The air moves slower, though the wind hurries the clouds across the moon. Bees and butterflies alike rest on the hardy asters, soaking in the sunshine and beauty of these Autumn days. Busy still, but seemingly unhurried somehow. As if they know the gathering is important, but so is the joy you take in the process. Especially now, when winter is knocking hard and heavy at the door.
I sit with them. Knowing the tasks that need be done before the season truly turns. Trusting in the perfect combination of days to ensure enough sunshine is absorbed while the necessary is completed. Feeling in my soul that the only necessity is enough warmth stored in my bones to last through February.
The Autumn slows me every year. Causing me to look hard at the activities I’ve signed us up for and the plans I’ve made. It asks me if all of this busy is sustainable, required, good? Have I allowed enough time in my week for serving those who need help? Have I filled the hours too full to be there when a friend is in need? Do I spread myself too thin to give my best to the ones I most dearly love?
I’m hoping for nights by the fire without snow on the ground yet this fall. Perhaps those moments will be stolen from required tasks. I hope to invite my most dear loves to sit quiet in the final blaze of Autumn. Not rushing to the next thing, rather enjoying this moment as it is, for what it is. For what it is, is no less than what is needed.
Say that I am doing well. Filling the Summer to the brim with what I love.
There are thoughts I don’t speak, feelings I don’t share, my life is a gift and a blessing and I know it.
And I dig another row of sod out of the backyard. Move plants. Smile at new growth. Listen to the wind in the trees and the cars in the road.
And wonder if it is enough. Always wonder.
Why there have been so many “no’s”. What God is holding behind His back for me. What better is to come. Is this goodness that I need…more than the goodness that I want?
And I dig another row in the earth. Scatter plants to friends and neighbors alike. Cut the grass, drown the sound of the world with the music in my head. Watch the dog rest in the freshly turned soil. This life is a gift…
Yet…I frown at the work I create for myself. Busy my hands with growing, lifting, supporting. Both children and perennials. The occasional smile as something tender blossoms under my care.
How am I? I sit with this question and dirt under my nails. Really, really good. This is true, but in choosing to stay the ache has not disappeared. The desire to run still so strong somedays that the tears blur the words I try to scratch out.
Today is one of those days.
As the press of Autunn weighs heavy on my calendar and in my heart.
There is still time I tell myself.
Time to wander in the woods. Time to get lost in the fields. Time to disappear into the surf…someday.
There is time.
Today is for digging. Perhaps tomorrow there will be something different. Either way this day, this life, this moment is a gift and I know it.
How long does it take to grow a garden? Can you rush it along and hurry it to it’s final, beautiful stages? Can you drop store bought plants into the ground, mulch heavily, water and then sit back and relax away the rest of the season? Is it possible to work diligently for one solid season and enjoy for the rest of your days? This is not just about the garden dear ones.
I can assure you it takes a very, long time.
This is our seventh Summer living in the midst of my garden. Each year, except this one (so far), I have carved away more and more sod to lay garden beds. Lilies, Iris, Lilac, Hosta, Coneflower, Borage, so many more now spill out everywhere. Happily thriving in the rich, heavily composted soil. My sweet husband once replied to my request to extend a bed with something like; “Well, it’s less to mow.”.
Y’all know how hard the winter is on me here. The garden itself and the work done in it is what saves me from deepest depression. Oh sure, there are myriad other contributing factors, but really, the garden keeps my soul above water. I can see it now, this year as I have faced walking away from it. I can see that I did not just grow a garden, I have grown a place for my soul to sit with God and find rest amidst all of the work it has required of me.
I have grown the garden for the riot of color, for the produce, the herbs, the smells, the feel of the dirt under my nails and on my knees…but there is so much more. When you pour yourself into something, like a garden in Minnesota, you get to miss it and think of it and dream of it for several months of the year. It is something to be desired, longed for, ached over even. It is not just a space to sit and sip rum ( I wrote about this once) or a pretty place to rest; though it is that as well. For me at least, though I know not for all of you, a garden is a place to straighten out my thoughts when they are more scattered than daisy seeds on the wind. A space to pray the darkest, scariest, most fear-filled prayers while surrounded by light.
