Thursday, April 14, 2011

THE ZEN OF GARDENING

Today a strong wind blows east while above the horizon broiling multi-shaded clouds meet and mingle with dry dust made air-born by the wind. Even though I don't like wind I'll admit the effect is mystical. A high desert version of a J.M.W. Turner landscape. We are headed down the canyon to meet some friends for lunch in Santa Fe. For some reason I always fall into reflectiveness on this stretch along the Rio Grande. Yesterday was beautiful, quiet, fresh, warm with just a tinge of sharpness. Perfect for gardening. Today its cold again and I'm just recalling gardening and how it brings out my elemental self. I'm not a fanatic, its just something I do well and enjoy. Enjoy isn't truly an adequate word. Gardening is healing, empowering and puts me into my most balanced state.

I have Venus at 15 degrees Taurus. It is the highest planet in my chart with no significant aspects. In the language of astrology this means it is in a strong position and not seriously altered by relationship to other planets. I regard this as a saving grace in an otherwise challenging layout. The Taurus/Venus qualities of sensuality, earthiness, stability, stuborness and love of beauty often help to balance and heal even when everything else is up in the air, (three planets and the Sun in Gemini, an air sign).

My style of gardening is more an interactive dialogue than a technique. I see in my mind what mood and environment I would like to create but the plants have their own reality. I love the plants as if they were kittens or children. I check in with them often to see how they are doing and if they need food, water, help or a better location. Although I occasionally talk to them the real communication is emotional. I treat them with respect and admire every step of their development. If one of them decides to move to a different part of the garden, I honor its choice of location. After all the plant knows better than I do what will make it thrive. I've discovered that even though my plants are not all where I envisioned they would look best or contribute to the ambiance I was after they work even better where they choose to be.

I pull weeds without concern and otherwise trust that my Buffalo Grass and Blue Grama will gradually takeover the barren spaces. This garden is a high-plains, semi-arid plant community. There are surprises also. Several plants just showed up. I have no idea where they came from. I think they just liked it here. The Shasta Daisy is one such plant, others are wild raspberry, Holly Hock and Sweet Peas. Cosmus love the south wall. I've discovered that several plants that grew in Mom's garden and are part of my childhood memory grow very well here. I love a great variety of color and I mix vegetables and fruit with flowers and ornamental grasses. I love to create stone ridges, dips and hills to make their life more interesting.

There is also a magical aspect to working with plants. Three years ago I decided to plant a small cluster of Aspen trees. Since my budget was limited I started with one tree. The next year I bought it a companion but something strange happened. First I'll let you know that I've always had a special relationship with Cottonwood trees. They were part of the environment of my best childhood memories but so were other plants. With Cottonwoods there was something mystical and ancient that I can't explain. There was a time in my life when I truly believed that I couldn't possibly live in a place where they didn't grow. I considered planting a Cottonwood but I reasoned that they grew too large for my small garden.

I purchased the next little Aspen and told the nursery that I wanted them to hold it until I came back with my friend who had a truck. We came back in the afternoon and picked up a tree but not the same tree. My friend decided to choose one that seemed hardier. I planted it and it thrived. In fact it thrived a great deal. The next year it still had the tag from the nursery around it and it was getting too tight. I decided to cut the tag off but before I did so I wanted to record the species name. To shorten this story I will say what you've probably already guessed. It wasn't an Aspen at all but a Cottonwood. My friend talked of moving it to another area but I decided to leave it where it was, near its cousin and they will just have to be an odd couple. I knew that it had to trick me to get here because it is my spirit tree.

There is something about being in the garden around my house that connects me with an entirely different kind of power. It's as if a calm wisdom and knowing flow up from the earth and down from the sky and meet in the place I am working or just being. I love to hike but that is a different kind of connection with the earth. Perhaps gardening is different because I'm placing myself among the growing things as if they were my personal family and I belong among them.

When I moved to this house I still had my cats, Joe and Missy. They both came to the end of their lives at a good old age here. While they were with me, they were often a part of my gardening experience. Not that they openly participated, it was just their presence that contributed to my pleasure. Somehow, I taught them not to venture far from the house. I'm not going to claim that I'm a cat whisperer but there was something about the way we were together outside that seemed to affect them in the same way as a mother cougar when she tells her kittens to stay near the den.

I've been working on another piece but today I realized it is the simplicity of being outside in the garden in the spring that is my personal way to be in balance.