Me…My Land

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Pines, oaks and redwoods

Each time we move our attention to a different part of the land we find a new relationship is forming. Every section carries within a personality, an energetic quality, gifts and challenges. Working with the land is a healing journey for both of us. When we removed the lawns, we noticed new plant life volunteering on the land. Each year a different variety of plant moved in. Natural groundcovers showed up to nourish the soil – I don’t know all their names, though vetch is among them.

vetch

vetch

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Empty chicken yard

Winter Greenery

Winter Greenery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning to listen to the land has resulted in ongoing renewal over a period of years. Life is like that, you know. It is a gradual change, sometimes simply opening up space that nature will fill on her own, spreading seeds we’ve gathered through the flip of a hand, other times digging persistently into the dry clay. No matter how the space is emptied or filled it is a natural process that simply repeats.

 

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Stream

Pond and Stream

Ponds with stream

A shallow pool flowing into a stream that gracefully empties itself into a deep pond, then circulating round again for continual replenishment. The mature silver maple stands guard in the center of my land, deeply rooted, holding its arms wide to embrace all who enter.

Groves of trees: junipers, redwoods, oaks and pines feed the quiet wildness of my soul, providing strength and wisdom when I need to distance myself from the busyness of life. I find the quiet under the trees. A feeling of safety and groundedness.

 

 

Along the edges of this land take a moment to look closely; underneath the grass, on the compost pile, or tucked into the wood chips you’ll find the magical world of fungi. Mushrooms peeking their heads out of the earth. The scent of the soil is intoxicating, felt deeply in the most ancient part of my soul. I can feel the fairy world when I’m with the mushrooms. Ethereal and otherworldly. Yet, somehow, also a part of who I am.

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wooly mane, inky cap

mushroom forest

Garden Mushrooms

 

 

 

 

The orchard of fruit trees provides a feeling of stability. Their vulnerability has also been apparent during the past few years of drought. Without care, the stability they hold can crumble, a little at a time. Without our inner stability, our ability to give in abundance is limited by the slow crumbling away of our inner spirit. We must be nurtured on a regular basis to stay stable and prosperous. The trees give of their fruits so we have sustenance that provides throughout the year in the form of dried deliciousness, flavored vinegars, sauces, and syrups, baked sweetness during a winter’s evening.

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Winter Figs

Blooming Pear

Blooming Pear

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Abundant peaches

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Peach Blossoms

Stepping from the orchard into the garden, filled with herbs, flowers, vegetables – potential; pockets of wildflowers scattered around. I feel: Bursting forth! Inspiration! Joie de vivre!

Whoa, the back garden is full of vibrant life, sprouting something new each season. The joy that bubbles up in me as I walk through the garden is palpable. Hope, possibility, movement is apparent in the early garden of spring. Though it’s only January, here in California there is an obvious transition happening. The seasons are shifting. Life is resilient.

 

Miner’s lettuce, mustard, fennel, mallow, cleavers, lemon balm, apple mint, spearmint, peppermint, asparagus, chives and more providing a spring feast, clearing away the cobwebs of winter.

Field of Miner's Lettuce

Field of Miner’s Lettuce

Cleavers

Cleavers

Blooming Mustard

Blooming Mustard

fennel

Fennel

garlic chives

garlic chives

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

California Poppy, sweet peas, feverfew,  love-lies-bleeding, nasturtium, tulips, irises, alyssum, flowering sages galore, zauschneria (I love that word!), mugwort, borage, goldenrod, lovage, milkweed popping up to say hello each spring, some early, some late….

Poppies, Calendula, Penstemon

Poppies, Calendula, Penstemon

Calendula

Calendula

Evening Primrose with Feverfew

Evening Primrose with Feverfew

goldenrod leaves

Goldenrod leaves

 

 

 

 

 

All year long, the birds are singing, cooing and cawing, flitting here and there amongst the flowers and trees; butterflies, dragonflies and an occasional frog make an appearance on a regular basis. Lizards and snakes, mice and voles, though usually hidden and out of sight, are adding their presence to the land.  Raccoons, skunks, squirrels, opossums are all present on the land.

Bird in water fountain

Bird in water fountain

Dragonfly on Poppy seed head

Dragonfly on Poppy seed head

Frittilary butterfly

Frittilary butterfly

bees on frame

Bees on hive frame

 

Bees, flies, wasps, gnats all buzzing, buzzing, buzzing! The year is just beginning. Where will it lead as we follow the sights and sounds of the garden!


