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Berkshire Garden Style: No Dirt, No Flowers

We’ve talked a lot about transitions lately, in our monthly newsletter and in our blog.  It’s impossible not to see the transitions happening around us, the autumn colors, the change in temperature, daylight and moisture in the air.  In my gardens I embrace transitions - and the changes that accompany them - and in my life I am now making a conscious choice to transition.  

The transition to winter for me has always been one of ‘shut-down’ and ‘close-up’.  I work hard from March through November and then it’s a crash into the state of ‘non-doing’.  From spring to fall I ride the highs of garden bounties and installation and maintenance work which give us meaning and purpose.  For the rest of the time, I ride the lows.  This year I am transitioning towards balance.  This winter I will continue engaging - through my writing - with you my dear garden friends.  I will be outfitting my shed, designing a kitchen garden, and planning for spring workshops at Viridissima Headquarters.  In committing to these acts of doing, I will carry the momentum through the New England winter.  

And it is with this transition in mind that I bring you our next blog post…

No Dirt, No Flowers -

A reference to the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh: No Mud, No Lotus

It was recently very muddy, dark, wet and cold outside.  The trees are now skeletons void of their colorful foliage.  My gardeners have swapped their shorts and t-shirts for winter hats and many layers often topped with rain coats and waterproof pants.  As we move ever deeper into this dark period, I reflect on the importance of the dirt, the cold, the dark and share with you why and how I’m embracing the mud.

As always, I live in garden meaning and metaphor. I look to the garden for answers to life’s questions and to give meaning to life experiences.  In the garden I notice how beauty comes from darkness and messiness - mud.  It is apparent to me through observing our gardens which experience the light, temperature and moisture differentials through all seasons that the beauty that we see in the flowers, trees and shrubs arise from the ebbs and flows of darkness and light.   It is also obvious to me that from darkness comes beauty, just as I engage in the process of overwintering my dahlias each year. Dahlias need darkness and cold but not freezing temps to overwinter so that they produce the most excellent and beautifully vibrant blooms for your garden next year!  I take great care in creating the perfect environment not just for my dahlias but all of the other plants that I overwinter, so that there will be beauty again once spring or summer arrives.

So now, as we hope for winter snow to blanket our landscape, can we see such beauty when in our own lives we may be going through dark and difficult times?   Current events have brought darkness to many.  Even without tragedy, as humans - we inevitably experience the shit, the ugliness, the despair that is part of being human.  

In our garden, from dirt comes beautiful flowers and so dirt is beautiful!  In our lives, the “dirt” - the arguments, the frustrations, the set-backs and the deepest down in the dumps periods -  is life’s mud. This mud offers the nutrients for our hearts and souls to develop and strengthen.  My life, devoted to gardening and sharing an earth-centered approach to the art of gardening, germinated and evolved from an early childhood living in an unstable environment. That is why I am good at what I am good at! Acknowledging this, allows me and us to move beyond resisting what is uncomfortable and unpleasant.  Instead we have a choice to observe and experience both the bad and the good, the lows, the highs, and the inbetweens.  In turn this will lead us towards balance and the art of ‘letting go’.  Letting BE. Today, I challenge you to find beauty, do something beautiful.  Acknowledge the present, whatever is going on, pleasant or unpleasant.  Take a few moments to look or step outside and observe.  Notice what you notice - beauty, darkness and everything in between; in time we can learn to fully embrace the mud.


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