Archives for posts with tag: gardening

I often think of life as a metaphorical garden. (Isn’t it?)

I sometimes stray down the path without tending the garden.

The healthy tilth is a good starting point; planting seeds in crags and rocks may not yield a generous crop of fruits, vegetables, or flowers. Understanding what is fertile ground, and how to prepare ground for planting has value.

Composting scraps and garden waste skillfully results in more fertile soil… but which scraps are suitable, and which will ruin the compost? Not all that is waste or scrap is worth keeping.

Lush and beautiful, chosen with care. We reap what we sow, and how we tend our garden matters.

Choosing seeds and plants with care, understanding the climate, and the seasons, locally, in my own garden, really matters; however fertile the soil, planting something that can’t thrive in my climate puts my garden at a disadvantage.

A weed in one context may be a crop in another.

Taking care, every day, to nurture my garden, to fertilize when needed, to water, to cut back spent blooms, to weed out noxious or invasive intruders that consume resources, but yield nothing, matters greatly over time. If I am not present, some plants may thrive, willy-nilly, coincidental to the luck of the rainfall and the weather, but the outcome is left to chance – other plants will wither and die. My harvest may not be plentiful. My blooming season limited.

My roses suffer my lack of attention; this is true of most things that require attention.

Self-care works very much in this same way. I don’t suppose I need to spell it all out more factually – if you already keep a garden, you already get it. 🙂

My results vary, as does the weather.

I haven’t been home much, lately. Most weekends I am away. I travel to see my Traveling Partner, catching up with him wherever he is. I travel to see friends. I travel for this or that event or festival. I travel on a whim. I catch myself yearning to be at home, in my own garden…

…Yes, it’s a metaphor. 🙂

This weekend I am at home. I am in my own garden, tending it with care, making up for lost time, present, and appreciating this moment, right here. It’s enough to be here, now, and there is no need or time for self-criticism, or what-ifs, or if-onlys. This is now, and now is enough, and I am here, enjoying it with the woman in the mirror – who has been missing this quiet place, and time.

Be present. See wonders. Experience the moment, fully.

The morning started slowly, and auspiciously enough; I slept in. I woke gently in the twilight of a new day, the room turning light in spite of the curtains, as day broke. I got up. Showered. Found my feet carrying me toward the car as soon as I was dressed. Coffee-to-Go and a breakfast sandwich on a hilltop looking out across the countryside, with a view of Mt Hood beyond. Bare feet. Damp grass. Contentment. No firm plan, and coffee finished, I found my way to the farmer’s market, then heading home with fresh local strawberries, fully ripe – the sort one never finds in a grocery store. The scent fills the car.

I arrive home, smiling so hard my face hurt, in spite of the peculiarly moody dark sky, threatening imminent rain (that has only now started to fall, some hours later). I make a Turkish coffee, melt some chocolate, and feast on strawberries dipped in warm chocolate, sipping coffee, in my garden. I raise my cup cheerily at a robin who joins me, watching me from the deck rail. There is work to do in my garden, metaphorical or otherwise, and I have been away far too much for my own good. I finish my coffee, then finish the spring planting, finish the weeding, finish the watering, just in time to head indoors before the rain comes. I leave a strawberry, fat, juicy, and fully ripe, on the deck rail… in case of visitors. 🙂

Rain is definitely coming.

Inside, my metaphorical life-garden greets me, and here too there is work to be done. Untidiness has crept in, a corner here, a stack of paperwork over there, a piece of gear that was not put away, a book askew from all the rest, a stray sock left where it fell, unnoticed, and so much laundry that very much wants to be put away… I’m still smiling. It’s a good day to begin again. 🙂

Well, not literally ‘new eyes’, new awareness is more accurate. It’s been a good weekend for awareness. Spring is on the horizon, too, and my thoughts are full of seeds, flowers, rose bushes, trees that want a bit of pruning, and rich brown earth waiting to be turned, amended, and planted.

A promise of sunny days to come.

