Mohandas K. Gandhi: To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.
Bronson Alcott: Who loves a garden still his Eden keeps,
Perennial pleasures plants, and wholesome harvest reaps.
Henry David Thoreau: Gardening is civil and social, but it wants the vigor and freedom of the forest and the outlaw.
Ralph Waldo Emerson: Presently we pass to some other object which rounds itself into a whole as did the first; for example, a well-laid garden; and nothing seems worth doing but the laying-out of gardens.
Thomas Jefferson: Though an old man I am but a young gardener.
Vita Sackville-West: Every garden-maker should be an artist along his own lines. That is the only possible way to create a garden, irespective of size or wealth.
The most noteworthy thing about gardeners is that they are always optimistic, always enterprising, and never satisfied. They always look forward to doing something better than they have ever done before.
William Wordsworth: Laying out grounds may be considered a liberal art, in some sort like poetry and painting.
May Sarton: A garden is always a series of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself.
Luis Barragán: In the creation of a garden, the architect invites the partnership of the Kingdom of Nature. In a beautiful garden the majesty of nature is ever present, but it is nature reduced to human proportions and thus transformed into the most efficient haven against the aggressiveness of contemporary life.
Colin Neenan : Life just seems so full of connections. Most of the time we don’t even pay attention to the depth of life. We only see flat surfaces.
Herman Melville: The eyes are the gateway to the soul.
Benjamin Disraeli: How fair is a garden amid the toils and passions of existence.
Henry David Thoreau: Shall I not have intelligence with the earth? Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mould myself.
David S. Slawson: Poets and novelists are often moved to put into words the subtle qualities of the landscape, sometime purely for the beauty of it, and sometimes as a way of alluding to certain human feelings. Landscape design can translate such literary landscapes into three-dimensional form in the garden. Like the poet, the garden designer may allude to human feelings in his portrayals of nature.
Secret Teachings in the Art of Japanese Gardens, 1987, p. 131
Ruth R. Blodgett: We have learned that more of the “earth-earthiness” would solve our social problems, remove many isms from our vocabulary, and purify our art. And so we often wish that those who interpret life for us by pen or brush would buy a trowel and pack of seeds.
The House Beautiful (March 1918)
Marcel Proust: The real voyage of discovery consists of not in seeking
new landscapes but in having new eyes.
Rosemary Verey: Colours change: in the morning light, red shines out bright and clear and the blues merge into heir surroundings, melting into the greens; but by the evening the reds loose their piquancy,
embracing a quieter tone and shifting toward the blues in the rainbow. Yellow flowers remain right, and white ones become luminous, shining like ghostly figures against a darkening green background.
The Scented Garden, 1981
Let me arise and open the gate,
to breathe the wild warm air of the heath,
And to let in Love, and to let out Hate,
And anger at living and scorn of Fate,
To let in Life, and to let out Death.
– Violet Fane
Epictitus: He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.
The creation and sustaining of this garden says something about the conditions and possibilities that exist within our marriage more than any words. I take this garden as Dan the Man’s declaration of love. He doesn’t talk much about his feelings, he does demonstrate them powerfully.
Frederich Nietzsche: Precisely the least, the softest, lightest, a lizard’s rustling, a breath, a flash, a moment – a little makes the way of the best happiness.
Thus Spake Zarathustra
For Dan, who gave me the one thing that I could hang on to, two versions:
If there is anything in my life I feel grateful for, its my garden and my chief shoveler, stump puller, rock hauler, digger, planter & builder extraordinaire, Dan the Man, who makes all things gardeney possible. Here is what he deserves a great deal more of, but hasn’t gotten since May 2003 outside Cortona, Italy:
I dedicate this post to him and his lovely, stubborn gardeney curmudgeonliness.
When we first moved to our home it was January 2005, in the middle of Winter. The ground was hard, it was cold. There was mossy grass and lots of trees and a funny little red Japanese maple tree. There were two trees planted right in front of the front deck. When Spring came, we planned to cut them down. Then the Robins built their nests and there was a natural delay in our plans. Here are some of the babies.
