First fill water then add
An arrangement of flowers
Bring brightness inside
First fill water then add
An arrangement of flowers
Bring brightness inside
A garden is such a bountiful space, I’m in awe of it, marvel often at all that it has to offer! The year before Jasper’s birth we planted the garden but didn’t tend it at all. That was the year I learned that you don’t have to. That a garden is beyond a place to plant vegetables and fruit. It doesn’t need a gardener to enliven it, rather it will enliven the ‘gardener’. That year our plantings limped along and the entire space sprung up with red clover, milkweed, chicory, Queen Anne’s Lace, evening primrose, goldenrod; and oh it was intoxicating. We gave up going to hunt for what we’d planted and simply moved through the labyrinth of eight foot tall chicories and towering evening primroses to the center, where we eventually had a bed to sit and be with the garden that had grown itself, to be with all the beings that came fluttering, crawling, buzzing, humming from flower to flower. We harvested next to no ‘food’ but we were well fed all the same, and when asked, “So how’s the garden doing?”, I’d reply, “Abundantly.” We had friends visit and they’d look at the jumbo ‘weeds’ and shake their heads, “You have food growing in there?” We’d walk inside, sit for a spell, and they’d experience what the garden was doing. It was amazing. One of our friends drove up a few times that summer . . . she spent most of her visits just being in the garden.
Since then we’ve shifted how we garden, and sometimes it is we who are gardened. The asparagus goes to fern and a thicket of milkweed, goldenrod, Quenn Anne’s Lace, pokeberry, and chicory fills the beds; each year in different measure. Last year goldenrod was predominant, this year it’s milkweed. We laid out straw pathways so we could get to where we’re planting and aside from a few vagrant docks and dandelions, the wildflowers are keeping their growth either at the edges or in the beds . . . we pull some and leave some. It feels as though when we read the living language round us, we begin to communicate differently, in ways that every ‘body’ understands and when we’re speaking the same language, it’s not that the world suddenly starts to hum and vibrate, it always is, it’s just that we begin to listen and understand it more or less, joining in participation.
I’m made aware of this when a car comes up the driveway, the folks driving are lost, gps told them to go this way and they have no idea where they are, why don’t their cell phones work, how do they get to where they want to go, are they even in Rockbridge County anymore, where are they?? Often they’re edgy and nervous, some of them leave in a hurry, some of them stay a while. All of them reflect back a common thread:when they enter places off the gps, it feels like they’ve dropped out of the known world into unknown territory, yet we are here on this planet simultaneously the whole while long, as has the universe been humming whether we listen it or not.
Yesterday I went to pick zucchini and beans, and the sounds coming from honey bees, bumble bees, wasps, hornets, and three hummingbirds moving about was melodious. They each have their own particular noise, some buzzing some thrumming a bit of whirring mixed up with hovering, and together they make music in motion. Plump black and rust ants march from goldenrod to Queen Anne’s Lace, caterpillars munch on milkweed leaves and dill, butterflies dance about the flowers landing to drink, and there’s food for everyone all in a small little colorful place with eloquence written on the rustling pages of maple leaves flecked in orange.
After picking I stayed in the garden for a while, enjoying musing on literacy with the lively muses. Wondered if the emphasis on literacy for everybody may take away rather than be of service to at an individual level. What expressions that a child wants to utilize energy on get suffocated when they’re not yet interested in becoming literate, on a schedule determined for them from without? While they are developing something else from inside themselves at the time . . . .but are forced to give their energy and attention to decoding alphabetic symbols regardless, before they’re willing to or have generated interest from within. Does something of value get squashed this way? What would happen if not everybody in the nation was literate? Would we see something new and unanticipated rise out instead? Literacy is a tool, it serves those of us who need such a tool. Not everybody may have a need for such a tool, just as not everybody has need of nor knowledge of the use of a potter’s wheel or a tractor. What would happen were we to give children the gift of applying themselves to what they’re drawn to, even when it ‘seems’ to be nothing at all, rather than the ‘gift’ of enforced literacy? Might they be setting themselves up for an unknown forward in their formative time and space?
