Love Offering

July 3, 2016 wet garden 026

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The day I began this ‘Forest Garden Blog‘ we were still a bit in shock.  Our front garden was filled with three fallen oak trees.

Chainsaws whined hour after hour, cutting them apart into smaller bits, drowned out only by the grinder pulverizing piece after piece of our beloved trees.  Heavy orange earth movers made trip after trip into the yard, completely obliterating the little sapling Mountain Laurel shrubs we’d planted the year before.  But who could possibly see them under the tons of branches and leaves fallen in an instant during a summer thunderstorm?

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July 8, 2016 sky 009

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It was late afternoon when it happened.  A sudden thunderstorm had blown up off the James River and it was raining hard.  Bright white lightening flashed, thunder clapped and the wind blew sheets of rain across the yard.

I stood at the window, trying to understand the changed landscape before me.  It took some time for me to make sense of the towering walls of wet red clay and mangled roots risen in front of us, blocking our view of the upper garden.

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June 13 storm damaged trees 001

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While we counted ourselves blessed that the trees went down away from our home and cars, we were not quite sure what to do about our trees now filling, and blocking, the street in front of us; lying neatly in the opening of our neighbors’ driveway.

The storm was still thundering around us as we inspected the damage.  Neighbors showed up with chainsaws, rakes and offers of help.  An arborist, checking on a nearby customer, saw our distress and pitched in to help clear the street.  Help was there that evening when we needed it most, and each day following, until the clean up was handled.

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June 13 storm damaged trees 004

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But the garden left behind was shockingly different.  The hot summer sun beat down where once we enjoyed deep shade.  Deer happily explored the new breaches in the fence, discovering full access to the garden we’d worked so hard to cultivate.  In all, five trees were completely gone and many more left severely damaged.  Shrubs were shattered, our light post crushed, the drive caked in mud, and everywhere lay browning leaves, small branches, and pulverized bits of our beloved trees.

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June 16, 2013 tree clearing 014

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This was the second time oaks had fallen in our garden in our four years in this home, leaving some portions forever changed.  I was feeling very edgy the day “Forest Garden” was born; at loose ends to do something constructive inside, away from the mess; away from the crews of strangers wielding chainsaws in my garden.

And so I sat before the computer and began this blog.

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June 16, 2013 tree clearing 018

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My purpose was mainly to reach out.  I wanted to connect with other gardeners, and hopefully share a little of what I had learned with others who felt as frustrated gardening in a forest, filled with unplanned surprises, as I was feeling.

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June 16, 2013 tree clearing 017

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I had this list of plants I’d been compiling for a few years already, and I wanted  to publish it for others whose yards are grazed by ever-hungry deer.  Friends and I had been keeping records of what the deer didn’t eat, and I hoped someone else might find that useful.

And I wrote about what it means to me to garden in this historic place near Jamestown Virginia, in woods once belonging to the great chiefs of the Algonquian nation.

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July 20, 2016 sky 005

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I used this blog as a ladder to help myself climb back up from sadness and self-pity over what we had lost, and were losing, that June of 2013; towards something brighter and stronger and more useful than I was feeling in that moment.  And eventually I used ‘Forest Garden’ to help define my own philosophy and style of gardening.

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July 20, 2014 hummingbird 006

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And never once did I entertain any thought of trying to turn a profit from it. 

Now please understand, I’m a child of the 60’s, coming into this world along with the early Peace Corps and Beatle Mania. I was born in the era of man’s first flights into outer space.  Maybe if I’d been born in the age of Reagan or the Bushes I’d have a different outlook on things.

But the work I do on this blog I do for myself, primarily.  And I’m happy if what I write is helpful to others; but I do it in a spirit of sharing, not of seeking profit.  You may think I’m hopelessly naive.

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July 8, 2016 sky 010

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‘Real’ artists and writers expect to profit from their work.  Photos sell for hundreds of dollars.  Maybe I need to wise up, and publish an e-book rather than publishing each day, freely, on the world-wide-web.   But I get the greatest feeling of warmth and connection when I see comments left by fellow gardeners and seekers. 

I love to respond to others facing similar challenges and thinking similar thoughts in England or Australia, Brussels or Massachusetts,  Oregon or Florida, Indonesia or on an island in the Mediterranean Sea.  I take great pleasure in watching others’ gardens grow through the photos they publish, and finding new ideas in their experiences.  That is priceless experience to me, and I would never risk alienating my fellow bloggers by suggesting they should donate to support this joyful work I do.

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August 13, 2016 morning garden 070

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Do you see this differently?  If you have a blog of your own, have you considered asking for financial support?  How do you feel when you see a ‘donate’ button on someone’s blog?

