Tag Archives: grandmother

Zen Garden On Paradise Lane

Meditation Benches

Everyone should be quiet beside a little stream and listen.

I love Karen Maezen Miller. I love everything she writes, I love everything she says and everything she doesn’t say. Her new book Paradise In Plain Sight is beautiful, but it’s not about gardening. Thank goodness. I do love her Lessons From a Zen Garden. Her book inspired me to think about what lessons I have learned from my garden.

It reminds me very much of another favourite book  Fly Fishing Through a Midlife Crisis by Howell Raines. His book wasn’t about fly fishing either. He had some lessons as well:

  •  Always be careful about where you fish and what you fish for and whom you fish with.
  •   Be even more careful about what you take home and what you throw back.
  • The point of all fishing is to become ready to fly fish.
  •   The point of fly fishing is to become reverent in the presence of art and nature.

There is no way you would call my current garden a “zen garden” or a Japanese garden. I did have one once. It was at our last house on the wet coast.  A modern-day version of what western gardeners thought an Asian Garden should look like. It was peaceful,  quiet and beautiful.  Already there when we bought the house, the garden was rumoured to have cost $30,000. It was based loosely on the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden and designed on the harmony of four main elements: rock, water, plants, and architecture.

When we moved here to Paradise Lane just off Paradise Road on the treeline above the grasslands I brought all my previous garden knowledge and  prejudices with me. I wanted to keep gardening the same way. Ha!


Well… I did have the same elements; rock and lots of them, plants I had never seen before…….. what was a plant or a weed. I had water, underground in a well and a raging creek as my property line. Some days it was there and some days not at all. Dependent on what the master gardener Mother Nature decreed, we also had fire and wind.

Life and gardening lessons were in abundant supply. Peace and plenty were interchangeable with chaos, mayhem and nothingness, and nothing was controlled by me. But, this is after all, paradise, right here.


I grew up being taught that man has dominion as a gift from ‘god” overall. Genesis 1:26
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”

After 13 years here I know that any desire I have to conquer or have dominion over this garden is for not.

I have learned that:

Field of Dandelions

1. Dandelions are not a weed.  There are no weeds, just aversions. Dandelions here are the first food for bees and if you are walking through a field of dandelions and it is not buzzing, your crops are in trouble. I have already blogged about One Man’s Weeds Are another Man’s Toilet Paper.

Ever wonder how so many dandelions end up in your garden?

As a teenager my mom had a phrase about squeezing zits on your face. When you kill one  a hundred more come to its funeral. Weeds and resentments react the same way.

1a. These are not dandelions. They are yellow and you never see them in anyone’s garden but sometimes in the spring they cover the hillside for a very short time and photographers vie for the best shot of mass balsam in bloom. The biggest resentment in my garden is Burdock.

BalsamWeeds & resentments are very similar.

2. Something very, very small can cripple or enhance a garden, a life, an economy.

dead pinePine trees grew everywhere in these parts and farther north. They were part of the basis of our forestry resource sector. A tiny beetle the size of a grain of rice killed millions of acres of pine, sometimes destroying whole communities. Little things can also be a sense of joy and renewal. The tiny violets hiding under the no weeds.                                                                       IMG_5824 IMG_5803

The baby tree, a gift from its mother, protected by her dying roots and fed from her decaying body, or the first damselfly of spring.


3. Water is important for living and nurturing. Water from a shallow well can be a great teacher if you mindlessly leave a tap running and drain the well.  How you water your garden is also how you should water your life. A gentle shower nurtures growing plants better than the harsh jet setting on your hose nozzle. Relationships are the same.









4. Be careful whom you invite to  your garden, just like being careful whom you invite to fish with you. If you live with five cats be prepared for the Nepeta to be eaten to the ground. If you live with a non gardener don’t expect them to know the difference between dandelions and balsam. Be careful what you ask of them; like weed whacking, or watering. Not everyone has the soul of a gardener, but they do have a soul. Forgiveness helps.

Dwarf Mane Coon

5. Rocks,  integral to a Zen Garden, and dirt are important in my garden as well. They teach about sensing, seeing and listening.

You can build walls with rocks, use them as  a door stop or make them part of your  meditation. I am an addicted rock collector. I am always picking them up on walks. Rocks have solid stories to tell. They are the foundation of the earth. I always add the small ones that talk to me to my fountain below. The large lava formed rock is a “grandfather” used in aboriginal sweats….the ancestors are always invited and blessed at a sweat lodge.

grandfather rockIMG_5817IMG_5837

Nature is always talking to us. Even dirt has something to say. Chef Dan Barber  says in his new book  The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food  “soil is a living organism (made up of billions of smaller living organisms — just like us). It inhales and exhales, procreates, and digests. And it has a personality, too…..but soil is constantly talking to us, communicating what it needs. It shoots up milkweed if it’s hungry for zinc, and wild garlic if it needs more sulfur. If you see chicory or Queen Anne’s lace in a field, that means the soil is low in fertility”

We just  have to observe and listen. (especially for the birds)

blue bird grasslands

6. I  have a notion that change happens slowly, It only took a short time here with a windstorm and a fire to disabuse that belief. In ten years over 100 trees have died or fallen. We spent two weeks evacuated by a raging fire. Impermanence gets bandied around so much today. Yes, eventually everything changes and disappears. Even saints  get old and broken.

