Category: Summer Wonders


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*** Photo: Lemon Balm Tea, steeping, fresh from the garden

As every herbalist knows, once we start growing herbs, harvesting or drying them and making tinctures, teas, vinegars and all manner of preparations, we start collecting glass containers to keep them in and especially so we can SEE them.

What that leads to are closets compulsively filled will bottles of different shapes and sizes, saving interesting jars that originally  contained pickles, jams, mustards, condiments, or liquids like wine and spirits.  We cannot…CANNOT…. resist a pretty bottle or jar…!

Glass Garden

We also cannot resist the magic of the herbs either and so hopefully we are engaged in the making of lovely herbal delights for healing, culinary temptations or gifts for bath and beauty. Thus…. A Garden in Glass!

Glass Garden 3

*** Picture: Dark Moon Tea/Dreamers Tea (recipe at the end of essay)

The garden is not producing veggies yet, but the greening herbal leaves are abundant and ready for preparations like flavored vinegars. One of my daughters just asked for a family favorite which I have not made in recent years… my Italian Lovage vinegar in a light red wine vinegar (like Pastene), also adding fresh parsley, basil, a few..just a few!..hot pepper flakes and a smashed garlic clove. LOVAGE is a strong herb…I describe it as a kind of cross between parsley and a medieval celery.  This first tiny batch will start us off and more will be steeping as summer progresses. These smaller glass jars originally held Major Grey’s Chutney.

Glass Garden 5

Summer goes by so fast, as does life, which we do begin to realize when our children go through major passages like graduating college, getting married, becoming parents themselves while we become grandparents. Capturing the essence of the greening seasons of the garden and  those in our lives seem to be a desire to hold on to the experience or the memories through tasting, savoring…sometimes in photographs, sometimes in food…and sometimes in glass bottles to remind us of the seasons of life and love. Our Gardens in Glass …a little bit of magic…!

 

***Recipe:  Dark Moon/Dreamers Tea

A blend of dried mugwort, rose petals and perhaps a little spearmint or lavender… To your liking.  A teaspoon per cup, steeped for about 10 minutes, strained with honey for a social tea with friends. Stronger…a longer steeping time (an hour), 2-3 teaspoons per cup to drink before bed to stimulate and remember dreams…. (make sure to write those dreams down in the morning!)

 

From Christine, The Greening Spirit

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Ms borage without border

The Virtue of Humility:  “Having the proper sense of oneself in a universe of wonders!” ~ Sister Joan Chittister

Those whose gardens are the sanctuaries of herbs know that humility is a Virtue.  We often refer to herbs and their “virtues”, a medieval usage of  the word, describing their merits and usefulness subtly hidden in their at-a-first-glance smallness. Theirs is a humility defying the flashiness of showy and commanding Divas, but instead, tended in the green world by the elusive but ever present plant “Devas” whose mission it is to oversee and communicate the virtues inherent in each plant. Indeed that humility might almost render a clump of borage invisible except for tiny quick flashes of blue if we are moving through the garden mindlessly and in a hurry.

MsGarden Gate

The herbal kindom require us to slow down and practice the soul-virtues of stillness and deep seeing. Looking closely into a patch of tiny blue flowers amongst their soft but prickly leaves, we observe a tiny magnificence of color, complexity and imaginative shape. The borage flowers are beautiful…another of the plants that exhibit the 5-pointed star in its form. If we moved quickly and mindlessly by a patch of this plant, as so many humans do in our largeness and speed, we might miss the complex but delicate blossom design.

Borage flowers closeup

Borage has many “virtues” and gifts for us. An herb of “good cheer”, it was thought to dispel melancholy and pensiveness (Culpepper) which actually happens when taking a true look at its richly colored flowers and their display.

A slight taste of cucumber in its leaves and blossoms offers a cooling effect…it can be used as a tea, or added to salads.

Herbs and their uses come in and out of favor in different time periods, but truly their virtues are always present whether acknowledged or not. I find that something shifts and awakens in me when I am hanging out with the herbs…something mysterious, wondrous, and alive…as if under an enchantment.

Enchantment… a virtue of Soul accessed through the magic of deep-seeing and discernment.  A rather nice way to live….whether one be a a plant or a person.

*** These pictures were taken in the garden of good friends….

From Christine, the Greening Spirit

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Garden June Sacred

Being a Taurus Sun Earthkeeper person, I have always had gardens where I live. The cycle of the seasons in a 4-climate region has captivated me since childhood…each turn full of magic, myth and mystery.

