building a beautiful and bountiful world in collaboration with nature

Archive for June, 2011

Pond Life in a Body-Mind Universe

I enjoy spending hot afternoons sitting by the pond watching the dragonflies play tag. I love the way they move with acrobatic energy and then perch in utter stillness, darting off again in the blink of an eye.

My husband and I initiated this pond about 7 years ago. We had noticed an area where winter runoff waters converged and became a little stream, so we hired a nice guy with a tractor to dig us out a basin. It’s not very big as ponds go, roughly a 20′ by 30′ oval and 9 ‘ deep, but it does hold some water year-round.

I don’t remember the exact order that things arrived in. Rushes have colonized the banks in several areas and the arrowheads planted themselves and are coming on strong now. I added a Sagittaria with very pointy leaves several years ago, and it keeps to its own small clump. Frogs arrived early on. We started hearing their evening songs in the first or second winter. We added mosquito fish the first summer this basin held water. My husband planted pink waterlilies probably 4 years ago. Bullfrogs arrived about 3 years ago.

We’ve had years when a western pond turtle has made its home here. One year a king snake lived under the log bridge that crosses the overflow, and I’ve seen a California racer snake taking a swim. Raccoons used to leave tracks in the mud on the banks (until we got a few herding dogs), and a mallard duck pair have stopped in regularly during the last two springs.  

But the dragonflies were here from the beginning.  Perhaps they were the ones who dreamed the pond first.

There are many lives creating this pond, and yet, it has come to feel like a whole, a life unto itself.  A life that I am part of.  So, sometimes I wonder if the ecology of a pond is really any different from the ecology of my body.  My body is made up of trillions of cells, and I hear that the bacteria living in my intestines are even more numerous than that.  Then there’s all the bacteria (mostly completely beneficial) living on my skin.  This body wouldn’t thrive and might not even survive without all that “outside” help.

So try this on for size:

Everything in the Universe is alive and aware. The form, scope, and content of awareness may vary in interesting ways, but nonetheless exists. Starting from the super-micro levels of quarks, photons, electrons, wave-forms, etc., each particle and wave is an aware life form. Ditto for atoms, molecules, crystals, bacteria, amoeba, fungal spores, etc. Each individual cell, even those in a multicellular organism, has its own independent life and awareness. Each rock, plant, and animal is both alive and aware. A pond or forest is the next step in “multicellular” life forms and is its own brand of alive and aware. And so it goes, from ecosystems and watersheds up to Earth as a whole. But it doesn’t stop there. Each moon, planet, comet, star, etc., is also alive and aware.

There is a fascinating book called Sun of gOd, by Gregory Sams.  From it I learned that the Sun puts out tremendous amounts of radio waves.  We humans use radio waves to communicate, Mr Sams notes, so why assume that it’s just noise when the Sun does it?  More likely the stars are having conversations.  What might they talk about?  I’m sure they discuss solar and galactic weather patterns.  Probably gossip about the latest black hole disappearances as well as galactic mergers.  No doubt there are birth and death announcements, both stellar and planetary.  But I digress.

In addition to being an individual organism, it seems likely that the Sun is akin to the heart organ for the aware entity that is this solar system. Galaxies too become whole organisms. Galactic neighborhoods may also be alive and aware organisms, and so it goes, up to the level of the universe – or the multiverse.  Just as fractals go infinitely in every direction, so does this pattern of life and awareness.

The idea is that just as your awareness/consciousness brings (hopefully!) order and form to your life and your experience, so too at every level of size a corresponding awareness brings order and form and shapes the patterns through which energy flows. Each body is a mind.  Each bodymind is composed of an essentially infinite number of smaller bodyminds and is also part of an essentially infinite number of larger bodyminds.

Think about it.

Did you already know all that?

Does this fractal, bodymind idea change anything for you?  

Does it change your relationship with your garden?

Re-Imagining Our Human Nature

Imagine for a minute how different your life might be if everywhere you went, embedded in almost everything you did, was the thought, “You are well-designed, intelligent, creative and innovative.  You belong here in this world, on this Earth.  You are part of Nature, part of this beautiful, wonderful, magickal Whole.”