I mused for a spell, easy to do as though the sun was out it wasn’t swelteringly hot; there’s a slight coolness and clarity to the air now. Crisp as a fresh apple, it has a slight bite that tingles. An awareness flickered: summer’s winding toward something else, so I soaked up the sights and sounds and smells and motivated: to create art with what’s growing now. Got up and walked about, nibbling on a mixture of mint, anise hyssop, and tulsi, chewing and macerating them into tea. The zucchini and beans were joined by a few zinnias added to the basket, some goldenrod stems, a bunch of unripe pokeberry, a sprig of phlox, fragrant nectary Queen Anne’s Lace, a milkweed leaf, two cleome petals with their oddly skunky smell, a bit of tansy, a smartweed plume, red clover leaves, and on the way out orange jewelweed; hummingbirds love dipping their long beaks into these, flying quickly from one dangling gem to the next. Then back inside shaping little scenes of wee folk, expressing gratitude with flowers; though small in number and size, very big food for the heart.
The garden is popping and lively now at the height of summer. Echineacea and zinnias provide a place for butterflies to convene and sip while sitting. The zinnias are beautiful. I love how their petals curl open from the center, forming swirl upon swirl of soft tongues that shape a whole flower head. Amidst them the zucchinis and squashes are growing bigger than ever, thriving off the straw and shavings we spread in the beds last autumn from in the chicken coop, and the bees are heard and seen climbing around inside their bright yellow blossoms. Lamb’s quarters are sending silvery powdery seed clusters out and the mint is running rampant. When we walk through the bed and brush against them, they release refreshing scents all around. This year the broccoli and cauliflower grew big but bolted right away into bitterness; feels like it’s the year of squashes, beans, cucumbers and tomatoes, as the lettuce did much the same as the brassicas, and the peas kind of grew and dried up really fast as well. So far, this year’s medicine is showing up as lots of yarrow, Queen Anne’s Lace where ants climb about; less bee balm than ever, hardly any prunella. Changing climate in these mountains, after eight years of feeling out the growing pattern, it’s shifted.
Eight years it’s been since we found our homestead and moved to make our abode here. It’s been an experience with much learning and unlearning too. The past two years we’ve shared our hens eggs with black snakes. This year we found one had moved in again, and it was eating all the eggs. We disturbed it enough to keep it going before coming back again and again to the nesting box, eight feet up off the ground in the chicken run; it would lay coiled up hissing and striking at the long pole we’d poke in there. We’d hoped to scootch it out and into a bucket to relocate, but it got the better of us every time, all seven feet of it lunging out before it would drop and slither away into the underbrush.
While I wrestled with how to get it out of there without ending its life, it sealed its own fate when one day Layla went to feed the chickens and found one of the chicks that Goldie had hatched out, eight weeks old, stretched out in the shape of a snake from head to shoulders; the black snake coiled up above having regurgitated it probably after constricting and attempting to swallow it . . . .was it too big to gobble past the wings or had Layla interrupted it while it slowly sucked, I don’t know, but this was a bit too much for Layla. She’s been caring for our chickens since she was around seven or eight, and is now, at fifteen, our primary chicken keeper. When she found the chick in this state, she took the pitchfork in her hand and went for that black snake with murder in her eyes! She stalked it for a half an hour before she got it, after which Anousheh spotted a second one coiled up in a nesting box! Layla stabbed that one too, her outrage at the dead chick greater than seven feet of hissing striking intimidation coming at her and this time when it dropped out and tried to get away, our dog Clover had come by to see what was going on, and was on that snake in a second. Her method is very interesting:: she throws the snake in such a way that it falls hard and is somewhat dazed from the impact. She does this repeatedly until the snake is too stunned to do anything and then she gets in there and bites it quite dead. Two snakes in one morning. We moved their extremely long bodies to a bower of bee balm and yarrow to lay to rest intertwined with respect.
