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  • Jennifer Jewell


Ross Gay - Poet & Gardener, Photo by Natasha Komoda |


This week on Cultivating Place we take a summer amble with British-based Californian Kathryn Aalto – an historian, garden designer, and writer - her books include The New York Times bestseller, The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk Through the Forest that Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood (2015) andNature and Human Intervention (2011). Her third book isWriting Wild: Women Poets, Ramblers, and Mavericks Women Who Shape How We See the Natural World(Timber Press, June 2020), offers all of us some much needed outdoor adventure with some admirable women of words. Her essays have appeared in Smithsonian Magazine, Outside, Sierra, and more. She is currently working on her fourth book.

Writing Wild re-centers and gives voice to a diversity of women naturalists and writers across time, it

charts often un-heard women’s voices in naturalist writing– from long-dead women such as Dorothy Wordsworth and Gene Stratton Porter to more contemporary voices such as Gretel Ehrlich, Leslie Marmon Silko, Lauret Savoy, and Camille Dungy.

Follow along with Kathryn's work, trails, and side tracks at her website:, or on Instagram:

Join us again next women when we continue with some great summer reading, which often plumbs the depths of imagination, for Matthew Hall - home gardener, and researcher at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand – The Imagination of Plants is what matters. Matthew joins us next week to explore Botanical Mythology. Listen in!







The importance of voice is what keeps coming back to me from this conversation with Kathryn Aalto, and her process amplifying the voices – sometimes -reanimating the voices of the 25 main women she features in this overview, and the close to 60 she covers with the side paths of other women in the book.

The power of our voices is everything – cumulatively the power of our combined voices – or lack of our voices – changes the way our entire culture sounds, speaks, and is understood – and therefore its effects. And as anyone who understands the power of manifesting – the power of our voices in effect creates the world we will live in and with each and every day. These last 6 months has shown us the power of many voices combined to be heard.

We can’t always affect overnight or lasting change with one gesture or statement – but we can keep speaking and we can keep amplifying and leveraging choosing and making our own small gestures to lift other’s voices, all of which ripple out and join the larger waves.

So as Kathryn says in the course of our interview – use your voice, your vote, your dollars, your own small places to amplify the voices whose sound and fury and hope echo the world you want to hear: buy their books, rate and review them, donate to them, share them with friends – if you find value in someone’s voice – please and by all means use and raise your own voice in your own ways to amplify these songs of representation, inclusion, growth and change.

Now full into July – past the Summer Solstice and the July full moon, past the challenging fourth of July - I've been thinking a lot about the importance of seasonality and the attendant ritual and ceremony cultures – and their religions - across time and space have incorporated into each seasonal marker.

The sun rising and setting, the seasons and moons waxing and waning, years passing - so many tree rings added to the girth of experience.

The human need and gravitational pull toward ceremony is well documented – and Kathryn reiterates that beautifully in our conversation today, just as Leslie Marmon Silko did in her groundbreaking work Ceremony – published in 1977.

Both of these women's work remind me of our conversation with Jamaica Kincaid last week and the discussion around redemption: What will redeem us? What will redeem our cultural failures, our environmental and our economic failures – there are a multiplicity of urgencies right now – converging.

For many of us the act of Gardening is its own ceremony and ritual – it is literal worship on our knees manifesting food, beauty and habitat out of air, soil, water and hand in hand engagement. In an interview I listened to last week on the Emergence Magazine Podcast, I heard the philosopher Martin Shaw refer to the small places on which we make our lives – for you and me those being places on which we partner our gardens – and he referred to them as our own individual prayer rugs. This image registered right in my core.

To visualize the fabric of my garden as a series of seed stitches binding me to the greater natural world –– to visualize this living prayer rug on which I stand as one voice in the rising chorus of praise songs being hummed, chanted, sung by a multiplicity of voices – also converging – to meet these converging urgencies – and day by day, song by song, garden by garden, ritual by ritual compose and craft and grow a new creation story - to live by.

As always - together we grow....better.




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