Please note – I’m reposting this as part of the ‘Deja Vu Blogfest – 2014’.

garden       Cultivating the Garden, Cultivating the Mind

‘To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves’ – Gandhi.

I took this photograph of orchids in pots on the patio with my cell phone last week when we returned from the Cape and the Wellington Wine Walk. I wish I could tell you the name of them. They are so beautiful and came with us from our old home last year when we moved into the town house. I snipped a few stems, and they’re in a vase gracing the table in the entrance of our home.

I am at my desk in my study which looks out into my garden. I see those orchids amongst a backdrop of white and red roses and various other bushy plants and flowers.  We’re winding our way into winter here in South Africa, and I wonder how my plants will fare. No doubt there will be frost.

I think of a few things. One of my mother, long gone, and her extraordinary way with plants, flowers, vegetables. She knew of Findhorn in the north east of Scotland, long before it became fashionable. Its’ history beginning in the early 1960’s, with pioneers Peter and Eileen Caddy, and Dorothy MacLean is a fascinating one. Out of economic necessity and in order to feed their family, they began growing their own vegetables in the most inhospitable soil imaginable. With the guidance of intuition and using inner wisdom – ‘the still small voice within’ – Findhorn became a thriving community. To the amazement of all, those plants and veg were several times larger than normal size, more brightly coloured and flavoursome, more rich in nutrients.

My late mother would talk to her plants, and play them music from a battery operated tape machine (Bach and Mozart), and encourage them to grow. We probably as children thought her eccentric; she was a yoga teacher after all. But grow they did. O my goodness, they were delicious! We learned from an early age to love broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, carrots etc. Nasturtium leaves in our school sandwiches gave them an extra zing and a bit of a sinus washout. Violet petals strewn among salad with home grown tomatoes and goodness knows what else made salad a feast for our eyes and taste buds. Lavender was always planted to attract bees –

Decades later, I also check on my plants and thank them for their beauty. I fret when the bougainvillea in their large pots don’t grow as fast or as assuredly as I would like. I haven’t got round to playing them music yet but maybe I will. I have a portable CD player – I could buy batteries for it and take it outside. I wonder if the bougainvillea would like Bach or Beethoven?

I see the parallels in my mother cultivating her garden with her cultivating her mind. The love and the care she gave to tending her garden was the same love and care she extended in her yoga classes and towards all with whom she came into contact.

Being in touch with Mother Nature and her bounty is a way that we could all cultivate our minds. We can see when things need pruning in our gardens; similarly we can work out what needs pruning in our minds. We can dig and root out the dead wood, that which no longer serves a purpose, remove the weeds that cover over and choke, in our minds.  Welcome the elements, no matter how treacherous they may seem, in our minds as well. Aerate the worms who go about doing their business, in our minds. Plant seeds, in prepared soil, in our minds. Cultivate the imagination as you use your hands to do the work. Have a healthy respect for the messiness and dirt – in our minds. Cultivate it, use it for good compost.

73 Comments on Cultivating the Garden, Cultivating the Mind

  1. Hi, catching up on the blog-hop 🙂 I completely believe in connecting with Mother Nature (quite the hippy me!). I walk in the garden barefoot at every opportunity and walk in the woods as often as possible. Whenever the weather’s nice I meditate in the garden. I can actually feel the calm and energy wash over me 🙂 xx

    • Thanks for coming by Suzanne! I agree there’s nothing like Nature to reconnect and balance and harmonise .. walking barefoot is like having a foot massage.

      It’s almost 2015 – may the calm an energy see you through this year 🙂

  2. Joe thank you for your lovely response to my re-blogged post, I much appreciate this. Yesterday was Christmas Day, and the last day of the Festival of Lights – Hanukka. As we sat around the Christmas table for lunch, we remembered our parents and those no longer with us … this was special for us all, remembering family and friends.

  3. In early 2014 I became intensely fascinated by your book, the one in which you lovingly remembered the beauty of your mother’s care of plants and also of people. You recalled thoughts about your mother that were a few weeks after the Summer Equinox when the days begin to get shorter in the North and longer in the South. Special planetary events, and holidays such as Christmas and the Jewish Festival of Lights, make us think of departed parents and we fervently wish they were again in company with us in our homes during those holidays.

