The horse's pasture to the East...

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

GARDEN MUSIC, Dancing With The Muse

There's nothing better than 
sticking your hands deep in to loamy soil for connecting you to life. I always feel better in the Spring when my nails and skin are grubby with pollen, tiny seeds, compost and dirt. If I hold still long enough I feel the thrumming, like the beating of a giant heart, in the ends of my fingers. 

The realists in the audience are thinking, " Nancy, that's your own heart beat you feel. " But isn't that the point? My heart beats, the World moves to it's own rhythms, and we connect , listening to each other, moving together in an ageless dance on a floor called The Garden. 

According to an article from The Atlantic, June 11, 2013 about a study conducted over a five year period with the National Institutes of Health's Human Microbiome Project, we need to stay connected to a soil resource for the sake of our health.

We have been hearing a lot recently about a revolution in the way we think about human health -- how it is inextricably linked to the health of microbes in our gut, mouth, nasal passages, and other "habitats" in and on us. With the release last summer of the results of the five-year National Institutes of Health's Human Microbiome Project, we are told we should think of ourselves as a "superorganism," a residence for microbes with whom we have coevolved, who perform critical functions and provide services to us, and who outnumber our own human cells ten to one. For the first time, thanks to our ability to conduct highly efficient and low cost genetic sequencing, we now have a map of the normal microbial make-up of a healthy human, a collection of bacteria, fungi, one-celled archaea, and viruses. Collectively they weigh about three pounds -- the same as our brain."

In other words, when you plunge your hands in to the soil, you are connecting with another type of intelligence, one that we are an integral part of. The microbes in the dirt, trees, plants and fungi are also inside the human envelope we inhabit and it all communicates in ways that are, for want of a better word, intuitive. It isn't the logical part of our brain talking with the trees and flowers. It's the spirit, the soul, and literally, our heart that feels that thrumming, that unacknowledged beat.

 Kneeling on the ground with your hands in the soil, your knees wet with dew and mud, is a direct form of "prayer" . You are in a "church" that is limited only by the outer edge of our atmosphere. You are an active, living, breathing member of the Mother Earth. And when you take the time to slow down, to listen with your eyes to the endless color around you, to taste the music with your ears, to feel the Mother talking to you, nurturing you along with all of her other children, an inexplicable peace comes over you. Memories come to the surface of other tomato gardens, sweet pea vines and herbs growing in the aisles, escapees from seeds dropped the year before.

It was my Grandfather who gave me my love for gardening. He was a dairy farmer who converted his farm to truck gardening, with acres and acres of tomatoes, onions, watermelon, sweet corn, okra, squash and beans of all sorts. He grew spinach and several kinds of lettuce, herbs for my Grandma's teas and pecan and walnut trees. He taught me how to pull insects off of the plants rather than using chemicals, a job that was, in my little girl voice, "Icky Grandpa!".

 I would walk along with him carrying my bucket and he would show me where to look for the caterpillars and squash bugs who loved the vegetables as much as we did. It wasn't my favorite part of gardening. But there was an upside to the bugs too. They brought birds of all kinds who would sit in the trees around us and sing while we worked along the rows. And the caterpillars would turn in to butterflies of all shapes, colors and patterns. We always left a certain number of caterpillars in the parsley. They would turn in to zebra swallowtail butterflies with bright yellow wings and black stripes with long tails on the outside edges that fluttered when they floated past. " There's a balance Little Miss. If the caterpillars don't like the corn, then you shouldn't eat it either. Butterflies are poetry in the fields. They're a place for us to rest our eyes when we're tired." 

I loved my Grandad, the philosopher. I'm pretty sure he never talked to his other grandchildren like that. They were all boys. I was one of only two girls and his shadow in the Summer when he gardened. He talked guy talk with the boys but he showed me how to squish mud between my toes when it rained, how to eat a ripe tomato like an apple and lick the sticky juice off of my dirty hands.

 He showed me how to smell the soil and compost, looking for that sweet scent that tells you it's ready for the seeds. And he taught me the value of rain barrels full of collected water over tap water for the garden. "No reason for machines when we have horses. They give us compost. And never any reason for chemicals. They smell bad and destroy the good, clean earth. " And then he would taste the dirt, encouraging me to do the same. I always went in with him at the end of the day with freckles from too much sun ( "Shame on you Fred! Where's that girl's bonnet gone to? Look at those spots on her nose!"), dirt around my mouth and fingernails that my frustrated Grandmother would spend "more wasted time!" scrubbing and picking at, rubbing my skin afterwards with some of her lotion that smelled of lavender. 

All these years later my fingers are thicker and stronger, some of the grace of my years as a dancer lost. My fingernails are short now and constantly dirty from grooming my horses, gardening, painting. I scrub at them too, like my Grandma did, but they are what they are; tools for hard work. My skin is rough from the sun and wind, my hair always in a braid down my back and anything but fashionable. But my eyes drink all of the endless greens and pastels of Spring and the mockingbirds sing me to sleep at night. And when I stop to listen, I can feel the four four time of the seeds as they wake up and my fingers can hear the Winter stories the trees have for me when I kneel in the soil with my hands in the Mother Earth. And when I dress the garden, getting her ready for this year's tiny crop, it's my hands that dance, following the music that my body feels as our place, our tiny bit of paradise, wakes up and stretches, ready for a new dress of greens and reds, pinks and yellows. 

Life is good and I am, ever yours, Nancy, dreaming and dancing, head back and laughing at the way things go!

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