The past few years have been very “interesting” to say the least. For me personally it caught me completely off guard and rooting deep into my foundations. Questioning what really brings me peace, allows me to feel like I’m living my life intentionally and investing into relationships that are meaningful and not just convenient. I know I’m not alone in having to dig deep into myself. There were times in which the struggle was really rough, finding it hard to get myself out of bed in the morning let alone parent and run our incredibly busy life that we had built. Mornings where thankfully my husband thankfully brings me coffee to my bedside and it’s ice cold by the time I discover it there. It’s these mornings that, while I’m grateful for the extra sleep, I also feel like the world started without me and I am running behind. Why? Why is it that we have created a culture where you constantly feel like your running behind, that you simply can’t do enough in your day to feel like you’re not going to wake up again the next morning and have even more piled up to do. During these past few years when things had to stop and slow down, it made me see this even more. That there are things that just simply have to wait. They just don’t get to have high priority for me. I refuse. So I turned to nature. I turned to a thing I know very well. The earth beneath our feet.
As a child I grew up very deeply connected with the earth. My grandpa had an amazing garden and I would explore out there with him and see what he was growing. One of my favorite tasks was picking the Swiss chard for dinner. Steamed by my grandma with red wine vinegar. So simple and so delicious. It a great reminder that life doesn’t need to be full of complicated things. It’s the simplicity of what nature provides that encourage us to stop and enjoy. I’m not knocking the complexity of some creation someone has made that brings us to question how something could have been created, but have we been so completely sold on complex that we no longer understand simplicity. The taste of a fresh strawberry picked right from the plant and eaten a second later. The sweet taste of something so simple and real. Not curated, no sugar added, no complementary item to “bring out the flavor”. The flavor is there. It already exists and if we continue to lose touch we that we will be lost in a life of complexity.
This is what I felt my eyes re-opened to. When things shut down and we no longer even had the chance to rush from place to place, it created pause. It created a space to see how much an open road, an uncrowded intersection, a store with very low occupancy so that you could take your time to browse the shelves and read labels. This is how my life used to be long ago as a younger person. I used to walk into Williams-Sonoma and just spend time looking at all the fun things to cook with, just browsing, observing with a curious mind. In fact, when my husband and I were dating, we would try to guess the name of the tool in the rack. It took time. Quality time that is now missing from our lives. We run in and get something and run right back out. The question is to where? Where are we constantly running to? Life is there right in front of us and we run past most of it.
In my yoga classes I have been focusing my students on curiosity. Renewing that time it takes to enjoy being curious, to observe, feel and touch “life”. As a teacher your themes tend to come from what you are working with yourself and that’s been mostly it for me. Manifesting a more curious nature, add some deep calming breath too so you ground yourself into a very present state of being. Time is fleeting.
Somewhere in all of this I found flowers. I have been a gardener my entire life. Thanks to my grandpa and then to my mom, who carried on her dad’s tradition. In fact, for the 6 months’ that I lived out of a tent, I still had a garden. It feels like part of my being and there’s also this soul filled purpose of providing something for myself and others to share. Throw in some tomatoes, herbs and zucchini and life exists there. It reminds you of a cycle that exists. The turn of the seasons. The growth, life, abundance and death of a plant. Yet there is also magic in turning the old tomatoes left on the vine and smushing them into the soil so they will produce again the following season. No need to buy more. Once you have invested, you’re in the tomato club unless you haven’t been paying attention and you wipe it clean to start completely over in the spring. Why? Nature is messy and it wants to be. Little bacteria, fungi and microbes want to exist and consume, breakdown and compost what you leave behind. It’s a strong network of things working together. Let it be and let it be messy. The microbes need you to remember that they are powerful and need to do their job.
In this time of renewal I found the flowers. At some point I was teased with the idea to try growing dahlias. I am a messy grower. I wasn’t sure if this curated flower would be my thing. As with most of what I grow, I set up a great environment so things have a great bed and I let them see if they can handle it. It’s mostly been a “good luck” sort of growing experience because nature is going to win, no matter what. In permaculture they want you to observe your space so you see the sun exposure, wind, water, etc. to determine where things will enjoy growing.
Many people said dahlias would not grow at 6000 feet elevation. Many people said not a lot will grow in our constant wind and exposure. But I observed and watched. I waited to see how the sun hit the property and studied our soil. Thankfully where the main garden lives now was a horse corral and was full of lots of good stuff. Fertile and happy soil full of already composting manure.
So I gave it a go. I tried dahlias. They came in very happy. Very abundant. First year was a great success of experimenting and observing. It proved out and any science experiment would. The delight observed by me and others fills the soul. Walking though the flowers and taking time to observe them, check out the petals, the firm structures of them, the color variation, their centers or no visible center because there are too many to see it. Did you know that the natural state of breeding dahlias is that they have a tendency to become “singles”, flowers that have a highly exposed center because the bees can get in? The heavy petal varieties are more difficult to breed because their center is hidden. Just watch. Gain an understanding of why a ball variety dahlia is more rare. It needs to be curated and complex.
In my drive to simplify and not add complexity, I honor the effort gone into creating these rare and interesting blooms. My job will be to curate and caretake these wonderful little delights of nature that arrive from all my efforts. But they are complex. My hope is when I share these blooms that one or two people understand their state of being. On a road side in Mexico dahlias grow abundantly but they are all singlet flowers that have a tendency to look like a sunflower. Now you know why.
This spring we planted over 485 dahlia tubers in our farm. I know that some of them have not made it through the late spring. They aren’t thriving and may already be gone. As I shopped them and chose my varieties I knew this. It’s back to those crossed fingers and being willing to experiment, to host. A Cafe Au Lait dahlia is very choosing and complex. Last year I planted 3 tubers and saw a single bloom before the frost came to wipe it out. So when you see a Cafe Au Lait in Reno that was not shipped, see it as a treat. It’s far from nothing for you to be able to interact with this beautiful flower. This year, there are 12 varieties from 3 sources, like any good experiment, I’m going to see if there is a variety that will thrive better on my farm. I’m curious and ready to observe.
Not to get distracted by the Cafe Au Lait, there are so many other beauties that are thriving and falling in love with our gorgeous climate. Even despite our periods of smoke from fires, it seems that they thrive and you can almost see them cleaning the air right along with the trees. It’s like a bubble of happiness that sits over the farm.
So after this long period of slowly coming out of a fog of unexpected self renewal, I have been reminded of slowing down. When I drive around town, I need to practice my yogic breath work because traffic is way too chaotic. As I arrive back to the farm from an errand, I am again happy and at peace. I hope you have this place of peace too. A place you can go that allows you to remember a calmer life, a life before this life that causes you pause. If you don’t, find it. It’s important to bring you back to a calmer state of being. I would say vitally important. So when someone tells you to stop and smell the flowers. I recommend you do. When I take time to reflect on what element the past few years has brought me back closer to peace, I think it was the flowers.