Winter Silence

Running, running, and running some more to fulfill the obligations of the holiday season.  Each year a choice is made as to how you will spend your time during each season.  We all know how it feels being wholly wrapped up in the mindless action of buying presents, pasting on a happy smile and baking or decorating til we drop.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of my students told me recently that she loves the holiday season because her natural exuberance for life is never questioned and she is received fully by those around her. What a lovely experience to have! On the other hand, how sad that she feels restricted during the rest of the year when others don’t want to receive her effusive joyfulness. Our culture continually demands that we follow the rules and often those rules are so well woven into our culture that we are unaware of following them.

Winter….a time for reflection, hibernation, rejuvenation. We all know that this is what winter is for. We are enamored with these images. Throughout the holiday season and into the New Year, the media plays on these emotionally filled images in advertising. Pulling us in to consume more, overdo excessively and continue to ignore our deeper nature that is calling us to retreat and go inside of ourselves.

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STOP! Breathe for a moment and examine your motivations. Step outside and FEEL what winter is calling for you to do, and BE.

“Silent Night, Holy Night. All is calm. All is bright…” This well known song (without getting into the religious references) elicits feelings of winter. The quiet that descends during the rain or after the snow falls. The brightness of the sun reflecting off the snow. The candles (lights) that shine in the dark.

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Here are some images to help you get started in feeling winter, deeply… inside your soul.

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Take time each day throughout the rest of the year to absorb the peace and quiet that they offer. Feel the embrace of the winter as the arms of each tree reaches out to sustain you.

 

And, remember, when the New Year comes you can keep yourself in this lovely place of internal calm. Allow the incessant chatter of resolutions to die back. Fuel your New Year with the silence of a holy night.

 


A Lifestyle of Gratitude

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll through November each year, we are bombarded with the message that we are supposed to be grateful. The commercialization of a spiritual principle, like gratitude, can be confusing and in fact, downright annoying. I myself have found over time, the development of an aversion to the originally meaningful additions around the Thanksgiving table of sharing our gratitude. My problem with this practice is that it is only done at this time of year. That, somehow, I’m suddenly supposed to be expressing my deepest feelings of gratitude right before I eat a huge meal. Not the best time to be bringing up deep emotions. I prefer to eat my meals without swallowing my emotions, even when they are lovely ones like gratitude.

This request is never asked of me at other times of year nor offered by others (except surprisingly on FB). Doesn’t that seem strange to you? I find that in my own life, on any given day, I may find myself expressing to my wonderful husband, Ofer, gratitude for my life. And for our lives together. How does this happen? It is a direct result of my awareness of what is happening around me, and the ability (developed over time) to judge less and be grateful more.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So many times we are focused on the “bad” things that are happening in our lives or around us in the lives of others. With a little reframing, we can see each situation as an opportunity for gratitude of some kind. Every experience is neither good nor bad, simply an experience. We can choose how we perceive life and our response to it every moment.

For example, I may read of a tragedy in the paper and say, “I am so grateful that we do not have that happening in our lives.” Or, I’ll see someone when I’m on a walk and say, “I’m very grateful that I am moving more easily than they are.” Or “It’s such a privilege to have the knowledge and support I have to keep myself moving well at this age.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI remember when I was pregnant with my son and feeling the pinch of our finances. I went to look into getting food stamps to help us get through. I drove the van, parked it in the lot and went inside the building. As I looked around the room at all of the people there, I realized that I had so much more than they did.  I had a vehicle to get there in; I had credit cards I could use to buy food while waiting for money to come in; I had a home to live in. It would be unfair of me to apply for government support because it could take away from those who needed it more than I. So, I turned around and got back in the van and drove home feeling endlessly grateful for my abundance.

Sometimes, the gratitude is for the passage of time and the stage of life we are in. When shopping, watching young parents struggling with a screaming child, we often say, “I’m glad we aren’t doing that now. It’s wonderful to have a grown son.” Stories of children failing or being taken advantage of in schools and we are deeply grateful for the way we raised our son.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGratitude can be expressed in other ways as well. When I’m reading a novel, I may think, “I’m grateful that I have a family that listens to me and I live in modern times.” Even when I’m sick in bed, I find myself thinking about my gratitude for a warm place to snuggle up, hot broth and an understanding family to support me while I regain my health. Or, perhaps, I will be grateful that it is only a passing flu that will be gone after a few days of rest. I used to be resentful when illness (or jury duty!) interrupted my life. Now, I see it as simply another way I am spending the time I have in my life and a way to learn and deepen my relationship to myself.

