TO BE A GARDENER, COMMUNITY-RESTORATION ECOLOGIST, CRIS SARABIA
This episode is dedicated to the remarkable and beloved P-22, the mountain lion who made LA his home, captured our imaginations, and reminded us these past many years of the grave and profound importance of making space, returning space, tending space, and fiercely defending space for all that is still wild in this world.
P-22 died in San Diego last week.
Cris Sarabia is the conservation director of the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy, he is also a dedicated and active member of many local land and conservation organizations in his home region of North Long Beach, in Southern California including GreyWater Action Network, the California Native Plant Society, Pelacanus, and Puente Latino, a grassroots non-profit art, culture and ecology organization serving the North Long beach community since 2019.
At this time of year, between the Solstice, the Holidays, and the New Year – I think many of us try to center ideals of clarity, connection, caring, and community. This week we have a conversation with a human whose work caring lives out these very ideals within his many land, water, plant, and human communities. This to me is what truly good gardening is all about in so many ways.
Many listeners will remember an earlier conversation I had with Cris on Cultivating Place in April of 2021, when Cris was the Board Chair of the California Native Plant Society, and their decolonizing work. I am so pleased to be chatting more fully with Cris this week about all that he cultivates in his community-based life
All images courtesy of Cris Sarabia or the individual organizations; All rights reserved.
Follow Cris Sarabia online via Peunte: @puentelbc/
IF YOU LIKE THIS PROGAM,
you might also enjoy these Best of CP programs in our archive:
Lenses on the Everyday and Sacred, Kristin Perers
Generosity & Mutual Care of Seeds, K Greene Hudson Valley Seeds
JOIN US again next week, when we end out 2022 with eye and ear toward lifelong learning and listening in conversation with gardeners, designers, educators, and exuberant leaders Annie Guillefoy and Noel Kingsbury, founders of the internationally and digitally accessible Garden Masterclass series – expanding all of our gardening learning opportunities and goals for the new year. Listen in.
Speaking of plants... and place: on How to Grow a Wreath
This week a garden-grown reflection on how to grow a wreath. Recently, I co-hosted a native plant wreath making workshop as an outreach of and in support of the Ahart Herbarium at California State University Chico. For the gathering, I’d spent several weeks collecting glossy buckeyes, almost white buckeye branch tips that remind me of antlers, a multitude of acorn caps, and seed pods, two days before John and I collected prunings from cedar, redwood, California bay trees, toyon with its ft clusters of red berries, and coyote brush in full white, fluffy seed on his land and garden. The day before the event I set to work pruning all the plants I had held off pruning in my garden for just this holiday wreath making: I pruned my big Sur manzanita, my purple sage, and then some non-native but so fragrant myrtle, rosemary, scented geranium, and oreganos. The day of co-hosts and friends Adrienne and colleen brought in live oak clippings, more redwood, golden-cap acorn caps, and bundles of dried native flax seed heads and stems.
As I was working at pruning back the purple sage in the pouring rain in my front-sidewalk border dry-loving garden, it occurred to me that the best of wreaths or any seasonally and ritually important greenery the seasons around – are not so much made and seen as they are grown and understood over time.
As I de-tangled the widely reaching warmly pungent branches of the purple sage from the branched fresh green of the manzanita, I brushed off the old seed heads and falling golden leaves of the now- towering and rusting large cottonwood who seeded herself here about the same time that I did. I moved the fountaining stems of the intermingled deer grass to the side, and I pulled many of the sage’s square stemmed branches (characteristic of the mint family) from the rich dark and moist almost-soil duff beneath the plants – where these same branches were close to rooting themselves as they made their natural spreading way. I rustled birds who scolded me in good humor from the branches of that winter-bare cottonwood, I moved among bird feathers, bird poop, evidence of bugs foraging and egg-laying and hatching and eating in the next phases.
As I was intimately in touch with these beloved plants, I was learning more about them – about who they are growing with, and how they are growing on their own and together – where they lean into one another for support, shade or other shelter, where they pull away from one another for greater air or sun, how and when their leaves shed a few at a time as evergreens do – or all in one seasonal drop, even how they feed one another, and propagate themselves. I have known these plants since I put them together almost 10 years ago, and yet here I was learning more about them as I moved among them. The neighbors are no doubt happy to have reclaimed some of the sidewalk, but I am happy to know and honor my plant neighbors – those that have seeded themselves here and those that I have introduced.
In this way – to grow a wreath, start decades years ago planting the large coniferous and deciduous trees and shrubs who, with care, in their maturity will offer prunings and windfall tips to form the backbone of the wreath, then even a few years back, plant or meet a good healthy diversity of foliage, flowering and seeding native plants who will come together to create beauty, habitat, food, and soil for wider community of wild life, and then in the immediate season pay attention, collect observations, greater understandings and what excess these plants offer out, and then circle all of this up into the wholeness of wreath, whose body you can then lay back to rest as forage and habitat for the world in its next phase too.
Each garden, and each seasonal wreath grown of the world, are at their best not only symbols of the circles of time, seasons, and life itself, but symbols of diversity, community, and care cultivated in place – lovingly – now, before now and over a very long from now.
Thinking out loud this week:
One of the things I love so far about this conversation is this idea that there are so many ways to tell and to feel our own stories, for better, or for worse; how many ways there are to see, hear, and understand what is meant to be, what is divine intervention, and/or what is our own cultivation of story and destiny?
I don't have any answers about any of these of life and our gardens biggest questions, what I do have is six full years of documenting, reflecting on and trying to honor plant-loving people bearing witness about their lives in ongoing relationship with plants. The stories and narrative their gardensing and cultivating tell and foretell. Sometimes possibly frustrating, painful, sometimes urgent, sometimes so slowly unfolding, but also almost always loving and always profoundly beautiful to me.
This six years so far of being in garden-life community with all your and your garden voices and stories is something, it is absolutely something on which we can all grow. Here in the midst of Hanukkah, post Solstice, pre Christmas and Kwanzaa and New Years – Cris talks a lot about opportunities – those he sees as having turned him in what he deems the right direction, those he noticed, those he said yes to, those he offers to places, to plants, to other people and I can’t help but remind myself of the garden-learned truth that our gardens, our gardening impulses, and our on-going relationships foregrounding and being in caring relationships with plants – these are all ongoing and outstanding opportunities for all that we might want to help nurture and grow in our own lives, and in this greater world.
Happy New Gardening Year.
WAYS TO SUPPORT CULTIVATING PLACE
SHARE the podcast with friends: If you enjoy these conversations about these things we love and which connect us, please share them forward with others. Thank you in advance!
RATE the podcast on iTunes: Or wherever you get your podcast feed: Please submit a ranking and a review of the program on Itunes! To do so follow this link: iTunes Review and Rate (once there, click View In Itunes and go to Ratings and Reviews)
DONATE: Cultivating Place is a listener-supported co-production of North State Public Radio. To make your listener contribution – please click the donate button below. Thank you in advance for your help making these valuable conversations grow.
Or, make checks payable to: Jennifer Jewell - Cultivating Place
and mail to: Cultivating Place
PO Box 37
Durham, CA 95938