Before we left, Stephen handed each of us a few precious corn kernels asking that, when we returned to our respective home lands, we reverently bury them, grieve over them, tend their graves, and with nature’s grace watch the renewal of life and the growth of a new corn plant. It occurred to me that this is what he had done – planted seeds in our hearts and our minds, which are watered by our tears and tended by the labours of our learning, in the hope that a new elder might begin to grow in each of us with an understanding that death is a gift, “the cradle of our love of life”.
Stephen Jenkinson, the author of Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul, calls upon people to bear witness to a world that we wish were otherwise and he offers an opportunity to learn how to labour at the planting of hard-won seeds so that we might possibly, against what are sometimes great odds, learn to live, and die, well.
For some years now I have been encouraging creatives to plant nasturtium seeds and, over a period of at least a month, talk to them and watch them grow. I encourage people to keep a record in a small notebook that is covered with imagery of growth.
This is a simple task. Just fill a planter with rich potting mix and add some nasturtium seeds. Talk to the pot and the seeds and agree upon where to place it. Then spend at least ten minutes each day tending to it, taking photos, keeping a journal record. You will be amazed by what this simple plant has to teach you.
The tree is small – kept small for ease of picking –
The leaves are large and biblical.
Fruit hanging like heavy teardrops,
Purplish-brown or is that brownish-purple?
Feel the fruit.
It must be soft, the skins sometimes split.
White, milky sap leaks from the stalk,
With poisonous connotations.
Sticky! A stickiness that only soap can remove.
Luscious fruit; the insides pink and juicy.
Tiny pips embedded in the flesh.
Six are ripe.
I eat them all, I eat everything,
Save for the sappy stalks.
Tomorrow there will be more.
Sue (Toasted Knees)
(For reference and orientation to this character and her friends visit Unity Bell’s Cabin)
Unity and her friends stood at the entrance to the next cave. It was an ancient tree with a heart opening. They had a positive feeling about this cave.
Kiona went ahead and they could hear her exclaiming ‘ Oh I cannot believe the garden in here.’ They followed, and Armful of Tiger Lillies was singing the most uplifting tune inside Unity’s head.
‘In the garden of Thy heart plant naught but the rose of love’
Shruti was speechless, and seemed far less anxious than she had before. She was busily identifying all of the plants
‘hibiscus, ginger, roses….’
It did not make sense that so many kinds of flowers could exist so harmoniously in one space, but they did.
Then there were the birds. A bird no bigger than a butterfly flew over Unity’s shoulder. It had a black coloured head, and yellow jacketed body. It was delightful. She put her hand out and it flew over her.
Just as they were settling in they felt the sprinkling of rain – a rain which began to pelt down so they went to seek shelter in the garden.
‘Oh what I would give to always live in a garden like this,’ Unity said aloud.
Shruti sighed, ‘Yes it is just so beautiful the way it rambles, we can stay here awhile can’t we,’
The donkey’s were all delighted, even with the heavy rain. It was like being in a delightful dream.
It was then that they first came across Nature girl.
One of the many flowers in Unity’s trek in the Garden
Nature Girl had a personality that was full of bravado and mischief. Although she loved all animals, she did not like them upsetting ecosystems they did not belong in. So cats and toads got into a lot of trouble in her domain.
She looked at Unity quizically ‘Who are you?’
‘Ah… yes, you look like a unity’.
She bounced up and stroked the donkey’s ears.
‘Now you must take care in this garden, as long as you are in in balance with everything you will be okay.’
‘And if not’ ventured Shruti.
Nature Girl looked at Shruiti, ‘Listen to the pond’s song…. and it will tell you.’
She giggled and ran off.
Kiona was curious, ‘So then let’s find the pond and listen to it.’
The women and their three donkey companions, Armful of Tiger Lillies, Ariadne and Absolute Bullet Proof set off through the fields of flowers to find the pond. It was Ariadne that discovered it first. They heard its song…
‘I hate toadpoles,’ the girl with the black pool eyes exclaims.