The funny part of this delay is that I got a chance to see what other folks in my new neighborhood had in their gardens that grew well and that I liked. Since I had moved from Northern California 1000+/- miles north, I was unfamiliar and could use the input. But I was so anxious to get going that I am sure I would have planted things that I didn’t have enough sunlight to grow successfully. Mine is not a rose garden kind of yard. It is not warm or sunny enough for anything but certain old wild types, or decendants of Rugosa roses, like this one, called Hansa. Fragrant and magenta in color, but I don’t really want that as the dominant color in my yard, so I planted just the one. It’s huge. Thank you little robin babies for making me take my time and look around more before I got crazy in the yard planting all the wrong things.
Rhododendrons & Azaleas
I lived in Takoma Park, Maryland for a long time and had a wonderful Azalea garden. So, nostalgically I was more than a little happy to have a yard that was cut out of a forested mountain and perfect for Rhododendrons of infinite varieties…
We also continue to plant Columbine near our largest Azaleas & Rhododendron bed, at the front of the bed. The bushes are growing and becoming taller than the Columbine, but is was a race the first two Springs here.
We intend someday for the entire big bed to be all Rhododendrons & Columbine, but this year some Forget-Me-Nots made their way into the mix and the blue was kind of nice. Now I will probably never get rid of them, either because they will come back naturally, or because I see something I like in it. It’s easier to be flexible and accept a happy accident.
We have another area where we have planted shorter Azaleas, a few different Hydrangeas (Wow, Limelight is gorgeous), Taller Elderberry plants in the back to screen the neighbors yard and more Heuchera varieties in the front. We are also integrating some Spring flowering bulbs here and there. It’s a work in progress and some other interesting things sometimes come up there in the weeds, which we are constantly after. There is something that grows around here that is kind of fern like and has delicate little pink flowers and a root system that will choke the life out of anything nearby. Don’t be fooled by the appearance of delicacy, it too can be a terrible illusion.
We have a wonderful large deck off of our kitchen. I grow herbs right next to the door so I can grab what I want when I am cooking.
I also grow a collection of cocktail tomatoes in a barrel there. I have to plant early to have any success at all. The growing season is short here and I am better off starting with hothouse plants than seedlings. This year, Dan painted the deck in the early fall and extended the pergola to support a sunshade on the far side. I love it out here.
This is a view of an area that Dan cleared with a little help from me. There were trees, abandoned stumps, blackberries that had to be ripped out, and native ferns, which we cut back and kept. We planted a bag of 100 daffodils where we could see them from the windows and companion planted wildflowers, way to thickly it turns out. We got an enormous truckload of 4-way topsoil mix and it was a job spreading that stuff out. We keep doing that as we progress through the yard. Everything in life needs fertilizer and healthy soil or an equivalent. I love my red wheel barrow. It makes me think of Dr. Williams:
The Red Wheelbarrow
William Carlos Williams
so much depends
upona red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
The Perennial Garden
This is my favorite part of the garden. I love how these plants demonstrate seasonality so clearly. The red Bee Balm in the front of this picture I started with a small three inch pot. I planted it the first year I moved here by the walk, and we have since divided it numerous times, planting it in a mixed row with Ribbon Grass and varieties of Lavender: right next to a dusty road that goes down to the lake. It catches the dust and draws lots of buzzing bees and hummingbirds. Behind it here are Irish Eyes Rudbeckia and Black Eyed Susans, next to it Catmint and Day Lilies in a variety of pinks, mauve, peach. Love them! There are also lambs ears. I found one variety I adore that has prehistoric looking huge leaves. I also have a very green type that has gorgeous coral bell like flowers. I have scattered a few of these here and there.
Here are Blue Salvia, Iris, & a closer look at the Irish Eyes. I think these pictures are from 2006, from the looks of the tiny rocks beside the bed above. Those have been somewhat improved with rocks I collect when we go to Lummi Island. All kinds of amazing rocks wash up on the shore there. We also dig some up as we develop our beds. We have found some one and two man sized rocks. We are collecting and sorting the rocks and using them in the landscape where we can.
2006 – A view over the crazy assed Cosmos in the wild flower garden.
The deck was reworked and stained along with the trim on the house this Fall. I love the new color palette. The Huechera along the walk is a gorgeous mix of dark exemplars and looks amazing in bloom and is colorful most of the year.