A promise of sunny days to come.

This weekend I could be found in the garden. In the rain as often as not, and yes, in the garden. I pruned the plum-tree out by the back fence; two summers I have fussed about tangled low-hanging branches, and the challenges of gathering the tasty fruit. This weekend I took care of that, with love and attention, and aware that soon each branch would be leafy and heavy with fruit. Each cut I made was focused on the tree-right-now, and also on a desired form of tree-later-than-now. It was as much meditation as labor, and I delighted in the experience.

I took time to prune tangled roses and potato vine at the corners of the deck, tying up long graceful canes and branches when I’d completed the pruning. I’m eager to see the outcome, in summer, with leaves and flowers everywhere.

I mixed a couple of favorite blends of wildflower seeds, with some favorite annual garden flowers much less ‘wild’, and eagerly filled pots with rich soil and compost, and a few seeds. (It’s nice to have some containers of living flowers that I can easily move here and there depending on what we’re doing in the garden.) I sowed flower seeds in a couple of borders, and along the barren bank of a small hill that I stared at with some annoyance all summer last year; surely some hardy wild flowers will grow there? I tucked dahlia bulbs between jasmine and clematis vines, near a bit of deck trellis that supports hanging pots that are seeded with nasturtiums and sweet peas. There should be a lot of flowers this year…

‘Should’ is a funny word. It sets the stage for our unfounded expectations, resting them on an illusion of a foundation – a magical world where things do what we imagine they ought to do, for some mysterious ‘reason’, because they ‘should’. I caught myself yesterday, thinking ‘there should be a lot of flowers this year…’  As opposed to last year? When I also planted a lot of seeds? Sure – but last year I wasn’t as patient with the real work of gardening, and often lacked the will to really dig in and push my effort beyond the lethargy and ennui that is often the most obvious byproduct of ‘OPD’ (Other People’s Drama). This year, I am willing to smile at the seeds, the future flowers, the vines that need pruning right now, the roses that want to be prepared for that early bout of black spot in the spring, and understand the work of Love, and the work in the garden, are the same work; tending the needs of Life to grow and thrive. I may have a lot of flowers this year. My garden has that potential. Surely, rather than ‘should’, what I have is ‘may’ – and my will is predictably a factor there, as are my choices. If I don’t water, tend the plants, dead head the roses, harvest fruits, my garden will predictably be less vibrant, less productive, and less ‘full of flowers’. So simple.

There is always work to do in the garden. If I envision an outcome, my effort makes it more likely. If I dread a particular disaster, my effort to prepare and mitigate reduces the effect that disaster may have. If I am stressed, having my hands in the soil, and among the leaves and flowers, soothes my heart. There are a lot of verbs in my garden. Seeing the work of the garden through eyes that resent labor or effort, or feel only the weight of the work, and the commitment, can make it all seem so overwhelming, and a bit lacking in any chance of completion. Seeing the work of the garden through new eyes, each task becomes its own joy, its own moment to be one with Life.

There have been years when my garden held the entirety of what was sane and whole about me in its fragile eco-system. That’s a big burden for small flowers, and it worked out mostly pretty well; here I am. I cherish my garden, each flower, each tree, each paving stone and feeder. Now I get how much more the journey matters than the destination, and even sitting down to prune a potted rose on a rainy day, or slog through a muddy yard to plant wild flowers on a slope, or hang baskets that will soon be filled with flowers, there is joy and satisfaction in each task. I’m no longer frantically working toward a finish line; I’m just working, right now.

My garden is also filled with metaphors. Change. Sufficiency. Joy. Life. Love. All the best things emotion and heart and mindfulness have to offer are right there in the garden, for me. Life’s darker lessons have their moment in the garden, too, and I see them all through new eyes.

