I did two things this past week that were my best-ever garden tasks. Never had I done either one. Both took several hours. Preparation, however, was minimal. After completing both, I appreciated my garden in a new way and I absolutely fell in love with nature all over again.
What, you might ask, made such a difference? In the middle of my garden, I napped, on a sleeping bag amid the flowers and plants I've loved for more than 15 years.
It was one of those lovely July afternoons with the slightest breeze and the house provided a slice of shade. With pruners in hand, I cut a huge bouquet of lavender and slipped a rubber band around the stems. I grabbed my pillow and a book. As I lay down, I placed the bouquet near my head so the breeze might catch the lavender fragrance and surround me with it.
I read until I was sleepy. I turned over, wrapped the end of the opened sleeping bag around my bare toes and slept.
A peace that passeth ...
It was one of those naps I used to take when our children were small, after Christmas when the holiday was over and I finally relaxed ... a two-hour sleep I took once or twice a year.
No phone woke me. No voice demanded anything of me. I simply slept in my garden. I awoke slowly, the way a time lapse camera shows a bud unfolding to full bloom.
I turned over on my back and looked up at the sky. A whole world existed above the garden. When I work on my garden chores, such as weeding or deadheading, I rarely look up. My focus is on the ground.
I laughed as a white butterfly spent about 15 minutes in somersaults in the warm breeze. An eagle with some sort of food in his beak flew right over my head. Birds were chatting about their latest bird-news. Even the trees acted like they were ticklish as they bent forward and backward in the breeze.
I was observing a part of nature that I had left unnoticed, that I was ignorant about. I realized that I did not know the names of the birds or butterflies, yet I could rattle off Latin names of most all of my plants.
Nature's graciousness reached out to me with 5-star entertainment. In that moment, I loved the world of nature and felt deeply connected to the Earth.
In our technological world, we distance ourselves from nature. I write my gardening column on a computer in a corner where I have no window. As we try to network through technology's Facebook and Twitter, we often feel on edge and yearn for a connectedness to nature we've known in our past.
The great Scottish naturalist John Muir said, "Most people are on the world, not in it - have no conscious sympathy or relationship to anything about them - undiffused, separate and rigidly alone like marbles of polished stone, touching but separate."
We remember and want to replicate the time we shared a kinship with nature as we roamed prairies with bison or foraged through ancient and fragrant forests and skimmed waves to catch fish to sustain our bodies.
Next: Nature by night
About five days later, I performed the second thing.
I went to the garden at midnight, with my sleeping bag in tow, and slept. Earlier that evening I had gone to bed for the night and slept fitfully, worried about a friend.
I got up. I wasn't in the mood to read, so outside I went and placed my sleeping bag on the deck. In the darkness, the yellow and white blossoms picked up the reflected light. The grasses swayed in the wind.
And the sky ... a bowl of stars in the heavens. A star began to move through the sky and then heralded its new spot in the sky by exhaling a big sigh of light at its effort.
A garden in her heart
I looked out on the strait and saw a cruise ship come into view from behind Protection Island. A few minutes later, another one followed. I loved that the first vessel's light made the navigation of the second one more magical. They were two friends, reflecting each other's unique personalities.
My concern for my friend turned to tremendous respect, and I ventured off to sleep, snug in my cocoon of a flannel-lined sleeping bag amid a resting, but active garden.
I woke up about 5 that morning to a flamingo pink sky with Mount Baker in silhouette. I gasped. My instinct was to bow.
John Muir said, "Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, a place to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike."
I slept in my garden - not once, but twice. The renewal I have felt has sustained me and suddenly I don't see my garden as something to weed and tend as much as a sacred entity where life circles over my head and beneath my knees. My garden exists, now, in my heart.
Beverly Hoffman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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