This Dahlia blew my mind. The blooms were as big as my husband’s noggin! I have to cut them when it begins to rain because the stems can’t support the weight of the flowers wet.
Here are a few more Dahlias with the Cosmos that were on steriods in 2006.
Drunk Driver Intervenes in Our Garden Plan
We are gardening away this grass little by little. That is our overall plan. No grass unless decorative in nature. No lawn mowing someday. The apple tree is no longer in the yard. A drunk driver took it out in the middle of the night. It had gorgeous green pie apples. There is always a certain amount of violence involved in gardening, one might say, but this is not the way to go about it!
In September 2006, just after the bottom floor of our house flooded with hot water for four days while we were away, a drunk driver careened through the garden and hits a tree, digging up the onions, murdering acorn squash & cucumbers, & misses the pole beans on the right. We were in the midst of figuring out what we had lost in the flood when this happened. It was stunning, to say the least.
Note the apple tree he took down to the ground on his way over to hit the much larger fir tree. We got $1500 from the insurance company and kept on gardening. If you look at the grass you can see the tracks where the vehicle exited our yard between the trees. We now have a Gala Apple, a grafted Plum tree that includes Satsuma and some kind of pollinator, and an Australian Bartlett Pear. No fruit yet.
This Is Just To Say
by William Carlos Williams
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
This is my favorite lawn ornament, no not the hummingbird feeder, Dan the Man! The man takes out stumps for God’s sake!
Future Meditation Garden Area
Someday I hope to have meditation garden amidst these trees…in the meantime we keep it clean and natural forest.
This is my grandson standing in front of our shade garden in 2006. This area has been developed quite a bit more since this picture was taken.
We added a Cornus ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’ Dogwood to the shade garden this year. This is the classic white-flowering dogwood you see in gardens and parks everywhere in the Pacific Northwest in Spring. ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’ grows to about 25 feet by about 20 feet wide, so this will give us a bit of privacy in our back yard too. So beautiful, and I can look out of my bathroom window or from the deck to see it. There are a mixed collection of small Azaleas such as impeditum variety, Geraniums, Jacob’s Ladder, native ferns, varieties of Astilbe, varieties of Hosta, and some lime green Winter blooming Helleborus.
I will end this post here because it has gone on so much longer than I ever meant it to go. Life is like that in the garden, time disappears when you work in a garden doing things that you love, the work is challenging and worthwhile, it reveals so much about life, and yet, life still remains a mystery no matter how much you learn. Like some of the things that volunteer in the garden here and there, mysteries. Some are gifts, some are weeds. In the Winter, there are catalogs and so much that can be learned in preparation for the next growing season. I love it all.
It seems that Mike had lied to his teacher, Sister Beatrice, which sounds like a real 1950’s nun’s name, doesn’t it? As it turns out, Mike was going to have a tough year. Later in the Spring he would come down with encephalitis, which caused him to completely lose both his bearings and his balance. He really didn’t know where he was, up from down or one side from the other. He was lost and senseless and overwhelmed, and he was sure it was because this was, indeed, another incarnation of the spanking machine that the Mother Superior had told him about, and which he had tried as mightily as a little boy can to avoid.
Earlier in the Fall he had failed to bring something back signed from home. He had forgotten to give it to his mother entirely, becoming distracted with play after school, and then, as children sometimes do when caught between trouble at school and the trouble that can cause at home, Mike lied.
He didn’t say the dog ate it, that would be stupid. He didn’t tell Sister Beatrice that his parents were fighting and that his dad had given mommy a black eye and that she had been periodically sobbing in her room all night after Dad had stomped out of the house into the dark to go drinking at the NCO Club. His father had peeled out of the driveway in the Chevy Bel Air, leaving a cloud of burning rubber and the echoes of the rumbling engine sounds reverberating through the mufflers. He just hid under his blankets and he never showed them the permission slip.
So Mike told Sister Beatrice that he lost it on the way home, and was afraid he’d get into trouble. It wasn’t entirely true, and somehow, Sister Beatrice always knew when little boys lied. So Sister Beatrice sent him, with a note, to the Mother Superior’s office to explain himself to her.