    Thank you for reposting your 27 MAY 2014 Blog and your profound thoughts therein.

  4. Hi Susan – love this post and those reflective memories .. my mother was an amazing gardener, as too my grandmothers … I’ve never really had a garden to get to grips with, and now for the time being I hope live in a flat … but someone in Jo’burg said to me .. these things can come late in life – late in life is here … but the future I’m sure holds a garden …

    Lovely – I don’t mind weeds – some mighty good things they do and provide .. just like nurturing all and not the scruffy scrudge (new word I think!) of residue people leave about ..

    Have a happy build up to the Christmas season – Hilary

    • Thank you Hilary! Many things can come late in life – it’s here for me too – I LOVE that you say ‘… the future I’m sure holds a garden’. Scrudge is a great descriptive word, sadly though meaning exactly how it sounds … residue that people leave behind.

      You too have a happy build up to the Christmas season Hilary – thank you for your good wishes. Susan

  5. Fantastic post! I’m so glad this is the one you chose to share with us for the Deja Vu post! Your last paragraph is so strong and powerful. Great imagery throughout! I’m so glad I found you…
    Happy Deja Vu weekend. 🙂
    michele at Angels Bark

  6. Your mother’s garden sounds idyllic. I love that she played music to help her garden grow! She probably used the garden for yoga sessions as well? I agree with Gandhi. It is so immensely satisfying to grow something. And if you can grow plants and herbs to eat, so much the better.

    • Thanks for coming by Kim! She had her own yoga studio, like a ballet studio I guess with barres along the sides and large mirrors. The garden in view in all its vibrancy and colour!

  7. So that’s what’s causing the blockage in my brain–the compost!!? LOL
    Alas, no green thumb here but I’m married to one and he likes classical music too! The plants seem pretty happy.

    • That’s an interesting comment Arlee thank you. Sometimes my plants drive me crazy and I want to rip them out … patience on my side is sadly lacking. If i DON’T rip ’em out I am sometimes surprised how beautifully they turned out …

  8. This post brings a different meaning to my mind this time as I was warned today to let go my fears from long ago so that my body, can let go and renew… as a plant going from winter into spring. Timely REPOST….Thanks!

    • Terrific Gwynn re being reminded about your fears so that your body can renew. And how great that my repost serves as further reminder! Thank you for coming by!

  9. A timely reminder for us going into winter that there will be sunny days with beautiful flowers if we just take the time to nurture them. Time to put the work into my garden to pay the dividends next year. I hope your garden is filled with orchids once more.

    So great to meet you through the Deja Vu Blogfest 🙂

  10. Beautiful post! I love the evocative way you intertwine your memories of your mother with working the soil and cultivating our own inner self.

    Happy Deja Vu!

  11. Gardening is one of the true pleasures my soul enjoys. The soil feels so good between my fingers, and watching the plants sprout and grow is positively thrilling. Your mom sounds like such a lovely person. She gave you something so very special with her garden, and I’m glad you carried it on, sharing it with your family in turn, Susan.

    • Thank you so much MJ! I enjoyed taking a trip down memory lane. I agree there is nothing quite as exciting as watching seeds start to sprout and seeing them come into their full bloom!

  12. This was such an excellent post…on so many levels. I loved the cultivating the mind analogy along with the memories of your mother. Post don’t get much better than this. Thank you for re-sharing it today! 🙂

  13. Susan, slow to catch up on my blog reading but stopped to read this one because of the “cultivate the mind” phrase. Surely, your mother and my parents must have been blessed with the gardening gene. My folks could grow the most wonderful vegetables (my dad) and flowers (my mom). Somehow I don’t think I got that gene but I do talk to our flowering plants and those that don’t flower too. I loved reading this post. There was something very nurturing and comforting about it. I needed the calmness one finds in strolling through the garden. Thanks so much for sharing these thoughts.

  14. Hi,

    It always amazing to see how great the influence that a parent can have upon us. Your mother playing music and talking to her plants, working in her garden; something that she has passed on to you, and more than likely your sons will one day walk in that same love for mother nature.

