what brings me joy

We’re approaching sunset. I’ve just come inside from a spot that brings me deep joy; a sweet little garden whom I invited here some years ago. I share this small perch with a young woods, up on a ridge that’s about a 15-minute walk down to the edge of the salty, Salish Sea. I am blessed to live here. My home and this garden are nestled into land just above what has been known by the Suquamish people as The Place of the Deer.

Moments after I sit quietly on my knees, a male Robin drifts in and lights on the ground a couple of feet from me. Right away, a wild rabbit, a cottontail, hops out of the scruffy edge of the woods and takes up the important work of chewing greens; at the moment, it’s tall field grass that’s been recently mowed. We three are still; silent. The rabbit sits not far from a beautiful, subtle, soapstone carving of a rabbit. I smile at this sight and think maybe that’s why they’re so comfortable to come out, with me sitting right here. I guess I’ve posted a kind of Rabbit Sanctuary sign right at the base of the steps to my cabin, two or three paces from where we three sit.

Another rabbit hops in, sitting a foot or so from the first one. Quite still; no dining as yet. A second robin sits on a slim cedar branch and the clear sound of that one’s goodnight song, cuts across this gentle evening time. One courageous bee makes large circles around us, never stopping to investigate anyone blooming in the garden.

The garden. I am completely in love with her; not just her, but especially her. I invited her to join us here some years back. I made some prayers and offerings to make clear that this little garden was, in some way, a holy place.

A four-tined digging fork was my tool of choice, and that first year we turned over a space that was three or so paces, by four. I shook the clods of moist soil, pulling loose as much of the grumpy grass as I could.

Finally, this garden spot was ready and I planted three or four each, of five different native plants. My hope was to begin the journey of returning a little bit of this land to plants that have lived here for a very long time; that know how to live here well; and who are familiar to the animals and birds and flying critters and slithering ones.

On this evening, as our sunlight slowly shifts from day to evening time, I gaze up the very slight rise of the garden to see the absolute riot of growth that has occurred these years later. A gigantic smile fills, then overflows me. I am filled with hope; all shapes and sizes of hope. My hope was that these plants would know what to do, where to grow, and would dance around each other in a way that would encourage a deep sense of what and who this place has always known.

That small and not so small miracle is what I’m looking at. Mostly around the edges, two varieties of native strawberry have fairly densely covered all the open ground, of which I make a little more available each year, and did so again, just last week. The smaller of the two varieties of strawberry fling out magical, garnet-threaded runners who are already scouting out, and claiming, the field grass that I will dig into on my next expansion expedition.

Beautiful deep-mauve ‘Bleeding Heart’ flowers dangle from their feathery-leaved stems in an astounding mass, covering maybe half the garden now. On diagonal corners of that mass of spring joy are one of the first native plants I met many years ago; ‘Inside-Out’ flower. Her slender, pale-green flower stems disappear in the mass of deep-green growth, so the delicate little white flowers that do literally look like some small, magical garden dweller has turned them inside-out, seem to float across the many plants who now crowd into this little spot.

In the sunny times of this garden, I tell you, the bees are absolutely ecstatic over these flowers. And the bumblebees who are way larger than the Inside-Out flowers, somehow squeeze themselves in, just right, to take advantage of their precious pollen, while their buzzing, echoes and vibrates insanely. It’s quite a performance.

Poking up through the top of this rowdy fray, the Columbine buds are fully expectant, with a single flower open right now, and a slightly staggering number, soon to open. I planted just one plant, of she who blooms a delicate and mind bogglingly complex flower that towers over the mass of strawberry, Bleeding Heart and Inside-out plants that fill this garden.

This pale-pink Columbine I’ve named, ‘Celine’s Columbine’, as ten years ago she bloomed in my neighbor’s garden right on the birthday of my beloved niece who’d been killed in a car accident along with her father, my brother, the previous year. I know Columbine well; know of her exuberance to spread her vivacious flowers all over the place, and also have intimate knowledge of how hard it is to remove these rascally plants from a garden once they’ve staked a claim. I knew what I was getting into. And this year, the exuberance IS ON.

She’s not native to these parts. So for my little beautiful sanctuary we will have to ask of this exotic pink one, that she not get too pushy; that all the ones who’ve made this such a welcoming, lush, and free-wheeling garden may also continue to thrive.

Watching the way all the native plants have stretched out into the space, I think they will be good. I think they will be ‘worthy opponents’, as my Aikido sensei described the ones who help us to become so very skilled at our endeavors, by challenging us at every turn.

And if all this isn’t enough of a gift; last year, for the first time, a native plant volunteered herself into the garden. ‘Fringecup’, a lanky, demurely flowered beauty, has now taken up residence with all the others, and she is definitely another worthy opponent. She brings with her an exquisite, and delicate fragrance. Her presence somehow feels like all this hoping, wishing, praying, has been received, acknowledged and accepted by the Wild. That is the biggest miracle of all.

The robins are quiet now. I hear them rustling in the trees as they prepare to roost for the night. The rabbits have hopped off into the brush. It is me, and the ‘no-see-ums’, and the mosquitos now. And the deep inhaling and exhaling of the beauty at whose feet I sit. This is what brings me joy.

3 thoughts on “what brings me joy

  1. Leslie says:

    What a beautiful essay Lauren. Thank you. The nature around us gives me no end of joy. We are so fortunate to live here. When we moved to this place Spring 12 years ago. I was ecstatic at the bounty of native plants, including huge huckleberries (evergreen deciduous), mature ferns, native dogwood, a wispy red flowering currant, and more. I planted more, snowberry, red flowering current and vine maples, all have thrived. I confess to also adding well behaved exotics to the edges, it’s hard not to when Dan is in our vicinity. I just love plants and gardening. I even get a thrill when digging in our sandy soil and find a big rock to add to my rock pile.

    Be well, Leslie

    > >

  2. Maggie Williams says:

    Loved reading this – hugs and kisses – my little garden gives me joy, as well

  3. Jayme Stuntz says:

    Awe Lauren! I love reading your writings because I know they come straight from your heart. Spring is an incredible time when we can see the plants MOVE and DANCE right before our eyes. All of a sudden, bam! a whole witch hazel bush fills my senses with brilliant yellow when the day before I didn’t even take notice of her. It’s like that. Spring is full of Joy!
    Love, Jayme

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