It seems to me that in order to garden with Nature, most of us need to relearn or reimagine who we as humans are and what human nature is.  It is quite rare in the human world to hear a message like the one above.  In fact, we often hear messages that are just the opposite.  Most religions see humans as deeply flawed.  Scientists describe us as random and completely accidental – along with the rest of the world.  Advertisers want us to remember how sickly and smelly we can be.  Newscasters are determined to show us how violent we can be.  Environmentalists are convinced that we are in the process of destroying this planet.  It all adds up to a cacophony of “those awful, smelly, flawed humans!”

So feel it this time.  Everywhere you are – at home, at work, at play, at school, in traffic, watching TV, listening to music – there is an embedded background understanding:  “We are human beings.  We are well-designed, intelligent, creative and innovative.  We belong here in this world, on this Earth.  We are part of Nature, part of this beautiful, wonderful, magickal Whole.”

Does your body relax when you give your attention to those words?

It wasn’t always so, but I am now certain that these words are real.  Whether I am hiking in the mountains, walking by the river, or relaxing in my gardens, when I open up to all my senses and tune into the flow of Life that is always present, that is the message I get.  The rocks, the plants, the soil, the water, the insects and animals have never said, “Oh my god, it’s another human – we’re doomed!”  They might groan a bit and mumble something about being too serious, but then they go right back to telling me:

You are well-designed, intelligent, creative and innovative.  You belong here in this world, on this Earth.  You are part of us, part of Nature, part of this beautiful, wonderful, magickal Whole.  Relax.  Be Your Self.

The best part is this message is not just about me.  It’s about you too.

A Potato Story

There are many times, both in and out of the garden, when all my focus is on doing. In the garden that can mean I am busy forking, digging, planting, seeding, weeding, mulching, watering, nurturing, tending, caring…. I am focused on being productive and getting things done. As a Westerner, I have been trained to take action in order to achieve results.

I do find tremendous pleasure in sinking my hands into soil that is dark and moist and rich, enlivened by the cow manure that I carried there, enriched by the goat-bedding mulch that I covered it with.  This is soil made with the help of my actions.  The more I learn, however, the more it seems that actions are like the tip of the iceberg. Yes, that’s the visible and obvious part, but is it truly the larger part, the creative part, the getting it done part?

A few weeks ago I heard a weather report suggesting we might be getting a late frost. As it happened that frost never came, but I had been planning to mulch my potatoes, which were getting to be 6-12” tall, and decided this was the day to do it and give them some frost protection in the process. I went out to the garden focused on getting it done. The mulch I pulled out of the goat shed turned out to be a little too strong. As I was finishing the last of the potatoes, I looked back at the ones I had done first and saw that the lower leaves were browned on the edges and their coloring had changed to a sickly green. I had given them an ammonia burn.

I do appreciate how clear the universe can be in its communications. It was obvious that my focus on the frost burn possibility had led me to act in a way that created a similar type of damage. I suppose the usual response would have been to rush back, pull off the offending mulch, and try to to get my work undone.  Instead I stopped and took a breath.  I could feel how disruptive my well-intentioned but oh-so-serious “getting it done” focus had been.  I could also feel that rushing to undo my work would be more of the same energy and equally disruptive.  I noticed the possibility of other choices and other outcomes waiting in that moment.

Remember! This is a quantum world. At any moment in time we can reach into that fuzzy haze of limitless possibility and choose another outcome. (My training in Matrix Energetics has made that much more real to me – thank you, Richard Bartlett!)

So, I did just that. I accepted that these plants would have some ammonia leaf burn. I could feel (not wish for, or hope for, but really feel) that they would easily recover. I felt a strong and unwavering sense of well being coming from them.  I relaxed and enjoyed that sense of health and vitality for several moments, thinking about the productive harvest to come. Then I let it all go. Walked away. Went on to other things – though with much less of a “get it done” attitude.  

I did come back later in the afternoon and saw that they all had that ammonia leaf burn, and so I just reminded myself that I had already chosen a healthy outcome.

This morning I was walking by the garden with my husband. He admired the potatoe plants, as did I. They are tall, a lovely shade of green, and with lots of flower buds developing. “Time to give them some mulch,” my husband commented. I nodded, smiling. I will be mulching them again. But I won’t be trying to get it done.