As I mentioned, this is my seventh season in this garden, and this year for sure it is a little out of hand. We were enjoying ourselves at the beach for the month of June and so the garden at home was allowed to run wild. I have been gifted truckloads of mulch twice and that kept the weeds down to a minimum, but the flowers (and the wild-flowers, aka weeds that I allow to grow in my space) took the month to explode and grow and soak up all that my absence allowed. In the old testament it is required to let the fields rest in the seventh year, I wonder if the Jewish people were still able to collect some sort of harvest from those resting fields? Did the fields still provide something of value to those people as my garden has provided for me even as I have given it (part of) the season off?
I wonder about this as I wander among the raspberry brambles collecting as many berries as I ever have in the well-cultivated years. I don’t know how this matters to you, but it matters to me. I can’t help but assume that whatever seeds fell to the ground in those ancient fields would have grown up in the season of rest, even without tending. Sure, there would have been weeds and wildflowers too, but…
Provision is a word that I can not help but associate with my Creator as well as with the garden He allows to grow up around me. He provides all things in their season. He allows all things at their most perfect time. He gives good, good gifts. I see this clearly not only because I grow a garden, but I see it amongst the flowers and herbs more than most other places. This Summer as I look around our yard, trying to decide what to do next (both in the immediate and life-altering sense) I have found my rest, I can see the provision ever-more obviously. This is not what I expected to find here.
This morning I definitely planned to write about the garden, to reveal to you in some small way that it takes a lot of time, effort, and passion to grow. I wanted to examine a bit how the garden has shaped me as I have worked to shape it. Somehow I have lost that track. Now as I sit, I can only see how the Lord has provided so many, many times for me. There has never been a moment that I have strayed from His care even when I ran hard and fast away from His will for me. I’m not really sure I can finish this post well.
I have been sitting with a decision this past week. Well, really we’ve been working on this for the better part of a year now, for me though a lot of it became real in the past couple of weeks. I wasn’t really going to tell you how I have realized that I could not ask all of my people to do something “just for me”, even though they were willing. I wasn’t going to write out how selfish that made me feel or how I knew at once the words were spoken that we could not follow through with our plans at this time in our lives. I was not intending to let you know that we changed our plans and were moving hard and fast toward a different end, yet here I sit typing it all out.
And now that plan is changed as well.
The garden is where it began and this garden is where I will stay. I didn’t come here this morning to tell you that we were not going to move away, but I suppose maybe I did. I wasn’t completely sold on the plan to stay here in this house, in this neighborhood, in this garden. Typing this out though has made me realize more than I would be willing to tell you. I now realize that knowing your family is willing to move across the country for you, in planning to do just that, and then choosing together to stay. That is not the abandoning of a dream, but the realization that you are truly loved, there can be no fear there.
The garden. Provision. Goodness. Peace.
Someday I will go friends, though it seems that day is far off. I’m a little sorry for dragging you along on this emotional journey, but not too much so. Over the year of planning to leave and the last couple of days and weeks in deciding how and where to stay, I have seen how loved I am. How connected to community we are. How leaving this village would not benefit any of the people I love enough to do it. I had felt that there was too much concession on my part, but that’s just not true. I am not giving up a dream, merely postponing it. And I completely trust that wanting this one thing and receiving another will work together for our good. I have no fear and no regret, only peace…though it did take some time in the garden to get there.
Have you been up early at all this Spring? I swing back and forth, as some of you know, from rising at 4:45 A.M. and sleeping until one of the children wakes me. I greatly prefer to have the quiet of the morning to myself, but if the teeny girl has been up three or more times in the night it’s really just too hard to wake up early and to be a good person. For the last ten days or so, I have been out of my bed before the children though. Waking in the silence and the dark of my house, sitting with a cuppa and my Bible or my journal tracking all of the goodness that fills my days. I love this. I have missed it.
The early morning has brought the moon back into focus for me as well. Have you seen the moon in this present cycle? It has been so clear in the early morning that it lights up our yard, Venus always following hard after. If I end up taking a drive East I can sometimes spot Mars, low and glowing a bit red above the horizon. The predawn hours are my favorite time to stargaze and moon-watch. Never is this more true than in early Spring when it is still dark until the littles wake up, and yet not too frigid to step outside in stocking feet. This morning I went out in my bare-feet onto the deck to breathe the cold air and watch the waning moon shine out over us all. It was so peaceful, even in town.