Growing up in an inner city in the northeast USA, I was not exposed to posh gardens in the concrete environment even though I lived in an apartment building on Ash Grove Place which still had a genteel air leftover from earlier times when the neighborhood was lined with ash trees before cars. The plants that came through the cracks and between the buildings in ally-ways were the wild things…dandelions, poke, yellow dock, plantains and the flowers of grasses. Of course back then, I didn’t know their names but I was called to them because they were green growing living things tucked in and around the hardness and grey of city asphalt.

There were two “garden” situations however that served our city spirits. One was the chain-link fence bordering the back parking lot behind our apartment building. In spring and summer, the tall fence was covered by the climbing vines of morning glories. The blue flowers were a never-ending delight…the tight spirals of the buds before opening, which we would pick, blowing at their now- tiny opening at the base .. and out they would flare into full flower by the power of our own mini-godlike breath. Picking the full flower itself , we would also suck at the small opening at the base of it, pulled from the vine, to taste a delightful delicate sweetness,  coming to understand what the bees were collecting while visiting its center!

The second garden was for viewing only through the openings in the chain link fence to the back lot of the next-door neighbor. A German immigrant with a thick accent, he was a crabby terrible tempered territorial old man who yelled loudly and threatened any and all kids who might attempt to climb over the fence to receive a ball gone astray in the air, landing in his green sanctuary. But he was an amazing gardener and it was like peering into the Garden of Eden or a guarded oasis in the middle of the hood between buildings. As an adult, I now understand his fierce and protective personality preserving the peace and order of his sacred garden from a pack of potentially disruptive and invasive neighborhood kids….

My own gardens from marriage, parenthood, divorce, partnership and singledom on have varied. My first planting was of Lamb’s Ears (stachys officinalis) which first captivated me in a re-created colonial apothecaries’ garden at Mystic Seaport in Mystic, CT when I was age 21. The gardens that  followed throughout my life started with herbs and their charming and healing mystique, and later, flowers and vegetables. Always always green around me.  

Veggie Garden

( One of my earlier gardens )

Several years ago, serious vision problems with early cataracts began to develop and it became impossible for me to see in sunlight and also to just see clearly at all. For the past three years, that, plus a couple of stressful, attention-stealing life situations blocked the ability to garden. I thought that was okay. But there was a flatness in my spirit as a result…unrecognizable to others…but known to my own self. A loss of some sort of energy and meaning. A loss of “veriditas”.

Now, with much excitement and gratitude, my eyesight has been restored through surgeries,  and with the renewal of vision, I could not let another year go by without tending the “Green”.  Three years of not taking care of the yarden turned it into wildness except for the front. This year, I invested in Grow Boxes, not having the time or energy to tame field and woodland and in planting them and situating them in my yard,  I realized that in not gardening the last three years, I had lost some part of SOUL….my own “Greening Spirit/Veriditas”… by not participating in the cycle of the seasons in person and not tending the plants. But now! My Soul has come back home to both the inner and outer gardens!

Garden rainy

A week or so ago, as I walked through the front border to the road, I stubbed my toe on an exposed corner of a flat rock buried under moss and matted grass. I bent over to scrape away dirt and plant matter to find a garden plaque that my partner David had placed in my new herb garden almost 20 years ago when we moved in. I had at that time also been teaching a nine-month internship in folkloric herbalism, natural foods and earth spirituality, called “The Sacred Garden”.

Garden June Sacred

How synchronistic was its surprise emergence from “under” to welcome my SOUL back home as I became a “gardener” once again.

They are BACK! My garden, My Soul !

Veriditas! from  Christine, the Greening Spirit

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Kitty Catnip (4).jpg CLOSEUP

It’s not always faeries we spy in the garden when we least expect it, but also a face popping out of the herbs when we bend over to collect some flowers or leaves for tea. In this case, a kitty in the catmint.

You were so still down there and under the greening, even the bumble bees buzzing lazily around you seemed to think you were one of the plants. You are lucky I didn’t pluck you up along with the leaves and put you in the teapot with them!

Only when the three of us in this household came to lean over and laughingly call out to you..”Hi Sky!” did we rouse you from your deep sleep to blink and wink at us from down under, with no intention whatsoever to leave your cool and fragrant sanctuary amongst the catmint and Echinacea.

Catnip Kitty awake (3)

Cats and gardens seem to go together…whether it be the catmints or chives and it is always amusing to see a tiny  furry head pop out of the flowers or greenery.