    I am not a garden person, but I love to put things together with my hands or walk among the wine fields observing the clouds. I receive energy, new ideas and most important my mind finds a spring of peace.



    • Mother Nature – she seems to restore ourselves to ourselves, doesn’t she Patricia. And of course her energy – in abundance. We just need to breath it in … lying on the grass and looking up at the clouds is a thought that has just come to me though I may have to wait for summer for this …
      Thank you for coming by Patricia .. much appreciated!

  15. I do like your analogy. I try to cultivate my mind, but sometimes this endeavor is not unlike my attempts as a gardener. I take after my parents. They could barely grow grass let alone a garden.

    I tried my skills at planting a vegetable garden and came up with a pretty sorry crop. Even the crop of weeds that grow in my backyard now is a pretty sorry display. Maybe it’s the bad soil in my yard. It’s a good thing my yard is very small and mostly patio.

    Tossing It Out

    • I’ve also tried a veg and herb patch Arlee with not much success. I plan to re-try at some stage. I’m starting small – I have a basil plant in a pot in the kitchen. Thank you for coming by!

  16. Reading your post reminds me of my own mother. When she wasn’t working as a teacher she most often could be found in the garden. I guess it was her therapy after a long day spent with teens and then coming home to a house full of kids (I’m one of five). 😉 We planted a garden every year full of fruit and vegetables and I loved the process of planting the seeds and tending the garden. It’s something I’ve recently decided to do with my own kids. Lovely post.

    • Thanks Melissa! Your kids will no doubt enjoy it – besides getting soil in their fingers and so on! Already I can anticipate their thrill as they see what they have planted coming to bear. Maybe start with egg carton filled with compost and some seeds!

  17. I wish I had a way with plants like you have and your mother had. I tend not to be so fortunate with them. I think it does cultivate the mind as there is a peace in the process and a delight in the product and a connection with the life giving essence of the plant itself on several levels. Beautiful post. Still traveling the A to Z road trip and glad I stopped in again. Maria @ “”

    • Thanks so much Maria .. My mother had a way with plants which I can only admire. I am lucky to have a tenth of her skill! But I do enjoy the process.

  18. It sounds as though your mother was a lovely and unique person who passed on her creativity to her daughter. I love the analogy of gardening and cultivating one’s mind. I definitely have some dead wood that needs to go:)

  19. I would say that bougainvillea is a rock and roll sort of plant, given it’s normally vigorous growth. Play it something with lots of energy.
    My mum had a way with hydrangeas and freesias that I have not inherited. I remember her putting steel wool in the earth with the hydrangeas to bring about a variety of colours. When she passed away, one of the first things I did was to dig up all the freesia bulbs and bring them home to my place. I couldn’t bear to go through a winter without freesias in the garden.

    • Thanks Erica! I’ll do that with the bougainvillaea! Maybe some some Elvis even. I love the idea of freesias … will look into ghat this weekend …

  20. You gave me this wonderful mental image of your mother talking to the plants and playing music for them, Susan. I can see it — a scene slowly developing as in a most engrossing film. Being able to be in touch with Mother Nature is a gift, one that, by the sound of it, your mother passed to you.

    The orchards in the picture are pure joy and color. Thank you for sharing them with us.

    • Thank you Silvia, the image is coming back to me as I read your lovely response! Have a lovely weekend, and may you enjoy the trees and bees, the flowers and showers …:) And see an orchard or 3 along the way…

    • Thank you Stephanie, that is most kind! I’m still to put up the Liebster Award which I’ll do with the help of my son when he’s here for a few days next week.

  21. Hi Susan, what a lovely post! I am a on again off again gardener -mostly due to my vagabond life style these days. I like hearing about your mother’s passion and how it was instilled in you. Here, as we rattle into summer with the bay still jammed with ice I don’t have my usual longing to putter but perhaps it would sooth my anxious heart. I could leave a garden that would have to fend for itself as we will be in our other home in Nova Scotia for the bulk of the summer. Our bit of land by the beach is fully treed with towering white spruce, the guardians of this wild northern place. Nature saves me over and over -thanks for the reminder of its strength.

