GROWING WITH THE SEASONS
A Sharing of Insights into the Creative Aspects of Organic Gardening
A SPRINGTIME RAPPROCHEMENT
As much as there is a hectic constancy during the spring and summer growing season, during the winter, at 7,300 feet in the clean New Mexico air, there comes a stillness of gardening activity that provides a time for regrouping and reflecting upon ideas, plans, and directions.
Our house, with its continuously bathing wood heat, became a hibernaculum entered into hurriedly and left reluctantly. Snow, melted by the warmth of a late morning sun and then re-frozen in the evening, turned the layers of sand deposited by millennia of sandstone cliff erosion into a shiny brick.
The garden was thought of only when slicing carrots or onions for soups or when cutting up one of the winter squashes. Jars of air-dried spices decorated the lowest shelf of the wire rack in the kitchen. Ristras of dried chiles hung on the wall awaiting their destination in spicy winter meals.
It has been said that failure is a perfect opportunity to look at one’s self honestly, and it seems for the gardener that there is always ample opportunity to do this. Those crops that grew in abundance the year before did not do again what we expected of them.
But, our expectations also have certain basic needs, just like plants seeking sun, nutrients, and water. If what we want to happen is to come to fruition, it is necessary to put forth energies in that direction.
In the garden, as in life, there are three basic principles--fact (physical), idea (mental), and relationship (spiritual). There are certain facts that need to be acknowledged: there will be no garden without physical effort, plants deprived of water will wither and die, and neglect will allow weeds to overcome tiny seedlings.
A gardener soon accumulates a list of these physical realities, often noticing that these plant necessities also apply to one’s own life. And once acknowledged, we gain a confidence in these universe mechanisms and can work within these energy pathways that exist as natural elements in our lives.
The more we resist finding creative ways of aligning ourselves with these energies, the poorer grows our garden, and our selves. There is a need for an adept adaptability, finding natural creative solutions for the differing environments within which we find ourselves, or our plants.
In our decades of gardening experience, we have had the opportunity to grow in hard clay, sandy, and loamy soils. Each time we have had to use different methods and new solutions to bring about a good harvest. Being inside during much of the winter months allowed time for reflection, a freedom not easily available during the busy spring and summer when we were focused on more immediate needs, like watering.
With the hot New Mexico winds and sun, carefully monitored watering was a must. Often we heard people complaining about the time it took to hand water, so they installed drip irrigation or automatic sprinkling systems. We had always enjoyed watering by hand. Even though we gardened on a fairly large scale, (at times being open seven days a week to the public, servicing restaurants, resorts, and the farmers market), we tried to maintain an individual beauty in the garden. It was only by hand watering that we had the time to view, assess, appreciate each plant, and determine its individual needs as seen within the garden as a whole.
Beauty, or art, is largely a matter of a unification of contrasts; variety is essential to the concept of beauty. We sometimes tend to think that each person is the same even though we know that everyone is unique. Each person or plant is at a different stage of growth and maturity with different needs for that moment which will provide the growth for their fullest potential.
Time spent in a garden allows one to practice focusing and recognizing individual needs. It is an acquired skill that once practiced in the garden can be applied in our lives with equal benefit.
In the garden there grows an abundance of more than just food. There is a connection between the soil (the physical), a conscious plan (the mental), and its execution (the spiritual). The relationship between these elements becomes evident when the most basic of human associations, that of providing food and sharing the bounty of one’s labor, reflects the fruits of the spirit (goodness).
What bonds of strength are established at a farmers market when someone buys that bundled bunch of shiny red radishes that will surely bring conversation and comment at an evening meal or a lunch on the patio with a cool summer salad?
What neighbor turns away a gift of food, energizing in its freshness, bringing health and a feeling of well being? A gardener does not grow only for self, or profit, although it is an honest earning, a satisfaction hard to come by these days.
Everyone desires to be in harmony with the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of the universe. The rapid march of invention and progress has, within recent history, veered and broken ties that gave us identification with our place and compatibility with cosmic progress. These lost connections have increased the difficulty to proceed toward goals of the future, those greater than our present selves.
We had put the garden “to bed” for the winter. Seed catalogues accumulated in our post office box in town, often crammed in tightly because we do not go often to collect the mail. Each year seed companies sent out ever more sophisticated advertising with glossier paper, brighter photos, newer and better hybrids. A few retain a studied, nostalgic feel. The chasm between their seeds and our garden was wide.
For us, gardening is “growth,” but for seed companies, as Marshall McLuhan has noted, “All advertising advertises advertising.” Even so, one cannot help but see the catalogs and think about the next growing season: what would be done the same way, what would be changed, and with what new ideas?
So much of a garden is based on a logical analysis of what is needed to provide the basics. Plants do not grow by themselves and neither do we. Our nutrients are creativity, progress, and that inner knowing of what is the right direction.
Master Fwap, a Tantric Buddhist teacher, speaks of our having a “second attention,” one that is outside the structures of logical analysis. This second attention depends upon careful timing and rapid, accurate adaptataions within the mind. For us, planting and harvesting took on a realization of that “right moment” followed by frenetic activity.
It was as if a propitious moment had snuck up on us, and we turned around to find it within our grasp. Then, with a trusting belief, we acted, using it to its greatest expression and advantage.
Spirit is receptive, material is reflective. In spring, when the moon is right and the weather says, “take a chance,” an archaic call stirs within us. We re-establish that harmonious relationship with the universe in the garden--a reflection of the realities of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness--and we grow.