Jungle Kitty Big

Catnip and catmint share some of the same qualities of calming digestion, lowering fever and being a mild sedative. Catmint is more decorative than the weedier-looking catnip, and often planted as an ornamental. Cats are said to prefer catnip, enjoying mild if not wild intoxication merely from the scent…but from what I see here in this garden, the kitties find catmint quite suitable for “tuning-out”.

For a little more info on catmint, search for the herb on http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/herbs/mint/catmint-plant.htm

Pearls GardeningFrom Christine, the Greening Spirit

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Dappled Light (2)

 

Perhaps it is because astrologically I am more of a Moon and Water person with Cancer Rising and Moon in Pisces that I shy away from the intensity of direct bright sunlight,the glory of summer for those who love to frolic underneath its radiant heat and blinding shine. My Taurus Sun loves the gardens, vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers, but MY (earthbound) Taurus with the addition of a water Moon and Rising Sign,  is cooler and more moist, and garden tending at the morning and evening hours is preferred over sweating it out at high noon.

The same for me is “beach time” which practically never finds me basking in the beach chair under the hottest most direct radiance of the day, but almost always at the slanted light hours of early morning or late afternoon until sunset. If I must be out during the onslaught of the BRIGHT, sunglasses (BIG ONES) and hats (BIG ONES) soften the blow of squinched eyes half shut and blindness that is white and not dark.

MOI Beach

I find that it is often hard to see in bright light and also to take photographs that reveal depth and complexity, scenes and subjects often flattened out and drained of color. If seen more clearly, the direct intensity of light leaves nothing to the imagination, everything revealed, no secrets to uncover.

Dappled Light Four (2)

For me, dappled light and slanted light is where Mystery resides and I am in love with mystery and the interplay between what is seen and what is unseen both of which are always “there”.  (I must admit that lounging about with a big hat and dark sunglasses presents an air of “mystery” but again, the mystery is about what is semi-hidden and unseen even in bright sunlight. The mystery resides in the shadows).

Trees Vespers (2)

I also admit that sun is fun and that minus the relentless and blinding glare, there is always beauty to be revealed in every hour of the day… Let the fire people..Aries, Leo and Sagittarius… revel and activate themselves and play games and adventures under the intense bright light and heat of summer days…and we will meet instead and party together during the waxing and waning hours of the sun, or around the dancing flames of the firepit in the middle of the darkness. I will weed the garden, and pick my flowers and herbs in softer, cooler light…

Thank goodness there are 24 hours in each day…and something of preferred light and shadow for everyone…

 

BrightFrom Christine, the Greening Spirit

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Purple Bouquet (3).jpg ED.jpg COPY Green

I am living with friends who are exquisite gardeners. The gardens outside are in stages of glorious blooming…every day something new…colors, shapes, scents exploding in a sensual symphony for the eye and the spirit. Joyful, delightful, playful and soul-full!

As I walk through the gardens at various times of the day, I want to scoop it all up within my arms and bring it inside to my room to keep forever..I want to keep it ALL very close to me day and night in daylight and dark..so full of beauty and inspiration.

How greedy of me, really, because I spend enough time indoors in harsher seasons of dying off and cold. The gardens and the surrounding green-ness outside is a celebration to visit on its own terms…out there.

But that’s why we have bouquets.

They do not have to be big.

Yesterday while walking about the gardens with my camera, I gathered tiny stems of blossoms…the purple ones of garden sage, and catmint. And then three tiny stalks of dianthus in brightest pink. Coming inside, I searched for a tiny vase to put them in, but they are packed away with all of my things in storage.

But, in searching, I found a small empty glass salt shaker…just perfect for my tiny bouquet from the abundance of flowering choices outside. And of course, silly me, I instantly knew that often.. sometimes…  Less is more.

Purple Bouquet (2).jpg GREEN CLOSE

A garden in a salt shaker is a garden of Abundance. A feast for the eye.

A garden on my  nightstand. (accompanied my a sprig of Motherwort in a jelly jar) is my indoor solarium.

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From Christine, the Greening Spirit

dreams

Lauds

Do you have a “Library Angel”?

I do.

My Library Angel is named “ACE” (Angel-in-Charge-of- my-Education) and “shim”…not a him or a her, but a “shim”..is the invisible playful but serious being who regularly, faithfully and unexpectedly tosses to me just the right book from out of the ethers for exactly what  I next need in my unfolding life journey.

The latest of ACE’s suggested reading program for me was the book “The Artist’s Rule: nurturing your creative soul with monastic wisdom” by art therapist, spiritual director and lay Benedectine Oblate, Christine Valters Paintner.

