This summer the weather patterns have been jumping back and forth between exceptionally cool for the season and then unseasonably hot. It is a strange dance that has been occurring for a few years now. I find as a gardener that it is disconcerting that my plants are behaving in unusual ways due to this weather dance.
For example, I just harvested the prune plums that are normally ripe in September. The peaches are not ripe yet and those are usually ready before the prune plums. There was an abundant harvest of mulberries this year, but now there are some red ones that aren’t ripening at the usual speed as the weather is too cool for them to ripen normally. The basil I planted isn’t growing as prolifically as usual. My dry bean plants aren’t growing quickly enough to give me beans for the winter.
Everyone I speak to is experiencing a similar feeling of being buffeted around by the energy of this Fire Monkey year. We are influenced by a wide range of energetic pulses that surge throughout the universe. As a part of natural life, we feel those changes on deep levels within ourselves.
As these strange happenings occur, I find myself feeling uncertain what to do in the garden. Usually, I am eager to track the process of growth and ripening to the edible celebration of life. This year, I feel a bit disconnected from it all. The consistency over many years, even with the usual variations that come with gardening, provide for me a foundation and security that I had been unaware of previously. So, now that it is moving and changing, even more unpredictable than before, how do I enfold that quality into myself?
Certainly, some of this disconnect comes from the cottage building project that has been going on since spring. What an amazing thing to watch a building be built. Creative, chaotic, steady, excessive, abundant, meticulous, joyful anticipation. The feng shui of the property is changing indelibly. I imagine that, too, is having an effect on the garden and my relationship to it.
Some years ago, I explored the possibility of having a more productive urban farm. I called in an agriculture guy from the county and we discussed how I could plant the garden for producing higher yields. I also consulted with my farmer friend, Kristy Knoll of Knoll Farms in Brentwood. Kristy said to me, “Amy, you’re not a farmer. You don’t want to live the life of a farmer.” It took some time for this statement to sink in and over the years, I pull it forward again to remind myself that I am a gardener who is in love with nature; not a farmer who is devoted to providing a commercial product. How right she was!
Now, with the more obvious changes in the natural world, I am clear that I do not want to hold the responsibility of a farmer in these changeable times. I am indelibly grateful to the farmers who are taking this challenge as a sacred duty to discover how to keep up with what is happening. To keep providing us with sustenance is their commitment and it is a calling that is not honored deeply enough by the rest of us. I am aware every week when I shop at the Farmer’s Market of how grateful I am for their service. As a gardener, I have a feel for what they are doing for us. How harsh and inspiring their lives can be in equal measure!
I am a planter of seeds though. Not only do I plant in the soil, my calling is to plant seeds in the soul; to nurture the seeds inside myself and allow them to grow even during uncertain times. We can do this work together. I plant a seed in you, you water a seed in me. We water these seeds with our tears and give them sunshine through our joy. We harvest the results together.
I invite you to join me in this mutual planting and nourishing cycle each year. I am deeply grateful to those of you (you know who you are!) who are already sharing the seasonal cycles of life with me.