Here we have almost nothing planted. We should be picking lettuces, early peas, and spinach. In another week or two we should be baling hay, although right now the fields are hopelessly waterlogged. Yet weeks of rain haven’t let up long enough for the ground to dry. The seeds I planted have washed away in storms and floods. My seed potatoes are rotting despite my efforts to separate the good ones in my stockpile.
All over the country, troubling weather conditions are upsetting normal planting schedules. Farmers and gardeners haven’t seen anything like it. In ways too elemental for words it feels wrong. We tune into the cycle of planting, growth, and harvest. Right now too much feels out of tune.
Thankfully, some time spent outdoors helps to heal that imbalance. Yesterday during a rare day of sunshine I got a few hours to weed the highest vegetable plot in preparation for planting. The soil was too wet to put seeds in all but a few rows. Still, I was glad to get some planting (and replanting) done. Today as the rain falls I think fondly of those seeds waking to life.
Each time I prepare to put seeds in the ground, I place a few in my mouth. Someone told me this ritual helps familiarize the plant intelligence with the life forms it will nourish. I have no idea if this is true but it seems a simple way to welcome the seeds to our patch of earth. And my science-minded son says saliva probably offers some value in breaking down the seed coat.
As I pat the soil around the seeds I tell them this is a good place to grow. Normally I bless them with water from our pond too, but yesterday’s plantings needed no water. The skies were already darkening with more rain.
I work pretty directly with dirt, plants, and the tiny creatures living amongst them. Because I’ve had knee problems since I was about ten years old, it’s easiest for me to sit on the ground if I’m working for any length of time in the garden. There, eye-level, I marvel at the tenacious beauty of what we call weeds and observe the mysterious goings-on of insects.
I’m fortunate, really, to tend a garden this way. Or I guess attend to it. When we’re on the ground right next to our plants we see and smell them more intensely, sense the health of the soil around them, somehow engage more fully in the experience. Sure, I still hurry too often and forget to do more than pause. But when I do I feel as if I’m doing more than using this earth for my own gain. I’m also in some way trying to relate. I haven’t seen any plant devas as they do in Findhorn although I’ve talked to plants and insects since I was a kid. Years ago I read the classic The Secret Life of Plants and more recently some of the wonderful books by Stephen Harrod Buhner including The Secret Teachings of Plants: The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature. Aside from validating for me that it truly is possible to connect on all sorts of levels with plants, these books help me to see that we have a primary relationship to what’s considered more simple life forms. When we get out of our ever present thoughts and really pay attention there’s a lot life around us can teach.
These planting delays and weather problems have a lot to teach us too. Dark as they seem, those teachings may be as soul nourishing as the lessons I learn right here, close to the ground.
The Seven Of Pentacles
Under a sky the color of pea soup
she is looking at her work growing away there
actively, thickly like grapevines or pole beans
as things grow in the real world, slowly enough.
If you tend them properly, if you mulch, if you water,
if you provide birds that eat insects a home and winter food,
if the sun shines and you pick off caterpillars,
if the praying mantis comes and the ladybugs and the bees,
then the plants flourish, but at their own internal clock.
Connections are made slowly, sometimes they grow underground.
You cannot tell always by looking what is happening.
More than half the tree is spread out in the soil under your feet.
Penetrate quietly as the earthworm that blows no trumpet.
Fight persistently as the creeper that brings down the tree.
Spread like the squash plant that overruns the garden.
Gnaw in the dark and use the sun to make sugar.
Weave real connections, create real nodes, build real houses.
Live a life you can endure: Make love that is loving.
Keep tangling and interweaving and taking more in,
a thicket and bramble wilderness to the outside but to us
interconnected with rabbit runs and burrows and lairs.
Live as if you liked yourself, and it may happen:
reach out, keep reaching out, keep bringing in.
This is how we are going to live for a long time: not always,
for every gardener knows that after the digging, after
after the long season of tending and growth, the harvest comes.
~ Marge Piercy ~