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  • Jennifer Jewell


Photos Courtesy of Frailty Myths, All rights reserved.

As we enter our next month of social distancing and self-isolation restrictions in our efforts to flatten the curve of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak, Cultivating Place's Women’s History Month interviews wrap up in conversation with Ayana Young. Ayana is a radio personality specializing in intersectional environmental and social justice, deep ecology, and land based restoration. She is the founder and Executive Director of the millennial media organization and nonprofit For the Wild. She is the host of the podcast of the same name. For her writing and communication, and the strength and conviction of her voice and work, she is one of the women featured in my book The Earth in Her Hands: 75 Extraordinary Women Working in the World of Plants

Join us again next week when we get deeply into spring and the human impulse to garden - many more of us now that many more of us are at home, in conversation with Nicole Burke of and author of The New Kitchen Garden Revival (due out in May 2020). With encouragement and enthusiasm, Nicole show and tells people how to make gardens where once there was none. For food, for health, for joy - join us next week. Together we grow!

There are soooooo many ways people engage in and grow from the cultivation of their places.





Thinking out Loud this week...


April is upon us spring has really arrived here in my place - green and fertile, also a little temperamental - the way she can be. Snow can be seen on the mountains and even foothills. The mornings can be cold, the afternoons heated.

The novel Coronavirus Corvid-19 might have dictated our lives for just now, and even blinded us perhaps to the fact of Spring, but it can't stop Spring. In something of an ironic twist, the virus while wreaking havoc and pain on many lives, has simultaneously brought many of us to a standstill. A reset in which for once we actually have the time to be out in spring gardening, walking safe distances from one another, and taking in the glory.

This week leadership is on my mind as we finish this women’s history month series focusing on some of the women from my book The Earth in Her Hands.

In part of our conversation not in this final aired version, Ayana suggests to listeners that when it comes down to it, it's up to us to look for and find leaders who are doing their work with integrity and courage, with community and the future of all humans and more-than humans in mind. Leaders like the many Indigenous peoples across this continent over time who are willing to put their bodies on the line to protect the trees, the waters, the salmon that feed the orcas, the grasslands and floodplains that nurture those salmon, that feed those orcas.

For me this was one of the most profound and deeply imprinted takeaways from working on this book and immersing myself in the work of the women and the many, many good humans who could have been in the pages of this book. That takeaway: What leadership really looks like. It looks to me like people who can see the forest and the trees; like humans who can lead not from the top down but from the center out -  interconnecting concerns and constraints, hopes and ambitions. Real leaders are working horizontally and lifting entire communities with them as they progress, and these leaders they are fueled by heart and voice, not by wallet and whims. They put their bodies on the line for what they believe in and value for the good of the whole.

Now this might sound odd to day, but I believe gardeners in their own ways, from small home gardeners to large market gardeners, from vegetable growers to windowsill plant-parents, gardeners are teachers engaged in growing our world rather than extracting what they can from it. They are building relationships plant by plant based on care, reciprocity and trust.

These are very, very good treats in a leader. Who are the leaders informing you? Are you among them?

We here in the US, and likely most of the globe, are headed into another month at very least of social distancing and anticipating peak numbers of Coronavirus cases and deaths being reported across the country over the coming weeks.

We will also experience, if we pay attention: peak Spring, which brings me to this idea of social isolation.

It was very, very interesting to re-listen to this conversation I recorded with Ayana a few weeks ago, as I prepared to be gone for several weeks on book tour. We connected before the coronavirus had brought the world as we knew it to a halt - a painful and whiplash-inducing kind of full stop.

I hear Ayana talking about the loneliness she felt, before she understood she could build relationships with plants. And I hear the anxiety of social distancing and  social isolation the loneliness of it expressed in myriad ways online: loud, soft, defiant and forlorn right now as we battle with fear and confusion daily. I keep trying to remind my own anxiety and my children’s anxiety and fear, we are not alone. We are never alone. The geese are flying, the seeds are sprouting, the trees and birds are doing their ingenious and age old reproductive dances, and the soil is warming and waking. Poison oak is unfurling, and rattlesnakes are starting to move out of their dormancy, just as the house wren and the fat red peony shoots are also.

There is always what we perceive to be good and bad, there is always life and death, and we are never alone.

As the poet Rilke stated so beautifully- and this generous abundant planet reminds me every day “believe in a love that is stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it."

That blessing is the Valley Oak, the spring violets, the Ponderosa pine, the summer's cleansing heat, the winter’s insulating storms, the autumnal nourishing compost of leaf biomass. The plant-based biome on which we depend is a blessing of love, which even in the middle of a desert, even in our own homes and isolation, we can lean into and learn from.

Believe in a green companionship so large you can travel as far as you wish - even into your own small home, seemingly all alone - and know that you are not alone. 

Take care of yourselves and of each other – which includes all of our living creatures – wash your hands – and but also keep them good and dirty in the garden as you are able.




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