When Your Garden Gardens You by Carolyn Lee Boyd

Fleabane

Summer is a time when we are surrounded by the power of Nature, the impulse to life, balance, and well being. Even small actions to align ourselves with it can create momentous changes and healing within ourselves and towards a more sustainable world. Over the past couple of years, I have noticed a decline in pollinators like bees, butterflies, and birds in the small garden behind my home. This may be part of the worldwide pollinator crisis, or the result of nearby housing developments overtaking wild land, or my own past bad gardening decisions. I decided that this year it was time for me to join the many other gardeners worldwide who are creating pollinator-friendly spaces.

So, I did some research into what native and non-native plants already growing in the garden are good for pollinators and which native plants I should acquire from gardener friends or native plant organizations. I also learned to make a better environment for pollinators by waiting to move or shred leaves until warmer weather so as not to disturb pollinators wintering over, making sure that plants on which insects are making homes are left alone, and building up berry brambles, shrubs, and brush piles for birds and butterflies to find food and shelter in.

Boneset

I am also letting Nature make decisions about what should be in the garden and where. I am letting plants grow where they are already flourishing rather than moving them to where I think they would be more aesthetically pleasing. I am finding native flowers just plopping themselves down that I have never seen before but which are beautiful and beneficial. Other plants that I had pulled as “weeds” I am finding have lovely blooms if I just let them be. At last I have started to notice more birds and bees flitting around, and I even encountered a dragonfly for the first time in two years.

But the pollinators in the garden are also pollinating me. Now when I spend time in the garden, especially when simply sitting quietly and observing the plant, birds, insects, and animals around me, I am more aware of how the universe is filled with a great impulse to growth, abundance, diversity, beauty, and wholeness. Every square inch except for the small pathways has transformed from the bare dirt of winter to being covered in green and bright colors. Plants that I had been aggressively pulling for decades as weeds but that I now know are pollinator superstars, are growing all over the garden. Vegetation that have been eaten down to the ground by a hungry family of rabbits early in the spring are coming back heartier than ever. None of this is attributable to my gardening skill. I simply stopped interfering and let Nature take over. 

Bloodroot

During this process, another metamorphosis has taken place. While the garden is still a human space by virtue of being in the center of a suburban neighborhood, I realize that I no longer think of myself as “the gardener” or the garden as “my garden.” Nature is in charge and I truly have no idea how the garden will evolve. I am beginning to see myself as just one more part of the web of life, not more valuable, wise, or deserving of power than any other species. I am more “wild” myself as I find my relationship to the other beings in my garden to increasingly be one of friendship and common habitation and myself part of Nature’s wonders. When I am in the garden, I am able to simply “be” and participate in the energy of the Earth as it expresses itself in the life forms all around me. I am only a few months into my new way of being with the garden and the concept of myself in relation to all of Nature has shifted.

As I thought about both the life force I encounter in my garden and my response to it, I am immediately brought to global images of the the sacredness of life and its creation — cave and rock art showing animals in motion, temples on Crete and Catalhöyük infused with images of abundant plants and animals, stories from around the world of goddesses or spirit beings in the guise of the elements and aligned with or shape-shifting into strong and vital beings like deer and boar.  21st century western civilization teaches us to think that we can and must be in control — of ourselves, of other people, of Nature — or catastrophe will ensue. We have forgotten that our cosmos holds a powerful force for life and positive relationship with which we can align ourselves but not command. I am grateful to those nations and societies, ancient and contemporary, who have always revered and respected this force that I am now just beginning to truly perceive in a holistic, embodied, and humbling way. 

Solomon’s Seal

As I was finishing this post, one of my neighbors told me she is fostering some monarch butterfly caterpillars and so bought a large quantity of milkweed which she is offering to her gardening neighbors. Many have accepted and now a large area of our connected yards will be monarch butterfly-friendly for the foreseeable future. We both heard the same pollinator call and responded in our own ways just as we can all heed whatever calls we hear in ways that are right for us.

The force of life is within us all, we are essential elements of it, so when we act in alignment  with it we are becoming more of who we really are. We can progress towards a more balanced and healthy planet both by fostering our own healing and by bringing its power to our work on environmental, economic, social, political and other challenges, whatever that may mean to you. We all have our own roles to play in these efforts. What does the garden of your life tell you?

