As I pick the basil leaves I thank them, they basilness with every separation. – and I find myself enjoying that beautiful basilly smell. Then I remember that the point of that smell (and taste) is to avert predators….Now I am the predator.
The Basil’s smell is intensifying in the heat. I am encouraged by it’s loveliness to override my empathy for their demise at my hands; I am torn though and upon finishing my harvest, I make a deal with myself. I’ll leave the outdoor basils to grow on and feed my bees with their prolific flowers; the glasshouse ones will be cut back – it’s still hot enough in there that they will get a second chance to express their beauty and abundance to all.
I back away, bowing low and rush inside to the kitchen to start blitzing….That word says it all! My only choices here are to be deeply grateful to the basil deva for her yummy gift and to sing her praises to one and all. Oh, and to enjoy that Pesto like its gonna be my last meal!
Today as I look out my upstairs bedroom window the perfume of the Stephanotis floribunda growing there instantly grabs my attention. I breathe in deeply. Looking further out into the yellows, reds and greens of the surrounding trees a dew drop scintillating in the sun catches my eye where it clings to a leaf. The lime yellow of Gleditsia “Sunburst”, under planted with pale blue Agapanthus accentuates the freshness of this time of the day. We are accompanied by the singing of cicadas, the sound of water over the fall in the river and the faraway drone of traffic. We’ve had some rain so our visitors are feeling a little constrained and are now preparing to make their escape for the day. On the odd occasion I go to town during the festive season I notice how big the lines of traffic are, how busy the shops and how when I want to go to a movie it’s already sold out! This is my version of constraint; bumper to bumper traffic through town, drivers doing 60kms in a 100km speed area as they weave across the road “sight- seeing”. I know they’re great for the local economy and that when you live in such a beautiful place it’s only fair to share with others, but I can’t help wishing them gone. As soon as I can I get myself back home to the peace and quiet that is my sanctuary from all the consumerist madness. Once there I lie around with a book or if it’s not too hot pop out into the garden to pull out all the lettuces that have bolted in the heat, along with the weeds that are massing in preparation for a coup! If it’s very hot I waste the day away lounging in the shade laughing and chatting with my dearly beloved, drinking copious green tea and nibbling leftovers from various festive feasts. I know it sounds profligate and I accept the judgement willingly. Finally early evening rolls around, the heat declines and I can head out into the cool quiet of the garden. This is the time of day that as I work, bent over pulling weeds, digging and pruning my connection to Spirit is refreshed. In the dusky quiet the garden wraps itself around me; night-scented plants soothe with their moth attracting perfumes, carrying me to another realm replete with beauty and wonder. The mystery and magic of this special time, when there is almost no evidence of humanity is such a gift. My body, heart and mind is open to the quiet gentleness and I feel I could continue in just this way forever.
The ocean roar of wind crashes through the canopy of the eucalypts surrounding the garden with as much power and fury as a west coast beach in a storm. Down below all is calm and bathed in warm sunlight, the merest waving of leaves a pale reflection of what occurs above. Spring continues her unfolding – one step forward, two steps back, emerging then finding things not entirely to her liking she retreats again. It’s as though Persephone isn’t fully prepared to give up her dark lover.
For me too, I’m happy to lay in bed on cold and rainy days, reading a book and contemplating; only to find the next day I’m sun-seduced into a full days garden activity – planting, seed sowing, dreaming up my next project. The creatures also respond to the call of the sun; the garden is full of birds again today, bees are out gathering pollen with serious intent. Fortunately the blossoms seem to have timed their arrival to avoid the stormy period so an abundant harvest is still possible. Although, until Spring has fully unfolded and all her petals have dropped there are no guarantees – she is youthful fickleness – a lesson in both the discomfort and pleasure of transformation. As I embrace the lesson I feel a child-like curiosity and anticipation arise and a quiet acceptance that it is all out of my hands.
I’ve been hearing people saying lately that Spring has arrived, as if it is a date on the calendar. Well, actually in New Zealand we do describe September 1 as the first day of Spring. Herein lies the truth, it’s the beginning of the process of unfolding and releasing the new emergent energy; it happens slowly, one day at a time. In order to notice the changes I am daily in communion with the parts of my garden that express ‘Springness’. I check the plum blossom and the foliage buds on my oak trees. In my vege garden I check the temperature of the soil. It’s still too wet and cold to plant Spring veges. I know this because my brassicas look so fine; they’re loudly expressing that Winter hasn’t fully released its grip. Which is ok too; greens are good for us & we need to eat plenty – or so I tell myself when I experience resistance to the idea. Fortunately as I stand surveying their healthy vitality I’m nourished by the beauty & elegance of the red cabbages and radicchio. Food for the soul is every bit as important. This radiant show helps remind me that the slow letting go of Winter into the quickening of Spring is inevitable and soon a different kind of expression will take the place of my gloriously ruffled radicchio. Even as I write the first plum blossoms are welcoming bees as they feverishly collect pollen to keep the hives healthy in preparation for a new seasons honey making. So much promise yet to be fulfilled.
