If there is a shortage of space in one direction, before giving up, try another direction. In a tiny garden, using vertical space opens lots more opportunities. In our own bodies (and minds), taking advantage of different ways of getting to a particular place can make embodiment that much fuller.
hops vine, cherry tomatoes and butternut squash
Last weekend, despite the heat, I was moved to make and implement a major change to the back garden. About 15 years ago, I planted a grape vine. It took a few years to establish itself and then had a few years that harbored promise. There were a couple of spectacular years with perfect clusters of sweet grapes so bountiful l shared liberally with both friends and the birds, while still having a marvelous abundance for myself. For the past three or four years, though, the grapes have been pretty much only for the birds. The vine was breaking up the lattice of the fence and providing a tangled bridge for weeds from the completely untended yard adjacent to mine to climb. The whole tangled mess shaded and blocked from rain precious planting space. It was also becoming a time-consuming maintenance activity.
The kiwi similarly was a noble and ambitious experiment for a tiny urban garden. But it was an overwhelming thug and only bore fruit generously once in eight or nine seasons the last of which was three years ago.
Oh how exquisite the kiwi berries were when there were any. It was time to recognize, with space and light and water and time so precious, that memories of delicious times did not warrant the resources the grape and kiwi consumed.
I ruthlessly cut the vines back to the ground. They may or may not try to grow back, and if they do, I may or may not try allowing them back, but as a controlled espalier. I kept most of the woodier vines and will integrate them into the trellisses and other supports.
The hops vine given to me as a present this spring grew inches within hours of getting more light and space. I look forward to cool weather planting and new delicious offerings from the garden.
Could there be a lesson from this experience applicable to other aspects of life? Perhaps.
Thanks to the farmers who come in to town, I know the people who gather the eggs and milk the goats to make cheese. Thanks to my friend Jess, who left a tub of sourdough starter on my porch Friday morning, and my inspiration to make dough to rise overnight between dinner with neighbors and going to bed, I have homemade sourdough bread. With such a fairly wet and very active chef, it was pretty successful to do a sort of hybrid of the New York Times’ no knead bread, which I kneaded, but not for 10-15 minutes, and Martha Rose Shulman’s no-yeast sourdough country bread (in Great Breads).
I hope this newsletter finds you all as well as possible. It’s been a time when I’m feeling oh so fully aware of the vagaries of fate, the wildness of being, the play between the wholly unpredictable and the ordinary and expected, and the joys and benefits of aligning with a sense of order to feel healthy, adaptive, and present to what comes our way. I’m feeling that I am at a crossroads (this is partly physical), but I don’t have particular plans.
This summer, I listened to my own teachings, and in the midst of tending to the responsibilities of work and home and community and relationship, I made sure to take the time to to study and practice, including time away with opportunities to see the stars, to watch the sunrise, to walk in the woods, to swim in a lake, and, on the way to and from, to enjoy New York City.
As always, I’ve been reading widely, much of the reading focused on how we communicate and relate, what we dream, and what tools or ideas we might consider for making more efficacious our web of living relationship. In the fall, I’m looking forward to attending a number of weekend yoga workshops to inform my own practice and also going deeper into studying nonviolent communication.
For now, in the midst of this outrageous dance of life and relationship, with all that we cannot control and the unfolding turmoil of climate and society, I think that what is most important to me is to work with dedication and with my best attitude, to do community service and engage fully as a citizen, to laugh and share food with friends, to make art, and to connect the broader ecosystem, even if it is mostly through my little garden and the trees and the sky of the city. I meditate and practice asana so that I can live such a life as fully, honestly, joyously, and with as much integrity as I can.
The Tuesday night yoga practice at William Penn House continues as an opportunity to nurture our embodies selves and to share conversation about how the practices can help us live more efficaciously. I love it when new people or those who can only come occasionally join us regulars. It is generally all level and suggested donation, with all proceeds going directly to support the work camp program at William Penn House. This summer, William Penn House work campers constructed dozens of vegetable gardens for neighbors throughout the city, sharing the joys of urban edible gardening with and making possible healthier eating for those who otherwise might not have had access. Do come join us on a Tuesday night if you can. More experienced yogis can inquire directly about the Wednesday night house practice.
If you want to get more regular communications, do consider subscribing to the blog to get an email version of what I post–most days that will come as a photo or a few words, every once and a while, something longer–mostly somehow about or informed by my own interpretation of yoga practice and philosophy. Feel free also to join me on Facebook.
Peace and light,
ps The murti of Nataraja was a present just given to me by a friend. He’d brought it back from India a couple of years ago and thought it belonged more in my home than in his at present. I hadn’t seen one that I’d want to bring home, but he’s dancing away on my bookcase.