Gratitude and Gardeners

Dogwood blossom photo by Naomi Sachs

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
~ Marcel Proust

The Seeds That Are Watered Frequently (Thich Nhat Hanh)

Image of bur oak courtesy of Henry Domke Fine Art
Your mind is like a piece of land planted with many different kinds of seeds: seeds of joy, peace, mindfulness, understanding, and love; seeds of craving, anger, fear, hate, and forgetfulness. These wholesome and unwholesome seeds are always there, sleeping in the soil of your mind. The quality of your life depends on the seeds you water. If you plant tomato seeds in your gardens, tomatoes will grow. Just so, if you water a seed of peace in your mind, peace will grow. When the seeds of happiness in you are watered, you will become happy. When the seed of anger in you is watered, you will become angry. The seeds that are watered frequently are those that will grow strong.

– Thich Nhat Hanh in Anh-Huong & Hanh, 2006, 22

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A Garden is a Grand Teacher

A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches us patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.

~ Gertrude Jekyll

Song for Autumn – A Poem by Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver is my favorite poet right now. I picked up New and Selected Poems Volume Two after reading a piece about her in the New York Times Travel Section. So many of Oliver’s poems – most of them, in fact – are about her observations of and interaction with the natural world. This one seems appropriate for at least half of the world right now:

Song for Autumn

In the deep fall
don’t you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
warm caves, begin to think

of the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep
inside their bodies? And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.

I found this poem online at Poetry Daily. Visit their website to see many more poems and to learn about who they are and what they do.


Image of lotus leaf courtesy Henry Domke Fine Art

Sometimes things don’t go, after all,

from bad to worse. Some years muscadel 
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail;
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.
A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man; decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.
Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen to you.

Reprinted from Good Poems. Selected and introduced by Garrison Keillor. NY, NY: Viking Penguin, 2002. Permission has been given to reprint this poem, and the poet has asked that her name not be used when quoted or reprinted in blogs like this one. Thanks to Peace by Design blog for this wording. Thanks, Mariposa, for sending.

Thanksgiving Prelude

American Basswood, Henry Domke Fine Art

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees under which you do not expect to sit.”
-Nelson Henderson

Paul Newman Knew It

Photo by Henry Domke, Henry Domke Fine Art

“We are such spendthrifts with our lives. The trick of living is to slip on and off the planet with the least fuss you can muster. I’m not running for sainthood. I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer, who puts back into the soil what he takes out.”           – Paul Newman (1925-2008)

I finally brought myself to read some of the obituaries of Paul Newman, one of my favorite actors and one of my heroes, and the above quote resonated. Among his many accomplishments, Paul Newman, who died on September 26th at age 83, founded the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp with A. E. Hotchner in 1988. This camp, along with others founded later through the Association of Hole in the Wall Camps, serves thousands of children with cancer and other serious illnesses, allowing them to experience nature and camping, free of charge. It also happens to be located in Ashford, CT, within twenty miles of where I grew up, where my parents still live, and where I’m visiting today for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

Ever since I can remember, my father and I have spent part of this holiday taking a walk in the woods during the break in High Holy Day services. We will go on our walk this afternoon together, but this morning I went for a short one on my own, marveling at the beauty of the brilliantly-colored falling leaves, the light shining through the hemlocks and playing on the river, the sound of the birds and the wind in the trees, the shock of green ferns amidst yellow and orange and buff, the smell of loam and leaves and green and fresh air. There is little as life-affirming as a walk in the woods.

And funnily enough, The National Wildlife Federation’s latest Green Hour tip is also on taking a walk with the family: http://www.greenhour.org/content/activity/detail/5133.

Just back from a week in Maine, my first real vacation in four years. A relief to get out of the sticky Hudson Valley high summer heatwave and up to the cooler climate and untamed nature farther north. One highlight of the trip was an overnight stay on Monhegan Island, where I took this picture. What constantly impressed me, about the flora as well as the fauna (humans included!), is how living things take advantage of whatever growing medium and season they have. Lichen growing on and in even the smallest crevices of rocks, seagulls hunting and caring for their fluffy grey young, humans reveling in the bounty of the season at farmers’ markets. In Maine, there’s no time for the nonsense that we so often get caught up in. The place is remote, the winters are long and harsh. Everything seems to be saying, “This is my life, I’d better make the most of it.” May Sarton, one of my favorite Maine writers, was an avid gardener, and viewed the act of gardening as a way of staying in touch with the rhythms and demands of nature. Here’s how she put it:
“Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.”

Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ at Madison Square Garden, NY, NY

“Green is the fresh emblem of well-founded hopes. 
In blue, the spirit can wander but in green it can rest.”

-Mary Webb

Peace in Winter

“Whatever peace I know rests in the natural world, in feeling myself a part of it, even in a small way.”
– May Sarton