Connecting You With Nature, No Matter Where Your Feet Are

Tag: gardening

Amazing Grace


Sometimes it’s hard to make sense of things that happen in our lives, and the unexpected passing of my Mom in early October really shook me to my core. Given my Dad’s dementia and other age-related challenges, my four siblings and I all thought he might have gone first, as my Mom had been spry and sharp and in seemingly better shape until the week before she passed.

My Mom, Angela, had been progressing well after a seemingly successful surgery in late August, but about five weeks later, she experienced a significant downturn once more. A second surgery left her with weakened vital signs and she passed away two mornings later, another star and ray of light returning to the great unknown. Her closest friends had always called her Angel.

One thing I do know is that my mom’s spirit and love live on in all the life and lives that I am a part of. It’s hard not to think about her during one of her favorite seasons (spring is #1, fall is #2), when walking and kicking through piles of colorful leaves swirling around on sidewalks, when glancing up at brilliant blue skies decorated with white puffy cumulus clouds, when witnessing squirrels and birds zoom around the backyard preparing for winter .Or when getting ready for Halloween, as she got such a kick out of helping my brother Bill and I with costumes when we were very young, and still enjoyed seeing photos of grandchildren and her own grown children dressing up in the spirit of the season..

My mom lived her last 20-plus years in an apartment complex west of Richmond, Virginia, where my oldest sister continues to live just a few doors down from where she called home. I was always astonished by how much my mom had turned her little corner of the earth outside her place into something so personal, so beautiful, and so magical. She planted, usually with the landlords’ permission, small bushes, trees and plants to brighten up her home outside her home. She nurtured hens and chickens, forget-me-nots and other flowers in small beds outside, and had turned an old wooden barrel into a planter, leaving a hole at the bottom of the barrel intact so chipmunks had a place to hide. I wouldn’t say she was one and at peace with the squirrels, though, as she alternated between leaving crumbs out for them to eat, and then shooing at them with a broom, followed by the occasional expletive, too! She had deep roots and a strong connection to where she lived, yet she also encouraged her five children to find their own places to grow, to become rooted and call home.

As an adult, it took time, effort and lots of soul-searching before I finally found my own place to call home and put down roots here in Montana, which is where I was when my sister called about my mom’s condition following her second surgery, and where I was fitfully sleeping the morning that she died. We are honoring her request to have her ashes scattered next summer, and to have a celebration of life gathering for her instead of a funeral service.

A state of grace and calm prevail in most moments now, alongside occasional rip-currents and waves of grief and sadness. I think about my mom and how much she loved the seashore, especially Cape Hatteras and other places on the Outer Banks of North Carolina,

Imagining and envisioning being there reminds me that we are all a part of this huge ocean of love, family, community and possibility. Storms are inevitable, even hurricanes from time to time. We are all part of this tug and pull, these vast and often unknowable rhythms and cycles of life
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Even after the craziest, shittiest and darkest of storms, light returns, love remains. And if we keep nurturing that, remembering those who gave their love while they were here, encouraging us to be grateful for what we have and to do what we can to serve others and something bigger than ourselves, we are unstoppable.

“The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire” said Ferdinand Foch. My mom’s soul and spirit burned brightly her entire life.  It feels fitting that she passed at this time of year, when the maples, sumacs, oaks and other trees she loved also are aflame, before their leaves too return to where they once came from.

The Courage To Change The Things You Can

The Serenity Prayer goes something like this:

Please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference

The natural world’s abundant in wisdom that helps us to discern that difference, and take emboldened, courageous action to experience what we desire most in our lives.

Especially if we slow down and pay closer attention. If we stop multi-tasking. If we put the kibbosh on expecting something to happen 24/7 or in a certain way when nature has its own ideas as to when the timing’s right, or how things will unfold.

A few personal examples from nature follow.

For the last five years. we could count on cherries ripening on our tree in the backyard around the 14th of June. Not so this year. We had a pretty dry spring following a wet and cold winter, with very little moisture falling our way until the last two weeks of June.

This year the cherries ripened at the very beginning of July, and they were even more abundant (and sweeter and more delicious!) than in previous years. We had gotten accustomed to things being a certain way at a certain time, but nature had its own time frame and ideas as to what was best.

This spring I also decided to try growing tomatoes from seeds instead of starts, something I had done easily and successfully in both Virginia and in Thailand.

Perhaps I got a late start toward this endeavor. We went east to visit family and friends in mid-May, so I waited until returning home to plant tomato seeds, thinking we might still have a frost in town that would kill them all, and also not wanting to bother a neighbor with watering plants who was already looking after our cat for 12 days. So I planted the seeds on June 1, and nurtured and tended to them diligently.

Last weekend, as temperatures hovered near 100 F, I gave up my dream to grow tomatoes from seed in this part of Montana and see if it could be done.

It probably can be done, but not by going it alone, not without support, not without learning from mistakes, and definitely not this year, given where we are now in the growing season.

Next year, I’ll invest in some healthy, solid tomato starts and plant them after the risk of last spring frost. I’ll save on labor, watering, weeding and grief in the process and support someone else in the community financially by doing so. I’ll focus on what I do best and enlist, hire and pay others to be in their own area of brilliance.

In the meantime, this summer I’ll savor and enjoy the harvests of fellow gardeners by buying their fresh tomatoes and other produce at local farmers’ markets.

I was mighty stubborn surrendering this vision to grow edible, delicious tomatoes from seed in less than 120 days, especially given my blazing track record over the previous four summers.

I saw only failure at first, and the disappointing prospect of not using our own tomatoes in canning special salsas for Thanksgiving and Winter Solstice celebrations.

Over the past five weeks, Erik has non-judgmentally watched me tend to the soil, and weed and water the ground diligently, and heard me mutter and agonize whether anything was to come from all this activity, time, expense and effort.

Ironically and perhaps serendipitously, the neighboring raspberries have sprouted like kudzu during the same time frame, and they are also the juiciest and most abundant they’ve been in years!

The natural world is not at our beck and call, as the above two anecdotes illustrate, but neither is the so-called “real world” for that matter. Neither world operates the way we demand or command it to do at times, in contrast to how we expect hotel room service to function!

Instead, when we open ourselves to notice what’s going on in nature, and to detach from our personal ideas about what’s best, we reconnect with our soul’s deeper desires. We witness unforeseen outcomes and results that are often better and different than what we expected, too!

We open ourselves to experiencing and receiving miracles on a daily basis, and to a deepening connection and reverence for all of life. We empower and encourage and embolden others to do the same. As more people connect with the healing and inspiration nature freely provides, everyone prospers and experiences greater peace.

As the tomatoes from seeds story illustrates, we don’t have to go it all alone. We don’t have to have all the answers. We don’t have to force things, to struggle, to take things personally.

The natural world constantly reminds us that we are supported and provided for, no matter what.

That’s what nature does-without expectation, without judging, without micro-managing, without blame, without worry, fear, regret or impatience.

In nature, we’re all equal and worthy. We all belong. We’re all deserving.

Yet we also experience faster, lasting results when we receive support and accountability, and participate in an encouraging, welcoming community.

We’re all human and perfectly imperfect. We are not meant to live our lives alone, disconnected from other human beings and the natural world that sustains us all.

We are all heroes to others. Others are waiting to hear your story as to how you courageously changed and bettered not only your life, but the lives of those you’ve touched.

What is it in your life that you most want to change?

Courageously take action on that-don’t wait or waste another day, and tell and share your inspiring story with others!

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