Life in the garden provides resplendent possibilities for gratitude! On a regular basis, our family will see something blooming or peeking up in the garden, maybe a change in ripeness or plant size, and the excitement is shared with each other. “Come out to the garden, I want to show you this!” may be uttered by any of us. Sharing gratitude for the abundance and beauty of the garden is a daily gift.

Take a look at your life, and consider, what are you grateful for today? This daily practice can be done anywhere that nature is found. On a street corner, in a neighborhood, a park, or just gazing up at the sky.

 

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This photo was taken looking up at the sky in the middle of the day while standing in a parking lot in the suburbs. I call it “Hope”.

 

 

 


Times of Change

I’ve been thinking lately that it is time to stop raising chickens. It seems a good time for me to make such a large change as it is fall. Fall is a natural time for letting go, for purging the unnecessary from life, for making room for something new. With the descent of winter, I will be spending less time in the garden. The rains will wash away the old detritus of the year. As I live more fully in sync with the seasons, I am able to recognize the ebb and flow of my life and allow it to unfold without getting in the way.

Y with chik 2_prbalancing chicken_prWe first got chickens when my son, Yo’el, was nine. A friend brought a pet chicken to school one day and he was completely enamored. Ofer and I had been wanting to get chickens for years, so it was finally time. In a short period of time, it became clear that these were more than pets, they were comforters. During times of upset, the first thing that Yo’el would do is run to the back yard and watch the chickens. Years later, I asked him why he did that and he said that their sounds were comforting and helped him feel better.

Now, it has been thirteen years of raising chickens. We’ve raised four flocks or so and had times of both abundance and heartache as they laid excessively or not enough to keep us fed, and over time, they died. It became a way of life for our family.

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We have created a sacred space that includes animals. All forms of life are valuable and we want to share the healing benefits of nature with everyone who steps into our world. We are also devoted to the ongoing process of sowing, harvesting, death and renewal, in a broader sense, in terms of the spirit and the creation of a healthy lifestyle.

We, too, feel that the chickens are a valuable part of our sacred space. So, you may ask, why are you now getting rid of them? Well, the truth is that much as we sometimes resist it, things change over time. We are currently in times of change.

When we first got chickens, it was hard to find healthy, free-range eggs in markets. We have always been committed to eating the freshest foods, so raising our own chickens made sense. Since then, the farmers have responded and are now offering reasonably priced, free-range eggs in our local markets. And we love to support the local farmers, so one more way to do that is to buy their eggs.

y e (18)_pry e (35) pry e (65)_pry e (12)_prOur son is now almost 23 and he may fly the coop at any time. Over the last few years, he has been less interested in the chickens and helps with them only because I asked him to and he’s a helpful guy.

 

I, too, am changing and finding that without a child running around the place, there is less that holds me here. I am letting go of old dreams and looking at expanding my activities. I am stepping back out into the world which includes more frequent travel. In 2016, so far, I have six trips planned. That sort of travel hasn’t happened in many years. When I am gone, the animal care falls to Ofer, who wouldn’t have animals if he lived on his own. So, you see, there is a ripple effect as times change.

The ease with which I found someone to adopt the entire flock of chickens is a sweet validation that this is the right decision. A Big “Thank You!” to Heather Thomason of Goat Girl Farm for taking them and providing a good new home.

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As I said earlier, after the winter I will be ready to plant something new in this sacred space of the Sugi Garden.  I don’t know yet what it will be. Maybe it will begin to reveal itself in the darkness of my internal reflections this winter. Winter is the time of my birth so it is an especially auspicious time for me to pull forward a new direction to move towards.

Eggs are an age-old symbol of spring. We will continue to have eggs in our lives to feed us, inspire creativity and growth. And with the beautiful eggs raised by the organic farmers, you will still be able to enjoy our Sunday brunches and homemade ice creams. Spring will bring a feeling of freshness and renewal, a time for hope and possibility. Let’s let go of what no longer serves us and open up to the possibilities that lie ahead.


Healing Flowers

With all of the extreme fires that have been happening all around the state of California there has been a feeling of emergency throughout much of the summer. Even though the fires are at a distance from our lovely place, the heaviness of the destructive, cleansing forces of fire linger around us frequently. Just knowing that people, animals and nature are going through such a sudden and extreme change brings a combination of sadness, anxiety and anticipation.

