How I met Nettle and what Nettle wants to say to you. (sex warning)
He had a good car, a good family, good grades, a good cheerleader girlfriend that he had broken up with which everyone was talking about because they were one of those good couples. Maybe all that goodness needed an escape, a chance to be free and unbound. Maybe that’s why he picked me up late in the night to go for a drive.
I snuck out the sliding glass door. Barefoot, shoes in hand, I tiptoed over the deck until my feet landed, pounding and bounding across the silent Earth and slipped into his car. It was late spring and we had a heat wave, or I assume because I chose the short shorts for a midnight drive. I guess I was hot.
We drove out of my neighborhood, windows down, hearts pounding and when we were far enough away- Metallica’s “exit light, enter night, take my hand, we’re off to never never land” bellowed into the night. My bare legs were all that needed to speak between us.
He was taking me somewhere to hang out. There would be others, maybe it was his house, that part is a blur because it wasn’t important. We drove down Moon Valley road where the ghosts of the Native People roam at night because we came in and crushed their burial site with our wounded white plight for a better life.
I had to pee, he pulled over. I hopped out of his car, bare legs and all, right into a waste high nettle patch. It was too dark to see. I didn’t want to complain that there were “weeds” in my way when I opened the door, I didn’t want to be a burden. Women- maybe you can relate?
Within seconds the lower half of my body was on fire and we hadn’t even kissed. I was in shock, I didn’t know what happened until he heard my heavy breath trying to cover up the bewilderment. “Oh wow, nettles” he said. My first thought was that I was being punished. I was for sure going to be caught sneaking out because how on Earth could I cover up those welts? I felt so much embarrassment like I had done something stupid. And as a teenager, maybe you remember, everything was embarrassing if it wasn’t the picture of what society promoted as perfect. Good women don’t fall into the sting of the wild if they want to be accepted.
I was ashamed, I swallowed the pain, made it seem like no big deal all the while it felt like thrombosis had taken over my legs, hot blood pooling under my skin, throbbing inflammation. The sexy short shorts no longer appealing, but pants would have enraged the flames. Would he still like me with welts in places made for his touch, his turn on, his gaze?-says the adolescent woman’s mind. Turns out boys don’t care much about all that as long as the well in the middle of the field provides enough water to wet their lips. But he wasn't like that. He cared about the whole garden and what made it grow. He is a good man- I still know him.
We went to where we were supposed to go, whose ever house. We hung out a little, I listened to the boys talk a little - like young women do. We drank a little, smoked a little. I was so fixated on hoping they wouldn’t stare at my legs even though that was my primary intention. I was the only woman in the room, I do remember that. Then we made it back to his car and all that was building up between us came tumbling forth. There was no way he was taking me back home without a little sip or two.
Car sex is a fabulous hot mess of contortionism. We all of sudden become Gumby, our young bodies overriding what we have been told is possible for bodies. Turns out adrenaline and oxytocin create greater flexibility. Limbs bending around seats, feet through holes in headrests.
His face found my face, my lips his lips, my hands reached past the gear shift onto his gear shift. My head descended towards his sex and I took in as much as I could through the unzipped zipper of his pants. I got the sense no one had ever given him head. His good girl cheerleader girlfriend- maybe she withheld the goods, IDK. But how he responded let me know that his fire had not been properly tended. Or maybe it was just me, just our chemistry. He still cares for me after all these years, that wasn’t our last encounter, although he is married and continued to pursue the “good life”. Young love made in the secret pockets of a spring night never dies.
I almost forgot about the flames on my legs for a moment until he dove between them face first. He unzipped me and I shimmied my short shorts down around my ankles carefully, but not all the way off. There is something about not all the way off. My legs spread toward the dashboard, his head spinning round, tongue finding some ultra human length as he sipped my Well. I kept turning toward his twisted body supported by the console, my right foot on the steering wheel. The sensation on my legs unified with the flame in my groin and my whole body shuddered with the passionate wild intelligent electricity that put the sting in the green body of the nettle leaves, plant song rising through my body, I moaned an earthy melody and I let the fire take me.
He drove me home and I snuck back in the sliding glass door, into the bathroom and quietly opened a drawer containing calamine lotion. The sting kept his love ablaze in me for days.
This story came rushing back to me as I was harvesting and singing to my stinging nettle friends.
Nettle was my first entry into herbalism. It is a prolific plant that shoots out in early spring. It is considered parasitic, as in it is not native to the US and very invasive. However, it is revered for its medicinal properties and deep nourishment of the body. Almost every herbalist will weave nettle into their healing regimen as it provides much needed re-mineralization after a long winter or where there is depletion in the body. It is a food more than a medicine. Eat it, drink it, tincture it, oil it, vinegar it. Smoke it- why not?
It is an amazing gateway plant into herbalism as it is a plant that can’t really ever be over harvested and is beneficial for almost everyone. When I harvest nettle, no matter how many years we’ve been meeting in the spring, I always get more clarity and good reminders about boundaries and awareness of the living world around me. The sting through my pants as I crouch down into a nettle patch-I am reminded about right relationship and how to get permission before I reach my hand out to grab at any other life form for food or medicine or just plop down where I want without looking first or asking the land.