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August 13, 2016 morning garden 071

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Perhaps if I truly needed to ask for financial support I’d see this question through a different lens.  But I am blessed, and have achieved a stage in life more focused on giving to others than on ‘earning my keep.’  And every photo that I take and prepare for publication is an act of love, a meditation on the beauty of the world around us.

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August 13, 2016 morning garden 076

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I am deeply grateful for our garden, for the creatures who share it with us, for the changing seasons and the endless opportunities to learn.

I am deeply grateful to the staff of WordPress for this online platform, and for the technology which makes it possible to share thoughts and photos with the world each day.  And I am grateful to have the time, the energy, and the ability to make a little contribution to the online conversation.

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August 13, 2016 morning garden 027

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I hope that everyone who visits ‘Forest Garden’ feels enriched in some way by that experience.   I am ‘enriched’ through the process, too.  And that is all I need to keep going with this blogging adventure.

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August 13, 2016 morning garden 050

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It has been a little more than three years now since the day our oak trees fell in a summer storm.  In that time, I’ve published well over a thousand posts, returning to the writing that was once such an important part of my life.  I’ve had motivation to read and study, to experiment and observe.

I’ve found great joy through photography, maybe gotten a little better at it; and I’ve discovered scores of ‘expert’ bloggers ready to help me learn about any subject I can think of.  All I need do is search them out and click freely through their many pages of instruction, insight and advice.

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July 27, 2016 morning garden 006

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That is the magic of this ‘blogosphere’ we love.  It is inspiring.  It is always fresh and new.  It offers endless opportunities to learn and to explore.  It harnesses human creativity in so many novel and uplifting ways.  And it is free.  It costs nothing but time, once we have the technology to access the world wide web.

I sincerely hope our blogging community remains a non-commercial exchange of ideas and a not-for-profit love offering to humanity.  If it can, then we have found a way to elevate human society; to evolve a more peaceful and interconnected community which benefits us all.

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August 10, 2016 River at dusk 013

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Woodland Gnome 2016

 

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Blog Tour

Eliza Waters, author, gardener, and naturalist, invited me to participate in a blog tour of writers reflecting on their own writing process. You will find Eliza’s blog wonderfully illustrated with photos of her Massachusetts garden and peppered with her wit and wisdom. Eliza has become a treasured friend and correspondent over the last several months, and I hope you will take a moment to read her reflections on writing and life.

 

A spider makes its beautiful web in my garden,; a reminder of the beauty and complexity of life.

A spider works its intricate web in our garden; a reminder of the beauty and complexity of life, and the necessity of dinner.

 

I would suggest that writers are obsessed, not trained. For some of us, an idea or turn of phrase lodges itself into our mind and repeats itself, like a squeaky hinge, until we begin to write it.

Once we write down those initial words, more begin to flow in a trickling stream of consciousness. One image elicits the next, and ideas fit together into some sort of structure.

I’m often surprised at how these thoughts develop and transform; linking to something I’ve recently read or seen or heard; and a message takes shape which was unseen at the beginning.

On a good day….

 

August 22, 2014 Parkway 029

This need to write started when I was very young.  I was often writing in the margins of a composition book while an oblivious teacher conducted class on some very different topic. They must have assumed I was taking copious notes. But I was writing verse, and the whole process of composition and editing carried over in spare moments through the course of a day or two until I knew it was completed.

The pile of finished work accumulated and by junior high a sympathetic teacher made a friend and me editors of a school literary magazine. Writing, and writing friends, carried me through grade school and into college.   I continued to edit various publications over the years.  Finally I had the opportunity to work  with young writers during my own teaching career.

A summer spent with the Tidewater Writing Project at ODU offered the opportunity to share my writing with other  teachers; and to hear, and comment on,  theirs.   Writers actively working on their own material make more sympathetic and helpful teachers. We learned how to write with our students and how to work with them as mentors and partners in the process.

A volunteer Viola sprouted from a stray seed.

A volunteer Viola sprouted from a stray seed.

 

And writing is a process. Its roots lie in reflection. Its roots lie in soaking in ideas expressed by others in their music, poetry, fiction, prose, art, and photography. From this rich brew of ideas and close observation of one’s own life, ideas bubble up which need expression.

 

Autumn has appeared down by College Creek.

Autumn has appeared down by College Creek.

It is good to encourage ideas to flow freely in the beginning.

I still keep a legal pad and colored pens on my desk, between me and the computer screen, to capture ideas as they first form. Phrases are pieces of a jigsaw puzzle which must be tried and turned and finally fitted together into a smooth whole.

But once those ideas have been caught into words and captured on paper, one must get down to the business of developing the ideas into something another might want to read.

This is where the art and craft of writing takes over from visionary rambling.

Virginia Creeper on the pine tree has already begun going scarlet in this cool August weather.

Virginia Creeper on the pine tree has already begun going scarlet in this cool August weather.