This type of change is also an opportunity to rid ourselves of old patterns and to take steps towards a new way of being. I look to nature for support during such times and find that Flower Essences are a phenomenal form of therapy to soothe away these challenges. I’ve chosen just a sampling of the flowers that may be useful during this stressful summer/fall. Some of these flowers will help in the immediacy of the traumatic moment and others will address the effects of a trauma that can linger over time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABleeding Heart –  Intense feelings of brokenheartedness and loss often  occur with the loss of a loved one, including a place or animal that has been dearly cherished. The response can be an emotional dependence that is unhealthy and extreme. Bleeding Heart will help these people fill themselves from within by connecting to their own spiritual strengths and learn to love and honor others from a place of openheartedness and fullness.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABorage – Another wonderful remedy for the heart is Borage. I especially love this one in the garden as well as in my flower essences! It pulls up a feeling uplifting joy and courage, particularly during challenging circumstances. Borage will assist you in overcoming deep feelings of grief, heavy-heartedness and depression. Feel the lightness and optimism that fills you when Borage is your friend!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACalendula – When we are under a great deal of stress, our spoken words can become cutting and sharp. Impatience and self-protection influences our communications. Calendula will allow for a more balanced way of interacting with others through speaking. This flower will bring forth feelings of compassion, warmth and healing into verbal communications, especially within our personal relationships.

clematis closeup webClematis – This flower helps us become more fully present in life. When tragedy strikes, it is easy to escape by moving our awareness into a dreamy state, another world where life is better. Clematis can support the strength of the inner self to allow a deeper experience of being connected to ourselves as physical beings, the physical world and those around us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACosmos – Cosmos is another wonderful communication flower for times of crisis (or every day) when the thinking becomes overwhelmed and disorganized.  When we feel overwhelmed by circumstances and unable to process everything quickly enough the mind goes into overload; speech becomes rapid and unfocused. Cosmos will bring together the speaking and thinking aspects of the nervous system for fluidity and clarity in communication.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGoldenrod – During times of extreme change we can discover that deep inside there is the desire for something different than what we have been living. Our lives are often profoundly influenced by those around us, through community or family ties. This can be difficult to break away from in order to create the true life that is desired. Goldenrod develops a more complete sense of Self, bringing into awareness the unconscious choice to conform. Individuation becomes possible with the help of Goldenrod. As a result, social pressures are not felt so deeply and balance is achieved between the needs of the individual and the group.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALove Lies Bleeding – The experience that comes to a community when disaster strikes is often surreal. Love Lies Bleeding can pull us from the depths of despair into a place of consciousness that transcends the personal and offers a larger context for understanding suffering. This overpowering experience brings into focus the awareness that one’s personal pain is an expression of the human condition. When using Love Lies Bleeding flower essence, we can discover a heartfelt bond with all of life and feel the deep-seated compassion that is hidden in our hearts.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMariposa Lily – Traumatic events exacerbate the patterns that we have developed for self-preservation. Many of us have never developed a clear bond with the essence of Mother. This can be experienced as a separation from Gaia (the Earth and environment), from our own feminine aspects, and from personal relationship with human females. Mariposa Lily is a flower that manifests feelings of nurturing that heal the broken bonds of mother and child. Being embraced by the maternal gives us a strong foundation for forgiveness that results in the ability to move forward in a state of grace.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATansy – The chaos of a sudden, dramatic life change can trigger feelings of intense overwhelm, instability and confusion. When faced with this situation, many people withdraw to cope and are unable to take meaningful action to move forward in life. Tansy stimulates self-awareness which creates the ability to respond differently. The energy of Tansy brings forward decisiveness and purposeful action to reach goals.


Gaia will thrive, how will humanity survive?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll of the wildfires in Northern California this summer have me contemplating the serious situation we find ourselves in. It brings about a wide mixture of feelings. I’ve had a bit of worry for people I know who may be hurt by the fires; unhappiness at the hazy air that we’ve been having as a result; amazement at the gorgeous sunsets and relief that it isn’t happening closer to me. But, also, a feeling of relief that the land is finally burning and giving itself the opportunity for regeneration. This last is not the usual response, I know. Yet, it is a real effect. People have used controlled burning for generations to help revitalize the land. The problem is, that we value the land in its fully grown expression more than in its early stages of growth.

