knee deep in weeds

notes on a simple life

garden wisdom

“A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.”
~ Gertrude Jekyll

I spend a few hours in garden beds this week, putting them to rest for the winter. I deadhead the phlox and columbine, pull the wilted leaves of the daylilies and cut the asters and daisies to the ground. The peonies are gone but I leave a few stems of dried astilbe, to add a bit of interest come winter. The roses are still tall and gangly, waiting to be hardened off and cut, sometime in late February. I wonder if there be snow on the ground? I imagine blue sky and crisp cold air, my breath clearly seen as my gloved hands clean them out, getting them ready for spring. 

He helps me in the vegetables patch; pulling the bean stalks to the ground, along with the tomatoes and zucchini. We chop them up a bit and toss them into the compost bins. We pick a dozen baby zucchini the size of a tiny carrots, and the rest of the onions. There is one lone broccoli plant and a cauliflower, both with perfect mini heads. They may surprise me I tell him, so we leave them be, along with the row of beets. He hauls two giant winter squash up to the carport for winter keeping and turns his compost piles. 

"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace."
~ May Sarton

I kneel in the grass, which was covered in a light frost this morning when I let the dog out, and I think about the bounty the garden gives us. Not only in its produce and stunning flowers in every color, but just as important is the exercise and fresh air I get. But what I treasure most is the time alone with my thoughts while maintaining it. . .  It is a sort of meditation for me. 

Even though the flower beds look pretty bare and forlorn, life is very much alive below the ground and come early spring the first green will start to emerge. It is always a surprise that they make it through the snow and rain, our gray days here in the PNW, and the darkness. There are winters where I have felt that I won't make it. So, I am in awe. There is a natural cycle to nature and I think about the lessons to be learned here. 

Even in the years that life has been too busy, or too wet, or I lacked the motivation to clean the gardens up, she still pulled through. She still died back, folded into herself and, took a long rest. She did not fight it, but allowed herself time to recharge and feed her soul. And while you or I might look at the dried flowers, soggy and wilted and on the ground and think she is dead, below the ground work was being done and a miracle was happening. And come spring, when I finally got out there to clean her up, I would find tiny, fresh, green stems emerging, There was no stopping her. 

"The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul."
~ Alfred Austin

In a world where more is always better, I learn from nature that for me that is not the case. I learn to slow down, to allow myself to just rest, to pull back and fold up inside myself and listen to my breath. I learn to not fight the cycle of nature, but to lean into it with awareness and gratitude. I learn to be still with my thought, to sit in my feelings and to allow tenderness to enrich my life. 

Each time, I am blessed with energy, courage, gentleness and grace. So, it is with honesty that I say the gray, rainy days, coming our way, make me a bit uneasy. Days without sunshine or light will force me to really notice and meditate on darkness, to find shadows in weak light and to not give in to bleakness. This year I prepare myself with something new to nurture and bring to life. 



1. leaven for making bread, consisting of fermenting dough, typically that left over from a previous batch.