It seems that there was a rumor that the Mother Superior had a spanking machine in her office. It was in a closet that no student had ever had the nerve to open and no student who had been subjected to it had ever disclosed the details of their experience. It was just one of those things that all of the children knew and all of the nuns took advantage of for what it lent to peace and order in the school.
Mike got up from his desk as bravely as he knew how and turned toward the classroom door as Sister Beatrice passed him the note. It was folded in half and he was instructed not to look, that it was for the Mother Superior and not for him. He trudged onward and out of the doorway, turning down the hall towards the office. Tears began to leak out of his eyes even as he bit his bottom lip, trying to contain them. He began to quiver and shake.
Little Mike began remembering everything that he had been told about the spanking machine. Apparently, the other kids had said it was like a big washing machine that the Mother Superior put the bad and disobedient children in for punishment. It had big hands with paddles, switches, leather belts and sticks in it that randomly struck the child it was punishing. But the worst thing of all was that once you had been put inside the spanking machine only God could stop it and it wasn’t just for the thing you had been sent to the office about that you would be punished: it was for everything!
Walking towards the office, all of the inadequacies that had already been pointed out to him loomed like terrible sins for which he would be punished. All the ways he had disappointed his recently violent father. All the ways he had made his mother cry. He was pretty sure that he would not live.
He stood before the glass door to the office and the nun who acted as the receptionist saw him and waved him in to the office, taking the note and pointing toward a big, dark wooden bench. He sat on it alone with his feet dangling in the air.
She picked up the telephone and he fainted with the weight of the fear that had been consuming him since last night.
When he awakened he was lying on the bench with a scratchy, grey wool blanket thrown over him and his mother was sitting beside him looking worried. The Mother Superior said she wanted to speak to him for a moment. She took him into the office, and let him know that he had given them all quite a scare, and she handed him a copy of the permission slip for his parents to sign. He walked past a couple of closet doors before being led out of her office. He wondered which one contained the spanking machine, but at least for today, today would not be the day when he found out the secrets behind that closet door.
“Fear not what is not real, never was and never will be. What is real, always was and cannot be destroyed.”
The Bhagavad Gita
“In principle and in potential we are immersed in good for we are in the Mind of God. But we have freedom, or volition, to create in our own experience, out of the possibilities of life with which we have been endowed, the prerogative of heaven or hell. So we need to shake ourselves loose from the tyranny of fear and superstition and isolation and the emotional traditions.”
The Spiritual Universe and You
Beginning anew is the key to waking up. If we keep trying to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result, even we begin to suspect our mental state as a hellish one, while we may not yet grasp who is at cause in the matter. Of course, we are always at cause in our experience and this is a difficult thing to consider when we are going through a rough patch.
If we start anew, we can begin again to directly experience this environment of good that is our natural home. What if all that other stuff we experience is something we have made of the good opportunity that we are given? One of my early Religious Science teachers, Rev. Dr. Dominic Polifrone, used to tell us that “Everyone goes through hell from time to time, but that’s no reason why you should stop and build your house there!” Each of us lives in alternating states of present awareness broken up by intermittent periods of unconsciousness—not all of them deep sleep! The practice of affirmative prayer, and the supportive practices of contemplation, spiritual study, service and mindfulness in our everyday lives begin to lengthen the experience of present awareness, or consciousness, little by little until those around us actually have easier lives as a result of the spiritual transformation that occurs in us. I believe that we know we are doing well when folks around us begin to have improved lives.
Not long ago, I was talking to someone here locally, and the practice of humility came up. I believe a true, deep, and spiritual humility arises in us when we realize that we are truly made of Divine stuff and we begin to tell the truth of who we are, making no more, and no less, of the lives that we are given. The more we allow God to be God in and as us, the more amazing the things that we are able to do with our lives; the more the people around us reap the benefits of what we (You, God & I) have wrought with the opportunity of life itself.
