Monthly Archives: September 2007

Natural Geometry

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For me there is a certain comfort in knowing that there is some intelligent design in the universe which we can see in nature.

Lori G. (c) 2007

South Coast Botanical Gardens, Palos Verdes, California.

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In the Garden of the Senses– A Journal Entry

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Mexican Sage

On Saturday morning I felt compelled to go to my local botanical garden. I say compelled because I had so many chores to do Saturday that I really didn’t have the time. Yet, I went.

When I entered the grounds, I wandered around a bit, snapping photos, until I found myself in a little area called “The Garden of the Senses.” This area is comprised of plants that have strong fragrances or are unique to the touch. A stone bird-bath with a fountain was situated in the middle surrounded by some arbor-covered benches. I realized then how tense I was and how much I needed to relax.

I settled on the bench and set my bag and camera aside. I sat upright without reclining on the back of the seat. I set my feet flat on the ground and let my hands and arms rest on the top of my knees. I closed my eyes and took in a long breath.

I focused my attention on my neck and face as I slowly exhaled. Then I did the same for my shoulders and so forth until I had focused my thoughts on each area of my body, releasing tension with each inward and outward breath.

Whenever a wayward thought entered my mind, such as what I needed to do that day or the trials of the past week, I would simply let them pass by and resettled my thoughts on my breath.

Soon, I became acutely aware of my surroundings. In the Garden of the Senses, I could smell the sweet and pungent fragrances of Rosemary and Mexican sage. I could hear birds chirping, the movement of the gardener in an adjacent patch, and the sound of dribbling water. I felt the breeze touching my face and arms. I opened my eyes and saw that about eight or ten little brown sparrows had settled into the bird bath, completely unaware of my presence and happily thrashing about.

Then I felt a sting on my ankles. I looked down and saw that I had situated myself near a string of black ants and some had commenced crawling on my feet and ankles. I decided that it was time to move on. Feeling refreshed and relaxed, I picked up my gear and began wandering along the paths of the garden.

I entered a patch of dahlias and cockscombs. Many of them were high, almost eye level with me and were of all manner of colors. Butterflies and bees were everywhere, flitting and buzzing from flower to flower. Being cautious of the bees, I slowly made my way through the patch. Then, something shiny caught my eye.

I approached a red cockscomb and saw that the flash was an iridescent beetle quietly grazing on the flower face. In the morning sun, the beetled glittered like a jewel in an amazing array of greens, blues, and pinks.

Generally, I am not fond of insects, but I was totally mesmerized and stood for several minutes observing the beetle. Then I realized that I had been called to garden to witness this simple but glorious display of nature.

The lessons I learned this morning are these:

I need to heed the call of the wild and enjoy the outdoors as frequently as I can;

I need to do deep breathing meditations more often, once a day for a few minutes to deal with daily stressors;

I need to be completely open to the surprises and wonders that nature offers.

Not a bad way to spend a morning, don’t you think?

Images and Text, Lori G. © 2007

Images: Mexican Sage; Green Beetle

Thinning the Seedlings

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The time I dread has now come. It’s time to thin my seedlings. This is where I have usually fallen down in past attempts at growing plants. I find it very hard to take young healthy seedlings, green and seemingly innocent, and yank them up by the roots. It seems so heartless. However, not to do so would result in the whole patch of seedlings suffocating in the midst of each other. Some have to perish in order for the rest to survive.

We can draw a parallel to this in our own lives. What activities, behaviors, or attitudes are overgrowing our lives? What habits need to be plucked out so that the important things in our lives can thrive? Maybe that time in front of the television can be eliminated to make time for being with loved ones. Or the time we spend web-browsing might be better served by writing our novel, making art, or getting involved in community activities.

Now, I don’t want to stretch this parallel too far— I am not saying you quit your job or dump your significant other in order to follow your life-long passion of collecting antique widgets and ding-bats. I am merely suggesting that we learn to walk more circumspectly, keeping an eye out for time wasters and negative attitudes that keep us from living a full life. Those things crowd us and they need to be curtailed.

By the way, I did thin my herb seedlings and moved many of them to larger containers. Already the lemon balm is taking off and the parsley is in fast pursuit. I can’t wait to see them flourish!

 

Lori G. © 2007

The Learning Garden

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Many, many years ago, more than I am willing to say, there was a weed-choked, trash-strewn plot of land on the northwest corner of my high school campus. Horticulture classes were held there and attended by the handful of students who figured studying horticulture was the easiest way to fulfill their science requirements. The word on campus was that illicit plants were being cultivated under the noses of the school’s administration. I highly doubt that was true but the garden was in such a sorry state that perhaps some thought such a story would bolster the reputation of this sad little plot of ground.

However, I am delighted to say today The Learning Garden at Venice High School in Venice, California has earned the new reputation of being one of the finest school gardens in the country.

Renovations to the garden began in 2001 when some parents and other volunteers took on the tremendous task of reclaiming the land and transforming the debris-filled area into a lush garden complete with a fountain, koi pond, organic vegetable and fruit patches and several smaller gardens of medicinal herbs and native California plant life.

Student enrollment expanded from a mere handful to about 150 youths, most of whom are grossly uninformed about the processes of nature when they start the program. For many, their science learning leaves the sterile confines of the classroom and finds fruition in the practical experience of the garden.

Not only do the students learn the discipline of taking care of the plants, soil, and equipment, but they also learn respect for the environment, respect for the animal and bird life that dwell in the garden, and, most importantly, respect for themselves.  Many of these student gardeners are learning about healthy eating for the first time. Working in the garden has transformed their attitudes towards food, and they are learning how to make healthy food choices.

In addition to organic food production, the students are also exposed to alternative forms of healing through working in the medicinal gardens. The Chinese herb garden, in particular, also provides a hands-on learning experience for the adult students of a local university of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The Learning Garden provides them with the only place in the area where they can see such herbs in their natural state. Tai Chi and Yoga classes are also offered in the garden for these college students.

Finally, the garden serves as a focal point for community-building. Volunteers from the neighborhood gather to help maintain the garden and to advocate with city planners to transform other under-utilized spaces in the city for community gardens. It is the hope of many students, teachers, and community volunteers that The Learning Garden at Venice High School will inspire other communities around the world to create their own learning gardens.

I highly recommend a visit to the Learning Garden website and taking their Virtual Garden Tour. You too will be amazed and inspired. I guarantee it!

Lori G. © 2007

Parsley Patch Update

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An update on the apartment garden project:

As reported a few days ago, my lemon balm seeds have germinated.   Since then I’ve been wondering when the parsley would follow suit.  At first I thought I had ruined the process because I did not notice the instruction on the package that said to soak the seeds in water for 24 hours.  I googled parsley seeds and discovered that they are one of the hardest herbs to germinate.  So, for a few days I was convinced that once again I had proven to be the terror of the gardening realm.   Plants all over the world would cringe when they hear my name.  However, to my relief,  last night I found little sprouts of parsley plant, and this morning there are many more.

So, what’s the lesson here?  Simply this:  All things will emerge at the appointed time according to their nature.  I think there are things in my life that have blossomed and a great many that have yet to even germinate.  I’m inclined to fret over those that haven’t come forth yet.   There are goals in my life that are unfulfilled.  Have I worked at them?  Yes.  I’ve prepared the soil and planted the seeds.  Could I have messed things up?  Possibly, but I’m inclined to think that if I’ve done what I reasonably can do, then in their proper time, those goals will be accomplished.

The secret is learning to wait and let nature be.

Lori G. © 2007