Rosa 'April Love' looking lovely in August.
August starts us out in the height of Summer, doesn't it? But by its august finale, there's the distinct sensation of the shifting of the season - toward the more subdued mood of late summer. Colors shift down and deepen a bit, the cycle of temperature throughout the morning, day, evening, and night are just that bit different, the light - the 'certain slant of light' - also just enough different as to signal: change. Transition.
We're of course always changing, shifting, moving, transitioning - it's just that at some moments in time this fact is much more perceptible. There's a far more pronounced threshold designating that you were there and you are now here.
Not for better, or for worse - just for different. A different moment, in a different season in each of our places, which are in fact new to each of us as we enter them. Each one of the moments. All the time.
We have never been exactly here before. Never.
And at each new moment and place we're left to notice: What is new? What is missing?
And.... what next?
Western meadow flowers in August - the mondardella is setting seed, the aster is coming on strong.
I think of these questions a lot as I work in my garden and, like many gardeners, I find the garden's answers and parables of answers help me become more familiar with each threshold before I am even there - it offers me lessons daily for birth - and what next, for growth and fertility - and what next, for setting seed, and what next - for dispersing and moving on, and what next - for aging, decay, and passing on, and what next.....
We see and participate in these cycles daily, weekly - work week to work week, monthly - as the moon arcs herself overhead, waning to new, waxing to full - seasonally and annually. Taking part in it all - as we gardeners do so intimately, even just as witness to all the small moments of life accumulated into the totality of it - makes it just a little less scary - maybe even less final?
Because in the natural cycle of things, there is the visible and comprehensible "and, what's next."
I send both daughters off to school and they are fledged; I know this was the natural cycle of things and I can anticipate the 'what next' even as I wallow a bit in what was - the life of that particular cycle to now. The sweetness of each of its stages.
Sometimes, I will admit it's harder to see the allegory - harder to get far enough away from the right now to guess at the 'what next'. Some thresholds we cross seem far newer than every other brand new, never-been-exactly-here moment. It's hard, even scary to conjecture the 'what next.'
A Monarch butterfly in John's garden and one Monarch butterfly of four we've spotted in his canyon.
The state of the Monarch butterfly is just one example - one very charismatic example. Its numbers in California are down by 99.4% according to estimates from UC Davis under the research and reporting of Dr. Art Shapiro and his lab.
Following the extensive fires of last November across my region, it felt this summer as though most of our resident butterfly species took longer to build in their numbers in the garden this season - our resident Pipevine Swallowtail felt especially slow to build. But now - late summer - a heathy and lively number and diversity animate the garden, morning, noon and evening - especially in John's garden. Both our gardens - his in the country, mine in town - generally see Monarchs each summer, but this year none in mine and just 2 or 3 over the whole season so far in his. This, according to Dr. Don Miller, Entomologist and Professor of Biological Sciences at CSU, Chico, makes John and his garden the lucky ones, as there've been no other reported sitings of Monarchs this year in Butte County.
On Cultivating Place, we touch on the impacts of our heating climate a great deal, we touch on the ways in which gardeners across the world are thinking, responding, gardening in response. In just this last month of the program, every single guest remarked on the human created effects on our climate in turn affecting how and why they garden, and how and what they are watching to help determine how they make decisions from here.
Since hearing of the zero sightings in Butte County outside of John and his sister Lucy's gardens, we've been carefully watching patches of showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) and even more (in number) patches of narrow leaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) in John's garden and the canyon in which he lives, and we've spotted 5 caterpillars at various instar stages, and seen one remnant chrysalis casing from a successful hatch. Each time we see a Monarch in the garden, we pay attention. John says he stops, follows the butterfly, paying respect until the creature has glided out of sight. "Perhaps we are seeing the last of a species," he notes to me wistfully, and we both feel the hollow, aching wrench of that possibility.
And we are all left to ask: 'what next'?
We plant milkweed and gardens as full and lush as we can to feed ourselves, to feed our human and wildlife communities, we share stories of success and trial, and I keep looking to the gardens, cultivated and wild, big and small, on the widest possible scale - the lifetime, generational, geologic scale - for possible insights and answers.
And when I find them, or I don't, I share that here with you and I take solace in what you in turn share with me. We are gardeners, that's what we do - that's some part of our capacity to affect outcome in the great many possibilities for 'what next'.
In appreciation for being in this together,
Jennifer and the Cultivating Place Team
PS: Did YOU learn a new plant this past month? Did you share it with me by email or on Instagram? I will do a round of up participant photos in the next monthly A View From Here newsletter and would love to feature your photos and plants learned! Send me an email with the photo(s) and infor: CultivatingPlace (at) gmail.com, or post your new plant learned on Instagram using the hashtag #myplantofthemonthCP so I can find it. I posted mine on Instagram on Sept 1st - to see it click here: https://www.instagram.com/p/B16vMiBgtpe/
LINKS to AUGUST 2019 CULTIVATING PLACE PROGRAMS
(just click the live link that is the green title of each program to get to the audio file and listen in....)
8/29/19: BEST OF: To Be a Seed Keeper, Rowen White, Sierra Seeds
8/22/19: High Ground: Penstemons and other Alpines, Mike Wintgen, Denver Botanic Gardens
8/15/19: The Garden as Crucible, Meg Herndon & Sandra Nam Cioffi of Plant Me A Rainbow
8/8/19: Where the Wild Things Are - The Wild Yards Project, David Newsom
8/1/19: Reading the Landscape, Courtney Allen, Native Plant Trust
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The strength of future of an acorn.