And, of course, we all screw it up from time to time. We get grumpy, impatient, tired or find an infinite number of other ways that we can block our divinity its full expression. You can fill in the blank for yourself here; you know how it looks when you get off track. From time to time we need renewal and self-forgiveness. I urge you to take a few minutes to release all feelings of failure, frustration, denial, or any form of self-rejection and judgment you may have held against yourself. We cannot begin anew and hold any form of grudge against ourselves or another. Picture yourself releasing it as a small boat on the river of life. Allow it to sail away beyond the horizon, forgiven, released and then allow yourself the respite that only such forgiveness can grant. Let it go. Don’t waste time making yourself wrong.
Wake up. All is well! What you are afraid of is not real.
Someone sent me this story years ago. I have no idea who wrote it, but I still appreciate the lesson. Imagine, how often we judge ourselves harshly because the way we have been living our lives hasn’t produced the result we wished to produce, as quickly as we would have liked?
In one of the best spiritual books of the 20th century, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Chogyam Trungpa, he wrote of spanning the gulf between the esoteric tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and the everyday joys, sorrows and questions of spirituality in everyday modern life. In this book, Trungpa focused on the presentation of the spiritual path from the perspective of the role of expectation and promise of reward.
Before I read that book, I was still trying to be a “good girl” and was trying to get living “right” so I would really be worthy of a better life than it seemed the one I was born into had been so far. Let’s not talk about my being in my early thirties at the time! Perhaps Buddha would smile on me and suddenly things would be so much better. It wasn’t working for me and I was deeply dissatisfied.
Trungpa wrote about how these expectations obscure our ability to be with life the way it really is, and isn’t. So long as we have a story about how long it takes to do something, we can use that story to stop ourselves in two ways: the first being that we block ourselves from experiencing the present moment, and the second, we impede ourselves from moving forward in our lives in the direction of our dreams because we create the idea of difficulty as a burden, as if life should always be easy and challenges have no value. Where do we get the ideas that we should pit “easy” against “challenging” and one should be of higher value than the other? What makes a lifetime project of less value than a quick fix?
What if we would simply choose today to live a spiritual life today, and tomorrow we choose again what kind of life we would live, today we don’t have to worry about it and we don’t have to worry about results or spiritual attainments? Wouldn’t living such a simple life relieve us of the burden of opinion, measurement and self-inflicted suffering?
This I share for Dan. Our friend Melanie Bassett read this favorite poem at our wedding 24 years ago last New Year’s Eve. We were, against all odds, still hopeful for a good married life after my three failed marriages and his divorce after eighteen years and four hardy, smart and challenging McMullen children. He was nearly 52 and I was 40. It’s hard to be hopeful when you’ve seen more failure in your relationships than anyone ever warned could happen. Those failures want to force cynicism into our hearts like cement hardening us, making it more than a little difficult to hang on to any part of our innocence. But we tried: I put on my brave-flowered dress and Dan matched my call with his tuxedo, Father Charlie donned his robes, and we try and we continue to try, and we have succeeded.
THE CARTOGRAPHER’S WEDDING
Nobody knows what love is anymore —
not the groom in his rental suit
flushed with desire, not the bride
blushing in her one-day dress and flowers
smouldering with the fires of expectation.
Nobody knows, and I least of all.
Still, we are here, against all reason,
the products of that ancient spoken
or unspoken vow. To the east, across
nearly insurmountable summits caked
with snow, the Great Plains rise
and fall while we continue to remain
steady as November rain, having grown
accustomed to a cold that never freezes,
to a shade of deep, spectacular green
intact, season after season. And so we find
ourselves outside in fog, in hoarfrost,
in rain or snow, living as we do
at the edge of a continent or a dream,
living perhaps with our hearts
not in our hands, but on our lips,
although they are seldom spoken.
(Friendship hereabouts is assumed
like an old mackinaw or a blanket.)
But that time comes, and it will come,
when you try to recite the names
or find the odd, almost familiar faces
that move beyond the old events, like fog,
that made you what you are. The years
that disappeared like falling stars
are lovely to remember. And there will
be time aplenty for flowers on a grave.
No, nobody knows what love is. Nobody
understands the past. Saddled with
all the hopes that will outlast
a lifetime’s dedication, we,
groom, bride, friend and friend–
we step into the day amazed to find our-
selves among companions eager to weather
the winds of change that turn us
heavenward, poor fools together,
never to learn what love is, we
who map the country where it lives.