IMG_5796 IMG_5795

Gardens and living disabuse a lot!

7. Be careful who and what you feed. Feeding the birds in winter leaves unwanted plants in your flower beds. (quack grass, chickweed )


It also creates sunflowers. Leaving areas in their natural state invites deer and bears to eat and sleep. Fallen logs and overgrowth along the creek promotes bug life and shade for the returning salmon. Gardens need to be shared. This type of gardening transcends the needs of the gardener. It’s not about gardening anymore.

Sometimes the nature of my gardening seems so chaotic and out of control; my life too. Unclear or in ruin, taking refuge in wildness can give an order to all things.

8. Children belong GROW in the garden. They are washable and you can just towel dry. As a grandmother, teaching my grandchildren their first nature lessons is a privilege. I feel so sad for little ones that think  nature is something you see on tv, or who are afraid of bugs, worms, snakes and dirt. In a garden they learn they are not alone, it connects them to a world that is small and infinite at the same time. They learn their place.



9. Genuflect.

I love this word. Get down on your knees in the garden with reverence and worship. It teaches servitude and humility.

Thank you Karen Maezen Miller and Howell Raines!

Paradise is here. May we all be blessed with good gardening and great fly  fishing


Sleeping with Grandmother

A Circle Begins

in the surround of snow topped mountains

a circle begins

in the meadow by a snow melt creek

where hands weave a house of thin green saplings

it is a way of a song

a way of breathing

a pure womb to centre oneself through sweat

a way of blessings and being blessed

a circle of humility, prayer and asking

and there are no clocks to measure time

but the beating of our singing hearts

Harold Littlebird, Pueblo poet

The Sweat Loge or in Lakota Iinitipi is a place of physical and spiritual purification and a time to commune with the forces of nature, earth, water, fire and air, and Creator.

I attended a sweat lodge recently with close family and in the first round of prayers my husband was waxing on how grateful he felt to be his age. It was coming up to our fourth granddaughter’s first birthday and he was asking blessings for her. He said how happy he was to be a grandfather and that he just realized that he was now sleeping with a grandmother. It almost went  right over my head until I realized that he was talking about me, the grandmother.  emaho

Yes, I have become a grandmother. No longer just a mother. I felt a deep sense of responsibility at that point. I was taught very young that you honour and  respect your elders. Great wisdom can be found in their vast knowledge. Grandparents were sacred and safe. Their love knew no bounds. As I enter the season of reflection let me always keep in the forefront of my being that I owe a deep debt to my elders and a responsibility to my children and grandchildren.

“I have so much I can teach her

And pull out of her

I would say you might encounter defeats

But you must never be defeated

I would teach her to love a lot.

Laugh a lot at the silliest things

And be very serious.

I would teach her to love life,

I could do that.”

adapted from a poem by Maya Angelou

“Grandparents are not there only to be loved and appreciated, but to impart wisdom. They have lived and gained understanding, and their grandchildren should turn to them for guidance and inspiration.”

The lodge is low and dome-shaped and is symbolic for the womb of Mother Earth. It is framed with saplings, preferably willow because of its association with water and its symbolism of spring and renewal. The lodge is covered with animals hides, bark, packed earth or today blankets or canvas. The entrance is an arch covered with a  blanket flap to keep out light and the floor is earthen.

Sweat lodge stones are igneous rocks. They are heated in a sacred outside fire to extreme temperatures. They are called grandfathers and grandmothers, the ancient stone people. The red-hot stones are placed in a round pit in the centre of the lodge called the fireplace. It symbolizes the centre of the universe; the dwelling place of the Great Spirit and his Power.

The first four stones invite, honour and symbolize the four directions, the next three represent the sky, earth and the centre. The door flap is closed the lodge becomes pitch black and the fire is blessed with water, and medicine (herbs such as cedar or sweet grass). Sitting in the darkness, illuminated by the red glow of the grandfathers, the air hot and humid you feel that you have entered the beginning of life on earth, you are sitting in the womb of creation. it is a place of spiritual rebirth.You can seat away all forms of tension; mental, physical, and emotional. In rounds each person is asked to pray. The Sweat is usually communal and that through the sharing of wisdom and prayers it strengthens ties of mutual support.


It's all about the dance.

I am a wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, friend and crone who has learned not to whine. I am dedicated to learning and expanding with the universe. I am a follower of St. Francis, Buddha, Gaia and native spirituality. I want to leave this part of the journey with a small environmental footprint and an ever-expanding and colourful aura. There have been many lessons along the way. I am here to learn and share. If I can be  light on the path, especially for my grandchildren I will be very happy to move on the journey.

I try every day to create beauty around me and to share the beauty I see around me. I am dedicated to encouraging gratitude and forgiveness in all things.  I dedicate this blog to my grand children especially Gigi, in hope that my life will encourage her to be all that she knows she can be.

I am an artist who needs to show the beauty of all creation through painting, music and photography.

My thoughts occur randomly and that’s how I will write.  I do know that sense will be made of them.