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In April, I quit the awesome new job I started at the beginning of the year. I had really wanted the job and I was happy to have it right up until the day I sat down in the office and suddenly everything inside me revolted. In a move that baffled even myself, I resigned on the spot without offering advanced notice. That was weird. But it happened. Then I spent several weeks feeling like Alice, wandering about in the wood, growing my right size again, and finding my way back to the garden.

My own garden is usually started in March, but I was too busy helping other people do their work in March that I neglected doing my own stuff. To make up for lost time, I spent much of May sitting in piles of dirt, alternately feeding and slapping mosquitos, tickling worms, scaring spiders, and wishing the creatures wouldn’t be so easily offended. The best laid plans went completely unmade. Still, I awoke with the birds and followed a Cheshire Cat’s advice; letting my need guide my behavior, I did whatever seemed like the right gardenly thing to do at the time. At the end of each day, I wrote it all down in the month’s goal-tracker.

And the lovely garden unfurls its splendor day by day.

“The first thing I’ve got to do,” said Alice to herself, as she wandered about in the wood “is to grow my right size again; and the second thing is to find my way into that lovely garden. I think that will be the best plan.”

–Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865

I woke up in a “six impossible things before breakfast” sort of mood today,

managing her flamingo

so I took myself on a playdate

to the Memphis Botanic Gardens to chase wonder.

oh my ears and whiskers

She wasn’t hard to catch.

I should like to be a queen best

All the fresh spring growth has me thinking of the garden and remembering this post today.

My Little Spacebook

hanging onYou reach out with any little part of yourself and rise from the dirt to be what you are.  How you make my heart ache with your sense of belonging.

Vanity of vanities!  We all have the same breath.

(Solomon was right.)

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Sister Garden

What started as an urge to try growing corn (again) became an obsession when I learned of the Haudenosaunee tradition of the “Three Sisters” crops.  In this centuries-old system, the three sisters (corn, beans, and squash) are planted in concentric circles successionally.  The big sister, corn, is planted first and provides support for the second sister, beans, to climb. The bean sister hugs the corn and helps to keep her upright against strong winds.  Beans also provide nitrogen in the soil to help her sisters grow.  The baby sister, squash, is planted last.  Her wide leaves shade the ground and help choke out weeds so her big sisters have enough to eat and drink.   The plant sisters are kind to people too, in that they provide a complete and balanced diet of carbohydrates, proteins, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.  Other sisters can live in harmony with this mix – sunflowers, melons, amaranth. It’s a beautiful thing.

In past years my failed attempts at growing corn resulted in sad plants that dried up and blew away. This year I was determined things would be different. I did research, I took notes, I drew up plans and I made appeals. Then I drew more pictures and decorated them with washi tape, like so:

Three Sisters Garden Plans

I remember asking nicely.  I might have begged.  For sure I pleaded.  I even attempted bartering. All to no avail. Finally, I  commanded: Earth be tilled!

And so it was.

With 12 x 12 feet of tilled earth at the ready, I could map out the physical space and layout the mounds.  Armed with chopsticks, plastic spoons, and a measuring tape (of the sewing sort) I set to work! Maybe these are not the traditional tools of the trade, but this is what I had on hand to make things happen.

I wound up planting corn, sunflowers, zucchini, crooked neck and straight neck squash, acorn squash, loofa gourds, pumpkin, a watermelon, beans, and peas.  Two interloping tomato plants joined the party of their own accord, apparently from seeds tossed out in the compost.  My three sisters garden turned into an extended family.  Or maybe a commune? I don’t know what to call it anymore, but let me tell you, there’s a lot happening out there. Well here, I’ll just show you:

sister garden

The day I stood in the garden and unwrapped the husk from the first ear of corn, I cried. Actual tears. It was quite suddenly and unexpectedly overwhelming. There was the quiet murmur of tassels, leaves, silks and stalks rustling in the breeze. There was the soft hum of the bees on the sunflower heads above me – all our faces raised to the sky. There was a caress of leaves.  There was a knowing of the circles and cycles, extending away in ever-widening ripples. There was row after golden row of kernels linking one generation to the next. There was something wild and free and profoundly life-force-y let loose in the garden. 

corn

And then, as suddenly and unexpectedly, there was just me again, standing there mundanely amid the corn sniffling and wondering what sort of problem I was having now.

