In past years, when I was actually tending a sizable (physical) garden, I would spend weeks carefully selecting what I wanted to grow. I would place my orders and eagerly start my seed flats. I would get a jump on the season by turning over the soil, turning under the winter compost. Then I would go to an early farmer’s market or two and find some intriguing plant (or four or seven) and purchase them and bring them back to the garden…and there went all my planning. The next thing I knew, my three tomato plants had morphed into six (and the space for three hills of squash vanished), the heirloom peppers had to be squeezed into a corner to make room for lavender, and the row of multi-hued carrots became a quarter of a row so that I had room for the chard and lettuce that looked so delicious.
We are slightly more than halfway through Beltane. After a slow start – at least here in England, Scotland, and Ireland — crops are ripening in the fields. But as any experienced gardener or farmer knows, actual results may vary quite a bit from expectations. The seeds (or bulbs or corms or sets or starts) we planted are not all productive. Some are infertile, some are spoiled or too weak, some may have been mismarked…and some may have been carried into the fields or gardens from neighboring land. Sometimes we discover something growing that comes as a delightful surprise – perhaps the purple tulips we selected turn out to have a few red ones mixed in. And sometimes it can be dangerous – as I discovered when I brushed up against some poison oak along the edges of a field in early spring before it leafed.
How does your garden grow?
Our inner gardens (you knew I was going to get here, right?) are also places of surprise, and disappointment, and – sometimes — danger. However intentional we think we are being, accidents happen, as does both thoughtless and malicious damage from our own choices or the choices of others. Our vision or goal may not coincide with the goals and visions of those around us. In the outer, physical world, my desire to sustain and nurture heirloom varieties or organic produce in order to protect biodiversity is threatened when the farmer two fields away chooses genetically modified crops (bred to be dominant and hyper-fecund) which cross-pollinate my ancient varieties of maize, potato, tomato, peppers, chard. However, our gardens (outer and inner) are largely influenced by the choices we make.
So: How does your garden (field, landscape) grow?
The abundance (or scarcity) of our harvest is shaped to a great extent by our attention and intention. I may think I want to yield bushels of compassion and generosity, but if I am continually pouring anger and judgment on my seeds, it is unlikely that I am going to have a lot of love to leave on doorsteps along with the zucchini. With the best intentions in the world, we cannot insure perfect weather or prevent any possibility of cross-contamination, but we can have good practices in place to limit the damage.
Earlier in this sabbatical, I was reflecting on all the rain we are experiencing in the British Isles, and wondering whether I should have brought three tubes of self-tanner rather than three tubes of sunscreen. However, as I have been reaping the blessing of open time and space (and all those grey days spent inside), I have had the opportunity to reflect on some of my preferences, how they can quickly develop into ingrained habits, and how unfruitful some of those habits can be.
One of these habits is the tendency to careen between the two extremes of “I absolutely adored my garden last year and I want to recreate it right down to the last grape hyacinth this year” and “I am so bored with doing the same thing that I am not going to grow a single plant I have ever grown before.” The former is highly unlikely to happen (I hate to say impossible lest I be proved wrong). The latter is so unsettling that all I really produce is rampant anxiety, which (like pollen drift) tends to contaminate everyone else’s gardens, too.
Back in May, in my first blog for Beltane, I suggested this:
Between now and the solstice (or all the way through the season if you are willing), take a few minutes each day to honor your own fertility – your imagination, your creativity, your passions, the heat of your energy. Write down events or experiences from the past which reflect this aspect of your life. Consider, also, the fertile experiences you long to have in whatever area of your life. On the solstice, choose one of those dreams or possibilities to make manifest in the second half of the season.
I don’t know whether you have been engaged in this exercise (or might want to go back and engage with it), but I have noticed (with some regret, some surprise, some dismay) in my own journaling that the place where I experience the most fertile creativity, where passions unfold, and energy burns steadily, is in a landscape that is familiar enough to avoid continual adrenaline overload, but fresh enough that I am able to discover hidden wonders if I pay attention.
This is a serious disappointment and more than a little deflating to my ego. I would like to see myself as an intrepid traveler, ready to sail down the Amazon in a dugout canoe or to fling myself into outer space at a moment’s notice. I want to believe my creativity blossoms in the midst of alien experiences and strange languages, justifying long international jaunts. I would like to be Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love, but that is not actually who I am. It’s true that I am more risk-tolerant than many folks, that I thrive on (a modicum of) variety, and that I can survive for long periods in a hostile environment – ‘hostile’ simply meaning any environment for which one is unprepared – but doing that doesn’t invigorate me, it drains me. Creativity is not possible because all my inner strength and curiosity are being used to survive.
So as I begin preparations to return to the rhythm of my own home (albeit, what will shortly become a sparser, decluttered home), I carry back not a full-blown transformation the size of the Resurrection; but a seed, the seed of a small dream, a new habit to be nurtured. I carry back the intention of honoring my inner balance – my real inner balance rather than the mythic inner balance I imagine myself having. I carry back the intention of honoring the wisdom that tells me that I am at my best when I carry the most precious and beautiful of the past into this moment as visual affirmations of my clearest self, while leaving enough space for the unexpected to arrive. In other words, the heirloom tomatoes stay, but the peppers weren’t worth it (however much I wanted them to be)….so that space can go to an unplanned treat from the farmer’s market.
How does your garden grow?
The prayer-hope from Beltane 1 remains where my heart is, even as I move forward with more awareness, so I offer it again.
Beltane Life, uncurl me through the fertile darkness,
through the holy ground within,
rich with the compost of sorrows accepted,
joys shared, dreams received, fears conquered.
Beltane Passion, burn into me
with the fire of wide, wild desires stirred,
of visions tempered and honed,
of love welcomed and love poured out.
Beltane Power, whirl me into delighted acceptance
of who I wholly am:
shadow and sunlight, spirit and body,
stability and risk,
journey and homecoming,
inward depth and outward breadth and upward reach.
Text © 2015, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photos © 2015 Immram Chara