I was lucky enough to move into a ground floor apartment, here in my hometown of Amsterdam, around 10 years ago with my partner. It had a garden that looked both barren and muddy, to say the least.
After removing all sorts of rubble and debris ‘I’ began gardening, with the help of a dear friend. I write ‘I’ in quotation marks deliberately because the first year I did very little other than watch what wanted to grow in my new garden, and gently removing what seemed too overwhelming or growing too actively. To my surprise, however, some of the plants that emerged seemed to sprout from soil that initially looked unhealthy and inadequate. A grape vine, for example, that I found ‘crawling’ on the ground and the blackcurrant bushes that had been practically trimmed to the ground (not by me, I hasten to add), came flourishing back the following year, blooming in early spring and, after having been pollinated by bees, were bearing fruit already by summer!
As a meditator, I often enjoy doing very simple tasks, like sweeping or weeding. I’ve also realised that I deeply appreciate ‘waiting’. It’s a beautiful state of being, the not knowing what is going to unfold, especially after having sown the seeds and supported all the growing conditions that I can; like sunlight, temperature, or whether life within the soil itself has enough nutrients to help the seeds grow and develop into their mature ‘selves’. It is a joy to watch this process, from the first emerging little fragile sprout to the fully grown plant.
As I mentioned earlier, I do not aggressively eradicate ‘unwanted’ plants that, for some reason or other, have decided to take up residence in my garden. Instead, I have learned that they often appear for a specific reason; to support other plants, for instance, or to nurture and feed the growing process in my ‘mini’ micro-ecosystem. Even the tree that casts a large shadow (and drops a lot of leaves in the autumn!) is here to support this micro-ecosystem somehow. I may even go as far as to say it’s a ‘glycobiology of plant life’. It has helped me to see and understand how it all wants to work together in the best way possible. Me, as the gardener, can only learn and try to facilitate how best to make this happen.
I have come to realise, therefore, that when we are gardening, regardless of what we’re doing, whether it’s big or small, we are engaging in a much larger form of life, and there is a great deal for us to learn about the part each of us can play in it. It can help if we all open our senses to receive what there is for us to receive.
I would love to recommend a book called The Secret Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben (whose German name literally translates to ‘Peter Well-Living’, by the way!). In his book the author explains how the forest is a large and unique ‘life-form’ (a much greater ‘micro-cosmos’ than my small garden) and describes how large and small tress all communicate with each other and exchange food and information with each other too. Trees even grow in families! Furthermore, the ‘between-tree-information-channels’ that are the shared root systems of trees, are being directed by a juice that consists of specific sugars that we are familiar with in glycobiolgy. How fascinating is that?