I am not a gardener. My mother was, here and there. I remember growing leaf lettuce outside our kitchen door stoop. A toad lived under the stoop. At dinnertime, my mother trusted me with special scissors. It was my job to go outside and cut lettuce for dinner. I would say hello to the toad, whether I saw him or not.
One day I came home from school to find my mother bent over the kitchen table, putting a tiny band-aid on the back of the toad. She had nicked him with her old-fashioned push lawn mower. The toad survived her first aid, and went back to his home under the stoop.
When my father took a work exchange in England, I discovered that there, your “garden” could simply be your yard. We had a tortoise named Charlotte living in our garden. I fed her lettuce and gave her baths, which she enjoyed.
The British take on gardens appeals to me so much more than the American does. Americans seems to have gardens, which are places to grow things in orderly rows, and lawns, which are outdoor carpets of grass. Recently, environmentalists have started exposing lawns as the environmental disasters they are.
I live in a community that has the word “gardens” in its name. One of the reasons I chose this particular community was that the website promoted it as environmentally conscious. They gave the decided impression of being “green” in their stated goals and vision. I am entirely invested in my desire to live in a green community.
Surprise became disappointment, and disappointment became horror, as I discovered, bit by bit, exactly how environmentally conscious my community was not. People take showers, and the soapy water drains directly to the canal where frogs, turtles and fish live. Not my idea of how a garden works.
Back in my mother’s garden, my summer chores involved helping with her ambitious and prolific tomatoes and squash. At ten, I tried to be actually helpful, but was smart enough to know a “learn-and-bond-by-doing-something-together” when I saw it.
What I learned that summer was important. It was the 1970’s, and mom had been reading hippie books again. These were big, coffee-table non-glossy paper books with hand-written text and illustrations. Here we learned to live on the earth by making sandals from old tires, and planting nasturtiums to keep bugs away, rather than using pesticides. Back then, we didn’t even call it using pesticides, we called it “spraying.” We would “spray for bugs.” It sounded innocuous.
That summer, Mom resisted the neighbors and went organic. Those nasturtiums helped me to understand how nature works together in support of itself. Now, years later, like my mother, I find that I am sometimes resisting my neighbors. For instance, I encourage the friendly lizards and black racer snakes to be fruitful and multiply under my deck. They entertain and delight me, and keep my deck free of mosquitoes and other irritants.
At least once a season, a kind neighbor will offer to help me get rid of the pesky lizards I have so lovingly cultivated. I don’t tell her about the snakes. I was also surprised that, for a place that calls itself “Gardens” what it really enjoys is “lawns.” Not a day goes by that the beautiful peace of our tropical paradise isn’t shattered by the sounds of industrious mowers and clippers chop-chop-chopping away at the wildlife.
Apparently, not everything that grows out of the ground is good. Weeds are bad. Susun Weed says that if you live in one place for five years the very herbs that you need to heal your body will begin to grow in your yard. Oh, wait, those are weeds too.
Maybe it is time to stop seeing some plants as good and some as bad, and find the healing properties in all of them. Maybe it is time for everyone to honor the web of life, and see how each creature fits into the balance.
Another neighbor is disappointed with me because I don’t plant decorative plantings in my small yard, nor do a pull the weeds that inevitable grow. If the Goddess wants me to have a flower, she gives me a flower, as she did this week. It is a lovely pink/purple flower, making its weedy presence known in the corner between my stone pathway and my driveway. I will not pull it. This might disturb my neighbor.
Oh, wait! When walking by my neighbor’s driveway, I see he has a bunch of the same pretty flowers, pertly planted in a decorated pot. These proud plants are not weeds! So clearly, the difference between a weed and a beautiful flower is where it is growing.
There is huge socio-economic comment there. I’ll leave that for another post, when I will talk in depth about the Suit of Pentacles. For now, I will end with my favorite things that speak about gardens.
Two tarot cards speak to me about gardens; the Seven of Pentacles and the Nine of Pentacles. The Seven of Pentacles is the work of tending the garden, and the promise of the harvest it will bear. The Nine of Pentacles is the garden as a place of solace, peace and protection.
There is also a great Lenny Kravitz song from 1980's Lenny Kravitz, before he became a 90's icon. I Build This Garden For Us.
Finally, there is the great Pete Seeger "Inch by Inch" song, also sung by Arlo Guthrie, along with folks singers, families, churches and children all over the world. I sing it as a hymn in ritual for the first two Pagan spring holidays. These are Imbolg and Ostara, and are the roots of Groundhog’s Day and Easter.
As we welcome a new season, may each of us recognise that which needs to be culled and that which needs to be nurtured in the gardens of our lives. Let us find the environments in which our weeds can become flowers. Let us use knowledge to nurture the world around us, that it may, one day, be the planetary garden it was designed to be.