I wanted to share with you Machaelle Small Wright's definition of a garden:
"According to nature, a garden has just three criteria: It is initiated by humans, given its definition, direction, and purpose by humans, and maintained with the help of humans. Well, managed forests, landscaping, farms, and potted plants would also be gardens that grow in soil. Soil-less gardens could include waterways, ponds, the atmosphere, aquariums, livestock ranches, trout farms, a landscaping business, a swimming pool, a home, large and small business,.... [W]here there is form, there is nature. Where nature and humans interact, there is a garden. Where there is a garden, there is an implied co-creative partnership" (22-23, Co-Creative Science: A Revolution in Science Providing Real Solutions for Today's Health and Environment).
By this definition, I co-create several gardens. There is what I call "my garden," soil in set areas with plants growing in them. This is the garden I usually refer to in writing and talking. But I also cultivate a family, a writing business, a community of mothers who support the ways I parent, a marriage, a home.... I'm sure the list could go on and on. I would say, though, that the most important "garden" in my life is my family.
My family consists of a husband, two children (one unborn), two cats, two fish, four chickens, a home, and a "garden that grows in soil." It is surrounded by a larger garden, my extended family: My mom, my brother, my aunts and uncles, my sisters- and brothers-in-law, my niece-in-law and her family (who is my age and also has two children), and other relatives. My family garden is also supported by my friends.
I find it valuable to think of my family as a garden, because first, the garden is a powerful metaphor of co-creation, support, faith, patience, and love. I can relate to this metaphor in a way that makes parenting and homemaking manageable. For instance, I know that some days are for weeding (aka vacuuming or doing laundry) and others for harvesting (aka sitting on the back porch and laughing with my family). I no longer feel guilty for putting up my feet when there is "work" to do anymore than I would feel guilty about picking a luscious, ripe tomato.
The second reason I find this a valuable naming of the process of "family" is that I can see my role as wife, mother, homemaker, homeschool teacher, etc., as Gardener. Rather than being at the mercy of a pile of laundry or bills to be paid or a cranky toddler, I can see it as one part of the whole, a whole I value deeply. Once I am not feeling victimized by my slave status, I can then choose to grow my garden consciously. I can honor the process of cooking dinner. I can appreciate the time it takes to get shoes on my three-year-old. I can take time to play with my husband. All with gratitude and self-awareness.
I'm certainly not saying life as a stay-at-home mom becomes easy, but using the image of Garden (which is not just a metaphor here), I can re-frame my experience of the most challenging and most rewarding job on earth. Instead of saying Life's a Beach (or a similar phrase that plays with the sound of beach), I can say Life is a Garden and breathe in deeply as I explore the path.
What new life is sprouting in your garden today?
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
The Family as a Garden: Conscious Co-Creation of the Day-to-Day
Written by Clea Danaan
Clea Danaan grew up in the Pacific Northwest; she now lives in Colorado. she is the author of five books relating to nature-centered spirituality and natural family living. She writes about nature mysticism, chickens, homeschooling, permaculture, and more. Her books have been published in more than six countries and translated into several languages, including French and German.