‘They must be kept away from our pond.’
She says this with a wave of her magic net wand.
‘Toads need to be deposed
From ruling our garden’
So she whispers the toad exploding spell.
She does one of those goofy spoofy dances
And the toads can’t help but laugh
‘What a cheeky girl’
That’s when she hits them with metal of the dettol.
The Queen of the pond with no lotus
Knows that she is on top of these pests
So now it’s time to have some rest.
She can contemplate the new water lillies she will buy
And think about all the fish who will no longer
be bothered by the toadpoles.
(c) June Perkins
I took the bus from my lover’s house into the big city with the big library. I checked out a copy of Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ The Faithful Gardener and took it to my own home in the middle of that big city. I rearranged the furniture until I was comfortable, poured a cool glass of something, and then began to read. I read the whole book that night in fits and starts as I periodically joined my neighbours on the porch to hear the latest news of their lives and reports of the goings on of the neighbourhood.
Alone in the house that night I laid down to sleep in the heat. The central air conditioner was taking a very long time to do its job. I tossed and turned fitfully and thought about what I had read. I wondered what might be that in me which never dies. I wondered somewhat fearfully if there was any such thing in me. I have always suspected I was born missing some important essence or instinct. But I took hope in the assurance that it is necessary to let a field lie fallow for some period of time in order for it to become useful again. I tossed and turned and prayed that it was true.
I was thinking today of the northern area of our province. When we travel to go canoeing it is easy to see which areas were cleared either by cutting or by fire at some point. Most of our forest is mixed boreal and conifer. The areas where there had been some previous clearing of the land would be populated with only Birch and Poplar trees because they grow very fast. Beautiful as they are, however, they are known as “trash trees” to some because they don’t have a long life span.
All that has grown up in the garden of my life was like those opportunistic trees; projects and purposes grew big fast and were pretty to look at but didn’t last very long. I am not a faithful gardener. I am a tired gardener. A gardener tired of watching all my pretty dreams fall back to the earth to become bug food and mulch. But even as I moan and wail I toss seeds in the form of words into the long fallow field of dreams. What words? I have been drawn back to school to learn the language of caring for animals.
After moaning and groaning to myself that surely, surely, surely these college courses were just more birch trees and poplars that will fall down and rot like the others so why bother and don’t waste your time and you’re just trying to fool yourself into thinking you’re doing something for yourself that will last but it won’t last ‘cause it never does…after all that, I registered for the courses, I planted the seeds.
That night I couldn’t sleep. I laid awake thinking about those precious seeds. Was it the right time to plant them? Will I be able to nurture them properly to make them bear fruit? Did I plant enough of them? I got out of bed and went back downstairs to the computer to check the start and end dates of the courses, to learn the parameters of my season. I went back to bed knowing when I would need to pick up my gardening tools and lay them down again. Four months. September to December. It still took a while to fall asleep. Yes, I am a tired gardener, but I am also an anxious gardener, waiting impatiently to see whether my miniscule crop will take root or rot.
What does the writing
On the leaves mean?
Who put it there
Insect, human or Goddess?
Wrap your arms around
the source of your breath.
Wrap your arms around the
Wrap yourself into the story
of the carving.
(c) June Perkins
Cosmic Energy, Creative Fertility Forces
by Heather Blakey August 2009
After reading The Faithful Gardener I have been left pondering upon the creative energy forces that are at work in the vast universe that surrounds us, of which we are a cog in the wheel of life. Life is given, life is taken, the cycle continues as it has continued for billions of years. In uncertain times change is the only certainty. Be it Viriditas, Duende, Tao, Qi, there is a cosmic force that is available which drives creativity. For some, it is the Red Serpent. For others it is something else.
From our recent dialogue about Hildegard’s “greening”, I made this quick little sketch in my journal. After I titled it the “Green Tree”, I realized that this was not quite the right name — but maybe there is some unconscious motive behind my naming a white tree “green”. LOL.
L. Gloyd (c) 2009