☁️ life is a garden with no room for worry ☁️
thoughts on enlightenment, native plants, and lots of garden photos
[hello everyone! today’s newsletter has some heft — personal writing at the beginning, photo journal in the middle, native plant writing at the end!]
There is a constant hope in my life that pulls me along, taunting me with the possibility of enlightenment. Surely, if I could just wake up and do twenty minutes of yoga every morning, I would transform into a more realized version of self. Surely, if I could just master the discipline of writing each morning, I would become the woman I admire. Surely, if I could just train my body to carry out a strict daily routine, I would be healthier and...enlightened.
I can’t even call to mind what this feeling would be like, though I’ve undoubtedly felt it standing on the early morning misty cliffs of Big Sur, holding hour-old lambs in the barn, and in the dark and deafening underground bars of London.
I know I have chased it since I was young, with my black paper journal and sparkly gel pens, writing down my ten year old sins and asking the idea I called God if I would find freedom when I grew up.
I am writing at 6:45am in the foggy garden, and a hawk has just stolen a baby from a robin nest. The chorus of neighborhood birds at his throat and their corresponding community alarm system is deafening.
The most powerful idea that my studies have brought me is from stoicism - and perhaps a little bit of buddhism. It is the observation that all peaceful living things exist squarely in the Now and the most significant failure of the human brain is that it prefers to exist anywhere but in the Now — typically in the Past or Future, or in an unpleasant, anxiety-inducing blend of both.
I say daily to myself, “there is no real problem except for whatever exists exactly in this second” and truthfully, it eliminates 99% of problems because in this exact moment are you in fact suffering immensely or experiencing catastrophe? Or is the air drifting faithfully into your lungs, does your stomach have means to acquire some bread, and can you sharpen your mind’s eye to see your miraculous, good-natured, good-desiring, good-wanting, good-caring, good-creating, good-giving self in all it’s resilience and glory?
My climbing rose has finally reached the white eaves under the roof after three years of patiently waiting. It drifts across the iron gate perfectly and there are a dozen peachy pink buds, all with tiny drops of dew.
To live in the physical world is to really live inside of a painting — but I do have to attune my eyes to see it.
I have to pull my eyes out of my imagination, where I am wasting most of my energy trying to see the future or interpret the past. (My imagination is not positive, which is another thing I would like to change in my compulsive pursuit of enlightenment. Manifestation is a word that really ruined this idea; I am pretty sure it’s just choosing to imagine growth, development, recovery, the birth of new wonderful things [you know - the feminine] rather than difficulty, accidents, catastrophes.)
For me, the rotten core of The Negative Future is believing that if anything is out of my control, it will be bad for me. It is difficult to override this setting when western religions really emphasized our badness, the world’s badness, the supernatural badness coming for us. It is difficult to accept that what happens out of our control is mostly actually The Positive Future. You know, like how this bird just landed 3 feet from my face and tilted it’s head to get a better look which brought me a paralyzing moment of joy - and how this rose is blooming after three years, and how it will rain this week because it is spring.
Everything is out of our control, and most of it will be good.
I visited Elderberry Creek Farm & Nursery up in Pfafftown, NC this week and am going back tomorrow with my friend Meredith. It’s actually further than Pfafftown (halfway to East Bend) and it feels like disappearing into the mountains. They focus on native flowers and shrubs, and are uniquely built into the landscape with nature trails (!!) rather than a formal commercial shopping area.
I’ve wanted to learn more about our native plants for a long time but it’s slow going. Native plants are sort of funny — in the past, my uneducated self has thought of them as flowering weeds. This is extremely unfair to them and shows how much of our garden landscape has been homogenized by big box national distribution of a limited set of highly domesticated varieties, rather than developing a mastery of your own region.
The biology and chemistry of native plants match the soil, climate, diseases, fungi, and insects of the region which means they require less water, less attention, less fertilizer, no pesticides, etc etc. Considering our collective lack of time and growing experience, natives should be the first thing we reach for!
I will be writing much more about natives in the coming week, but for today, here is the Hairy Mountain Mint I purchased from Elderberry Farms.
I’ve heard it is one of the most effective pollinator plants in the southeast, and brings and unbelievable amount of life to your yard. Every horticulturalist I’ve spoken to / read from has said they can’t understand why it isn’t more popular. Unlike most other mints, it doesn’t have invasive tendencies and you can put it in a bed - it will spread to be a 2-3ft clump, but that’s it.
It was discovered in 1790 in Pennsylvania and doesn’t actually grow in mountain regions, but usually along forest edges and in meadows.
It does grow a small white and pink flower in mid-summer but most people add it for the light shimmery leaves which contrast well against richer, darker green plants.
You can rub the leaves on your skin to repel mosquitos and will ward off deer. 🦌
I also picked up some Cinderella Milkweed from Franks (for the butterflies!) and plan to add both of these to my little perennial pollinator garden in the backyard.
Until next Friday - thank you for reading, for your attention, and for so many of you, your friendship.
ps. here are the other david austin roses i have in my yard that i adore.