THE GARDEN & NATURE AS GRATITUDE PRACTICE with MORNING ALTAR'S DAY SCHILDKRET
It is painful again to write this week - one week since the #CAMPFIRE of California broke out and swept across (so far) 142,000 acres of this beautiful landscape of the California Floristic Region, close to 10,000 human homes destroyed, 100s of businesses - at least 3 nurseries destroyed or damaged, the members of several dedicated garden clubs and master gardener groups profoundly impacted. And that's just what we know as of today. I know that the fires continue south of here, ravaging those landscapes. I recognize that there's loss, devastation, and tragedy of all scales around our globe daily - today my heart is heavy here, in my home - home of the Maidu, Wintu, Concow and other indigenous peoples, home of so many endemic and native plant and animals friends and lives held dear, home to me and my family for 11 years now.
Several weeks ago now Sarah and I determined to revisit our Gratitude Special from 2017 this week, in part to prepare ourselves for this traditional season of harvest and thanksgiving and in part to celebrate the publication of Day Schildkret's new book Morning Altars. Which is well worth celebrating. It did not of course occur to us that this episode would air in this time of chaos and loss. And yet it did.
While for some the storylines might feel too soon, too raw, to hard to hear - I hope for others it hold seeds of hope and possibility for the next season of growth. While the landscape and nature all around us in the midst of natural disaster might not seem like a source of solace, might instead seem like causes for fear, the words of Leah Penniman of several weeks ago come back to me: "while the land might be the scene of the crime, the land itself IS NOT the crime." While she was of course speaking to Black and Brown farmers and cultivators, reminding them of their rightful, beautiful, and dignified reciprocal and ancient relationship to the land - I would offer her thought out as a seed of hope for all gardeners in my region for whom gardening, relationship, and pleasure from their scarred landscape might seem distant right now.
While so much is being done in the here and now for immediate needs of people affected by this disaster - my thoughts are toward the many dedicated and passionate gardeners in our area and all that they’ve lost. Losses like these will come into clearer focus as time goes on and be very painful, and yet might also seem insignificant to these gardeners in the face of everything. I want you gardeners to know that you are seen and supported, and that the gardening community wants to help your and your important gardening passions as they rebuild. Stay tuned for support efforts in the works and coming soon.
I am grateful to be here with you in community,
This week on Cultivating Place, we revisit our Gratitude special of last year - celebrating this season of harvest, of taking stock, of giving back, of deep GRATITUDE and of preparing for the restorative dark of winter ahead. Our central conversation is with earth artist Day Schildkret, who makes meaning and beauty with his daily practice, and now global outreach and book known as Morning Altars. Woven throughout the episode are gardeners from around the world sharing with us what gratitude in the garden looks like to them.
The late autumn into winter months – from the Harvest Moon rising in October to the Winter Solstice on December 21st and through the beginning of the new calendar year, mark traditional seasons of gratitude, of giving thanks, and of offerings of generous service. For me - my garden itself and my gardening practice are my very best, most consistent acts of both gratitude and service to the world – and I know many other gardener’s and cultivators who feel the same.
The garden – very much like the grace that writer and thinker Anne Lamott references in relation to divine grace - rises to meet many gardeners where we are and - sometimes – it does not leave us where we started, but nurtures us along further than we believed was possible.
This special celebrates, explores and honors the abundance our gardens and nature brings to us, as well as all that we grow while we are there. We hope you enjoy the central conversation as much as you do the many voices of gardeners from around the world who shares with us their own thoughts on what gratitude in the garden looks like to them. As gardeners and outdoor advocates, I think our gardens and outdoor spaces grant us intuitive deep listening and looking moments, of mystery and wonder and day dreaming that like winter’s darkness and dormancy itself – restores us.
Morning Altars artist Day Shildkret creates a practice of mindfulness and offering with his floral, foliage, seed and other natural material foraged Morning Altars. Each one is different. Just as the word garden means and looks like something different to each person, so too what we each bring to the garden and what we receive in return from these - at best - symbiotic relationships we have with these very personal spaces, is different. Ranging from light and airy, playful and bright, other times quiet and contemplative.
Picture this: a land based work of art – it is peaceful and inviting, I see bright orange and pink flowers – they look to be fragrant – like roses or peonies, I see deep blue green coniferous branches with scaly textural needles, I see structural brown cones and bright red berries, I see chartreuse seedpods forming a unifying pattern and shape to the whole. In this still view, there is also dynamic movement.
I could be standing in the center of a garden.
For some time now, I’ve been following the work of Day Schildkret, whose most prominent project is known as Morning Altars. The concept, and gratitude and service project to the world, is one part daily forage and mandala building out of natural objects, one part lesson on beauty and impermanence. As you might imagine, it resonates globally. Day is a beauty bringer and his work encourages people – and gardeners – to be deep listeners to the ways of their place.
In honor of this season of harvest, of taking stock and giving thanks, Day joins us.
“When you’re seeing something as though it will only last for that moment,
you really feel like you’re in something alive, because you know it will end.
There’s always something to make meaning of in life, to acknowledge
as a milestone, there are emotions to process, or some
reason to just praise being alive.”
Morning Altars creator, Day Schildkret
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I am such a fan of their gloves – the leather ones, the long-wearing weeders, my daughters loved the Womanswork t-shirts and stole mine. My partner, John, a professional plantsman, says his manswork gloves have lasted longer than any he’s ever used. So support Womanswork.com – strong women building a gentle world – support Cultivating Place and enjoy the best gardening gloves (shirts, hats, clippers, and creams) ever.
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Morning Altars is a practice, like that of every gardener I know, including the gardener’s who offered their own voices to the gardeners gratitude gathering, which reconnects to our own sense of wonder, mystery, grace and play. His circles and squares, triangles and star shaped, among other, designs are full of colorful flowers, foliage form, shapely fruit, fun and LIFE – in all its stages, beauty and mystery.
Thank you gardeners from around the world who submitted their gratitude in the garden clips throughout this special episode.
You may not know it, but what I love most about this program are the connections I make with you – gardeners out there and around the world. We are everywhere and as more than one Cultivating Place guest has reminded us, our work and our human impulse to garden is important. It makes a difference to our mindsets, to our families, to our communities and to our environments. Following your journeys in the garden and this week hearing about what gratitude in the garden looks like to you is so fun and inspiring to me.
Be safe - be present - be fully alive out there this season.