While “the weather outside is frightful,” my imagination drifts toward spring, the aroma of freshly watered flowers, especially when I water them in my bare feet. An experience of the flesh, the feel of the grass, the soil, and the water keeps me in the present moment, the eternal now without the transient weight of the past. Gardening provides therapy for the soil, the soul, and the body. In our present climate of mistrust, staying grounded is important, and one sure way to stay grounded is bare-foot gardening in the dirt.
Flowers remind all of us of why we are here. With a name like Heather, that prolific and wild plant in Scotland, I’ve always felt a kinship with the wild, a delight in aroma, and a love for flowers. After the floods in Doney Park, along with the mud, winds, and storms, life and beauty are beginning to unfold, as though they are stronger than death and destruction. Watching the courage of the flowers, strengthens a person to push through the madness and chaos.
With the help of a Master Gardener, I built my first hoop house this last spring. Until floodwaters inundated Doney Park and flattened it, I had a wonderful supply of delicious garlic, kale, spinach, cabbage, strawberries, squash, and beans. Now, as the flowers and plants are beginning to re-emerge and come to life, I’ve decided to rebuild my hoop house, knowing if the plants can come back, I can, too.
Touching the earth when I water in my bare feet, feeling the soil ooze through my toes, enveloping myself in the experience, sets me at ease with the wind, the water, and the sky, as though I have a place in this world. All of us need support from a friendly source. My garden offers such a support. It also advises me about what to do next—where to place seeds or starter plants. A gentle, breezy whisper nudges my hand to plant sage under a shadow of a tree, to toss mullein in an open field, and scatter hollyhock seeds next to the house. A request is made for lilies to go into pots and angelica, too.
A line on an herb poster from Plant Savers reads: “If you listen, they will teach you.” In a way it sounds ridiculous, but not if you read the book: The Elves of Lily Hill Farm. After reading it, I learned to listen and hear the fairies while living in California. Gardening is easy there, but here in Flagstaff it is a bit more difficult to joyfully greet each new opportunity which is, in fact, a challenge, such as battling grasshoppers one year, floods the year, not to mention gophers and resident skunks.
I’ve had many discussions with the prairie dogs. I invited them to go next door or across the street where there are huge fields. Amazingly, they complied and now the trees no longer topple over from devoured roots! I call that mutual neighborly collaboration. Respect for one another, such as plants, animals, and other non-human forms of life allows beauty to happen for us all, bringing a sense of peace with the earth. No matter what else might be happening in a world of fear that might harm our natural instincts and intuitive hearts, a sense of community is what counts, a community of trees, healing herbs, animals, wild birds. If we listen with our hearts, we’ll connect to the earth from which we call came.
Plants have great courage to grow and keep growing, especially here. When we eat them, we become like them, brave, able to speak the truth from our hearts, even at the risk of being “mowed” down. When we digest this medicine, we are completing our health. Living plants purify the air, replenishing it with oxygen. As we breathe in, the plants also breathe out, exhaling fresh air for us to breathe in more deeply.