While I have never been one of those girls who believes that the moon controls the behaviors of school children or criminals, I can’t help but feel it’s pull on me. Since I dug my first garden in 2002 my daddy has sent me an “Old Farmer’s Almanac” for my birthday. I was always thankful for the inclusion of full moon dates and the guide to planting by the lunar cycle that this publication included. I have followed lunar cycles for planting for most of my gardening years, trusting the best time to plant based on not just warmer days, but the full moon. I have looked to the night sky, tracing the path of the moon as curiously as I have done many a thing in nature, to say this is just one more thing is possibly, yet not quite entirely, true.
This year in our homeschool is an Astronomy year. While we unschool pretty exclusively I do follow the trivium model of classical education if only in concept more so than practice. Are you familiar? The trivium divides the schooling years into three segments; Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. The classical model then further breaks these groups down into four repeating themes; Ancients, Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation, and Modern which you explore once in each of the three phases. So each year our kids are free to learn what they please, knowing that mom will bring home all of the books about whatever stage we are in. That I will insist we take part in certain activities that tie in to the phase we are focusing on and that I will plan some activities to interrupt their free time but that fit with this more classical model. (For a jumping-off-point, please take a look here; https://welltrainedmind.com/a/classical-education/ if you’d like to know more about classical education as I am by no means anywhere close to an expert on this!)
I had always thought I’d classically homeschool my kids, until I tried to school Mady that way and realized I had birthed three stubborn driven babies who have their own ideas and interests. We got stuck on Greek mythology in the Grammar stage; I mean, we were knee deep in myths for most of that year, not just the Greeks; Egyptian, Norse, Roman. I didn’t want that learning or excitement to stop simply because we “should” be moving on. We are basically lost in mythology again now that my oldest little is in the beginning of the Logic stage. My kids just love it and I love it because: the moon. Ancient history ties in with the study of the night sky and makes perfect sense in how it does. It is easier for me to get my kids to study the sky because so much of what we see up there is linked to mythology. They have heard the names for the constellations, they are familiar with how different ancient people began knowing and understanding the stars and the planets. I guess I’m just saying that it works for us. Perhaps this is one of those homeschool momma ramblings where I am merely trying to convince myself that they are learning something…
The moon in Spring is easily my favorite, how can one not love the Spring full moons with names like; Worm Moon, Pink Moon, Flower Moon? Even pushing into June with the Strawberry Moon! This year the Worm Moon coincided with Spring solstice and was a Super Moon just to add to the fun. All of these things were added together in our homeschool as each of my children drew and created what they believed would burn this knowledge into their brains and deeper subconscious. They seem to enjoy it and the teeny loves it most of all. Honestly she loves that she is a part of these lessons, but the moon is something in her environment that she can see and interact with from afar. Being able to tell her daddy that the moon is waning shows her that she can know “bigger” things. Seeing the Super Moon fall on her birthday last year she has remembered how bright and big the moon was as it rose and she will carry that with her for as long as she chooses.
I was wondering recently if teaching the phases of the moon mattered anymore. If knowing the names of each of the full moons was even an important element for us to be considering. I’ve decided that it is. In our studies (and I use that term pretty loosely here friends) of ancient cultures we’ve seen how so many people have taken the time to label the moon and stars. How primitive societies have lived and learned by the cycles of the moon and it’s affect on the seasons and their activities. I feel like in giving my children this knowledge, it is a readying of the soil of their minds. They can add more information on top of this understanding as so many peoples have done before them, but that perhaps by skipping over this, some of the lessons we learn later won’t take root.
As the sky turns pink this morning and we begin another beautiful Spring day I will continue to lift my children’s eyes, my own eyes, to the sky. Contemplating the moon in all of it’s cycles and phases. Yearning to understand my connectedness to it, while also being grateful that I know I am connected to it at all. The final thought for this post is a reminder of sorts to myself. Once we know something we can’t un-know it. That knowledge will forever be deep inside of us. Perhaps mythology, perhaps the moon, perhaps a vague understanding of the how and why of the universe won’t inspire careers for my kids. It is enough for me to know that I have passed on some tiny piece of ancient wisdom to them. Some element that man has wondered over for millennia. That’s what schooling is for us really; the hope that we can inspire wonder.