    • Hi Jan, thank you so much for coming by! Puttering and pottering could be the remedy for an anxious heart? The ice crystals in your post are so beautiful ..
      Your place in Nova Scotia sounds heavenly … as do the guardians. Perhaps not unlike Findhorn – seemingly inhospitable, but treasure to be found in the wilds ..

      • Ah no! The guardians are in Labrador – Nova Scotia has its own treasures and pleasures but my sojourner site is all Labrador! If you stroll backwards in time on my Living the Complicated Simple Life blog you can see the beauties of Nova Scotia.

  22. Hi Susan .. yes winter is coming isn’t it .. what lovely orchids ..with the back drop of roses … like you I remember a garden full of fruit and vegs and salads .. we were lucky. So interesting about Findhorn – I heard about it relatively recently .. but I never discussed gardening with my Ma though she was an excellent gardener .. and loved The Eden Project and Cornish gardens ..

    Great to be reminded of South Africa … I’d love a garden, but for now must wait … thanks for showing us .. cheers Hilary

    • Hi Hilary! Thanks for coming by … I remember The Eden Project from several years back. I’d love to see it again. And Cornwall …
      Do investigate Findhorn – really, it’s all so interesting from many aspects.
      Cheers to you too.

  23. Thanks for your posts – working with plants is so therapeutic! I recently posted on that myself on my own blog, I had to clean out all the remnants of my active addiction from my garden shed (so that it could be used as a garden shed again)… and the only way I found to turn my mood around afterward was to play with my new seedlings. Look forward to reading further in the future, thanks!

    • Thank you Venus …planting new seeds is food for the soul. May yours flourish in the newly created shed; as you also shed the old and provide a space for the new.

  24. Thank you for reminding us about Mother Nature and how much a part of our lives she should be. I think my fellow Good deed blogger lives near Findhorn I must check that out.

  25. Thank you for introducing me to Findhorn, a nook of nature I have not heard about.

    We are thinking along the same lines, Susan: looking out our study windows to gardens of flowers. Right now I see an explosion of what I call iris-orchids on long stems looking heaven-ward. THe memories of your mother and her flowers is touching. I have no doubt that Bach and Mozart helped them to grow.

    And your exploration of the connection between cultivating the mind as well as the soil is apt. In fact, my blog post Saturday has a similar topic. How timely!

    • Thanks for coming by Marian! I look forward to your Saturday post – A little bit of synchronicity always cheers me … a manifestation that means much!

  26. Tending one’s garden with care and love is tending oneself with care and love. I experienced this just the other day when I went to the nursery and bought plants. It is a good thing my mother wasn’t there — or I hope she wasn’t watching, because I was so lost. I know so little about plants and she always planted such beautiful flower gardens. Thankfully, the salespeople patiently listened to how I wanted my plants to look and were most helpful.

    Nasturtium leaves clear sinuses? I did not know. When I lived in Florida I put nasturtium flowers in our salads, grown on the farm where I worked.

    Beautiful flowers, Susan, in the photo. And I’ll bet your mom’s vegetables tasted good; they are so sweet and tender when pulled out of the garden.

    • Thank you Samantha! I’m imagining your blueberries on the vine as I write – and the scones you make from them. How the garden sustains us! Food for the soul.
      We’re off to an Italian restaurant this evening where the food is so fresh and delicious. Those salads… I swear they just been picked .It’s Neil’s birthday … so I’m treating him.

  27. And, do we sing to the weeds as well? Sometimes they are as lovely, sometimes we just do not want them as they rather than us decided on them being there. Any way you look at it a garden enchants and delights.
    Thanks for re-minding…

    • The weeds are as lovely Susan thank you. Yes, sing to the weeds – make good compost out of them. The worms love them too … essential to honour the weeds.

  28. I loved this post Susan as I was just wading through my notes and thoughts from the A to Z Bloggers Challenge hoping to fertilize my mind in order to grow more ideas. I realize that by not having my kids and grandkids around to generate ideas that if I don’t do some digging and creating on my own that my garden wilts. Did I mention that I have a “brown thumb?”

    Your post is VERY timely… Thank you!!

    • So pleased Gwynn thank you! Wish I’d thought of that word ‘fertilise’ :)See, you’re already watering, wading and weeding. Brown is the colour of the soil – your thumb goes well with it ..

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