Of Sycamore and Spinach; a winter meditation in my yard

birdbath - 02I’m in love with a tree.  It  grows just outside my window, and as the days are counted off by the seasons and the changing weather, my sycamore marks the days and changes too and it makes me love it more with each incarnation. It was spring when I planted it, several years ago now. Even though it was only inches high, I dug a hole and placed it in with the same measure of hope I had when I planted all the other trees here.  I remember that even then, its thin fragile branches were budding with giant leaves, the undersides of which glowed a pale whitish green in the sunlight.

This tree brings me pleasure, partly because it is beautiful, and partly because I appreciate that it is here and has not died in the drought or the cold or the wind.  It was wind that took its predecessor, a tall stately Cedar Elm.  In the background of the picture above you can see a small Aleppo Pine that is also thriving. That was not the destiny of the Monterrey Oak that came before it.  I was so expectant when we planted it. Because of oak wilt, we’ve lost Live Oaks and can’t plant more. So the Monterrey, that is more resistant to the disease, was the answer. But even with care and attention, for reasons I can only speculate, it died.



As a gardener I posses a certain amount of ego that allows me to believe I can create. But more than building me up, gardening here has cut me down a notch.  Certainly not always appreciated, it has been a university of philosophy, though, on this land. Incidents in the garden have imparted lessons for living.

In the beginning, after years of management in a moderate sized yard, I thought I knew so much. In this big space I had big plans for growth.  But as time wore on, I discovered that things don’t always go as planned. First it was the literal impermeability of the rock.  Then it stopped raining, then it got hot. After that came the bugs and the varmints. I came to understand that a start up here required low risk aversion; take a shot, you win a few, you loose a few, but keep on digging.  Or not.  There’ve been times I’ve thrown up my hands, walked away, and nature came up with something perfectly lovely on its own.

sycamore edit - 14

Sometimes it takes a while to learn it in life, but while pulling weeds and tiling soil I’ve discovered one true thing that makes me happy. It may be any time of day that I might decide to visit my vegetable garden and just take a little assessment, like how tall the carrot tops are, or if the spinach and lettuce is ready for harvest.  Whatever anxiety I’m wrestling with inside slips away and dissipates into the air around me. It’s as if in the out of doors, it looses substance.

fava beans-edited

In winter I can sit back a little.  I throw out seed and things tend to move forward without me.  If I do decide to get involved, I put on a coat and enjoy the brisk, not sweltering, air, and it’s all optional, pure pleasure.

salad bowl

In my outdoor school you might say I’m in my senior year.  But I have no plans to graduate. I think the thing in life is to be a career student.  Here is just a little of what I’ve learned so far:

You can control a few things, but you’re not in control.
Look down. There’s a world of small beautiful things all around you.
Be open.  I never knew I could love prickly pear cactus.  Now I do, and I wonder, What else could I love?
A vegetable garden and a sycamore tree can lower blood pressure.
Life renews itself in the most surprising ways.
Things will come, things will go. Let them come, let them go.

leaves - 15


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