Several years ago I read a book called ‘The Gin and Tonic Gardener; Confessions of a Reformed Compulsive Gardener” by Janice Wells. It was a mostly silly little book that inspired me to take time to just sit in my garden. While I have forgotten much of the book, there are ideas from it that have really hung on. I’ve often thought about how great it would be to have the type of garden that just sort of managed itself, a garden a person could just go out and enjoy. The image of what that looked like was ever-present in my mind, but it’s never really been the garden I had…Until this year.
I’ve talked about how I lost my gardens with my divorce, and how I found them again first in a community garden and then later in my yard. Over the past five Summers I have abandoned the concept of a restful garden space altogether really. I have dug out huge swaths of yard turning the grass into compost and the space left behind into beds heavy with blooms, vines, and leaves. There hasn’t been a year since we’ve moved here that I haven’t added some crazy large plot of garden to my suburban yard. I’ve loved every minute of it, but let me tell you there were not a lot of cocktails sipped casually among the phlox or the roses. Sure, I rested out there, sat and admired my work, enjoyed moments of peace. I was often, if not always, thinking of the next thing I would work on.
This year there has been a shift in focus. I have not dreamed up a new place or way to garden, I haven’t decided to divide all of the perennials or to scour Craigslist for folks giving away plants. Obviously the time we’ve spent adventuring is a part of it. When you are gone for several days (or weeks) each month it is hard to give attention to your flowers. More than that though I have made conscious effort to not. To not get involved in any new garden planning or planting, to not move or divide or accept new plants.
I did put in a few veggies this Spring, it’s hard not to. The farmers market got me one early Saturday with thyme and tomatoes. Another day I picked up a six-pack of peppers. I started a few cantaloupe and a watermelon in a sunny sill. I felt I would miss these few things for sure once Autumn and harvest came around. I will also admit to accepting and digging in some fruit shrubs and possibly some kale from gardening friends, but honestly, these were minor additions in comparisons to what I usually get involved with. As I read back over these words I can see that perhaps I should go back to that book…my compulsiveness is showing.
Each time I came home from adventuring I would walk through my gardens to see what was blooming, what was spent, what was getting ready. I looked to see if berries were ripe, if anything needed watering, if some new-from-last-year plant was coming in happily. I didn’t weed. I didn’t turn soil. I didn’t cut back or deadhead. I feel a twinge of guilt just writing those things out. I suppose it comes back to the loss, I don’t want to seem ungrateful for the garden that I have now. I feel like I should deeply invest in it with physical work so that the earth doesn’t forget that I’m here. That seems a teensy bit crazy I’m sure.
This Summer though, I have given the gardens free reign. I have allowed them to spill out over paths. I have snipped heavy blooms, that have decided their heads look best in the mulch, and brought them into my house, into my camper, and onto the deck where they have brought numerous smiles to my face. I have said, out-loud, that I’m only cutting half of the oregano, so that it can flower and the bees can enjoy it, but really it was so that I didn’t have too much to dry and chop. I have let the camper block my view of the little garden on the West side of my driveway. This allows me to not do so many garden tasks that really need to be done, simply because I don’t look at it regularly.
I will insert here that this past weekend I did have super high hopes of doing some actual gardening. My husband was supposed to be away and I was going to move plants, to create a sitting area for when our camper is in the driveway. I worked super hard on this project for about three hours while my teeny and my sick little guy napped away the afternoon. But that was it, my husband ended up coming home later that same day, my sick child became sicker, and there were many normal needs to be tended on top of that. I’ve gone out to look at the half finished space several times this past week as the heat has spiked close to 90 and I’m reminded of the crazy gardener that I am to move plants in mid-July.
While I have had that lingering guilt, I have also really, really loved it. I have had time to look for tons of caterpillars with my tiny. I have sat on the deck with my man in the middle of the afternoon and drank a beer, or possibly two. I have let my dog drink from the pond, roll in the wild lilies, and sleep in the shade of the tall-flower beds It has been so good to just be in the garden, to pick berries and admire lilies and watch how the different colors of peonies all open on a slightly different date. I’ve quite enjoyed simply enjoying my garden.