I feel a twinge of regret every now and then, wondering whether there was another way, and then I realize this is part of unlearning and learning:: an attitude perhaps around death and endings and beginnings and life that meets you in your face and shows you that it’s all part of a whole, and how you greet it is where an essence lives, what comes after springs from that, coiling and uncoiling, neither this nor that but this and this and a bit of that as well. I wrote a short poem afterward, may work on it some more, later . . .
It comes together
At the tip of a pitchfork
Thrust just so and it whips
Like a Rudyard Kipling tale
Wrapped around the tines
Mouth open wide fangs bared
Hissing and striking
Until there’s no more
Thinking, grappling, or hooks
. . . . in the meantime I am thankful for the eggs we now enjoy and find it ironic that our hens flew into the peach trees and ate up all the peaches, save the ones ripe enough to pick and ripen a bit more in a brown bag. They have moved on into the boughs of our laden apple trees, where they’re pecking at the fruits. Snakes eat eggs and die, do we eat the chickens now that they’re eating up the fruit?! Fair trade for eggs laid? Many questions, how many variations of response, is there reconciliation? Sooner or later we go to the river and swim with trout and in those fluid moments there are neither questions nor answers, just so many leaves fluttering above in layers between us and the blue sky floating by, snakes on rocks nearby sunning, and we are all together in a spiral, dancing with and part of a garden of life.
O will you lay with me
Beneath a shady tree,
On a ship we’ll set a sail
Row out to meet a whale,
Under the clear bright skies
We’ll swing and shut our eyes,
O will you come with me
Out to the apple tree.
summer days . . . rains washed out the patchwork shovel mending of the driveway, re-rutted and grooved them anew, similarly in the garden . . . the bales of straw we so cleverly laid out on pathways have kept the weeds down, however, they have also sprouted! What a chortle!
the beds are giving chard and peas,
hairy motherwort, nuzzling bees,
the ‘new’ garden flower
blooms magenta hour after hour,
ladybirds spotted inside the fold
sit dark red on yellow quietly bold
the old mulberry tree fallen over long ago has rejuvenated and sprouted shoots, with a bit of pruning and clearing of thorny thicket we climb around and upon the gnarled intertwined trunk . . . in crevices where bark has decayed there’s plants sprouting and down low from out of cracks, mushrooms climbing; what a tree, majestic is she!! . . . we enjoy fruit and shade at her side where she does abide with a bramble left behind her where rabbits reside . . .
this solstice we gathered and celebrated mulberry, hummingbird, hollyhocks, and daily lilies, simple pleasures with daylong arms and firefly nights.
Lilac has perfumed the air and blossomed; the wind and rain have blown away spent blooms but not before we gathered flowers to infuse in a syrup that’s handy to soak pound cake with, drizzle over pancakes, or add a splash to lemonade later in the year, a reminder of lovely lilac days. Spring is moving along fast. Knotweed, garlic mustard, and burdock are all big and past their tender tasty prime. Lambs quarters are popping up with milkweed shoots, asparagus is on its way to ferning, and we’re on our hands and knees turning over wormy dirt where cabbages, broccoli, chard, kale, and lettuce are being given homes. The roses have begun budding and yellow jackets are buzzing around looking for a spot to make their nests. Little Leif has come and gone. He spent many a day away from his desert home in these lush mountains, waking to the sound of Lordly Cock crowing, popping out to gather eggs. He’d put things down on the grasses, where they would disappear from sight, swallowed by the tall greenery . . . . and oh, his expression, then the search! Fingers parting the swathes, peeking, crawling nose to ground, looking for his marbles!
