Eating a Little Clover Flower Changed My Story. What Changed Yours?

david varlow Sep 08, 2022

VARLOW ACADEMY: NOTES FROM A MOUNTAIN MAN

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Do you ever wonder how you got to be the person you are? Do you wonder what little things happened in your life, what you may overlook until you realize that without these moments you would not be the you that you are?

This is a story about something that came to me recently, just weeks ago really, an epiphany of sorts that can serve as a point of change that manifests itself in many different ways. I am reminded of a film I really loved called 'Run Lola Run' where the action of the main character and the story changes completely based on a small moment and in these posts for now I'm enjoying exploring these moments and hope you will be able to read and relate your own moments, see how they are like the tiny jewels in your crown that may get overlooked but without them the crown would be different.

I want to tell you the story of a common little flower called the Red Clover and why I think this little flower is part of my story and has 100% changed the course of my life.

But first, a little backstory...

When I was eight years old, my family moved to Tennessee. It was a life-changing event and the circumstances of where we lived and who lived close by had repercussions. In our previous home in a kind of graduate student housing community in Rochester, New York, there were other kids my age and parents and people around. It was a kind of small village although looking at it now you may say it is a kind of sad little place, to me it had a vibrancy that nurtured me socially particularly. Tennessee was different. 

We moved to Tennessee because that was the one place in the world where my father was offered a tenure-track position at a University, so, it was pretty much there or maybe some other alternative, but with two kids and no great life experience that told him to roll the dice on some other career, it was meant to be. It had to happen.

My parents had never owned a home and home ownership was not something that was terribly common in my family. Both sides had arrived in Ellis Island around 1890 and their realities were mostly as apartment dwellers. So, when my father saw this big house in East Knoxville, saw how grand it was and saw that he could buy this house for the same amount of money he could afford a much less grand place in a neighborhood more favored by University of Tennessee employees and their families, he went with the big house, and it was a big and grand home even if not long after he realized that bargains come with problems. In any event, the home was grand, but the neighborhood was populated mostly with retired couples who's children had long since left. It was a beautiful, hilly, quiet and beautiful place without anyone really for a boy my age to play with. I went from having friends just outside my door to no one. I was in a lot of ways alone.

I will end the context here for now as I'm sure it will come up in later posts, suffice it to say, the newness of the place and the alone-ness that I encountered did alter my sense of being quite a bit inward. I spent a lot of time by myself now. A lot of moments resonated inward, unsharable and that's where the Red Clover comes in.

I don't recall who it was that made the show to me or when or where really. In the whole the moment was probably only less than a minute. Someone on some walk somewhere at some point in my life picked a Red Clover flower from the ground and showed it to me and said something like, 'You can eat these,' and showed me by biting off the purple leaves of the flower and then I bit off the leaves. They came out easily in tiny little clumps and I chewed them and the taste wasn't unpleasant, just the slightest bit of sweetness. I'm sure I ate more here and there, noticing that the really brightly colored flowers perhaps felt a bit more firm and tasted ever so slightly more sweet.

And that was it.

From that moment on, throughout my life, I have quite frequently when offered the opportunity in some grassy field or yard or sunny green space, eaten the flowers of Red Clover.

A few weeks ago, now, decades later I did some research to try to see if there are medicinal or nutritional qualities to the plant and there were. I started to wonder, has my eating of Red Clover over the years been healthful? I thought, well, it most likely has been. But there was something else there, not just a factual discovery about quantitative amounts of things like vitamins and minerals. Beyond what this little plant could 'give' me, what I would take from 'it', there were two ideas that came to mind.

The first was a reinforcement of the idea that we are part of the earth, part of life and that if the earth is our mother and the living plants part of the garden providing nourishment to us, then it is not just a coincidence that Red Clover is nourishing. At least in my mind, in the story I'm telling myself, this plant is there to take care of me (and birds and bees and all the rest that find it good). If all living things come from the same mother then this garden is for us all, and I wondered, did older cultures in this area that I am now (upstate New York) or where I was (eastern Tennessee) eat Red Clover. Where they nourished by it, made more healthy for it, accepted it as part of a bounty of things here to give us goodness, food, remedies. We call it now 'natural' remedies for you cannot likely cure diseases with Red Clover, but perhaps you can by partaking in them offer just a little bit of extra support to your body. I don't know exactly. That is most likely all folk medicine and we aren't very often confronted with 'folk' who will tell us unequivocally that eating wild flowers does 'this' or cures 'that'. 

But here I am, perhaps trying to be that kind of 'folk' and that leads me to the next big realization about the story of my engagement with this little purple edible flower that most people would probably call a 'weed'.

The idea that I am a 'person who eats' Red Clover does make me different and from the moment it was shown to me until now I have been a 'person who eats Red Clover'. That is not my mother or my father or my sister. It is not anyone else I know or have met. Of course there are others like me but this is something that makes me who I am and I like that part of me. I like to eat Red Clover and in this realization I 'like the me that likes to eat' Red Clover. I am a Red Clover eater and what is that? If I have been this Red Clover eater ever since I first ate Red Clover then that is a habit I have that is 'who I am', and that is me and that differentiates me from others. It could in some sense be a defining factor in me becoming the person I am or maybe I was always that person and the Red Clover is like a symbol of that.

I am a person who loves the hills and the woods and the streams and the lakes. I am connected with these things. I also love the desert and the beaches and many other terrains, but I am a creature of the hills and the woods and the fields, for that is where I wandered alone as a young boy and that is where I learned to really become tuned in to the momentary changes of the natural world later as an adult and that is where I became the person who is writing this post. 

So in that moment of eating Red Clover for the first time I am able to see something cosmic in a way, able to tell stories of life within and all around. And I only had this realization a few weeks ago up at the lake with Veronica. I've been eating this flower since I was just maybe nine years old.

Is this my origin story? Is it as simple in a way as adding up the events that we carry with us and that we allow to define us? 

Are you able to reach back recall a moment like my Red Clover, something that you carry with you always, that gives you identity and defines you in a way that feels uniquely you? Please share in the comments if you'd like. I'd love to hear what you have to say. Share below.


If you are interested in a personal one on one session with me please email me at [email protected]. I am available as a life coach, guide, tarot reader, listener and healer. Feel free to reach out and let me know how I can help.

Also, I am regularly offering up your Freaky Weekend Tarot Mantra, Mountain Man Magic and adventures on my instagram - you can follow along on the journey with me at @davidvarlow. There's such a great group of friends there in the comments!

Love to you and All the Best.

-- David Varlow of the Red Clovers

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