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FEATURE - April 2018
The Evolving Gardener
You Have the Gifts to Heal the Planet
by Sami Aaron
If you’re like me, you feel a deep, spiritual connection to the natural world.
You head to the beach or mountains or forests when you’re on vacation. You go for a hike when you’re anxious or stressed. There are fresh flowers, houseplants, or pictures of nature throughout your home or office.
You have a sense that there might be some uplifting and healing properties to be found in nature—and you’d be right.
According to The NatureProcess® (www.thenatureprocess.co), there are 67 scientifically proven benefits to time spent in nature. These benefits can positively impact mental processes and behaviors, cognitive function, and physical health as well as cultural and spiritual well-being.
I believe that there is an innate drive within humans to live in harmony with the natural world and its rhythms.
But so often these days, you learn something that’s devastating to an aspect of nature that you love: another massive oil spill, threat to the habitat of an endangered species, or your favorite tree being cut down. You find yourself in the throes of deep grief, profound loss, and a feeling of complete impotence to do anything about the ongoing destruction that is marring the face of our beloved Earth.
You’re not alone.
According to studies from the American Psychological Association, people around the world are experiencing severe distress caused by climate change. There are even words for these emotions now such as eco-anxiety, pre-traumatic stress, and solastalgia—pining for lost environments.
According to a 2010 article, “Is There an Ecological Unconscious?” from The New York Times, “’Solastalgia’ has been used to describe the experiences of Canadian Inuit communities coping with the effects of rising temperatures; Ghanaian subsistence farmers faced with changes in rainfall patterns; and refugees returning to New Orleans after Katrina.”
The grief you experience is powerful and palpable because our connection to our environment is real. Test it out for yourself! With your next in breath, let your mind meander over the idea that those molecules of air have been floating around this planet on the wind for eons!
There is good news.
Because we are nature, when we simply re-connect to natural, native settings around us, we set the stage for a tremendous benefit to ourselves as well as our planet. How would it feel if you could recreate the gardens, woodlands, prairies, or forests of the most beautiful places on the planet right in your own home or office, your yard, or your porch?
You have the gifts to do just that!
All you have to do, as you start your spring garden projects, is to shift your mindset from just “gardening” to “gardening for nature.”
What are Your Gifts?
Gift 1: Plant native plants that have co-evolved with our native insects and wildlife to provide the proper bloom or fruit at just the right time for breeding or overwintering. Don’t have a yard? Put them in deep pots on your porch!
Gift 2: Plant host plants such as milkweeds for a variety of butterflies and moths. Host plants don’t have to be native! Parsley, tomato, dill, fennel, and other herbs are host to lots of native insects. Many insects have evolved to lay their eggs on specific plants. If you provide these plants, the caterpillars will come.
Gift 3: Buy only chemical-free plants. If the nursery where you shop cannot guarantee that their plants were grown without any chemicals—from the seed to the sale—then shop elsewhere.
Gift 4: Leave your yard messy. This may be your favorite gift! Many insects, including the faery-like Luna moth, overwinter in last fall’s leaves. Many native bees lay their eggs in the stalks of taller wildflower plants in fall, not to emerge until later the next spring. If you mow, burn, compost, or throw away those leaves or stalks, you are killing next year’s critters. Leave dead leaves and stalks standing over winter until you see new spring growth.
And finally: educate your neighbors and ask them to join you so pollinators can have continuous pathways of nectar, pollen, and host plants.
How will you know you’re making an impact?
You will really experience all seasons because your gardens will evolve throughout the year. Native plants typically only bloom for a few weeks at a time, so every few weeks it’s like you have a new garden!
You’ll see life in your gardens—buzzing bees, flitting butterflies, crawly caterpillars. Sometimes there is so much activity it looks like the plants themselves are buzzing. Seeing this, and knowing that you created it, can be uplifting and joyous.
Your senses come into full receptivity in your garden—the aroma of healthy, rich soil, the intoxicating scent of blossoms, the textures of leaves, stalks, and fruits. You’ll feel compelled to smell, touch, and examine each leaf, fruit, and petal.
And best of all, you’ll create a sacred retreat, right in your own yard, where you can visualize the delight of a healthy planet knowing that your wildflower haven, which is benefitting you, is also an important link in the environmental restoration of Earth.
Sami Aaron is a Master Facilitator for The Nature Process®. She offers free programs on gardening for nature and is passionate about exploring the intrinsic relationship between humanity and the natural world. She is the founder of the nonprofit, "The Resilient Activist," because joyful and inspired activists are good for life. firstname.lastname@example.org.