Too quickly the days are passing, one day to the next, one week to another, year to year; again we’re doing a garden, and though gardens are being done yearly, they’re never the same, giving what’s given to them . . . piquing curiousity, for in a garden is made visible the fluctuations all around. Even while the earth feels sure beneath the feet and hands it is turning turning and we with it, pulling cinquefoil here leaving it there, choices being made moment to moment, peas or dock? Is there room for both? Where to make the cuts with chicory and evening primrose, both beloved by bees and butterflies so beautiful, yet they’ll outgrow and crowd out chard and swallow the basil; choices choices that shape a patchwork crazy quilt that shows fully its story later, as the days and weeks and months keep turning.
Today under the row covers we found ditches formed by the downpour a few days ago, a rain so hard it flooded the driveway, making it un-driveable until early evening. Surely it would have remained flooded, three creeks instead of one, had the leaves, logs, and branches not been moved out where they were damming up the flow, sending water bursting through the banks, frothing and rushing downstream into the big river at the bottom of the mountain, which in turn flooded out through porches and swing sets onto the road. Though the driveway’s cleared, it’s scarred and marked, rutted by the passage of water eroding the earth; here and there are sand and gravel islands.
When I drive it, I’m reminded of the Karachi roads where I learned to drive; zig zag zoo, together up together down, around a pothole here, a mountain of a speedbump there, another ditch and groove, year round bump and go dirt roads . . . . though I’ve heard tell in the years between now and then those roads remain only in my memory, having been smoothed out and paved by machinery and advancements in that land; ironic that I live on a country road in an already advanced country that rivals those roads now! Turn turn churn, East to West, West to East, sometimes it feels like we’re all wildly whirling in opposite directions from where we originate, thus shifting and moving this to that and that to this, eroding being eroded replenished absorbed reshaping where we are based on where we’ve been in a musical chairs medley until Haughty Heron flies overhead and lands on a swaying branch, peers down his long long nose and says, Hmm, I’ve seen this all before, now where are the fish? Corn Woman grins at him in response.
Turning over to a new year as orbits intersect and give us vernal equinox, springing crocuses, daffodils, rainbows, and warm wormy soil to dig around in.
Winter was mild this year, dry, low on rain and snow although we received a driveway frozen at the last minute, winter winds blew in to say, We’re going to play one last time before leaving, leave you with a bit of ice, nice? It came and it went, both equally quickly, feels like winter is spent and here we are at the beginning, gathered around our Haft Seen Sofreh, ringing in Nowrooz with blessings for one another, blessings for all . . .
May we dream deeply, clearly, and well. May we have each others backs. May we accept one another as we are. May we love and be loved, love lighting up our lives and shining from our eyes.
May we walk in light, with light. May we attract and magnetize what is of benefit to us, walking steadily and firmly yet gently upon this beautiful planet, spreading seeds for what is forward to grow it abundant, rejuvenated, and fertile.
May we be focused and with purpose, giving our energy generously to what is attractive, blessed, and purpose full. May we remember to rest and restore, give ourselves moments in between to digest and reflect.
May our endeavors in play and work thrive, flourish, and prosper. May we learn from the lessons that come our way and deepen our study of what interests us, engaged and enabled to share with our fellows; learning how to learn where we are short.
May we be with intuition. May we have allies and guides along the way, may the teachers we need come when we are ready, and may we go to where we are called when our teachings are needed.
May we be clear and illuminated, reflective, adjusted, enabled to live in harmony with one another and all our relations.
May we be free from bonds that are unhealthy and restrictive, empowered to cut away what we release constructively and compassionately.
May it be fun year with adventure and opportunities open for us to engage and be engaged with. May we be provided for in all our needs, and may we be grateful for providence.
May we be with courage, encouraged. May we be grounded and centered in our choices. May we give voice to what must bespoken, stand up for ourselves, show up as we are when called, trusting that we are as Spirit created us, enough, and yet ever reaching when Spirit nudges us to become more.
May we have stamina, fortitude, and vigor for our workabouts. May we come together to play, share stories, cook and enjoy nourishing meals, give thanks, celebrate.
Blessed Be this Nowrooz and the year ahead.