This is not a new topic for me. For over 30 years I have dedicated myself to learning how to take better care of myself in direct relation to caring for the earth and feeling the depth of our connection. As this skill has developed, I have come to understand that it is not that Gaia needs us to thrive, it’s that we need her. As we gradually ruin areas for human habitation, we move on and they return to nature. Gaia then swoops in and allows the gradual, organic process of rebuilding life to begin. Short of a worldwide nuclear holocaust, Gaia will continuously grow and change. Her exquisite life force is alive and well. The inherent adaptability of such a beautiful design is what will give her ongoing success.

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Our continuation as a species also depends on our ability to adapt. The more we ignore the overpopulation, overuse and poisoning of our lands, the less viable land there is for us to live on. The natural resources that are so important for our survival are dwindling due to wasteful habits. In addition, these habits are creating a world in which we are becoming sicker and sicker as our bodies were not designed to live well in such a polluted world.

In America, we are especially guilty of this wasteful way of living. It seemed normal to me as a teenager to throw trash on the streets, keep water running, throw away leftover materials and foods along with other types of wasteful behaviors. It was the attitude of privilege that came from living in a middle class suburb in the Midwest. Disrespect was not a word I understood in relation to the earth and its resources. The idea of limitation to gas, water, food and other resources that I used on a daily basis never even crossed my mind.

Slowly, in my late teens – early twenties, I came to know the ethereal strength of the Sonoran desert through hiking and camping.  Being completely surrounded by and fascinated by the elements of nature in the desert gave way to spiritual experiences. Visions and insights into the natural world and my personal relationship to it were commonplace. The feeling of privilege, gave way to awe.

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“Show gratitude to every living thing” is a concept from the Reiki Principles that I only became aware of through those experiences. It is an intellectual concept that is currently common in our modern lives, yet largely it is misunderstood. The focus in the world of environmental activism tends to exclude ourselves as part of the “living things”. Instead, we are intent on “healing the planet”.  Don’t get me wrong. I am all for the benefits of the “Green Movement”, and have been an active member for over 30 years.

The problem is leaving ourselves out of that picture. I will repeat what I said earlier, Gaia will be fine! She does not need us for her survival. She will simply continue to make adjustments to bring about future equilibrium. Can we make adjustments in our way of living to survive with her? That is what is left to be seen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARegeneration is an important part of our own survival. There are many ways to regenerate our minds, our hearts, our bodies, our lives.

If you are interested in learning how to thrive along with Gaia, come to my Sugi Way: Seasons training and get reconnected with the earth and your natural well being.

 


Cycles of Life

In the past week, I have been experiencing a lot of grief due to the loss of two family members and a dear friend. The feeling of grief is a familiar one for me, and though it isn’t my favorite emotion, it is one I am comfortable with. This is not true for so many people in the world, as our communities, families and educators teach us that it is a forbidden feeling, something to hide away from the world. In deeply experiencing the letting go that comes with the loss of a loved one, mental and visual clarity arise along with a profound feeling of gratitude for all of the loved ones within my community, both close and extended.

Dragonfly on Poppy seed head

Dragonfly on Poppy seed head

In nature, the cyclical process of loss is tied intimately to renewal and birth. In my early years of gardening, I didn’t understand this connection and was very linear in my thinking about the garden. Plant seeds, water, watch seedlings grow, pick fruit, watch plant die. Repeat. It was a completely uninformed and disconnected way of viewing the world of living beings.

As I have learned to observe more closely, the actual cycles of life have revealed themselves to me throughout the seasons. I’ve come to recognize the interim stages of growth. For example, a seedling is a tender new growth that requires great care and attention to grow strong. Plenty of nutrients, water and gentle sunlight will support healthy growth of a seedling. Too much zigzagging of temperature, poor soil or inconsistent water will compromise the growth and the plant, if it survives, will produce less.

Once the plant is strong, it will grow happily, adding new stems and leaves as it expresses its joy of living. The addition of flowers comes in preparation for the apex of its growth – the ultimate purpose is in creating the next generation through the production of seeds. When the fruit is ripening, the supporting elements begin to droop, yellow and wither putting all of the life energy into the fruit. At first, when I saw this happen, I thought there was something wrong with the plant. Then, I came to understand that this place between the height of production and the end of life is a natural juxtaposition.