I’ll have to get back over there, to that side garden, the work needs to be done so that the neighbors at least don’t have to look at the mess that the space is for too much longer. Someone gave me some iris recently, they’ll finish filling the space nicely I think, or perhaps I’ll move some evening primrose, or more day lilies. For today, with rain in the forecast, I am happy to pour coffee and cream into a cup, and walk through the yard to see what flowers will open today, if my orange lilies have all fallen and if there are any new blooms on the white rose bush.
When I think about that little book and how I found myself lucky enough to have a garden to sip rum in, I just have to smile. It has been a twisting path, and has taken a ton of hard work, to get to this place where I can just sit in the grass and admire the effort. I’m grateful to be here, in this Summer, in this yard, with a drink in my hand instead of a shovel.
As you may have guessed, Summer is my season. I thrive in the heat and sunshine that pour down on me for these few months each year. I was looking at the forecast this morning and there are 90’s in it y’all! I can not believe that we actually made it! As I have been walking in my garden lately, it has become apparent that there really is a time for each plant and that I definitely can’t rush anything into bloom or even growth. The peonies in my yard bloom every year in early June, without fail. Last year we had an early Spring. Weeks and weeks of cool crisp mornings and warm afternoons, I had anticipated the big, double blooms for so long! When they finally opened, the plants were massive, taller than normal and spilling out onto too narrow garden pathways, but the buds swelled open that first week of June like clockwork, they didn’t come earlier due to warmer spring temps.
This year the Winter hung on with icy claws for nearly all of Spring and allowed us only a short week or two of mild weather. It would appear that those peonies will bloom in about ten days though, putting us right in the same week as last year. How is that possible? The plants had such a short Spring to develop, yet they have done just that. Taken the time that was given and done exactly what they needed to do.
There is a lesson here for me, something like; “grow as much as you can in whatever time you’re given”. It seems kind of simple, doesn’t it? Keep learning, keep playing, keep doing. You might have a slow, easy Spring to grow and develop and spread your roots…but you might not. For some, the season is long, and cold, and hard, or it ends before we are ready. I don’t know what season you’re in as we get the quick shove into Summer. I don’t know if you’re prepared for it. As I gather joy and bask in the sunshine, maybe you’re in more of a hurting place, an uncertain place, an aching place. I feel like that’s an okay place to be. The Summer is good for contemplation, there are glasses of lemonade to sip on warm afternoons. There are extra hours of sunshine early in the quiet before people wake and start needing things from us.
There is time.
This writing has been good for me. Taking the time to put down on paper the thoughts that swirl around my brain at three A.M. has helped me better understand myself and where I am emotionally. Over the last month though, with Summer sunlight filling all of my waking moments I have let the laptop sit. We had some other projects working, things that I hope to share here as the season progresses. These things kept me from writing but more so, kept me from needing to write. I have felt better, calmer, safer, quieter in spirit. Part of that is simply the Summer, but when you’re doing the things that you feel will lend your soul peace, the peace just sort of comes. Even in the work, while you’re not there yet, knowing that you’re on the right path causes you to be at ease.
This morning as I sit with a toddler sipping milk on the sofa, and my man getting ready to head out for the day, I listen to the sounds of Summer. I feel like I am trying to rush the writing today, to force the lazy daisy-chain of my thoughts out into this post. To fill up the page with both lovely images and flowery words. It’s a stretch though. Like a crocus pushed up through the snow in late Winter, the meaning I’m trying to get across is shivering out there. Not yet ready to fill a page, still growing toward the light.
There is this corner of my yard where the sun shines a little brighter. The heat bounces off the house and the little pond that’s situated there and the plants grow a little bigger, and bloom a little sooner. It is one of my favorite places in the garden. On this corner the Japanese Iris have been blooming for a full week now and my first peony opened there just yesterday. The lilacs and creeping phlox have already passed their prime and I am anxiously awaiting the first wild roses buds. This corner reminds me that it only takes a slightly different micro-climate to draw out growth. The season in this patch of my garden is ever so slightly ahead of the rest of my yard. Maybe that’s true for me more than the crocus that wakes too early in Spring and has to huddle under a blanket of fresh snow.
I think I might be just the teensiest smidge ahead of the words I’d like to pour out onto this page. I need to slow a little, not rushing the Summer along, but sitting in it. Waiting for the words to come and the time for them to be just right. I hope you will wait too, if that’s where you’re at. A waiting place is a good one, especially when you have a garden to do the waiting in.
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