The grapes are starting to bunch, and for the first time, the kiwi is covered with buds. Two of the tomato plants have their first flowers. Snow peas are climbing up the trellises. Carrots, spring onions, radishes, and beans are sprouting. There are plenty of cool weather greens and herbs for eating already. The red roses are blooming. I pray for sufficient rain.
Included in what is not shown: the tomatoes I ate before I brought the camera outside and the herbs I used to flavor the salads I made for dinner.
The fifth sutra in Abhinavagupta’s Siva Sutras, is “udyamo bhairava” — the great upsurge of consciousness. When we are open and aware, we can witness this upsurge, the very pulsing of life energy in all that is in and around us, from the springing up of thought in our minds to the burgeoning of spring. The more we practice and live attentively, the more we will see the joy in this upwelling.
When I go out into the garden on the early spring days to see what needs to be cut back, what is volunteering, and what is coming up from fall plantings, I approach with great openness. When we plant in the fall, we do not know with any certainty what kind of winter we will have. Although the long-range forecast was for colder than normal with precipitation near normal (which translates into more than average snow), who could have expected three mammoth snow storms?
I plant with hope and some expectation, but am ready for the loss of some perennials, the failure of some seeds to germinate, and the unexpected pleasure of experiments working or welcome volunteers. This steady planting without specific expectation, with openness to discovery, with joy and attention to the miraculousness of what rises up in the spring, is a very tangible example of what I read in the yoga philosophy. It is how I, I believe, we most optimally would approach asana and meditation, as well as all aspects of our daily being.
Below: new spinach coming up in a container from seeds I planted around Thanksgiving from an expiring packet.
As you can see from the photo, this tender arugula was not likely to make it through the night (temperatures forecast to be in the mid-20s). It is a cause for great celebration that it made it through last weekend’s snow storm, several nights below freezing, and provided a little spice to my salads for a couple of months. It lasts this long because I over plant, first eat the greens as I thin them, then pick them by the leaf rather than by the root to encourage the plants to grow more vigorously, and finally start pulling them up by the handful when the danger of hard frost calls for the inevitable demise. Tonight, I cut everything in the pot down to about a 1/2 inch. It is possible, though not likely based on the current forecast of a cooler than normal winter, that if we got a couple of warm weeks in late January or early February that it would come back.
I am celebrating what I have grown in this tiny space and the exquisite delight of eating greens from right outside my door this late into the year. I am sad that the outdoor gardening season is just about over; I will miss it. If I had more space or a firmer intention (maybe the latter will come in another year or two), I could build a cold frame or go for plastic tunnels. In my little micro-climate, that would probably get me through the winter. I rather like, though, a space of time with no obligation to the outdoor garden. A time to dream rather than work. I know what a luxury it is to be able to rest in such a way and still have bountiful food.
In yoga practice the concept of diksha — initiation or threshold — carries with it a sense of right timing and conscious understanding of readiness for the next level. For example, knowing I was not yet strong enough, this past weekend I chose not to try to jump from adho mukha svanasana (downward facing dog) to svanasana (headstand), but instead concentrated on doing the poses one at a time, even though I was surrounded by people who could do the transition with ease and my ego was challenged. Until I am stronger and better able to hold the alignment in poses at that level, I would be too much at risk of hurting my neck and shoulders.
In the garden, it is easy to be fooled by a beautiful weekend to move right to activities that are still 3-4 weeks premature. Even though it will hit 70F this weekend, it is not time to plant (other than perhaps an experimental row or pot of kale, chard, or beets, which like the cold). The best gardening you can do in the beginning of March when the weather is swinging wildly from below freezing to unseasonably warm is to read and plan and start seedlings indoors, just like it is best to warm up and work on strength, alignment, and flexibility before going for harder asana in your yoga practice. It will be tempting to get out this weekend, but do the prep stuff and the clean up.
Here are some favorite books of mine to get ready for planning. It is mostly more practical stuff (rather than the super glossy, beautiful garden as splendid art and architecture picture book reading) with some food and yoga overlap and a bias for small urban gardens.
The Yoga of Herbs — An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine, D. Frawley and V. Lad (Lotus Press, 2d Ed. 1988)
Gardener Cook, C. Lloyd (Willow Creek Press 1997) (OK — this one is kind of cooking, gardening porn)
The Edible Container Garden — Growing Fresh Food in Small Spaces, M. Guerra (Fireside, 2000)
The Bountiful Container, McGee and Stuckey (Workman Publishing Co., 2002)
Small-Space Gardening — How to Successfully Grow Flowers and Fruits in Containers and Pots, P. Loewer (The Lyons Press, 2003)
Kitchen Herbs — The Art and Enjoyment of Growing Herbs and Cooking with Them, S. Gilbertie (Bantam, 1988)
The New Kitchen Garden, A. Pavord (Dorling Kindersly Ltd., 1996) (Also pretty and glossy, but still practical)