Gardens, Meditation, spirituality

Life as a Garden

     From earliest childhood memories, I had a deep connection with nature and its personalities.  I thank my parents for the many experiences that greatly impacted my life with the natural world. 

     Although we could see the smoking steel mills in the distance, and lived in the inner city, nature was all around. As a child, my friends were the flowers, trees, birds and beings in nature.  Our backyard cherry tree on Alice Avenue in the Polish immigrant neighborhood of Cleveland in the 1950’s, provided many hours of amusement with its low branches that I could climb, the shade it provided during the hot summers where I sat many hours, the amber yellow soft, pliable sap from the trunk of a hole, and the sour cherries which attracted the numerous birds that came to feast.  Alice Avenue was, is, and always will be, the beginning of my life in my version of Alice in Wonderland

     I remember the fragrant, colorful, row of roses in my mother’s garden.  My eyes and nose were the same height as the roses, and I was able to see the beauty and breathe in the heirloom intoxicating fragrances.  I often imagined being inside the petals, in the midst of its intoxication, and call that home.

     My father kept a flock of pigeons across the span of the top of our two car garage, where he built their nesting boxes.  I remember the flock taking flight, circling around the neighborhood, and return home. 

     My mother ran a live poultry store, where one could come in the morning, order a duck, chicken or goose, to pick up by 4:00 pm.  Included in the store were laying hens where fresh eggs were sold daily.

     One day, my mother brought home 2 baby ducklings that she incubated and hatched, and allowed me to have as “pets”.  Their Polish names were Kasia and Basia.  We took baths, swam in my toddler pool, and took walks in the backyard together.  They followed me everywhere and I became their “mother” at age 4. 

     My mother’s attitude toward any animal to be set on the dinner table was one of gratitude.  She hated killing, but understood and learned from her own poor family’s farm peasant upbringing in Poland with 8 other siblings, that one thanks the animal for giving their life, so that her family could eat. 

     This is the prayer she taught me as a child:  “Thank you for offering your life so that I and my family could be nourished.”  

     I enjoyed the innocence of my natural home and its surroundings, and yet understood the process of how meat came to the table, and was the not so innocent, ignorant child, although to note that as an adult, I am a vegetarian, because of what I saw as a child.

     We lived across the street from railroad tracks.  Hobos often came to the back door where my mother always had a sandwich for them.  Though they were poor immigrants in a new country, she was generous with a homeless, hungry mouth, who was worse off than us.  No doubt, this came from her life in Poland before, during, and after WW II. 

      My parents regularly took our family and friends to the park for picnics, to a natural lake to swim, to our friend’s farm where we spent hours playing in the fields and woods, riding on the tractor, being in the chicken coop collecting eggs, and playing in the streams and ponds.

     At about age 3, I began to see human-like beings.  The first few times I shared my visions, I was ridiculed and was told I was dreaming.  I was the only one seeing them and never again shared my visions until my late thirties with my daughter, Jasmine Rose.  And even now in my 60’s, I don’t share the beings I meet in my world of nature. 

     It is these earliest childhood memories that set the stage for my adult self, connected to the natural world, with beings seen, unseen, in my dreams and energy field.

     As a young adult at age18, I volunteered for the Emerald Necklace Park system surrounding Cleveland where I met my first Shaman, Carl, another volunteer in his 80’s.  He taught me how to read, hear and decipher the sounds of the elementals, the beings of nature and energies, seen and unseen, not excluding anything: insects, trees, flowers, animals, air, wind, fire and earth. 

    At age 20, I moved to the 4 corners area of Durango, Colorado, where I continued my Shamanic training with Lita White Feather, an elder Ute medicine women, and her daughter Lita, my college classmate.

     In 1984, I received a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources Management at Colorado State University, and followed it with a Science Education degree.  I worked for the US Forest Service in various locations of Colorado and Southeastern Alaska.  I was a Science Teacher for Junior and Senior high schools in Colorado and Micronesia. 

     My daughter, Jasmine Rose, was conceived in the Rawah Wilderness of north-central Colorado.  As a single mother, the times spent in the garden are unforgettable, and was an affordable form of entertainment.

     Through the years, I kept a garden journal and took many photographs of the ever changing, growing world in my backyard and beyond, which taught me the lessons of the natural world reflecting the lessons of everyday life.

     The stories and lessons in this upcoming personal collection are true.  It is a family portrait album of my experiences in the natural world.  Many annual and perennial plants and pets have come and gone through the years, as well as the birds and other wild creatures born, died and buried in my backyard.  It is amazing how much natural life happens in a city backyard, if only one pays attention and becomes connected with the land, however small.

     The stories I share from the garden are metaphors related to everyday life.  Human life developed from watching animals, the sun, moon, cycles of the year, plants.  The natural world is a teacher and guide for the inner and outer world. 

     No doubt many readers have their own garden stories of amazing experiences, and your own practices and way of life, that helped to develop your connection with the sensuous, living, world around you making you more whole as a human in relationship with non-human entities.  It is my sincerest wish for everyone to remember, develop, and live in deep relationship with nature, beginning in your own backyard. 

     This blog offers practices, thoughts, ideas, I personally developed as a backyard gardener, a mother, a woman, a science teacher, a human, an international traveler, and as a teacher to help people of all ages deepen in relationship with their outer and inner world, simply by going out your back door into your backyard.  Don’t bring your phone or computer.  Don’t hang up chimes that will prevent you from hearing the wind, the birds, the crickets, the squirrels.  Go out your back door with only your self, your body, sit in a chair, and tune in to the life energies all around, seen and unseen entities, heard and unheard voices. 

photo by Grace D Marie