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Garden wisdom from deer country!

Gardening in the Sierra Foothills with Carolyn Singer

The seasoned gardener

published in The Union in Grass Valley CA

by Carolyn Singer
March 16, 2008

During a recent trip to Seattle I listened to Mary Oliver read her poetry in an event that was "sold out", filling Benaroya Symphony Hall with adoring fans. Her poetry has always resonated with me in its intense expression of our connections with the natural world, and the wisdom of slowing down to recognize and savor this involvement.

She also expresses the critical importance of sharing this peaceful world with children. I am touched by her words, remembering her high school summers spent camping with a friend: "What we saw filled our minds. What we saw made us love and want to honor the world. And dear readers, if anyone thinks children in these difficult times do not need such peaceful intervals, then hang up the phone, we are not having a conversation." (Blue Iris, 2004)

When grandchildren came into my world I was reminded of this quiet contemplation, and the powerful beauty of sharing it with children. When she was only a few weeks old, I held my granddaughter in my arms and sat quietly on a park bench near her home in Sacramento.

Within a few weeks, she became aware of the world I wanted her to "see" and the day she reached out to touch a yellow rose is now, more than eleven years later, a beautiful image. During garden classes, I frequently held her while I lectured. "Dianthus" was one of her earliest words.

It wasn't too long before she began to hang out with me in the nursery and garden. I was teaching her, of course, but it was not too long before I realized that she was also teaching me. It's a good "lesson" to recognize that watching a honeybee is more meaningful than attending to the weeds. And that harvesting beans (her favorite) should require lots of time, no matter what else I might have thought it was important to accomplish that afternoon.

The woods that inspired Mary Oliver to write is not the same woods we treasure in the Sierras. But the spirit is the same. And, again, sharing this intricate world with children helps us to "see" its complexity. Observing each plant, its beauty, and how it belongs in its natural environment helps us make conscious, responsible choices for our own gardens, and for our children. And the more we can learn about our gardens and our natural landscape, the more we are able to share with our children.

Whether you share your garden and natural environment with children, or learn to take time to understand and value it each day for yourself and your community, you are contributing to a sustainable way of living. This is a "conversation" we need to have.

©2009 by Carolyn Singer. All rights reserved.

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