A few years ago I was on a psychedelic Wachuma (San Pedro) hike at 14000 feet in the Andes above Pisac in the Sacred Valley of Peru. It was the full moon and three of us traversed a trail that led to three lakes at different elevations. It was beyond profound and one of the most important medicine journeys of my life. We watched a thunder and lightning storm shower down on the villages below us. We were on top of the world, so high- in all the ways. The apus, the ancestor spirits of the mountains, taught me all about sacred law. The Akashic field opened wide around me and I was initiated into a wisdom that is woven into every form of Universal life.
We began to get lost and all we had with us was a little water, cacao, coca (a magical plant for elevation sickness) and some nuts. I was delirious and fighting off fear when I felt this presence beside me. A little plant that kept calling to me. I was pulled toward little green arms popping out from the stone at the side of the trail. “Who are you?” Without thinking, without pause, I reached out and grabbed the plant and was greeted with a mighty sting. A stocky and super hardy variety of nettle made itself known and reminded me of how to be in step with nature. To listen, to ask permission, to slow down and I will be guided through the wild, and we were. I heard the voices of the apus come alive and help us down the mountain.
I remembered that good man in the good car and my heart welled up with grief and a love at the memory of my youth. I was gifted a healing that transformed any shame I had been carrying. I had such compassion for the naturalness of my young body’s sensual, vibrational ability to make love and experience connection to the living breathing world in all of its forms- human and not.
When under the spell of plant medicine every sensation is amplified a thousand times. When I shook hands with nettle I was invigorated and consumed by the erotic vibration of the natural world. My hand carried a heat from the sting, that when placed anywhere else on my body transmitted an enlivening, blood rushing healing. I have since worked with nettle’s sting for pain. When I tore my right shoulder I would lay fresh nettles over the area. The heat of the inflammation brought blood and circulation to the pain for healing. I will often lay my naked body down on a bed of nettles and breathe in deep. Maybe I am a sensation junkie. I love to feel- everything.
Nettle contains antihistamine properties when ingested. Externally I can feel the transmission of those properties through the sting by way of triggering an inflammatory response in the body. Inflammation is not always a negative reaction. It is needed for the body to awaken its response system towards the site of the wound. Nothing our body does is negative, is wrong. Signs and symptoms only turn into a pathology though our own fears, lack of education and misguided perceptions.
So, as I was harvesting recently, nettle asked me to relay a few things…
If you are new to harvesting plants Nettle said, “start with me. I can feed you, hydrate you and help your pain go away. I am good for you and your little babes and I grow everywhere.” Of course there are those few people who can be sensitive to nettle and its tendency to be constitutionally drying. But overall it is a super food and can greatly help the transition of the body from winter to spring and the overload of allergic responses to blooming life many suffer from.
Nettle wanted me to remind you that when you begin harvesting you are entering into a relationship and an agreement with the natural world. Like you would with any living being, you begin by asking someone’s name, you listen to what they have to say. I receive more information and inspiration harvesting than I do in most deep meditative spaces. Animacy, indigeneity and memory of my original ancestry comes alive. Song comes alive, plants love to be sung to as you harvest them. Before I begin, even with the most invasive plants, I offer a gift and a prayer. The day I was guided to share this story the fairies of the nettle patch wanted chocolate and tobacco- so that is what I placed in the green moss at the base of the nettle plants.
Every season I dry pounds of it, which is still never enough for the infusions I make year round. I make soup and pesto for the freezer and I add it to my smoothies. Once it is processed the sting mostly goes away. My hands are used to handling it so I don’t use gloves. But you might want to unless you have a good relationship to sensation.
I encourage you to feel the sting and track your mind’s responses. You will learn something about yourself.
Maybe when you feel the sting you will think of me and you will be reminded of a time in your youth when the fire in your body was trying to find a way to sing- to be stung by life. Maybe there is a memory of how you first met a plant that would help reshape your biology throughout your life. We are not separate from our environment and everything has eyes- waiting for the moment you step outside your boundaries and begin to dance your erotic sensations alive again. The plants will call you, maybe even pull you into a wild tangle that will teach you a thing or two- about life and love and how to be in right relationship with the beings of the world. Your life will open to a greater landscape of possibility when you look at the natural world as your family rather than a commodity.
And if you want to know more from a pair of legs that don’t lie, that tell it how it is, that have walked a few paths in life, you can play a little Metallica or Tool, or “Black” from Pearl Jam will most certainly do. Feed me a plate of nettle pesto pasta- gluten free- and then I might just let you marry yourself to the parts of me- that are also in you- and together we can remember everything about living this wild sting of a beautiful life.
Spring Tonic- Nettle, Cleavers, Chickweed in organic, gluten free vodka base. For allergies, cleaning the blood, moving the lymph, nourishing kidneys. Tastes like the first days of spring in your mouth. Yum. $18 includes shipping if in US. PayPal friends and family- to email@example.com Or Venmo @jamie-lashbrook. Last 4 of my phone is 4777. It’s a goooood formula.
OH HEY! This is happening again. Women’s lives have been changed from this intimate space. Womb wisdom, plant wisdom (microdosing), breath, mentorship, ceremony.
Shira’s Contemplations and Stories is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
There are no words for how beautiful you write!
Such an amazing story! Pure bliss. Love to read you dear Shira!