So, I went inside and googled it.  Yes, I did.  That’s when I learned of Hun Hunahpu.  Life is weird.

Harvest

The corn, zucchini, and sunflowers in the picture above were picked this week from the sisters garden. The butternut squash and cucumbers are from the raised beds garden, but that’s a different tale for another day.

birdhouse

A bluebird couple caught my attention yesterday with their noisy fighting and flapping above the birdhouse. The male flew off to perch on the trellis several feet away. He lodged his complaints to the raspberry vine in a grumpy sequence of whistling, squeaky chirps. The budding vine listened patiently. Bluebird arguments are adorable.

IMG_3090

Um…hello lettuce, you little renegade. That is not where I put you to bed.  That sneaky wind put you up to this, I bet. You are thriving in the rocks and sand, of all things! I didn’t even know that was possible. And yet here we are.

IMG_3088

I’m pretty sure that yellow-flowered plant is spinach. At least it tasted sweetish and spinach-like even after it bolted and bloomed.  It looked like it could be broccoli when it started bolting. On my garden map I wrote “beans” in that location.  It’s definitely not beans.

flowers

The best things are nearest: breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of God just before you. Then do not grab at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things of life.  

–Robert Louis Stevenson

What are ya’ll making out there?

dot journal march

That’s the start of my dot journal goal-tracker and summarizer for the month of March. I’ve been doing Julia Cameron’s 12- week program, The Artist’s Way, since December 21 and I have just under two weeks left to complete it.  It’s been ridiculously effective, centering, fun, and challenging.  I don’t want it to end! So I’ll probably just keep going…or see what else she has to offer.

Also, it’s garden time again!   I’ve already gone crazy stocking up on flower seeds and bulbs.

The kale, arugula, and lettuce planted in September are showing their colors – purple, red, and green – so pretty! The thyme and lavender survived the winter. I apparently planted something else that is also doing great — I thought it was spinach upon first sight, but it looks suspiciously like broccoli at its center. I don’t remember planting broccoli in the fall.  I’ll have to consult the garden journal to confirm what was planted in that spot.

The Lenten roses and the daffodils with small blooms have been showing off for two weeks now and the crocus are in bloom.  The big-bloomed daffodils are about to pop open.  The pear tree is a big show-off with all the white flowers festooning the branches.  The key lime tree, an anniversary gift,  survives winter indoors. She bloomed a couple weeks ago and smelled amazing. Two key limes now grace her branches! That’s the first time that’s happened in the three years since we got her.

I planted microgreens indoors yesterday. I’m so ready to get outside and play with the worms in the dirt.  It’s still too muddy though, so I guess I’ll break out the graph paper and start dreaming and scheming on how to flower up my world today instead.

Suffering should be creative…(it) should give birth to something good and lovely. 

–Chinua Achebe

Darkest before Dawn is a theme I have in the works for a yoga class. Aspects of the playlist and sequencing are coming together as depicted below.

Darkest Before Dawn

Beyond that, I’ve been pruning the Rose of Sharon and the crepe myrtles, cutting back the monkey grass, planting spider lily and crocus bulbs, repotting the amaryllis.  And there were more rescued flowers. Does gardening count as creative work?

flowers

I vote yes.

There was also banana pudding with the custardy pudding made from scratch.  I followed a recipe, so I’m as not sure if that qualifies as “creative.”  But I stirred that pot for half an hour of my life and the ingredients transformed into something beyond what matter I started with, so that counts as alchemy, right? And it was magically delicious.

Yesterday while reading about the history of tulips in Michael Pollan’s book, The Botany of Desire,  I was overcome by the urgent need to plant the iris bulbs that have been sitting in the sunroom for over a month.  Now Raptor Red and Dangerous Mood are tucked in their beds for the winter and I hope to meet them in all their frilly glory this spring.

 

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