As an older woman I resonate with autumn, a time of harvest and review, to look back at what has worked in my life and what didn’t. Sneaking in a last few plantings for a winter crop – those hardy brassicas that endure the cold and sweeten with the frost.
I love to garden and think it is a beautiful and apt metaphor for life. Mother nature has all the lessons we need to know as she patiently goes about her business. As the macrocosm so the microcosm.
I see the earth as ourselves, who we are, the life we have. I think about the modern industrial lust for the earth, seeing her as a resource to be used. How her hidden gems have been ripped from her belly indiscriminately. Growth is good and must be maintained at all costs, a crazy model of how to live. Do we treat ourselves the same? Seeing our body, this life, just as a vehicle for me, me, me! To use it up till it’s broken and just patch it up along the way. Or can we life in simpler harmony with our body and mind by responding to our real needs? Giving rather than taking.
On contemplating all the factors that make a beautiful garden I saw so many relationships between these elements and the tools of yoga; all the wonderful practices available to us to life healthy, happy, creative lives.
Water is our emotional life, expressed as devotion. Too little and we cannot thrive or survive. Too much and we rot, our roots lose strength. Waterlogged soil without drainage for emotional outlet and we get bogged, our roots can’t go deep and strengthen. Bhakti is the yoga for our emotional life, directing the longing to the highest, to the divine, kirtan and service transforming our emotions into bliss.
Fertilizer equates to our spiritual nourishment, our practice. We have to apply it regularly in the right amount to nourish the soil and the plants of our garden. Compost of the sweetest quality needs to be fully integrated into our life/soil for maximum benefit. Too fresh or too much encourages the plants to grow with big leafy leaves for show but little fruit for nourishment. If too dry the compost can’t break down and get into our centre, our core way of being. Using unnatural fertilizers give the quick high, the fast growth but no lasting juice or goodness, in the end destroying the soil.
Then there the weed seeds that blow in or that are picked up on the way that bring unwanted plants in any garden. They are hardy; strong and prolific threatening to choke out the goodness of life. How can we deal with the weeds? Poison them but then all is eventually poisoned, life becoming sterile or dead. That’s when we take no risks nor allow possibilities.
If we ignore the weeds the entire garden becomes chocked, lost and has to be stripped out to start again. The best way to deal with the weeds is to get down on your hands and knees and peer into the garden, carefully and systematically pulling them out one by one. As we do so we take care to preserve what is needed, marvel at hidden joys re-found that have survived despite the odds. Meditation is the weed pulling of our life. Systematic, slow, a daily practice. And isn’t it wonderful how easily weeds are pulled after a good watering of bhakti or better still rain! Rain is grace in life, divine grace, kripa. More nourishing than just watering with a hose but out of our control, not something we can always rely upon.
The there are the pests – hungry to eat all the goodness of the garden. Birds before you are out of bed, possums and rats in the dead of night. Caterpillars and bugs if your fertiliser is all wrong, souring the soil.
So much to manage, sometimes we just need to protect ourselves/our garden with screens and netting. Take time out to retreat and heal.
Most of all we need sunlight, warmth in just the right amount. The rays of the mighty fire at the centre of our solar system, our sun. Fire is yagya, the letting go, sacrifice or surrender to life itself. Ritual relates to the element of fire, ritual brings rhythm and meaning to the everyday experiences of being human. When we create a ritual in the right balance we can feel its glow permeate.
So much to balance to create a productive beautiful garden! And of course what of the plants, what is in your garden. What grows from the seeds planted? Are they right for the soil, the temperature, the season? Do they bear fruit or are they just for show?
The last factor is the season. This is the factor that no one has no control over- it is inevitable, part of the great cycle of birth and death. In this life we only have 1 full cycle of the seasons. Some of us don’t even have that much time and at menopause we are at the season of autumn. We might look at our gardens and feel regret for the things neglected, over whelmed by weeds and pests. We also harvest: the slow growing pumpkins that have been hidden under wild growing leaves, tomatoes weighing down the vines, corn with her silky ears mellowing in the sun needing to be picked before the sweetness turns to starch.
We may also salvage a late crop, if Mother Nature is kind. Maybe winter will be mild and plants will yield after all but the light will fade eventually and darkness will come. A time of quiet reflection as the soil cools to ice.
But today as the summer sun shines and a storm brews from the south, I remind myself to show gratitude for what is going well in my life right now and for give thanks for the harvest I make from a life well lived.