The Tangled Garden – and what emerges

So difficult to believe it’s been 5 or 6 weeks since I posted here. This summer really did get away from me – and my sense of it is, to many others as well. Between the weird weather and my partner’s prolonged absence, I just didn’t have quite the summer I was expecting. Class attendance dropped way off, the walks were cancelled due to weather, mostly, or my intermittent health issues (exhaustion)  – my small but cherished herb garden, despite valiant efforts on my part to get burdock dug and raised beds weeded and mulched, just grew out of hand, to the point where even looking at it left me overwhelmed.
That’s ok. I’m pretty good at switching gears when need be, and there were, as it turned out, some important aspects to focus on in a summer of too much work, and some personal disappointment as well.

First – calendula. Everyone who grows herbs knows how cheerful, generous and incredibly useful calendula is.This summer was no exception – my organic seeds from Horizon Herbs sprang up eagerly and grew into 5 very large, very productive plants. Just yesterday I brought about 200 heads in to dry for winter use, and needless to say I have seeds galore. I planted my calendula too close to the borage this year and so I had these two behemoth species competing with each other, and since I use far more calendula than borage, guess who won out. But I left the massive, sprawling borage up as long as I could for the bees. It always cheered up a tedious afternoon to visit that part of the garden and see it alive, just swarming with bees. I didn’t actually make great use of borage, but I will always grow it, for that reason.

In the wild overgrown sprawl that used to be my garden, several things happened  naturally that I, working literally dawn to dusk 7 days a week, could not address, so I just watched.(The old Serenity Prayer in action!) The first few weeks I did some weeding every day, and then around Week Six I pulled a muscle in my chest wall and had to stop, while it healed (what a  week THAT was!) As the summer wore on, with several calamities (sick dogs, beloved cat killed, falling out with two of the people I considered to be my closest friends, Alex’s absence, household issues) there just was really no time to make significant inroads into the garden at all. I’d go out and snip some hyssop, take in some sage, pop the flowerheads from the calendula and that was about all. I am intensely proud of having got through this summer at all, so the overgrown garden has not bothered me as much as I initially felt it would.

Besides,  there came some interesting ideas, from the tangle.

The first important idea, to me anyway, was a kind of mirroring of much that is going on in my inner life. In addition to the clients I see weekly and the four courses I teach online, I also write for both PlantHealer magazine and herbmentor.com, endeavours that take almost a full work-week out of my monthly work-hours. I try to be available for my various facebook groups, and – here’s the World of Crazy now – I am taking four courses related to herbalism, and one that does not, so five in total. What this basically means is, without any hope of getting everything done, I have a wild garden in my head – filled with much of value but disorganized and out of control. This all stems from a fervent desire to be the best at what I do, to deepen my knowledge and expand the ways in which I can help animals (and humans!) to both heal and to learn about plant medicine and the power of nutrition. Those are fine and honorable goals. But just as my garden grew out of control and  some of my most valued plants were choked out, we humans need to focus on keeping things orderly in our own lives, and when that is impossible, when things become crazy, take some time to assess what went wrong, and just breathe with the reality of what IS. The other thing is, we can benefit from a clear focus on what emerges as bright and strong. In the tangle of my mind this summer, several strands emerged as critical to my future serenity, one of which is limitation (powerfully reinforced in the Heavens as I reach my second Saturn return – Saturn, for those not astrologically inclined, rules over limitations, which sounds pretty bad, but as it leads to refinement of purpose, it’s actually very empowering). I’m weeding my personal life ( I hate the term “toxic people’ but there is a place for it, and several of those have had to go)  weeding my commitments (I could have written BOTH my book and thesis with time I’ve given away for free this year) and last but not least, weeding my tangled garden.A slow and painful process, but overdue, and so through the blur of this summer, the broken friendships and the loss of illusionary hopes and yep, the veritable thicket of Cleaver’s, chicory and goosegrass that took over my garden, there emerge some core truths to be nurtured, some  focal points to be focused on,  some tenacious plants to be listened to and cherished.

Calendula,  the great vulnerary healer of  tissues both inside and out, clearer-out of toxins, restorer of good cheer, heads the list.

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So, going forward, I have quarts of calendula blossoms in various carriers, I have tincture and several liters of dried flowerheads for both internal and external use as needed. I got the idea from Juliet Blankespoor, of adding  calendula flowers to stocks and soups over the winter, so I always make sure I have plenty dried and ready to go. Calendula soothes the surfaces, reminding us that pain which seems superficial and transient, can in fact open gateways into the core of one’s being, so pay attention to those sore places, be they visible, like a rash on the skin, or hidden, like a hyperpermeable  gut. The toxins need strong barriers to keep them out, the system needs to be kept whole and harmonious. Calendula is one of those herbs that is so wellknown, ubiquitous even, that it can be easy to take for granted. I will say that her presence this summer kept my heart light at the darkest times, and her medicine has moved beyond the application of salve to skin and into that mystical realm where the plant is actually teaching me something about myself, about this moment in time. That what is needed is focus…soothing the rough places where old and new pain has rubbed me raw…and building barriers to keep the good stuff inside whole and healthy, and keep that which means me harm, away. Focus! and of course, good cheer, tenacity, and generosity. We should never let adversity make us small and  mean-spirited, or we grant it a double victory.

Thank you, calendula – and thank you, tangled garden. Even in my frustration with you, I have found peace.

macdonald-tangled-garden-northland

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