The Other Nervous Systems

Another useful thing about all this cool, wet weather is that mushrooms thrive in it.  I was reminded of that the other morning when my friend William called to chat about the connections between mushroom mycelia and heart-based electromagnetic fields.

Mushrooms, in case you haven’t heard, are truly intelligent and resourceful creatures.  Actually, I should say that fungi are intelligent and resourceful.  (Few of us like to be called by our reproductive organs, and I imagine it is the same for the fungi.)  They are creatures, however, being more closely related to the animal kingdom than to the plant kingdom.

What fungi do is network.  They create complex, interlaced threads that are called mycelia.  The mycelia network between the plant roots and the soil.  They search out and unlock minerals and other nutrients that plants need and then trade those for the sugars and carbs that fungus love to eat.  They soak up water and slow its evaporation.  They build soil.  They are essential components of most, if not all, ecosystems.  At least that’s what is happening on one level.

In Mycellium Running, Paul Stamets calls the fungal mycelia ” the neurological network of nature.”  Physically, the interlaced mycelial threads look a lot like the nerve networks of our brains or like the diagrams of the Internet.  The mycelia literally create a “vast, sentient cellular membrane” that infuses habitats with connection and information.  This mycelial network is aware of every impact on a lawn, field, or forest floor – whether from a fallen tree branch or a footstep.  I wonder sometimes what the fungi on this continent thought the first time they received the impression of a boot, rather than a moccasin or a bare foot.  Was it big news?  Did that information travel from East Coast to West Coast?

We know that the trees and plants are already intimately connected to this fungal network, receiving physical molecules from it.  How much information do the plants receive as well?  Do they get the morning news along with that nitrogen breakfast roll?   How could they not?

The added connection that William was making was in seeing how like this mycelial network the combined electromagnetic fields of our hearts must be.  Every one of us is generating EM fields, and the fields generated by our hearts are the most powerful of all the fields being generated in our bodies.   The heart is an organ of perception and communication.  Each heart is.  So we as individuals are embedded in this ever changing field of electromagnetic information.  A second nervous system is what William called it.  Your individual nervous system is operating through your physical body, but it also is hooked into and receiving information from this second, essentially global nervous system.

How cool is that?

Change of Weather

We’ve been having weather worthy of British Columbia here in the Northern California foothills this May – and now continuing into June.  There have been a few days in the last thirty when the temperatures moved up into the 70s, but mostly it has been 60s or 50s with one day about a week ago that topped out at 49 degrees and today is expected to do the same.  Normally tomato and pepper plants can be planted outside by May 23rd at the latest.  On May 28 the overnight low was 36 degrees – not freezing, but nothing a tomato or pepper is going to enjoy either.

The colder weather has made it challenging to stay present to this spring, this year.  It would be easy to fret over tomatoes not ripening until August, lemon cucumbers that will wait until…when?  Such thoughts will only aid in slowing growth and ripening, so it is clearly time to get playful.

The Blessings of a Long, Slow Early Spring:

1. This is perfect weather for growing kimchee ingredients like cabbage and daikon radish, and I love eating kimchee all year round.

2. Likewise, this is fabulous weather for germinating seeds like carrots and beets and parsnips without having to turn on any irrigation.

3. The early morning birdsong symphony continues to be fabulous.  No heat to quiet all those voices.

4. All the cloudiness is great for outdoor photography.  It creates great light.

I also feel blessed because I developed this sudden interest in the “Wall O’ Water”(WOW) plant protectors back in the early part of May.  I bought a package of them and planted some peppers and tomatoes in them around Mother’s Day to see how they did.  I thought I was getting a head start of a week or maybe two for those plants.  Turns out they’ll be a month ahead by the time the weather changes – at least.

It’s those little intuitions that make integrative awareness (see the About page) so much fun.  I enjoy surprising myself as I follow an intuition, thinking I understand it, and then discovering a whole new outcome as a situation unfolds.  We humans really are well designed creatures!

And yes, I am also asking, “What is it with this weather?  What’s up?”  I ask, and then I slip into integrative awareness mode and I notice this strong sense of movement, of things that are coming but are not yet here.  This is a good year to live by inspirations.  Routines and habits and the way it’s always been aren’t the most useful tools right now.