Bio

Carolyn Lee Boyd

Carolyn Lee Boyd is a writer, student drummer, and herb and native plant gardener who lives in New England.  Her essays, short stories, memoirs, reviews, and poetry have been published in, among others, Feminism and Religion, Return to Mago E-Magazine, Sagewoman, The Goddess Pages, Matrifocus, and The Beltane Papers, and various anthologies. She would love for you to visit her at her website, www.goddessinateapot.com where you can find some of her free e-books to download.



Categories: Earth-based spirituality, General, Nature, Spiritual Journey

Tags: , , ,

19 replies

  1. wow! “when garden gardens you” amazing write up

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my Goddess this is so wise and beautiful!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Great essay, Carolyn. Reminded me immediately of the Chinese concept Wu-wei, meaning “inaction” or “effortless action.” Recognizing the forces of nature and then acting accordingly is something you’ve beautifully described in relationship to how you are learning to do garden world. Wu-wei is antithetical to the prevailing paradigm of control, dominate, and kill that is all too familiar to most of us. Thank you for this great piece!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Esther! I hadn’t thought of what I was doing as Wu-wei, but you are right! I find that, post-pandemic, I am much more this way in general than I was before. It feels so good to just relax and be part of the flow!

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  4. Oh I was so excited to read this post! I have gardened like this since I was young – I couldn’t bear to pull the so called weeds because I live all flowers so much – but my favorites are the wildflowers …. thus the wild garden was born – people would complain they couldn’t See individual plants – well any meadow will show you what plants naturally do. Rewilding is the current catch word but gardening like this allows us to become part of all that is – and joy follows!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you! Yes, I wish I had started gardening like this 30 years ago! What amazes me is that everything seems to know how to be in collaboration with everything else. No plant is either taking over or being crowded out and they are somehow keeping themselves so that there are still little paths so that the humans can get around. The garden looks so much healthier than it ever has and I’ve done almost no maintenance at all. Why didn’t I just trust in the wisdom of Nature before???

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  5. This is wonderful! I wish I had a garden, but there’s no room where I live to plant private gardens, even if they’re gardens for butterflies or birds or native plants. The so-called gardeners hired by the management company make sure we always have lots of empty dirt around the building, but they dig up just about anything we plant. I gazed at your photos as I read your words and just longed to live in your garden. Bright blessings to green plants and flowers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Barbara! I lived for a number of years in New York City without being able to have plants (no sunlight in my apartment) or access to a garden, so I know how you feel. You are welcome to visit the garden in spirit (or in person!) any time!

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  6. I truly enjoyed your post, Carolyn. It actually inspired me to plant some milkweed in my little flowerbed and get some advice from a friend who raises butterflies, so I can nourish them as well, Here in Southern California, we have so many Monarch Butterflies this year, it’s just beautiful to watch them. Have a great inspiring week.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Outstanding. What a great title. When our garden gardens us. It feeds us body and soul. Yes, let Mama Earth take the lead not us taking sovereignship over it. Awesomely stated. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I love this, Carolyn! Thank you for making us aware of the need to garden with native species and with insects in mind. I have 5 acres and most of it is woods and fields that are being taken over by the woods. I have let the fields and woods be natural. My garden is a mix of native and non-native species. I have found that the violets are taking over so I’ve had to move them so I can have little paths in my garden. The bee balm is taking over, too. I’m going to try to move it because like you I can’t bear to pull the flowers out and kill them. I have milkweed bushes in my field and I do see butterflies, hummingbirds, and dragonflies. It is all so delightful! Nature really does nurture us with Her beauty, as well as with food and inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Linda. What a wonderful gift to have 5 acres to roam and enjoy Nature’s bounty! I love how you include both food and inspiration as ways that Nature nurtures us — it is so easy to forget how much our souls need feeding as well as our bodies!

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      • In California, where I’m from, I could never afford a home, even a small one like mine, on five acres. Luckily property is more affordable in Maine. Just looking at my yard and woods nourishes my soul. My mother and I delight in gardening and in feeding and watching the wildlife. Currently we are feeding two mama raccoons so we’re hoping they’ll bring the babies around when they are weaned. My mom also delights in feeding chipmunks. Now she has two of them that get in her lap for the peanuts. I’ve had them get in my lap, too. We are blessed and we know it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • How wonderful to have both raccoons and chipmunks that you can feed! We have a little chipmunk condominium in a stone wall near the house – in other words – there seem to be lots of little chipmunk dwellings in it because there are always lots darting in and out.

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  9. Wow, I never heard of a chipmunk condo! I know their homes have several rooms and at least a couple of exits. They need a lot of room to store all that food. The chipmunks here have holes all over my lawn and garden but I don’t care because they are so darn cute!

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