Another work week begins, and time to tend a very different sort of garden. 🙂

My ‘independence’ is old enough to vote…now that’s a weird thought. In 1995, after 14 years, I ended my first marriage on July 4th.  It was – and remains – a very important moment in my life. I could probably write volumes about the years that lead up to that moment, the years that followed, the changes that were required to get to that point, and the changes that were required to succeed after it. I’m not going to. Not today, anyway. Today, I will write about my independence now; what it is, and what it isn’t [yet].  I guess it is only fair to provide a TRIGGER WARNING: this post contains subject matter and points of view that are frankly feminist in nature, and may be disturbing for some readers.

Take a moment for another perspective?

Take a moment for another perspective?

I make jokes about Independence Day, because the U.S. holiday of July 4th, the anniversary of ‘our nation’s independence’, is not truly celebrating the freedom of ‘the nation’ – it mostly only celebrates the existence of our independent government, and the nominal freedom it provided to the white male population. I know, I know, some of you are already groaning in protest. (One of my partners did – and I consider him a committed feminist, himself.) Think it over, though – women were no more free after the birth of our nation than they were before it, and neither were ethnic minority elements of the population – I can’t even call them ‘citizens’, because at that time they were not recognized as such. So…how again is 4th of July a celebration of my freedom or independence? Women didn’t get to vote until 1920. Um…what? (I can’t say I’m all that secure in my rights, either, considering that even in 1920, it was not a unanimous vote (it wasn’t even close to unanimous), and there are likely elected representatives today who would quite willingly disenfranchise women again, based on how many legislators seem to think they are within reason to keep trying to jam laws down my pants that limit only women’s rights and freedoms: abortion, birth control, emergency contraception .)  Sometimes it really does feel like there is a ‘war on women‘.  I seethe with the frustration and feeling of helplessness and cultural dismissal some days.

So yeah…mixed feelings about ‘Independence Day’. For me it seems a bit like a Druid celebrating St Patrick’s Day. lol.  BUT – the 4th of July is my ‘Independence Day’, in spite of all that, because it is the day I walked away from domestic violence. It represents the earliest stirrings in my heart and spirit of real self-worth, of real conviction that I am not chattel, and not obligated to live someone else’s values or vision for the future. (I did not know then how much further I had to go to free myself, or begin to heal.) I read Gloria Steinem‘s ‘Moving Beyond Words‘ for the first time – I still regularly recommend it, and I cherish the correspondence I exchanged with Ms Steinem that year.  I began to invest my attention in being female – a humble beginning, and I had no idea how far I would have to go.

I’m hoping to communicate something specific here, today, and I’m not sure I have the words, the will – or that I am the one truly ‘called’ to say it.  It needs to be said, by someone, and I need to feel heard – so I guess I’ll make the attempt.  I want to communicate simply this: there is an association between ‘rape culture’, domestic violence, and the concept of consent.  Does that seem an obvious truism? Are you having a ‘well, duh!’ moment? I sure hope not… because it is that matter of consent that I suspect of being at the heart of a lot of our suffering, as women (and as men – I love you guys, I don’t want you to feel left out, and I know you face challenges and heartache, too, but I’m writing about my experience today – please don’t take that personally).

I am still working through years of emotional baggage, and damage both physical and psychological, related to abuses that created, fostered, and later capitalized on a poor understanding of consent, and what my consent means – and I just turned 50.  I know my poor relationship with, and understanding of, consent itself is directly tied to early experiences where my lack of consent, or clear refusal, was violated – and that years of manipulation and further abuse were both possible due to that damage, and worsened because of it.  It’s ugly, and about as easy to fix as picking a single strand of brunette hair from a vat of molasses. At least I finally feel like I am understanding…something. I still have a lot to learn.

I woke gently this morning, and although my thoughts have been quite serious on the anniversary of the end of my first marriage, I am enjoying the day.  So much so, that first thing I playfully took a look at life from another perspective this morning…

Life from another angle...child's eye view.

Life from another angle…child’s eye view of my garden.

Things look different, from another perspective...

