Dialogue - Issue #15
Discovering the enchanting teachings of the garden: a journey of nourishment, gratitude and connection.
On a June morning on the eastern coast of Vancouver Island, I rise eagerly to witness my favourite time of day, when the morning dew is gently strung along the native grasses like fairy lights. The crystalline beads hang just right, so the sun can seep into each drop gifting tiny rainbows for those who are curious enough to stop and notice. I pluck them like wet berries and rub them on my face. I sit next to the thriving patch of Nepeta cataria, catnip, to continue my morning meditation. I get cosy in the warm purple blanket of buzzing and birdsong and receive the hypnotic frequencies of pollination. I pick a few bee-less flowers and leaves and steep them in my tea. I take a sip and ponder plants as an ancient art: how each one has a unique medicine written into its code; how each gardener acts as a conduit for this harmonious coming together of aromas, flavours, tones and textures; how each bird and ant and pollinator dance in unison with this ancient song. The truth is, the depth of a garden’s teachings is far beyond what the mind can comprehend, so I do not try to understand, but rather be a humble observer of the unfolding beauty.
Afterwards, I gently gather fresh bouquets of peonies that have grown too heavy for their stems, pluck some of the flowering feverfew that has grown along the path to use for tincture, collect fallen rose petals from the grass below, and fill up the bird baths with fresh cool water. The backyard birds have graciously gifted us with a bright patch of sunflower shoots just below the feeder and I collect them for lunch. Elderflower opens her welcoming palms to the sun, gifting me the pleasure of her fragrance. The flower beds are painted with the perennial hues of camelia, foxglove, ginkgo, columbine, rose, Japanese maple, and iris. I look beyond the sun-kissed blossoms for what are widely known as weeds, and what I know as lunch. Lamb’s quarters, chive flowers, dandelions, pineapple weed, miner’s lettuce and purslane are on today’s menu.
I then head to the vegetable garden, which is modest yet no less enchanting. Where there is chard there are caterpillars. Where there are strawberries there are squirrels, and where there are hydrangeas there I am. There is a certain remembrance that happens when one participates in the diverse conversation that takes place in the garden: one that is wildly censored within our common repressive agricultural practices, and one that awakens with ease once given the freedom to fully express itself. In the kitchen, I prepare a salad with the edible weeds I’ve collected before heading back outside to find garnish. I add the flowers of a bolted parsley plant, pansies, wild mustard, nasturtiums and cornflower. Afterwards, my beloved and I grab our baskets and the dog, and head for the forest. We collect fresh oyster mushrooms from a decaying aspen, a jar-full of early spruce tips to pickle, stinging nettle to stew, horsetail for tea, and oxeye daisy buds for capers. This evening’s dinner will be another delicious collaboration between the cultivated and the wild.
Growing up with elders who gardened not only seeded my microbiome with the living bacteria of my home but nourished the very beginnings of my food relationship. There is a profound sense of curiosity that I feel when considering the journey of each ingredient before it lands on my plate. There is an undeniable responsibility that I feel when I understand how the energy of the foods that I consume affects the quality of my own becoming; how food grown in a wilder environment tells my cells how to interact with their surroundings. There is a depth of gratitude that I feel when I acknowledge an animal’s life as sacred, and how it feels to be nourished with meat that I know was raised on biologically appropriate food, sunlight, and prairie grasses. There is an unquestionable connection that I feel when I embody the wholeness of vegetables and grains grown in biodiverse soil, praised by pollinators, and fed with living compost and rich mulch.
The garden teaches us that no matter how far we seem to separate ourselves from nature she will never treat us as outsiders, and that each time we step foot in the soil, we are immediately recognised by all as part of the larger living ecosystem. In the garden, we are always accepted, in whatever phase of growth we are in. Her only hope is that we try our best to be present and listen to the poetry occurring all around us and, by nature, within us. She is always awaiting our return with open arms.
The Garden as a Mother