It is an absolute jewel of a book with the delightful theme hilightimg the similarities between the archetypes of “The Monk” and “The Artist” and suggestions of how the Benedictine Rule of spiritual practices, prayer and presence enriches, supports, and enhances the daily lives of both of these authentic personal paths.

One of the lovely practices  of the Rule is being present to the ongoing cycle of hours in each day from darkness into light and back into darkness again, stopping at various points of the day, called “hours”, to appreciate the natural and symbolic energy of each point, and to reflect or pray joy, appreciation, awareness, peace or support.

In the early morning at sunrise is the magical hour of the return of the light after the long hours of night’s darkness…the Hour of LAUDS (praise).  What is the energy or message of that gradual transition from dark to radiance? Awe…renewal…freshness..the invitation to start a whole new day..a wondrous gift of life offering the possibility for a whole new fresh start…the gift of sight, as the world is revealed by illumination..and especially at this time of early summer here in the Northeast, colors, textures, shapes, and scents…the morning revelation of a very sensuous world…flowers, trees, herbs, vegetables, birdsong, insects and tree frog communications bursting with aliveness!

Sitting on the front porch with my morning coffee and the meditations for LAUDS the other day (and following days) I was mesmerized by the radiance of the light, dazzling itself upon the sky, the plants, the gardens, the trees..and especially the shimmering halo around the hanging pot of ferns.

Matthew Fox, pfeisty prophet/priest has said “Where there is awe, there is prayer”- that sudden in-breath of awe at the shock and recognition of beauty (..”aahhh”). Indeed  it is prayer not needing any words. And the words of the medieval mystic  Meister Eckhart on prayer: ” If the only prayer I say is  ‘thank you’, it is enough”

It is enough.

And THAT is the hour of LAUDS.

I like living this way.

PHOTO CREDIT: by Christine Phoenix Green

Lemon Balm, Lady's Mantle, Nettles

From Christine, the Greening Spirit

St Johnswort (2)

“When I first moved into the house I live in, there was no Mullein in the yard so I went outside and called it in, singing my need. Within a year, it started to appear.”  ~ Ellen Evert Hopman (Secret Medicines from your Garden: Plants for Healing, Spirituality and Magic)

Herbal book

I was delighted to read this little vignette as I perused her wise and charming book, newly arrived to my herbal library. It reminded me of my own experience of “calling in” a desired plant ally and the on-going surprise and merriment of connecting with the magic communications and interaction between us and the Green Kindred Spirits of field, forest and garden.

I was teaching an herbal/whole-foods/women’s spirituality internship and living in a little house with a wonderful herb garden bordered by small and pretty wooded lots. The herbs in my garden were there by design for culinary and medicinal purposes, raised from seed or purchased at local nurseries: Calendula, mints, angelica, lemon balm, rose, lovage, thymes, basils, elecampane, borage and the like.

There is an “agreement” between  us and those kinds of plants who allow themselves to be semi-tamed and happy living within the borders of a planned garden, but one summer I needed a wild-er companion to make a healing oil, and so I set out to find a stand of St. Johnswort which is not so tame as to be usually found raised in packs of six or eight at the garden center.

The seaside neighborhood  where I lived had many little cottages, groves, wooded or field-like lots with no houses and I walked up and down the bumpy roads hoping to find St. Johnswort getting ready to bloom. I searched carefully and looked intently here and there and then back again, hoping to find this now-desired ally,  but to no avail. There was no St. Johnswort as far as I could tell. Sweet fern waved hello in the breeze, yarrow swayed in the wind, yellow dock’s long curly leaves signaled its presence and I was happy to find them where I had not known they were…but they were not what I was looking for that day….

Coming back home I sat on my front steps and pondered an eventual walk at one of the nearby nature preserves although I was used to finding what I needed in my own garden or in the neighborhood.

I sat and pondered “St. Johhnswort” and in a mischievous and playful mental moment, I called out to it in my mind, asking it to PLEASE show up so I could make the precious blood-red oil for bruises and boo-boos!

I kid you not…and I am not telling “fairy tales” (or maybe I am) but about ten days later I was out in the yard in my garden when something little and yellow caught my eye at the edge of the woods at the property line. I KNEW! I KNEW as soon as I walked over to it…St. Johnswort!!…one little stand of about 3 plants in blooming where there had been none before. And I knew, in my “inner child’s magical heart” that “The faeries” (or the St. Johnswort’s plant deva) had  brought it and installed it there, just for me because I longed for it, sought it dearly and asked!

