gardener/ guardian

Every time I try to take a picture of my garden, my telephone dies. When we bought this house with its big, beautiful garden my hands were itching to plant herbs, fruit trees, rearrange, be a gardener. But somehow that attitude wasn’t appreciated. I did not know where to began, all the plants grew like crazy so we ended up in a jungle and had no clue how to make it our useful or our own. We trimmed some plants, but it did not feel good. Something was off. I told myself the garden still belonged to the man who had so lovingly taken care of it for almost 40 years. I decided to practice the permaculture principle of just looking at a plot of land for one year to see what happens to it in all the seasons. Meanwhile we started making new plans how to master this jungle. But everything I thought of just felt wrong too and even walking through the garden looking at what I would like to plant or change, I actually felt terrible. It just wasn’t the way. But what is?

All I really knew about owning a piece of land or garden was to think of what you would like from it. To ask yourself: how do I want to use this land? If we speak about an ornamental garden, a vegetable garden, permaculture or keeping animals, it’s all the same: it’s human centered and I just could not wrap my head around how I should be the one who decides which plant grows where and who should be taken out and who can stay. It all just felt so wrong…
Winter came and we turned inwards as did the plants and trees. Now I just left it alone, but nothing changed. The few times I came outside I was tolerated by the land, but never welcomed. I guess we did not really like each other , which is kind of weird if you buy a house and move 300km away for its land.

When spring started I had the idea to meditate in the garden and asking the garden what it would want. As usual, it kept its mouth shut, other than giving me the profound feeling it did not want me there… Plants started popping up and to my joy I saw wild herbs surfacing I had not seen before or not in these amounts. But I knew they were not growing there for me.

Then ‘by accident’ I stumbled over this website http://wearetheark.org by Mary Reynolds and here came my answer. Actually it tells the story of what I had been feeling all along, without the insight of what it meant. Mary writes about how important it is to leave nature to itself. To stop interfering, to stop gardening, to stop using it for whatever we want. The most logical and radical way of addressing climate change is to give the earth the chance to heal herself, to let her restore her biodiversity,  her ecosystems . (Go read Mary’s story, she tells it a lot better than me. Or follow her instagram account.) Something just clicked inside my head… Of course my garden didn’t want to be fitted in my plans or designs or ideas! It just wanted to be its own. And with my new attitude I walked into the garden and the resistance was gone, like that! Now the land and plants new I would just let them, I felt welcome and at ease. Now I could start working with the herbs that already grow in the garden and be surprised about the incredible diversity of edible and medicinal plants that are just popping up, like that! No need to plant or plan. It’s just there.

We did end up clearing a small patch of bamboo to grow some vegetables, but that was fine now. I guess if you make room for the plants, they’ll make some room for you too. This is what reciprocity with nature feels like. You give a little, you get so much. I feel nothing but gratitude for my land, I am in owe of her. How much she taught me in just 18 months… I learned to be a guardian, not a gardener.

So take her picture, not really still. Here’s a crappy one from the moment before my phone died, again.. Our feisty, sweet, wild, sacred little land!

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