It is interesting to walk around the garden in summer and observe this dynamic of death and birth that is happening even in the midst of what is usually considered the season of vibrant living! You can see in the following photos an array of plants that have formed seed heads that have already dried in the hot weather and are beginning to spread their seeds for the next round of growth.

Mallow seed heads

Mallow seed heads

Lambs ear with seeds

Lambs ear with seeds

Feverfew seed heads

Feverfew seed heads

Fennel seed heads

Fennel seed heads

Chard seeds

Chard seeds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The wondrous process of nature is that its ultimate purpose is continuation of life. So, as the plants dry out, become OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAbrittle and seemingly lifeless, that is exactly the time during which they are most valuable. When the seed heads dry out, the pods burst or the seeds get released from the rotting fruit, they drop to the ground below. From there, they may get carried by an animal or perhaps the wind to another place to germinate. Some will stay in the original spot and wait. Many of these seeds are food for the wildlife in the area.

 

Borage seeds

Borage seeds

Calendula seed head

Calendula seed head

 

Some of the plants take on an ethereal nature when dry and ready to spiral into the next stage of life.

 

 

 

When the colder and quieter season of winter has passed and early spring has arrived, the dormant seeds begin to awaken and grow deep underground where they are not visible. Much like a young fetus, life begins in a vulnerable way, with enthusiastic, hidden growth. Suddenly, it seems, the new plant bursts forth from the ground, revealing its presence. A baby’s presence is felt through the thrumming of the blood flow and revealed in the sudden kick of a tiny foot.

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mushrooms peeking out

Amaranth

Amaranth

If you were looking closely though, you would see that there are tiny indications of life coming up before most people are aware of it. This happens inside of ourselves, too. When observing ourselves closely, looking for the tiny hints of change and growth, sometimes it feels sad and other times exciting. These little trickles can be felt and influenced even when they are deeply underground and newly forming. These revelations offer an opportunity to live in an aware, mindful way allowing for recognition that each phase is continuously moving toward the next one.


Dragonfly Summer

As the summer is moving into being, we are witnessing the awakening of the life that we invited during the slower months. The flowers are bursting all around us and the addition of the element of water in this dry land is beginning to show its value. There are lots of little ripples in the pond that show that life is moving in. We found the larvae of a drone fly wiggling around and researched it to find that it looks similar to a bee in its full form and is a beneficial pollinator. What an amazing discovery!

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The change from full spring blooms to the slow transition into summer, brings an energy that is hearty and full. The abundance of the native volunteers, both plants and insect life, opens the heart and creates a feeling of gratitude. That feeling is reflected as we observe each new plant blooming and every new buzzing insect that is working for us to fill the garden with food.

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Tub fountain

mini-fountain

Mini-fountain

Pool to stream

Pool to stream

From stream to pond

From stream to pond

The sound of water trickling through the various fountains, dripping down the rocks and dropping over the edge is music that inspires us all day long. In the dusk of evening, when we linger after a meal on the patio, we are able to enjoy the yellow-bellied finches tasting the early sunflowers, as the hummingbirds flit over to say “Hello”!

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One of our most exciting discoveries recently was the appearance of a large red dragonfly. At first we only saw it once in a while. Now, we see it every day and there have even been sightings of more than one. The favorite landing sight is a golden, dried up California poppy that I hadn’t taken out of the ground yet.

It is interesting to note that though there are a large variety of plants near the water, with flowers, without flowers, green and tall, short and dry…the dragonfly repeatedly chooses the dry California poppy. It’s satisfaction with this perch allowed for a photo session as it posed for me.

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The symbolism of the dragonfly is steeped deeply in a variety of traditions. Especially visible in Japanese and Native American lore, the dragonfly is a representation of the unconscious, the illusions that exist in life. Both wind and water are elements that are associated with dragonfly as it soars on the wind and listens for deeper meaning. Through water the dragonfly is born with the ability to perceive the underlying messages of the unconscious.

The dragonfly is often seen as an agent of change and the awakening from illusions. Adaptability, wisdom and transformation are essential qualities of the dragonfly, along with prosperity and good luck. So, dragonfly summer is a great time to tap into the potential that this totem represents. Take a moment when you are here to take a look around the pond and absorb some of the dragonfly’s energy for yourself!


