Sunday, November 29, 2009

Garden Mothers: Musings on the Garden Year

In my garden, Earth and I chat like two mothers over a cup of coffee. Mother to mother, matter to matter. Yes, she says in the spring, the manure serves me well, thank you. I comment on the delicate unfolding of early flowers, and she smiles at the growth of my toddler. Oh, yes, how my Little Goddess has grown, she muses as I plant peas. I gaze up appreciatively at the almost-open lilacs surrounding the garden and press seeds into the damp soil. We discuss spring’s strange weather patterns: snow, then eighty degrees – pea planting time. I give her some weeds and kitchen scraps which she will whip up into compost stew.

Oh! Chickadees are moving in to the birdhouse this year! And look – the crocus we planted two years ago has multiplied. Earth gives me bouquets of dandelions for my daughter to pick. I thank her for the fresh air and fresh spinach that help me raise a vibrant baby. I pour a little cup of breast milk onto the soil in thanks. Her green children continue to push through the spring soil, reaching for Father Sun. The air warms as she journeys around him, hinting at the blast of summer to come. Just in time, the Box Elders behind our house leaf out: We now have shade on the back patio as the afternoons creep towards deepest summer.

I share with my daughter Earth’s spring crafts – yes, these are also dandelions – see? They close up, then re-open white and fuzzy. These are dandelion seeds. Just like the seeds we put in the garden to grow watermelons. Blow them and make a wish! Yes, my daughter, I wish for watermelons right now, too, but we have to wait. When the summer is too hot to breathe, then we’ll have sweet watermelon from the garden.

When the time comes, Earth is full and sweaty as a pregnant woman chasing twins. She insists I take more, fill my kitchen counters with her gifts: Tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, too many zucchinis to know what to do with. She offers me corn with three different colors of kernels, red, white, and yellow. She nods knowingly, telling me how diversity and chance will save us all. In diversity and pluralism is strength.

After my daughter goes to bed, I come out to visit the Mother. I stand in the garden in the warm summer night, crickets singing their praise and wonder. The baby apple tree, covered in bird netting, reaches above my head now, a silent companion in ritual. Beneath her roots my daughter’s placenta has rotted away completely. My body grew it to nourish my daughter, and then I gave it back to the land to feed the tree that will feed us. The Wheel keeps on turning, blessing, feeding, in birth and in death.

I light a candle and set it in a jar. It’s windy tonight, as it so often is at the edge of the Rocky Mountains. I’ve brought with me another jar containing a thick dark liquid. Mother to mother, I say thanks and pour my moon blood at the base of the tree, sprinkle it over the garden beds. Each month I sacrifice some of myself, and give it back to Earth. Matter to matter. Blood for blood.

I sit quietly on the hard ground. Even after watering the lawn, the clay soil is hard beneath my bones. I drink in the night. The moon rises behind the house, her shadows creeping around the Box Elder and shivering moon dust on the lawn. The night pulses with green abundance all around me, but there is also a sweet hint of rot, a promise of the dying times to come.

Autumn is short here. Suddenly the trees have turned yellow and brown. It is too cold to dine on the patio at night, though we can wear tank tops and shorts during the day. I pull up the empty corn stalks and tie them to the front porch. A few more squash plants fatten on the vine, covered in bird netting to keep out the squirrels. I plant a last crop of radishes and scatter kale seeds. The compost needs turning.

Earth invites me to come sit, to slow down in the scurry of fall, soak in the sweet rot and slow cool. Three hawks circle above, slowly, a yearly autumnal dance. My daughter turns a year older, and I settle more fully into my relatively new role as Mom. Earth shows me how. She brushes the hair off my face and offers me a glass of cider. All is well, she says, all is turning, circling, sweetness.

As soon as I pluck the last pumpkins it begins to snow. My daughter stands at the back door on the heat register and watches white soften the dried plant stalks. The cold curve of land teaches her about death, stillness, calm. Other mothers keep gathering: We scatter Kabocha squash and pumpkin seeds on the deck for the squirrels. The chickadee family hops little prints into the snow as they share in the offering.

On a warm winter day the snow melts in patches. I pull a hat over my ears and go visit the garden, my baby who is not a baby following slowly in the chilly air. I pick a frozen scallion and a small handful of hardy kale. A mother squirrel bounces through the leafless branches above me, dropping snow dust onto my shoulder. I tromp out to the compost pile to dump a week’s worth of kitchen scraps, and dream of spring. Sun glares low in the sky.

At Solstice we build a small fire on the back patio. Wrapped in blankets and the chill night, I sprinkle mead around the apple tree. Thank you, I call to the frozen Earth. Tomorrow the days will begin to lengthen, and I will flip greedily through seed catalogues. Tonight my daughter tosses a pine cone into the fire, and we watch the sparks rise into the icy darkness of the Longest Night of the Year.
And soon, very soon, we will plant peas. Mothers and daughters, soil and sky, spinning, turning, whole.

Clea Danaan is the author of Sacred Land: Intuitive Gardening for Personal, Political and Environmental Change (Llewellyn, 2007), Voices of the Earth: The Path of Green Spirituality
(Llewellyn, 2009), and Magical Bride: Crafting a Wedding for a Goddess (Wyrdwood, 2009). Visit her at or

1 comment:

mama p said...

so grateful for this peek into the seasons that guide you :) just lovely