I’ve learned some hard lessons in the last two weeks. I’ve run the gamut of emotions during this time: confusion, anger bordering on rage, deep disappointment, and now acceptance. We learn many things from the positive experiences in our lives, but our deep life lessons are often integrated through pain and displeasure.
Here is what I’ve realized:
When someone gives you the icks, PAY ATTENTION. Listen to yourself. There is a reason this person rubs you the wrong way or gives you a weird feeling. As women, we are conditioned to be nice to people even if they give us a bad feeling or appear predatory, and we are encouraged to turn the other cheek when these same people violate us. Do not open the door to someone if you do not want them in your house. Not every person who gives you the icks will necessarily turn out to be a predator, but nevertheless, your intuitive feelings about people are worth paying attention to. Those feelings can save you time, money, and (in some circumstances) your life.
Furthermore, if someone violates you once, or you are not happy or satisfied with the relationship or agreement, don’t be like me and keep signing up for more abuse! I paid for a certain certification because it was cheap and fast, even though I was not happy with the initial course I signed up for through the same instructor. I continued to give this person money even though I didn’t trust her. This experience revealed to me a personal weakness: I sometimes look for the easy achievement, wanting something without giving very much. The real truth is that most things in life worth having are achieved through effort, time, and gradual accumulation.
Second, BEWARE OF FALSE OR RUSHED INTIMACY. It is inappropriate, and I would venture to say even a violation of personal boundaries, for a teacher to profess love for their students, except in very particular circumstances. Love, respect, and trust are earned. Don’t tell me you care about me if you don’t even know me. Would you trust someone who told you they loved you on a first date? Honest, caring relationships are grown through repeated acts of good faith.
Third, people don’t get to use their personal wounds as justification for violating agreements with others. Illness is an unfortunate life challenge, but it not an excuse for taking advantage of others or not living up to obligations. Know your limits. And never use exposure of your wounds as a way to gather psychic sympathy or support from others. I think the spiritual (for lack of a better word) community is especially vulnerable to predators because its members tend to be trusting, desirous of seeing the good in people, forgiving, often somewhat vulnerable, and sometimes not very clear about boundaries.
To be a teacher, a counselor, and any type of leader asks that you to be responsible, accessible, and accountable. Be clear with your intentions and your communications. To paraphrase a video I watched yesterday: if you want to sit at the big girl table, you need to own your shit!
My Valerian plant has just gone totally bonkers with flowers this season, and I wanted very much to make use of them, but wasn’t sure how. Enter trusty Google search, where I learned that Valerian flowers can be tinctured and used much in the same way as the root. Valerian is employed as a relaxant and sedative, especially for those folks who have trouble falling and/or staying asleep. (A word of caution: a percentage of people actually respond the exact OPPOSITE to Valerian, and find that it makes them jumpy and excitable.) Valerian flowers are considered effective, but milder than the root. We are mostly use California Poppy before bed in our house, but it’s nice to have a back-up plant and to mix it up now and again.
For our home remedies, I tincture almost exclusively in the folk method. I fill a jar (not jammed but nice and full) with fresh plant matter, and then cover with 80 proof vodka and seal the lid. It’s a no-fuss method but very effective. I store the jar away in the pantry, give it a shake every now and again, and then sample the medicine after waiting at least 2 weeks. (I consider 2 weeks to be the bare minimum to wait, in order to give the plant matter enough time to give itself over to the alcohol. I usually wait a month or two before using a tincture. Opinions on this vary and I’m simply offering my experience.)
This is the method I used to tincture the Valerian flowers, although this time I filled one jar with vodka and another with brandy. Using brandy is new to me, but I’ve been experimenting with making flower essences, which primarily use brandy. (The flower essences are often taken directly under the tongue, and brandy goes down a bit smoother than vodka, in my experience.) So now I have two differnt tinctures of Valerian flower to experiment with, one make with vodka and the other with brandy.
The feral garden can be a place of disappointment and difficulty, therefore living in it, and alongside it, is a learning experience. But sometimes, when I’m very alert and very lucky, this wild and unmanicured place gives me secret surprises. As the undomesticated mixes with the civilized, this outdoor world reflects my inner landscape, becoming home to both the contained and the uncontained. We are on a journey together, this garden and I. Digging in the earth is not so different from rooting around in one’s own heart and mind: you push down into the damp wetness to find a stubborn rock living there underground, a shard of bone left like a gift, or a decaying peanut buried and forgotten. Every object is sacred if you hold it up to the sun and squint with one eye.
The space between the containers is where the wildness really creeps in. Mostly I see what I don’t like: voracious iceplant, illmannered ivy, and uninvited creatures that steal our food. But I try to learn from what I don’t like. It is good advice in life to manage what you can manage and leave the rest up to the Gods. I try not to manage this space too much, keeping the role of watchful eye rather than constant gardener. Because sometimes in the inbetween place-the space between the containers- is the fertile soil of secret surprises.
My lettuce seedlings were devoured this winter, and I gave up planting more. Sometimes I get discouraged out here. But the garden knows when I get discouraged and sometimes it sends me a gift. I did not plant new lettuce seedlings this year, and yet look what’s growing in the inbetween place: a healthy, vibrant, almost fullgrown head. How did it get here? When did it appear?
I don’t know, but the lettuce knows.
I’m going to go ahead and call the Shopping Bag Planter experiment a rousing success. The swiss chard has performed remarkably well in the bag, with the added convenience of being easy to move around the yard if the need arises. The bag holds in moisture very well and seems to be in the same good shape it was in last August when I first planted the chard. This type of planting would be good for balcony gardens and anyone who rents. The bags are easy to remove, bring indoors, or relocate to a new home.
On the recommendation of Mr. Homegrown from Root Simple, I purchased two fruit trees from Bay Laurel Nursery (based out of Atascadero, California) for our budding orchard. You may recall we started with three dwarf citrus trees (orange, lemon, and lime) and I’ve been eager to add more, but wasn’t sure what to purchase or which trees would do well in our area. After reading through their online catalog of bareroot fruit trees, I chose one Anna Apple and one Royal Lee Miniature Cherry (both are semi-dwarf.) I picked apple because we eat so many them in our house and cherry because they’re fairly expensive at the grocery store. Anna Apple is recommended for our climate here in Southern California and produces sweet, crisp fruit. The Royal Lee Miniature Cherry is recommended for small gardens and container planting.
Bay Laurel Nursery begins taking orders for their bareroot trees in September and delivers them the following January. (So trees ordered in September 2013 will be delivered January of 2014.) If you are anything like me, you will place your order in September and then forget all about the trees until they show up at your doorstep like a belated Christmas present.
Both trees are doing well so far and seem to have adapted to their new soil and containers. The cherry shows very slight green growth but not too much change since it was planted. Anna Apple, on the other hand, has already begun branching and flowering. The petite white flowers were in bloom for a couple weeks and are just now beginning to die off. I’m really hoping for some apples this year!