Internally Blossoming

There’s something magical happening at our place. As the earth is allowed to design the garden’s landscape, we are finding more and more signs of life. Sometimes, the signs are large and noticeable, like the sound of more birds singing, larger and more frequent butterfly sightings, more robust plant growth. Other times, the signs are small and hard to notice. Tiny wildflowers blooming in the driveway, ladybugs on plant stems, mushrooms growing under the lower plant canopies, bulbs peeking up through the soil….

native pineapple chamomile

pineapple chamomile

flowering unknown native

flowering native

popping up

mushroom heads revealed

visible bulbs

visible bulbs

 

 

 

 

 

 

The garden is such a wonderful analogy for our human condition. In my early years as a gardener, I would rush out at the first sign of spring or in the last days of nice fall weather and put new plants into the ground. What inevitably happened was that the plants would die – because they weren’t strong enough to survive through the inconsistencies of the season, and I wasn’t aware enough of their needs to provide the nurturing they needed at this early phase of their lives. This is also something that’s easily done in our daily lives – jumping into action before an idea is fully formed often causes its immediate demise. When this happens it is because of our inability to perceive and care for the tiny bud that’s forming inside.

At the beginning stages of growth, it is good to go slowly, looking closely at the potential – is it strong, is it in balance, what does it need to nurture further growth? Underneath the surface is a continuous, minute process that is perceivable to those who develop the ability to sense deeply the changes that are happening internally. When we look closely, there are always tiny pieces of growth happening. At first, hidden deep inside, the hints of possibility can be invisible. Then, as the potential grows, visibility improves for those who are paying attention.  Much as the newly planted seed is beginning its germination deep underneath the soil, it is invisible to us above the soil, and then, suddenly, the first signs of life are revealed above ground! This new growth is vulnerable and requires regular attention to fully form. Sometimes it is possible to see the shell of the seed attached to the new growth. A clear indication of the newness of what is forming.

blackberry flowers

blackberry flowers

pepper flower

pepper flower

baby purple cabbage

baby purple cabbage

evening beans

evening beans

early grapes

early grapes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a process that happens inside us as well. Moving through life we are often unclear of the path we are walking with the wind blowing us to and fro. Many opportunities are presented, seeds are sown, yet only some of them take root and grow. These seeds are not always consciously planted. Many times, a seed is thrown out in our surroundings and an unidentifiable part of us swoops up the idea and stores it until the ground is fertile for germination. As the idea develops, we may forget the original seed that was – its origins, characteristics or purposes – to focus on what the seed is becoming.

We can consciously nurture those seeds, set them aside for later or ignore the possibilities and blindly follow the whim of the day. “Allowing nature to take its course” doesn’t mean that we wander aimlessly. A small amount of attention on a new direction or idea, when coupled with waiting time for the possibilities to form, opens up unexpected directions to act on as the next step. A clear goal may or may not be in sight. The process of following the subtle movements of change will reveal the ending eventually – even if it is only a pause as the chapter completes.

Bleeding Heart

Bleeding Heart

 

With practice, as each step unfolds, it is easier to feel and trust the endless process of internally blossoming.

 


A Naturalized Garden

During this time of drought, people are bringing their attention back to the amount of water taken by a suburban sized yard. By the way, drought is a natural state here in California. I remember moving here in 1982 and being in the middle of a seven year drought. The ebb and flow of water in the state of California is its natural condition. No need to panic when there is drought if we already have in place a natural garden.

Having grown up in the Midwest where our large yards were green with grasses, trees and bushes aplenty, I understand the expectation of green in the suburban landscape. What isn’t valued is the fall and winter landscapes of lighter greens, golds and tans. Winter white is exceptionally beautiful and full of potential.

There is an emotional component, as well as a social one, of green being wealth and abundance. This wonderful imagery doesn’t have to be changed when living in different areas – our view of beauty and what defines green, does. In the West, we  have a large variety of colors and hues all year round. If you take the time to look closely, the immense beauty lies in the subtlety.  The less vibrant colors are peaceful and serve as the perfect background to the patches of brilliance that pop out in front. The whole effect is intoxicating to the soul.

yarrow

yarrow

black sage & yellow blooming sage

black sage & yellow blooming sage

gorgeous sage

gorgeous sage

blooming cleavers

blooming cleavers

seeding miner's lettuce

seeding miner’s lettuce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the years, we have diligently created a garden that reflects the beauty, waterwise, and edible elements of a natural California landscape. Think about it, every spring you go up into the open space areas to absorb the lovely vistas of the native landscape at its best – full of spring foliage, bugs and life!

