The Extraordinary Things Your Wild Essence Propels You Towards

“I always wanted to live in Vermont, and because I always get my own way, this is where I settled.  The first thing I did was plant daffodils ~ over a thousand.  The road was impassable, so I carried them in by backpack.  And my rhododendrons I brought in through a foot of snow in a wheelbarrow.”

~ Tasha Tudor

 

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photo by Richard W Brown

What makes a woman carry a thousand bulbs on her back up a snowy cliff to plant a dreamy field of daffodils? And what makes her wheelbarrow loads of rhododendrons through a foot of snow?  

The idea of it takes my breath away, because the vision that inspired her to do so must have been so grant, wild and almost otherworldly.

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Photo by Richard W Brown

Delicate flowers and the wildness of Nature clearly resonated deeply with Tasha Tudor, so much so that she gave them centre stage in her life. Her profound passion strongly influenced her home, the way that she lived and her work as an illustrator. As it turns out the magnificent garden that Tasha Tudor nurtured into being was something quite extraordinary – vast expanses of flowering beauty like a picture straight out of a fairy tale world – and she, the hands and heart behind the master creation was just as extraordinary a person too.

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Photo by Richard W Brown

When I see the pictures of Tasha Tudor’s garden and read about her life, it reminds me just how the wild essence within propels us towards extraordinary things. There are seeds and visions in our hearts so full the big things that are possible. There are yearnings and whispers that pull us towards so many things deemed unimaginable. Too often we dismiss them because they don’t fit the mould of what we’re told is reasonable or acceptable in modern day terms. But is there really any real reason why you cannot allow the pull of your wild soul to propel you towards extraordinary things?

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Photo by Richard W Brown

What would happen if you said yes to planting a thousand hope-filled bulbs in the wild flowering meadow of your own heart soil? How much would be possible if we gave the brave stirrings within even half the chance that we give the voices of doubt?

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Photo by Richard W Brown
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To Know a Place

We went on a road trip down to Eshowe (Zulu for ‘place of waterfalls’), the rural countryside town where I was born, to celebrate my grandmother’s 80th birthday with my family this past week. It was a special occasion. I am grateful we got to honour this incredible woman and celebrate the milestone she reached in her life.

It was also refreshing to reconnect with wild and familiar spaces whose terrains are carved into my veins. There’s something soul nourishing about feeling connected to a place, to the land. It’s a comfort to know a place, to know its ways, its history, its patterns and its needs, the same way we know a relative or friend.

My grandmother’s garden inspires me each time I visit. Right now at the end of winter, her flowers were in full bloom – azaleas, camellias, moonflowers, lavender, wisteria and roses. They’re all so breath-taking. Her sage, rosemary, myrtle and parsley is growing abundantly despite the severe drought the area is facing. The papayas were sporting tiny yellow flowers too. Coming from my dry winter region, I found it difficult to believe there was a drought. But dryness is normal in the Highveld where I live, not in Eshowe. I guess the effects of the drought are noticeable to someone who knows the place. This thriving subtropical region was not as green as usual. It was way colder than usual too. Even though my gran’s garden is in bloom, not all the flowers were as big and lush as usual either. And when we went on an outing to the local dam, it was almost half the size it was when I visited two years ago. I found myself standing in dry earth that once lay beneath the waters.

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The day we went to the dam, a cold front blew in from the coast. The icy wind pelted our bodies and dark clouds blanketed across the sky, but no rain came down all day. It felt so strange to see all that moisture overhead knowing how much the earth needs. It seemed almost cruel to tease the earth that way. It eventually rained in the small hours of the morning. I was happy to wake up to the sound of a fleeting rain shower, enough to soak the Earth, although not enough to make a significant impact.

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My grandmother saw the rain coming days before it arrived. She said that the rain was unusual. It was too early for rain, she said. She would know. When you live in the place for 80 years, one must learn to read the stories of the land and know the weather as intimately as the lines on your own palm.

Living embedded within the landscape continues to enrich my understanding of the seasonal rhythms and cycles of the old Celtic festivals. I can directly feel when it’s time to be digging and delving, gathering herbs and tatties or sitting quiet before the hearth, dreaming the while. The Earth Mother transforms herself amongst our hills, rises young and fresh with the drifts of snowdrops, offers up a bountiful harvest and then rages as Cailleach, rattling the windows and washing away the road. ~ Kate McGillivray

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When we left on Tuesday morning, my gran gave me her shears and said I should take as many cuttings as I want. She is an expert at growing things from cuttings. I harvest a bunch of lavender flowers to dry for tea and rosemary for cooking. Hers are so much more healthy and bountiful than my small little bushes in my garden. Then I took some camellia, moonflower and soft pink azalea cuttings. I forgot about the wisteria, perhaps I’ll do that next time. I know that I could get them at one of the many nurseries in my city, but there’s just something special about bringing cuttings from home. Cuttings taken from plants that may be more than 30 or 50 or 60 years old, plants that were planted in my mom’s youth and that were around long before I was born. It gives me a connection to the place that I come from and to the people whose hands and hearts tendered to those plants over the years.

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Already, I have rose-scented geraniums from my mom and amaryllis from my gran growing in my garden. So I’m pretty excited this new cuttings. I’m excited about this Spring in general. I feel it drawing closer and closer. I feel the garden calling to me more and more too. I look forward to working with the earth energies in this space and seeing what this Spring brings into being.

Tending the Garden

It’s been a while since I’ve had such a quiet Monday morning, left to the stillness of my breath and comforting rhythm of my heartbeat. The morning was breezy, cool and grey, perfect for some gardening and reading books on gardening and flowers too. The whispers of the impending Autumn are becoming more pronounced each day.

I learnt long ago that tending to pots of fragrant roses, scented geranium, mint, thyme and basil, weeding the herb patch, harvesting and stringing up herbs for drying are all paths to the soul. These simple tasks keep me grounded in mindful presence. It keeps my humbled heart grateful to be part of Mother Earth and for all the gifts that she offers.

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I often feel that I will never be the kind of master gardeners that my mother and my grandmother are. For the last couple of years I’ve only just been learning to keep my pots and herb patch alive, listening intently to the dreamings of my tiny little corner of land and trying to give it what it asks.

Sometimes I succeed, other times I do a poor job of it. But nonetheless the garden is always teaching me how to work with it. I’ve come to accept that despite my good intentions, sometimes I have little control over how things grow or turn out in the end. Nature has a will of its own. I respect this. To be honest, I do like leaving space for magic and wildness and the unknown to surprise me. Who doesn’t?  And of course, I’m grateful that the garden and Nature in general is also always teaching me about myself too, reminding me of our oneness and the wild spaces it embodies inside of me.