Summertime and the living’ is easy, or at least, spent in the garden. In my corner of the world my lot is wooded and a creek runs through it. I see my share of wild life and appreciate Pachamama for all her glorious gifts, gladly taking on the role of steward at this intersection of latitude and longitude on our planet. I know if one lives in nature, one often has to beat back nature. In all its fecund beauty, nature is programmed to multiply and grow. I head outside and start getting my yard into shape again. Yet my shamanic lifestyle and mindset does present challenges in the garden.
The way I approach my garden work is important. For example, weed-pulling. This task actually consists of killing plants. If I am really present in my gardening moments, I know that everything is alive, everything is vibration, so in order to make peace with the weeding part of yardening, I thank the plant for its service before I remove it from the earth. Of course, it goes back to the earth eventually when the yard bags are taken away, so I keep mindful that even though the plant has just as much a right to be here as I do, we are both a part of a circle of life and death.
In the past my always-in-a-hurry-self, exerting a great deal of energy and force on a plant, has attacked an overgrown bush with aggressive pruning-shear force, only to have the branches stubbornly refuse to yield to the cut, snap back or rudely poke me in the eye with a well-aimed branch tip. The times when I am cognizant of the living creature in front of me, and I approach it with the respectful question, “Where do you want it?” and then make my cut, it goes much smoother. For one I am not rushing to get through the pruning. I let myself be guided by the plant as to what needs to be cut and where. It feels a lot more interactive and cooperative, the “as within, so without” way, whereby I approach with respect and I am given respect.
I think about this teaching frequently when in the garden. It’s true in weed pulling too. Think thistles, milk weed and young trees. The taller the weed, the deeper its roots. What is manifested in the upper realm is manifested in the lower.
Although it may seem peaceful and serene, there’s a lot going on here in my piece of paradise, unseen and unheard. The mother trees are supporting baby seedlings, sending them nutrients in silent communication. In some cases, two mature trees maybe be sending each other nutrients in symbiotic relationship. Groundcovers, pushy and invasive, spread like green edged tsunami waves washing into beds where no ground cover has gone before. One TV program showed where certain plants emitted some kind of repugnant chemical or odor to keep other plants away from it so it could have more nutrients or territory or both. In some cases, it was deliberately planted to act as a natural border to invasives. Oh, yes. There’s a lot going on out there.
Which brings me to another dilemma…whether to use a chemical weed killer, you know the one I mean. Using it is an easy, quick solution to control unwanted plants. Yet, this type of floricide is hard to accept and rationalize in my shamanic mindset. Not only does the application kill the plant, it could damage all the critters who live on, in, over or under it, the animals which eat it, and the person spraying as well. With the story of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring forever etched in my heart, I have to wonder if we aren’t killing the earth a little bit with every application, and with it, ourselves. We are all connected.
I have a particular problem with a certain plant now called a horsetail weed. I respect it. It’s been around since prehistoric times, so it knows how to adapt and survive. It spreads by spores in the early spring and then by a creeping root system. I tried cutting, burning and smothering it. Research tells me what it appears not to like is enriched, healthy soil. My local county extension service claims over a 5 year period, if the soil is enriched, it will go away on its own. Hmmmm. Perhaps Horsetail is the junk food junkie of the plant world craving nutritionless soil.
I keep a little bit of cornmeal with my tools. At the end of a gardening day, I perform an easy ritual of gratitude. Taking some of the golden grains, I gently sprinkle a bit over the dark soil. I whisper a prayer of thanksgiving for all of creation and hope my actions that day are acceptable in the Sight of Creation. And so it is.