Everywhere around me this morning my eye catches the vibrating reflections of sunlight on water, on spider-web filament, the veil-like wings of bee. It is beautifully warm with a crisp gentle breeze blowing quiet notes in the background. I can barely hear the water as it goes over the falls; only the vibrant movement of the sun’s reflected journey through the rocks tells of its aliveness. There is such stillness today; a feeling of lightness and clarity in the garden. Like the wide held arms of a welcoming Mother she gathers me in.
I sit, the sun warming my face and arms, feeling back in time to all those who sat before me experiencing that same golden kiss. I glory in a visitation from the gentle Mother, her quiet presence a harbinger to new and exciting possibilities. At first I think she has held her breath; but no, there is a gentle, even pulsing. Time slows down, the garden breathes in and out in time with Her breath as she prepares for rest. I know that soon, she will withdraw to her bower; days will shorten further and icy cold will be evidence of her unavailability. She leaves us reminders of her love in the glorious reds and oranges of dying leaves, winter flowering Kniphofias and Agaves; the flames of the hearth in lieu of the rays of the sun. She cares for us even in the darkest days as she incubates the new world, soon to be reborn.
A joyful flush of new flowers to inspire and uplift.
My exhaustion is reflected in the exhaustion and desiccation of my garden. No rain means no reviving. Our spirits are dried out and desperate for renewal. I’ve been watching the horizon intently for signs of Autumn’s approach. I’ve even Autumn-cleaned my house. All in readiness for the long-awaited arrival whose accompanying entourage will embellish the garden with shades of red, gold and orange. Plump raindrops will freshen grass, late seasons fruit will swell and sweeten. Harvest will be upon us and we will revel in its abundance; only let it be soon….
Well, it’s not much, dear friends, but we have had rain! Long enough and slow enough to sink in and do some good. Everywhere the garden is reviving; new shoots show themselves, the last flushes of flowers bloom. The weather is still warm, a gentle heat the harbinger of Autumn – a warmth that encourages me out into the garden again. Unlike the Northern Hemisphere where gardens are left to ‘over-winter’ because the ground is too cold and hard, here my garden must ‘over-summer’. Dry earth is hard too and cultivation leads to desiccation. As well, the gardener is fanning herself in the shade of the grape-covered pergola so no chance of work from her! This is my time out, my siesta of contemplation and creativity – plans for reinvigouration unfold. Then, as the harshness of the sun declines out I go, like the Monarch breaking free from the chrysalis, into a new relationship with my garden. As I wandered around today reacquainting myself with old friends I noticed two bees drinking from the bird bath. In greeting them they expressed deep gratitude for the rain; a hardworking bee needs constant availability of shallow water and this had been hard to sustain. There is a feeling of newness and possibility alive in the garden; a freshness which speaks of unlimited possibilities. This is my favourite time of the year and I can feel a childlike excitement building as though after too long a confinement. No more stultifying humidity, no more total immersion in sunscreen, so much more freedom. In unison, my soul and the garden sigh with relief!
A couple of posts ago I wrote about being all out to sea; adrift on the vast blueness that symbolises the infinite. Although I felt rudderless I was being steered by the gentle but firm hand of God. Most recently I have been on retreat learning about the subtle and magnificent teaching in the 14th century treatise The Cloud of Unknowing. Our very able teacher Cynthia Bourgeault has inspired me with her deep understanding of the writer’s perspective and has made available with great clarity the gift within the writing. It seems as though all my previous experiences have culminated in this deep understanding of what is now necessary. I see my life including all my actions and inactions totally differently. I’m experiencing a sense of greater freedom already and I am as yet to penetrate the cloud. The horizon is rich with promise. I now fully understand the yearning that has been urging me on for some time. Add to this the joy of daily swims when the wind and water turn from cold to warm magically upon submerging your body. The waka shaped roof of the chapel and its attendant Norfolk pines pointing heavenward like fingers pointing to the moon. All this held in the gentle embrace of silence. And so I come at last to land; no doubt I will bide here for a time before the gentle but firm hand of God moves me on.