Unsung Heroes: Monika Michaelova
Teacher of Indigenous Nature & Spirituality, Czech Republic
At the 10th World Wilderness Congress we discovered hundreds of young activists who were working quietly behind the scenes to make the WILD vision a reality. We felt that these people’s activities should be recognised. In keeping with the knowledge that young people are the future, we asked our team of young trainee journalists in the press office to go out and interview them.
Monika Michaelova is a person full of spirit born in Northern Moravia, Czech Republic, who takes groups into the wild to help them experience their relationship with nature. She attended WILD10 because Wildlife experts urged her to come, saying her message should be heard by a broader audience. She speaks a singular language – for one thing, the term ‘invasive species’ makes her giggle.
As a child, Monika spent a lot of time “bumbling” through the nearby woods, and while she ‘bumbled’, she was always talking to somebody. At the time, she thought it was to herself; now she thinks she was talking with the forest.
Moving to Prague made her feel she was dying slowly, and she came to realize that she missed her roots. “Plants grow from seeds, full of power, then they are complete and very beautiful, and then they go back to the earth and melt with her again. It’s like breathing. Every day is a cycle,” is how she describes it. This feeling that she was missing out on life made her move back to the wilderness.
“The first real comeback was when I was pregnant. That is the most beautiful thing that can happen to a woman. With my son in my belly, I started to talk to the plants again. I went into the library, and learned about medicinal plants, Celtic wisdom and the Druidic wisdom.”
Asked how she talks to the plants, she replies: “I don´t talk with my mind, but with my heart. It isn’t possible to communicate with a plant through your mind – you can use your mind to try to understand what the plant shows you in your heart. To me, for example Absynthium vulgaris, is not ´something´. It is a surprise whenever I meet one, because I never know what I am going to experience, or what aspect of their healing power they are going to introduce me to. The plant has its own impulse. Its spirit. Plants desire that part of them be recognized”.
When asked how she feels about poisonous plants, she reacts as if I have insulted a friend: “There are no poisonous plants. They are just very powerful. They have strong teachings. You must treat them with great respect. You don’t always need to eat a plant in order for it to heal you or let you feel more deeply about life. It is just like with humans. Sometimes you sit with one, sometimes you give a massage, sometimes you fall in love.”
She points out a beautiful mallow plant with purple flowers, which the Czechs call ‘Slez’, meaning ‘phlegm’. She explains that people use this in tea to expel mucus; Czech people have a long history of using medicinal plants, giving them names which indicate their medicinal purpose.
When I ask if plants are shy, she replies that “Some are, some don´t want to have attention. But others are very extravagant. We all have our phases”
Monika came to WILD10 to learn about what is happening among conservationists, but takes a skeptical view. She wonders whether when people talk about being ‘invasive’, they are really referring to their own mental behavior. “We need to rewild the human psyche”, she concludes, “and the way to do that, is to listen to nature and invite her in”.
This interview was conducted by Gilles Havik – Gilles, who is from the Netherlands, graduated in Biology & Forest and Nature Conservation and is currently working for the municipality of Amsterdam on various conservation projects. He writes a blog called Sailing On Dreams.