The naturalized garden has many advantages. One of them is the gorgeous, prolific green growth that appears each spring – without watering! People look around our garden admiringly and then ask, “Are you changing anything to cut back on water with the drought?” And we say emphatically, “No!” We have established a drought resistant garden many years ago. People just don’t recognize that it is drought tolerant.

feverfew, pacific pea, california poppy, lavendar

feverfew, pacific pea, california poppy, lavendar

green filled yard

green filled yard

mallow

mallow

mustard

mustard

wild fennel

wild fennel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we first moved onto our property 16 years ago, there was one lonely California Poppy, one small patch of Miner’s lettuce and one Feverfew plant way in the back. We started by getting rid of all of the grass; then, we brought in chickens to give us eggs, eat the weeds that we don’t want and fertilize the land. We have filled the garden with flowering natives that attract and feed the birds, bees and butterflies. We spread the seeds of mustard, cleavers, mallow, wild fennel and other natural herbals that fill our bellies with healthy greens each spring without watering or planting.

With the use of wood chips (see my previous blog for more info), the soil is happier every year and requires less water, too. The plants are healthier and more abundant, especially the beneficial volunteer natives, and it’s easy to remove whatever doesn’t belong.

Let them go to seed and they will come back each year in new areas with delightful abandon. As a result, every year there are more of them spread around the yard, providing green foliage to host all the wonderful insects and spiders that serve us in the garden. Not to mention the amazing health benefits for us when we make spring greens broths. Now, each spring we are greeted with an abundant sprinkling of all of them throughout the garden. Nature’s design is gorgeous!

fountain decor

fountain decor

pond island beauty

pond island beauty

yellow flowering native

yellow flowering native

orange flowering native

orange flowering native

flowering native

flowering native

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many of the wildflowers have simply volunteered to join us. Feverfew, California poppy, Pacific peas, Vetch, and others that we don’t know the names of have created a lush beauty around the yard and our new pond. Many of these, I have seen on hikes in our surrounding open space. How delightful it is to wander around there in the spring. After 16 years, I feel that walking through my garden gives me the same benefit. Native wildflowers are popping up everywhere, gorgeous butterflies (hard to catch on camera, but I saw a light yellow swallowtail this year that was 2″ long!) and each year more lizards, snakes and newts.

wild fennel blooms

wild fennel blooms

milkweed

milkweed

mugwort

mugwort

penstemon

penstemon

penstemon bud

penstemon bud

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve found that there are so many beautiful natives. During hikes in the area, I make a mental note of a plant I enjoy and then research it, find a local plant person to buy it from and put it in my garden. One of my favorite places to find natives is Morningsun Herb Farm in Vacaville. What have I planted? Yarrow, all kinds of sages, mugwort, milkweed (the monarch’s home plant), penstemons, and more! Some people worry about plants like mugwort that will spread when happy. Natives that are accustomed to a limited amount of water can definitely become difficult if given too much water. Some of them will actually die out because they don’t like it. Others will thrive and spread too much.

I find that if I give plenty of water until the plant is established, then nature will take care of the rest. Many natives I only water once a week or less even when the weather is hot.

sweet peas

sweet peas

native pineapple chamomile

native pineapple chamomile

borage

borage

Every year, I see new volunteers in the yard somewhere that I have seen while hiking in the hills around us. This year, I found the wonderful pineapple chamomile that sends up the loveliest scent when stepped on. It tends to grow on the trail and is impossible to avoid! It’s currently growing in my driveway. Who’d a thought?

 

 

Since eating our yard is a favorite activity, I am always on the lookout for edible natives. I’ve mentioned a few above, but one of my favorites is the Bay laurel tree. I keep mine in a pot so it doesn’t get huge. Of course, many herbs will naturalize in the garden, too.

bay laurel

bay laurel

blooming parsley

blooming parsley

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blooming borage

bolting chard

bolting chard

pacific peas, fennel

pacific peas, fennel

Plant them, let them go to seed and they will come back for you year after year! One of the herbs I like to allow to naturalize in my garden is Calendula.

calendula stages

calendula stages

Calendula provides winter color and will pop up in unexpected places to show its happy face. Even in the spring when it is starting to die back and go to seed, its beauty is out of this world! If we accustom ourselves to seeing all stages of the plant’s life as having a natural beauty, then the garden will look good in our eyes all year long. Green is not the only color in the palette of nature. The huge array of colors and their varying shades are apparent throughout the year. So, walk slowly through the world. Open your eyes and look closely to see and appreciate the wondrous hues of nature.