Whilst it’s taken me a while to get round to creating this website, I have always been clear in my mind that I wanted images of ferns on it. I love ferns and have planted them in every garden I have had for the last 20 years or more. They are easy to grow and rarely suffer from diseases or insect infestations which is a big plus in my book!
I love the variety in the textures, shapes and colours of these plants. There are more than 15,000 known species of ferns that grow around the world. Outdoor ferns can grow in a wide range of conditions from the familiar damp and shady to the less obvious dry and sunny. They come in sizes ranging from the minute at 1cm tall to the gigantic tree ferns which can grow up to 25 meters, and everything in between. Some are evergreen and others deciduous. Then there are the indoors ferns too, such as the lovely soft and delicate Maidenhair fern. What’s not to like?
As my patient partner can attest to, I can get a bit obsessed with them, stopping endlessly to take a photo of another fern unfurling when we are out walking. I find myself captivated by each plant I look at and it’s as if I am trying to capture something of its’ essence to take with me even though I know when I get home all my photos will look pretty similar!
More recently I have I started to get curious about my desire for fern images, asking myself “So, what is it with the ferns then? Why am I so drawn to them?” In reflecting on this question I came to realise that when I was doing my deep bodywork training (many years ago now) the self-awareness and personal development that I experienced from that training enabled me to feel more open and expanded energetically, as if I had more space within my body somehow. I was aware that my whole body felt less contracted; I was less tight in my muscles; it was as if I didn’t have to work quite so hard at holding myself up and together. I started to feel more at ease in my body. I am now able to understand this and name it as feeling safer in my body. For me, this sense of opening up and expansion is rather like the unfurling of ferns in spring as they turn into fronds: that shift from the tightly contracted spiral of the emerging leaf as it unwinds to become the soft and relaxed full leaf.
As a species, ferns are old. They’re so old that they can be found in 400 million-year-old fossil records. This is from a time over 100 million years before dinosaurs walked the Earth, so well before we humans arrived on earth. Furthermore, ferns have been an important source of medicine in the past for various ailments ranging from the relief of nettle stings, headache and stomach pains to stopping bleeding, reducing inflammation and as an antidote to snakebites.
When I think about these facts the words that comes to mind are resilience and resourceful: what an incredibly resilient plant the fern is to have stuck around for so long and not only does it look good it’s packed with useful resources.
Another recognition in my reflections is that the variety found in the fern species reminds me of diversity of us humans. Whilst each of us lives in a different set of conditions, we all yearn to thrive in one way or another. We are all seeking to find our own version of unfurling; to tap into our own inner resources and resilience to help us to feel safe and at ease within ourselves.
Having done a bit of research it also turns out that the ancient fern is also rich in symbolism being seen as good luck and indicating eternal youth. From the indigenous Maori of New Zealand, where the fern represents new life and new beginnings, and the Japanese for whom it symbolizes family and the hope for future generations to the Victorians, for whom the fern symbolized humility and sincerity.
As a result of my reflections I now I understand a little better what’s with my ferns! For me they are a symbol of my own unfurling. I think the age, usefulness and resilience of ferns as a species offer me a symbol of hope. That if I persist in my risking on purpose and don’t give up, it is possible for me to continue learning, growing and healing my own wounds. Ultimately, that I can go out into the world from a place of greater ease & confidence, enabling me to connect with others openly and with curiosity rather than from a place of doubt, anxiety or fear. Again, what’s not to like?