Things look different, from another perspective…

I admit to struggling with understanding beloved male friends who respond to feminist protestations about rape with objections that ‘men are raped, too’ – as if that makes women being raped ok, or not worth objecting to, or as if they will not move to change the world, or their own position, because… well, damn… I’m not sure why. Thus, my struggle. I mean… yes, men do get raped, violated, abused, and yes, sometimes their perpetrators are women. I don’t see that those details make women facing domestic violence or rape any less objectionable – I object to all of it. Rape is not ok. Violence is not ok. Ignoring someone’s boundaries or disregarding their lack of consent is not ok. Does it matter whether it is a woman being victimized or a man? An adult or a child? Isn’t it all worth objecting to, and fighting against? Rape statistics are ugly.

Rape and domestic violence (actually, a lot of violence of many sorts) share something relevant to this discussion – they both violate the consent of the victim. Clearly.  There are no excuses. It isn’t ok to mutilate someone’s genitals to control their sexuality, or to punish infidelity. It isn’t ok to hit someone because you don’t like their tone of voice, or what they said to you.  It isn’t ok to force unwelcome sexual contact on another human being under any circumstances at all, ever. EVER. By anyone. For any purpose whatsoever. There is no justification, no excuse, no mitigation. It isn’t ok to torture someone to ‘teach’ them (A rather disturbing amount of parental behavior in some families falls into this category; test that theory by re-examining any such behavior in the context of being inflicted on an adult human who is a stranger to the perpetrator).  Behaviors engaged in to exact non-consensual control over another human being are similarly not ok (I know, that starts getting complicated when parents need to manage children, or the penal system needs to manage the incarcerated, doesn’t it?).  I’m spelling it out because I’m only learning to understand it for real and apply it to my own experience in life with regard to the treatment I tolerate from others! At 50 that’s damned embarrassing sometimes – other times I just cry about it, alone.

... just in case you need a breather from the serious stuff

… just in case you need a breather from the serious stuff

I’m spending a lot of time these days figuring out consent. I find myself looking back on some events or relationships and asking myself  ‘Oh hey, was I the bad guy there? Did I violate that person’s boundaries? Was their experience that they were forced to do something they didn’t want to do?’  I find it harder, strangely, to look back and admit that I was victimized, to recognize that an event was not ‘a gray area’ at all, and that my lack of consent or explicit refusal was clearly disregarded.  In my 20s I tended to use the ‘gun test’ – “___ wasn’t at the point of a gun, therefore I was not forced.”  Rape apology at its most basic: exclude the event by changing the standard.   I had also figured, for years and years, that ‘frequency invalidates legitimacy’ – that because I had experienced sexual violence more than once, that it couldn’t have been sexual violence – because that’s rare, right? 😦  Right up there with ‘slut shaming’ for being both wrong and inappropriate.

It’s all very complicated and I cry about rape a lot these days. They are clean, honest tears. They honor my experience with real compassion, and acceptance. I am learning to treat myself well, and to understand that ‘getting over it’ and ‘moving on’ are not just words on a page that can be said out loud with a confident satisfied tone and magically become real, or true.  I know that with certainty – because I have done it, and it didn’t work at all.  I’m not ‘over it’, and ‘moving on’ is something that means facing my experience and healing.  I am strangely as proud of being in this place with myself as a child tying my shoes by myself for the first time – I feel hopeful, and I feel free.  That is what makes this my Independence Day now.

mindfulness in the garden; the value of finding stillness

mindfulness in the garden; the value of finding stillness

It is an unusual Monday. I woke feeling cross and dissatisfied, irritable, almost angry – and my entire being went looking for fight. Well, that’s the feeling of it, when the day started. I allowed myself the respect and consideration of really feeling it, acknowledging the presence of it in my experience, and an honest admission of awareness that emotions can be quite illusory, and transitory, and that the thinking I use to prop up those emotions can be deceptively well crafted to support continuation, rather than resolution. Yay me… I’m still feeling cross.

Roses blooming. My emotions are not relevant to their experience.

Roses blooming. My emotions are not relevant to their experience.

