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  • Jennifer Jewell, Cultivating Place


California newt - a sure sign of spring.

Native California Bulbs of Spring, Butte County, CA

I love a seasonally aligned calendar date. You may have noticed– kicking off our Habitat series with the Vernal Equinox, ending it with Earth Day – May Day last week and Mother’s Day coming up here in the U.S. I know - and shrug my shoulders and roll my eyes at how such days have been co-opted from their grounded origins into service of the industrial marketing complex. I see it - I refuse it.

Why? Because I think we gardeners of almost anyone on the planet know that these kinds of days tap into something I, for one, long to increase and support in my own life and daily rhythms - this very idea of seasonal alignment and the natural impulse to ritually mark it and celebrate it. In what some people term our post-religious world, our age of Loneliness - the Anthropocene - in which we humans have isolated ourselves from every other living being, harming ourselves and them in the process, it can be (and for most of us is) this gardening impulse and our answering it by going out into the garden every day we can that we know and assert something different. Something older, deeper, younger, truer.

Earth Day and Mother’s Day were chosen to happen concurrently with the heady first flushes of spring and early summer for good reasons – our own natural energy is ready for such generative acknowledgement and reflective creativity – the Vernal Equinox is celestial and May Day is an ancient day of Spring Fete as well.

While anything can be reduced to a sound bite and grocery story greeting card – it’s up to us to reclaim these days and seasons in our own ways – to our own expansion and deepening individually and culturally. Not because someone told us, or we feel obligated, to – but because our cellular impulse calls us to this marking of time, space, place, and meaning.

I'm weeding, raking, cutting back, feeding, re-potting, re-planting, replacing, cutting, arranging, admiring and enjoying every broken dirty fingernail, every mosquito bite, every subtle light shift of early May across the opening faces of Roses, Romneya, and the ongoing parade of Triteleia. Every hummingbird whir, mockingbird prattle, every call of life that comes to us right NOW. It's their season, and I intend to fully mark it and celebrate them. They are each individual and collective miracles.

From left to right: A miraculous diversity on our everyday walk: non- native yellow-flower-whose-name-I-forget; non-native annual clover; white owl’s clover (Castillega genus); annual lupine seedpods; purple needle grass (Nasella pulchra, State Grass of CA); a carex in bloom; Calachortus alba (Fairy lanterns); glassy hyacinth; two different species of Ookow - genus Dichelostemma; Triteleia bridgesii; Dichelostemma volubile (aka twining brodiaea); three versions of Triteleia laxa. Butte County, CA

Ever heard of Littlewood’s Law of Miracles? I wrote about this on Instragram this past week and it seemed to resonate with many of you.

I was introduced to the concept in late April, when visiting with my daughters in Tennessee and then my Aunt Di in Vermont. Littlewood's Law states that a person can expect to experience a miracle (defined apparently as an event with odds of one in a million) about once a month. Using relatively simple math, Littlewood assumes that during the hours in which a human is awake and alert, she’ll see or hear one "event" per second. Supposing that a human is alert for about eight hours per day, in the span of 35 days each of us will have “experienced" one million events. Accepting the baseline definition of a miracle, each of us can expect to "observe one miraculous event for every 35 days' time, on average – and therefore, according to this reasoning, seemingly miraculous events are actually commonplace.” I would add - if we’re paying attention. …. Recently John & I went on a morning walk with the doggies to see the newest round of local spring wildflowers taking their turn on Spring’s magnanimous stage just now. Above are pictures of the most remarkable blooms and seeds we encountered, noticed, and picked for a kitchen bouquet (never picking bloom or seed where there were not an abundance of such). Native and non-native - ranging in color, size, form, habit - the sheer diversity of them was breathtaking and I kept thinking - each one is a miracle of innovation, design, adaptation, beauty.

Native California Styrax in bloom in the Chaparral. Glenn County, CA.

I'm a little amazed this is the first time in my 53 years to have heard of Littlewood’s Law of Miracles. But when you think - really think of everything from my two healthy daughters being birthed, growing to now, of my aunt happy and healthy at 84; of air travel possible to travel to them and get back home to John, good work, the garden, the unlikely lush beauty of native Styrax blooming in the Chaparral and all the wildflowers of Spring here in my home place....

So many miracles




Waiting for us to notice and say - oh dear world, thank you. .... Mother Nature take home notes: community, interdependence, beauty, diversity, and appreciation - maybe especially in Spring.



PS: If you missed either of these reads in the NYTs - you might like them:



(in which we complete the Habitat Garden series...

just click the live link that is the green title of each program to get to the audio file and listen in....)



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A friend in the creek. Hello friend.

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