Gardening the World

From my newsletter this week:

Last night I woke up to the sound of the raindrops on my window. Here in California the drought has been nearly unbearable for months now, and this rain made so many people happy. My garden is happy, too. I pulled out most of the dead and withered ornamentals and herbs over the past 3 years of drought, and just left the drought-resistant, hardy ones. The lavender, white sage, and sage scrub are all doing great. The bay laurel and the papyrus in her bucket are the only “luxury” plants I’ve kept and allowed myself to water through this drought, and even then only maybe once or twice per month. So, when the rain began last night, I rushed out into the wet darkness to celebrate along with these plant allies what was, for me, and must have been for them, a cooling burst of relief.

They were dancing on the wind. The leaves rustled and dripped with the sky’s nectar, and the entire garden smelled heavenly, with the release of fragrant oils and fragile compounds as the stalks and leaves surrendered to the storm. 

I enjoy my garden here, though it has become wild and mostly desert plants over the past few years, a stark contrast to the lush greens and veggies that used to be there. But really, I have enjoyed every unique garden I ever tended, from my balcony basil in New York City, to my Bay Area guerrilla gardens in street medians, to my container garden in Berkeley, to this garden, with its bushes, trees, and raised beds. Everywhere I go, I garden.

And whenever I move, I leave my gardens behind. I might take a cutting, a small potted plant, or I might even dig up a plant and replant it somewhere else, but rarely do I bring along more than one or two. Mostly, I leave them: to the next person, or to fate.

This plant, seed, and leave process (pun intended) is part of my overall belief that the Earth deserves our care, regardless of where we are, regardless of whether we “own” it or not. When we all care for the Earth, it becomes clearer and clearer that “ownership” is not as good a descriptor for what we do here as “stewardship.” Today’s rain has me thinking about acts of stewardship: how do we care for the Earth? How do we care for the sacred waters? How do we care for the animals and plants?

How about each other?

Today is Dia de los Muertos. Pretty soon I will be headed into San Francisco to attend the annual parade with Albert and our friends. Today marks the final day of my annual remembrance of the dead. The Ancestors have been walking with me all week and weekend…some amazing stuff has happened, including a message from a shaman who passed two years ago whose work has inspired me. They have also been taking things away as they return to the unseen world after their visitation. I don't know who or what will go right up until they disappear these days. But in a way, isn't that always true?

We have to be willing to tend and cultivate everything we love, right up until the last possible minute, and then we need to be ready to walk away with love and grace when the time is right. Being a good steward of our ancestral relationships, spirit connections, human connections, and the Earth means, in part, knowing how to stay present for them, and knowing also that when things, circumstances, and people have passed on, we, too can move on. A simultaneously holding on and yet letting go. A loose handle on things. Stewardship, not ownership.

This Samhain season, I have moved on from several ideas, activities, relationships, and circumstances that no longer serve me. Like my garden, my life needs weeding sometimes. And at the same time, the rain of possibilities has brought forth some new shoots of activity and potential in my life. Little seeds have been planted that will be ripening over the next few months as I make some decisions about where next to focus my efforts. For now, I will be cultivating the dream-like expansiveness of winter, and thinking about where to plant myself next. Tending my own garden right now is my joy.