experimental gardening

My garden is once again in that precarious position between abundance and disintegration. Texas weather shifts so fast and dramatically from spring to summer that the lettuce turns bitter overnight. Very few things can survive the summer sun here, so it feels as if most of my plants are preparing for their last rites. This is a difficult time for me; I can only look at my garden in early morning when the plants have had the night to recover from the previous day’s battle.

I am watering a neighbor’s plants while my neighbors are away, which is always an uncomfortable proposition. My way of gardening is more experimental, or, depending upon your perspective, neglectful. So, it should come as no surprise that her chard is the worse for my care after a week. My chard, on the other hand, is obnoxiously abundant.

But how can this be so? They are the same plant, are they not? They are exposed to the same climactic conditions, similar soil, precisely the same amount of rainfall. So then why does my chard bolster while her chard balks when the sun reaches its zenith?

The secret lies in growing from seed, and starting as you mean to continue. That is to say, all of my mature plants have already made it through a sort of climactic selection process: those who could’t survive my adoring though neglectful manner either never germinated or never made it to so far as to produce their first true leaves.

This is a bit how I parent too. I don’t mean to, I just care very much when I’m thinking about it, and at times get so absorbed in something else that it appears that I do not care about anything else. Knowing myself and that I have the best of intentions, I will defend myself with the fact that I appreciate the essence of a thing (or person) and believe fully in the individual’s ability to overcome adversity–the triumph of the spirit, and all that. I believe that a thing (or person) needs respect to reveal its own individuating rhythm, which also means that applying some formulaic system of care based on an understanding of parts (how much nitrogen, potassium, or phosphorous a plant needs, for example) reveals a deeply flawed understanding of a life and my role as facilitator or steward.

So, with plants as well as children, there is no right way to encourage growth and development. They all adapt to their environment and, if given enough space to become themselves (with occasional frantic fertilizing), will flourish and become strong individuals, capable of managing and overcoming their own suffering.

Everything is an experiment: gardening, parenting, living. It is all a matter of being and doing the best we can with what we have available to us.

An afterthought…

My chard is now entering its second summer and is bright and strong as only a world-wizened being could be. My garden is in the front yard, so I have had many conversations with passersby about gardening, and in the process I have discovered that most chard does not do particularly well here. I had assumed that mine was like all the others and that chard was simply one of the three vegetables that can survive a Texas summer. But it seems that it is only “neglected” chard that has such survival instincts. Which of course leads me to question whether it isn’t precisely my faith in my chard’s ability to survive (and my minimal input to ensure its survival) that has resulted in its resilience. Indeed, I feel as if I should question whether it is MY chard at all, or simply another glorious individual in this crazy karmic enterprise.

Snail meditation

I am a gardener—an amateur horticulturist and botanist, if you will. I grow fruits and vegetables and, apparently, snails. This is the first year that I have gardened without a nemesis. Aphids, squash bugs, cabbage moths, ants have all been the target of my wrath at one point or another. This year, I have been preoccupied with snails, treating them with a fury I didn’t particularly feel, and which always made me wonder how one could simultaneously grow food and be a Buddhist.

This morning was one of those magical spring mornings after a night’s rain. My youngest and I were up before the sun, letting the chickens out in the blue light. The air was paradoxically heavy and fresh, as if an accumulation of the sighs of all plantlife. The sense of connection to all things was so great, I was subtly aware that I was swimming in a womb of the universe.

When I made my usual rounds of the gardens, I found an incredible number of snails devouring my succulents, peas, garlic, asparagus, and even relaxing in my garden furniture and sliding up the walls of my house. I got my snail jar to collect them all, something I’d started using since holding them in my hand forced me to feel their life energy and made sending them to their deaths that much harder.

In the process of gathering up a pint-sized salsa jar full of snails, I came face to face with a particularly tenacious one, which had oozed up the side of the jar and peeked out to explore its path to freedom. I held it close to my face and seemed to recognize something in it. I can’t quite describe what exactly that was, only that, at that moment, I was aware that I was no more or less than it was. That we were both essential to the universe. I felt something shift deep inside me, and I wondered why it had taken me so long to feel something so obvious.

The thing is, this is central to everything. To letting go of ego. To understanding the connectedness of all things. To walking the right path. That such a lesson should come from a snail rather than from the words of the many sages and scholars I’ve read somehow seems fitting.

After all that, the chickens enjoyed their morning snail snack and I got no closer to reconciling gardening with Buddhism.

Electric miscellany

My mind is a quiet electrical storm today. I’ve been frantically jotting down notes because all things seem so important right now.

It is possible that I’m in a borderline tailspin, since my partner left this morning for a two-week work trip (for folks with borderline personality disorder, absence most certainly does not make the heart grow fonder). It’s just as likely his leaving was simply a psychological call to action, stimulating brain activity to enable me to fulfill functions I don’t normally perform. Such as being a carer, cook, schedule manager, and sensible authority.

I won’t go into too much detail on how his leaving impacts me; perhaps I’ll write a bit about it in a borderline personality disorder post at a later time. Borderline is a bit more difficult for me to come to terms with—the symptoms less sympathetic and arguably less interesting than bipolar symptoms. If I’m honest, I also just don’t understand borderline as well as bipolar. Borderline is like that sassy, booger-eating kid in class that you knew you should be nice to but were really just disgusted by. It also doesn’t help that borderline is the one thing I have in common with Adolf Hitler and Jeffrey Dahmer.

That’s always a smack in the face. Really can’t go there now.

Instead, I thought I’d review my notes, all taken before 8am this morning, to see if there are any real gems there…anything I can expand on in future musings. Organizing my thoughts…

  • Connection between hormones and cognitive deficiencies associated with bipolar: I am a member of the small subset of folks with bipolar who suffer continual cognitive decline, independent of bipolar episodes. The connection between hormone levels and bipolar symptoms has always been obvious to me, but now I am seeing there might be a link between hormone levels and cognitive dysfunction. Interestingly, I seem to be most clear headed when I am ovulating.
  • On beauty: Have I finally reached a point in which I see beauty only when it is truly represented, and if so, what the hell does that mean—beauty exists independent of the observer? This arose as a result of my animal instinct driving me to confirm that my children were the most beautiful children of all (as determined by looking at their class photos). The twist was, I could not confirm it. I saw that they were all absolutely gorgeous beings of light and star dust. And my heart rejoiced that my baser need for validation was utterly foiled.
  • A mother’s prayer: For the first time, I understand the meaning and value of that powerful meditation. I saw my children walking away from me this morning and I sent my supplication into the infinite universe, and in the process of finding the exact words for my incantation, I realized I protect them every day by loving them. This is a mother’s prayer, since knowing that you are deeply and unconditionally loved is the strongest of protections against harm.
  • A spin-off from the previous: The worst aspect of borderline personality disorder is never feeling truly loved.
  • Self awareness is both a curse and a gift: You see clearly your own failings and are ultimately immune to your own illusions. Which is precisely why self awareness is the vehicle for true healing.
  • Social performance: I am the harshest judge of my social performances. I am probably never as odd or abrasive as I think I am.

And then I meditated and took my medication and the storm died out. End of transmission.