Frequent visitors to Forest Garden find many different sorts of writing here.

There are essays and poems, how-to posts and quotations.  And there are many photographs of life in our garden and community.

While I sometimes go looking for photos to illustrate an idea, more frequently an idea is sparked by the day’s cache of photos.

I began writing this blog to help other gardeners struggling in similiar  deer-ridden vole-infested, squirrel- bitten shady bits of forest.

I had lists to post and resources to share.  That information remains in the archives.

But the discipline of daily writing brought me back to my own roots as a poet.  And some days now poetry seeps out, other days hard prose.  On a very good day there might be a hint of poetry buried within some useful prose.

 

August 23, 2014 Creek 005

Whether one is writing poetry or prose, good composition is based on research, structure, and refinement.

Questions arise as I’m writing. There is always more to learn about whatever topic, whether the name of a particular plant or the various opinions on how best to prepare a planting bed.

Most of my composition occurs at the computer  with a search engine window open. I look for what others have to say, fact check, spell check, and look up words. I search for quotations on particular topics, examine photographs, check maps, and always research the cultural requirements for plants I might mention. Since much of the writing I publish now is fact based, I try to confirm information from multiple sources as I write.

I found this beautiful wild Hibiscus down by the Creek today, but have not yet identified its species.

I found this beautiful wild Hibiscus down by the Creek today, but have not yet identified its species.

 

“Revising” nearly always begins before the first draft is complete.   I walk away from the work and come back to it later with ‘fresh eyes,” re-reading from the beginning. I want to know that I’m on track to express my thoughts  logically and clearly. I look for “jumps” where more information or a reasonable transition is needed.   I look for tangential wanderings which need deleting.

Deleting is almost as important as writing. I usually  put down too many words, whether it is prose or poetry.   One searches for a simpler, clearer way to put an idea into words  through revision.

This process of revision takes time. The words need to get “cold” sometimes before we can hear our own awkward passages to fix them.   And this is just for the sense and structure of what is written.

The whole process of “editing” is another matter entirely.

 

This exuberant arrangement grows wild on the bank of the James River at Jamestown Island.

A wild garden on the bank of the James River at Jamestown Island.

 

I shiver to think how many students’ papers I’ve read and “edited” over the years.  That critical part of my brain which looks for commas and common misspellings is definitely overactive; and yet I often miss my own errors.

Sometimes I find them on a sixth or seventh reading. Sometimes my partner reads behind me, and finds things I’ve missed.

Yet it remains important to me to make a piece of writing as clean as possible before sharing it. I want my writing “clean” of any distraction which might snag a reader’s attention away from my message, whether that is a factual error, an awkward phrase, or a “typo.”

 

Hibiscus syriacus

Hibiscus syriacus

 

The point of writing is communication: mind to mind, heart to heart, and soul to soul.    It is a way to connect with others across unlimited space and time.

In reading a sutra, I hear the wisdom of a Bodhisattva who lived centuries ago as though we were sitting together over a cup of tea.

 

Replicas of the original Seventeenth Century ships moored at Jamestown.

Replicas of the original Seventeenth Century ships moored at Jamestown.

 

I love the community on WordPress because it allows me to converse in real time with acquaintances in Massachusettes, Malaysia, Australia, Georgia, Brussels and Great Britain, all while sitting here at my desk.

And through these conversations I’ve met talented, fascinating people. I’ve found companions along the way who share my passions and concerns. And I’ve discovered artists and poets, activists and environmentalists, mystics and mothers.

Everyone I’ve encountered is reflecting on their own journey through the words and images they publish.

 

August 22, 2014 Parkway 088

One friend and fellow traveler, artist, mystic, and writer is Sue Vincent.  Sue, like Tolkien, Lewis, and Rowling; writes about a special world which transcends time. Her journeys through the countryside of England, as recorded in her novels, are an epic quest for lost wisdom and deeper understanding.

Her delightful characters share their experiences and reflections in the sort of archetypes which takes the reader along on a journey of self- discovery.

 

Sue Vincent

Sue shares her own journeys on her blog, and gives us a glimpse of her writer’s world of research, deadlines, and the satisfaction of publication.  She also shares the joys and sorrows of children, friends, and a small dog.

Her exquisite photographs become a meditation beyond words. I hope you will visit Sue’s The Daily Echo, which is the next stop on this blog tour.

 

Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

August 22, 2014 Parkway 031

The Butterfly Net: World Blog Hop by Sue Vincent

Tried and True Approaches For the Time-strapped Writer by Ellen Shriner

Blog Touring by Cynthia Kraak

World Blog Tour by Carolyn K. Boehlke

Subsequent stops on the Blog Tour:

Inner Dreaming- World Blog Hop  by G. Michael Vasey

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