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.
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.
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.
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?
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.