As I walked to work contemplating my feeling of discontent and dissatisfaction, it quietly became more honest, more vulnerable, and a more accurate expression of unmet needs and longing. Longing. (I am finding satisfaction in the word, as an expression of my experience this morning. ‘I woke with a sense of longing’.) I spent the walk to the office musing about longing.  I re-phrased a variety of recent expressions of discontent, dissatisfaction, loss, frustration, and moments that fell short of expectations, turning them into frank expressions of desire and longing. It is an interesting exercise in self-expression that takes garden-variety everyday bitching and renders commonplace moments of unhappiness into something more profound – and constructive.

From my perspective, longing doesn’t feel as ‘negative’ as dissatisfaction – or as hopeless. Longing feels poignant, deep, even necessary. Longing feels respectful of prior joys and experiences, and honors what is valued and loved. Longing reminds me of what I want and why I want it, without attacking someone dear to me as though they are an obstacle in obtaining my desires.  Having said that… I find myself puzzled by longing. Is it a ‘now’ thing? Is it a trap that combines past and present, but delivering nothing of value, merely holding me in thrall to desire?  I am still a student of life, of love…and there seems always to be more to learn.

One very nice thing about longing… my own longing for a thing, person, event, or experience is not an attack on someone else.  It is sometimes challenging [for me] to express ‘dissatisfaction’ or ‘discontent’ without seeming to attack someone else, as though they are the source of my emotional experience. ‘Longing’ seems bigger than that…with a presence in my experience that is clearly ‘of me’ and ‘for me’, part of who I am, and an expression of what I value and what I need.

There’s more to think about here, more questions to ask, more connections to make, more experiences to parse and correlate, more to understand and explore…more life to live…and time to write another day.

A footnote, of sorts: for so very long I experienced longing for a greenhouse of my own. I have such fond memories of the greenhouse attached to my grandmother’s house, so many years ago. I don’t believe I ever really said so, beyond the occasional remark about it being ‘a cool idea’ (not a very precise expression of longing). In a sense, this entire post is the period at the end of a ‘thank you’ to a man who adores me so much that he often knows my heart’s desire long before I learn the words to share it with him.  😀

Thank you, Love.

Thank you, Love.

…Oh, and I no longer feel cross; I am experiencing a sense of longing, and enjoying the satisfaction of understanding myself just a bit more than I did yesterday. 🙂

Still counting down, and I woke this morning acutely aware that in just two more days, I turn 50… ‘the end of the first half’. lol. This morning was a strange one. I spent it in solitary meditation watching wee fish swim, and in the greenhouse, watering seedlings, and in the rose garden quietly tending roses that got so little from me over the weekend. I sipped my coffee. Shared a wave and a smile with a neighbor in passing. Watched the dawn unfold to day, and went on in to work.

Work is… work. Today I am earning my living – and then some. Busy getting ahead, for a few days off to celebrate me.

There will likely never be a time in my life when it is appropriate to ‘share everything’ I’ve been through with any one other human being – and I’m not sure how many could withstand the tale without considerable heartbreak. Blech. Let’s not, shall we? Perhaps it is enough – and maybe all I ever truly needed – if I honor and respect my own experience, and value myself for having endured what I have, and managing to turn out decently well, over time, after a fashion, in spite of it all? I used to think I needed others to be understood, others to ‘feel heard’, others to feel supported and nurtured, to ‘make me happy’… but I’m not at all sure of any of that now. It seems quite possible that I needed to understand, myself, to hear my own words to respect my own heart, to treat my self with compassion. Certainly, now that I am learning to do so, and succeeding more often, and more consistently, much of what I felt I was missing turns out not to be missing at all – it’s simply best sought from within. 😀

I’m excited to be turning 50. To be ‘finishing the first half’. I’ve sort of muddled through it; had some wins, had some losses, some successes, some failures, some pain, some joy… I have some better notions of what to do with me now. I have a path. I have an experience. So…

Another lovely garden.

Another lovely garden.