing up from a little nest. Heads bowed to the center, they seem to be looking out for one another. There is a strong sense of connection.

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What is so intriguing about ferns? Why do they command my attention at this time of year?

It must be their spiral nature, which brings to mind a labyrinth.

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When I doodle during meetings and conversations, I often produce spirals. The act of creating a spiral design, beginning at the core and expanding outward, is very centering and satisfying. I have many pages of notes embellished with fields of coiled fronds filling the margins.

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At the center of the fern’s spiral is a brilliantly packaged blueprint for what it will become.

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Ferns strike me as metaphors for centering and then expanding core consciousness and energy outward. Universes expanding.

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If you look closely, there is much going on at the center of a coiled fern frond.

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A few days ago, I harvested and ate fiddleheads for the first time. They were ostrich ferns, which are recognizable by the brown, flaky covering at the center, bare (not wooly) stalks, and a U-shaped trough that runs through the front side of the stalk (the side facing the coil). I washed and steamed them for 14 minutes prior to sauteing them lightly with olive oil, garlic, tamari, baby portobello mushrooms, and a touch of black pepper. (Next time, I will add a little sesame oil.) They were delicious served over gluten-free pasta!

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Over the weekend, my daughter invited me to her house to harvest some ferns growing abundantly in her yard. It turned out they weren’t the right kind to eat, but they were spectacular to view up close, nonetheless. I was transfixed by the patterns and textures.

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When I returned three days later to the huge patch of ferns I photographed (and ate) above, they had unfurled and grown so much!

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Spending time observing ferns reminds me that the healing patterns and rhythms of nature offer themselves freely, requiring nothing of us other than our attention. They invite us to slow down, notice, and become steeped in awe, fascination, wonder, and gratitude. There is so much beauty and inspiration waiting to be discovered in every stage of a fern frond unfurling!

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