Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Talk to Your Plants: Spring Musings on the Garden

I came across this article written in 2010 and somehow never published (it was in my Draft folder!). Though today is cold and snowy, the essay is still timely. --Clea

I love all the seasons for their unique gifts and beauty, but I get sort of manic in the spring. The snow has melted, the nights grow warmer, and the seeds I ordered in January have all arrived. It is time to put my plans and ideas into action. I get to put the first spring seeds and seedlings in the ground: radishes, kale, Brussels Sprouts, lettuces…

I don’t just put plants or seeds in the dirt, though. I see gardening as a co-creative process between Nature and me. The seeds with all their fiery potential meet the fire of the Sun, and between lies the sweet wind, sacred water, and my loving attendance. I have the plan, and She Who Makes Things Grow puts my plan into action. When I plant seeds, I first hold them in my palm and feel into them. I thank them for their contribution to the planet and my life, and I put them in the ground. I cover them with soil, water them lightly, and take a moment to pause. I call into my garden the energy of whatever plant these little babies will become. Obviously the plants will grow, and even thrive, without my doing this. I feel, though, that working with the energy of the plant as well as the physical process of gardening aligns me with the greater powers at work.

We are deeply tied to the “natural world;” we are in fact a part of it. In a world of cell phones, a thousand television channels, satellite radio and the World Wide Web, it can be all to easy to forget this. I remember this truth when I tend my garden. I am surrounded with the hummus scent of soil microbes and wakening grass. My fingernails and every crease in my hands are black with dirt. The surface of my skin cools against the spring winds, yet I peel off layers as the Colorado sun sinks through fleece and cotton. It is not uncommon at a mile high to garden in a tank top even in February or March. Of course a spring snow shower can come at any time….

On the sunny days, the fat radish seeds go into the earth, a promise of the crunch and bite to come. I sprinkle another bed with mesclun mix, and dream of early salads. On calm days I sometimes lug all my seedlings out into the bright sun, and do my best to remember to bring them in before dark. While the seeds and baby plants promise a bounty of freshness, I promise them life, a chance to contribute to the turning Wheel. My muscles, blood, and breath dance with these neophytes, bringing them into the turning of time – and bringing myself more fully into the Great Dance as well.

Gardening brings me into real space and time. The practice connects me with the earth, my neighbors, and the food economy. A friend recently asked me what I would grow if I could only grow one thing. What a preposterous question! Even if I lived in a high rise with a teeny balcony, I would grow herbs and salad out the back door, and more plants in a community plot. Growing my food is a response deep within me to my roots as a descendant of farmers, to my spirit that honors the sacred earth, and to my mind that eschews corporate agribusiness control over my dinner table. I feel in fact that I do not do enough.

When I talk to my seeds and to the plants as they grow, blooming, sprouting, reaching, dreaming, I thank them for their hard work converting sunlight to usable energy. I thank them for gracing my yard. I thank them for inspiring me to exercise daily with my shovel and garden gloves. Then I take a quiet moment to reflect on my place in the here-and-now. In this quiet, the garden speaks back to me. Through its vibrant greenness it tells me to breath, trust, know we are All One, not only on a virtual sphere, but right here in this moment of sunlight and breath and stone.

Want to grow a garden this spring? Plant early spring vegetables a few weeks before the last average frost. Include some of the following:
Salad greens
Dandelion greens
Green onions
Need space? Many cities have community garden organizations. Check out the American Community Garden Association’s website at www.communitygarden.org.

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