Lessons from my Garden

29 06 2016

This summer began with a new development in my home garden: after the first few years of shade-gardening with native plants, a light-gap has opened in the woods from a tree falling last year, allowing me to finally pursue a dream of vegetables. My husband and I put in the small, square raised bed; I planted a modest selection of tomato, cucumber, and bell pepper plants; and we fenced it in for protection from ever-present, hungry wildlife.

The first lesson I am confronting is patience.

I believe the seemingly contradictory qualities of impatience and distraction are responsible for my long history of a black thumb. Sometimes I smother my plants with eager watering and prodding; other times, I forget my charges, and they wither from neglect. I have begun to see that vegetables are delicate; if I want any kind of yield, I have to be diligent but not clingy.

Still, as I water them daily, I purse my lips and examine the stalks (gently!) for signs of new flowers.

I also have newfound gratitude for rain. I have always loved rainy days almost more than sunny ones, but rain takes on new meaning now, a direct sign of divine providence. “No need to water today!” I think, with a sigh of contended relief. It’s work lugging the big watering can up to the light gap, far from the hose’s reach.

All this watering gives me greater respect than ever for our crops’ tremendous strain on resources. Just seeing the daily amount my four plants require easily paints a picture in my mind of that amount magnified across our groaning planet. And it occurs to me that all of us, whether omnivore or carnivore, vegetarian or vegan, should be humbled by what it takes to provide for our needs on a daily basis.

Who knew such lessons await in such humble, green places?

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Summer Joys

19 06 2011

I’m back! Is anyone out there?

Well, whether you are or you aren’t, I’m here and ready to share more Greening  Tree tidbits with you. Watch the blog for continued changes!

*~*

Summer is upon us, and the solstice will soon make it official. While I’m not a fan of high temps, I do love many of the pleasures that derive their significance from this fleeting season:

  • An ice-cold drink on the patio.
  • Exultant bird song from early in the morning until long after the sun retires.
  • The lazy pace of everything – our western culture’s nod to seizing the season.
  • Farmer’s markets loaded with brilliant colors and interesting shapes.
  • The way the outdoors becomes our second home.

During the workweek, I take a moment to look out the window and smile upon the world outside. It will be ready to greet me at 5 o’clock, and I want to make sure I’m ready to greet it!

This week, why not:

  • Try a new fruit.
  • Stroll in your neighborhood.
  • Notice an insect and the way it lives.
  • Take an impromptu trip to a park – hike, play ball, picnic, and bask in this friendly season!




Preparing for Spring

20 02 2011
Garden with some tulips and narcissus

Image via Wikipedia

Some say it’s here. The groundhog said it would come before March 21st, if you can believe him. Others are not convinced by the temporary, even frighteningly warm spell we just experienced.

All I can say is, undoubtedly, things are happening underground. Along Baltimore’s Inner Harbor yesterday, tulips were shooting up, just waiting for the days to lengthen sufficiently for their big debut. I smelled a disgruntled skunk while driving through the countryside. Yes, it’s true: animals and plants are stirring. And so should we!
Do you long for greeness and warmth again? Ever so slowly, resume your springtime self. Wear bright colors. Dust something. Water your long-suffering indoor plants. Turn your face up to the sky and think spring thoughts. It won’t be long now!

How are you preparing for Spring?





. . . And we’re back

23 01 2011

I decided that I want to continue the blog, but on more casual terms. For instance, I will post when the mood strikes and let myself write on more wide-ranging topics. I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts, as always. And now, a poem about winter on the Maryland shore, by me.

The Inlet in Winter

The inlet in winter

Whispers stoic peace;

Waves slip

Into secrets

And retreat,

Telling no one, as the secrets

Mean nothing

Under subtle skies.

Nearby,

the maritime woods

snuggle together, protecting

their summertime scent.

We are mere visitors,

Temporary distractions

From the weighty work

Of winter

In their bones.

*~*





Why Backpacking?

4 11 2010

Me, hiking PA's West Rim Trail

Two Sundays ago, I returned from a real-life adventure. There were glorious views and aching feet, midnight snow and evening rain, critter encounters and an injury. This adventure only took a few days and cost relatively little, but it plucked my husband and I out of our comfortable lives and immersed us more fully in our own survival. We went backpacking.

Some may ask why we would endure weather extremes, freeze-dried food, sleeping on the ground, and muscle pains. The truth is, there is a moment during every trip when even a seasoned backpacker asks themselves the same questions. However, the payoffs are legendary; just ask John Muir, hiker extraordinaire and father of the American park system. He exhorts us to “Keep close to Nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.

Yes, it is good to “break clear away,” to work for your vistas and waterfalls, and for your comfort at day’s end. To build a fire – especially when it is hard to do. To have your breath taken away by the sight of something no person could make. To realize that all you need to survive you can haul on your back, and that all the stuff back at home is just window-dressing. And to know that you are blessed with lungs, senses, and thoughts, and that all of these things cost nothing at all.

That is why I go backpacking.





Green 2.0: Seasonal Joys

13 10 2010

I can’t fool you: we are talking about pleasures again. I just got tired of writing the word.

Although you’ve probably heard it before, it’s true as can be: in our industrialized society, it can be hard to feel at home in our natural surroundings, which are essentially the seasons. If we are unpracticed in the art of savoring each season’s joys, we may focus only on its sorrows. Spring is muddy; summer, hot; autumn gloomy; winter . . . well, you know all about that if you live north of Florida.

The poet Thoreau once said, “Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.” So much of our struggle with nature – and I do include myself – is the feeling that we must be in control. That we must rage against the dying of the light, to quote another poet. What travelers tend to find so quaint about indigenous peoples is really their joyful resignation to the influences – good and otherwise – of their world. Natives know how to navigate nature and find the best in it because they live in it – and with it.

We can learn this. It must be a gentle courtship. Buy some of the season’s fruits at a farm stand. Make a recipe with seasonal ingredients (try About.com’s Local Foods). Or simply sit outside, in any weather, for just a few minutes. See how the light is different than three months ago.

What are your seasonal joys?





Green 2.0: Nature Expectations

5 10 2010

In her book Eat Mangoes Naked, SARK remarks on our tendency to sabotage pleasure by setting ourselves up for disappointment. When we expect to have a good time doing something, she says, we can become frustrated that the experience is not what we anticipated. She offers, “Instead of going to have ‘a good time’ (which can cause pressure or struggle), we might just have ‘a time.’ This allows our actual experience to occur.”

I was a recent victim of great nature expectations – my own, that is. I went to a park with my husband to explore on a perfect autumn afternoon and soon felt irritable that the sun grew too warm for the perfect fall outfit I was wearing. My mind then found other things to pick at, and soon I was fully annoyed at my disappointment. Luckily I realized what I was doing to myself and tried to appreciate the day from a more open perspective. Then the sun started to cool and the evening was truly perfect!

We can all re-condition our responses to nature. Most of the time there will be things that can stop us from enjoying it if we let them. There will be dirt, and bugs, and hot sun, and cold rain. There will be itchy bits and cloudy skies. The scenery may have changed since we visited as a child; the trail may be eroded and more difficult than we remember. All of these things are opportunities to breath, smile, and have “a time.”

We may just find there are treasures in the muck. I remember a few days that could have been dismal but turned out to be lasting, adventurous memories; a blustery October day turned into running through the rain, laughing. We can redeem nature moments, as we can people moments, work moments, doing-the-laundry moments.

I wish you many moments transformed!








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