Of course, I laughed out loud and said thank you, thank you! But just to be sure, I once again roamed the neighborhood and the vacant field and wooded lots through which I had searched previously to see if St Johnswort had been in the area all along and I had missed it.

But NO!…there was no other St. Johnsworts anywhere to be found anywhere else around. Only …and only…in my own garden, over there at the edge of the wooded border.

This is a true story.

*photo credit, St. Johnswort:  Barbara and Peter Theiss (The Family Herbal)

From Christine,  the Greening Spirit

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picture credit: unknown

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 nasturtium ED(2)

Planting flowers in the vegetable garden brings color and good cheer to all that green while we are waiting for the fruition of the harvest, and so with happy planning, I raised the multicolored nasturtiums from seed and waited with goodly anticipation for the bursting open of those flowers of red, orange and yellow.

Garden Nasturtium

They did magnificently, and grew with such vibrant largesse and color in a special patch in front of the bush bean bed. I don’t think there was ever such a beautiful display of their large rounded leaves and multi-colored blooms (both edible btw) in any of my former gardens.

One morning a friend stopped by to see how my garden was coming along and we walked through this particular fenced-in and highly organized cluster of beds. She was taken by the lushness and beauty of the nasturtium patch which was really quite stunning, delighting each of us…

When she left, I drove into town for a quick trip to the market, and upon returning, stepped into that vegetable garden to harvest some beans for lunch. And WHAT A SHOCK!!!!

A once- vibrant full bodied lush nasturtium plant in the center of that community lay flat on the ground, almost totally drained of life, surrounded by the rest of the nasturtiums in distress also though not quite as almost fatal as the center plant. “WHAT is happening???” I must have cried out in alarm as I rushed to the center plant, lifting its limp and floppy leaves to assess this disaster and search for the cause.

The cause was… the hatching of thousands of tiny black aphids on the underside of its once-sturdy leaves, sucking the life out of it and infesting more lightly the nasturtiums around it.

Dashing to the hose to spray off those little buggers, trying to rid the plant(s) of every last one, I gave it coos of consolation and encouragement. “Come now, you must come through this…we’ll make it all right”… and I headed out to the hardware store to purchase the soapy insect infestation wash, SAFER. Back home washing the plant, which in about 1/2 hours time, had once again become totally covered with more aphids, sucking away draining its life force. Another wash of this unfortunate nasturtium and it companions, this time with SAFER and water to cleanse the plant of these invaders.

This process continued for several days…and each time I went out there, my once most magnificent nasturtium plant..the largest and sturdiest of the group.. lay prone, flat and devastated with the continued hatching of these little black sucking pests, although the other nasturtiums began to be untouched.

Frustrated, with another cleansing of the hose…I talked to the plant…a pep talk of great energy..” Oh Dear! Please do not give up…come on, you can do it! Pull yourself up by the bootstraps…don’t let the buggers take you down….”

And then, right with the ears of my Heart, in the center of my chest, I “heard” these words:

                                           “I AM THE CHRIST PLANT”

To say that I was stunned by this communique is an understatement for really, my cheerleading was quite secular and not a prayer. But in a flash, I UNDERSTOOD the message.

The strongest, most vibrant plant in the center of the communal patch of nasturtiums had taken it upon itself, in nature, to become the sacrifice for the rest of the garden. It was the “Christ Plant”… the archetypal One who gives its life to save the others for the survival of Good. It was because of that plant that bore the intense onslaught of the aphid infestation that helped the other plants to escape relatively unscathed, and in good health.

I took great care with that plant after that, understanding something new about the mysterious workings of the garden and its inter-connected inhabitants beyond my usual knowing or bookish research. Eventually, the onslaught was over, the Christ Plant survived, never quite regaining its former unblemished beauty and the garden thrived.

It also made me think of heros and heroines in culture who in their strength of character, stand up for what is right in the midst of infestations of wrong-doing or cultural slides into wrong agendas and how often they run the risk of mockery, banishment or even danger and death. I think of goodly mothers and fathers who sacrifice much for their children and of good friends who accompany each other in times of trial.

I come to understand the bigger meaning of the archetypal  Christ Consciousness beyond religion and alive in the soul, the garden and the consciousness of the earth and its inhabitants.

*** This story is a true experience of the plant’s speaking. It took place a number of years ago, and so I have no pictures. I have substituted pictures instead from this year’s bean garden in which there is one plant in the center that looks terrible and is just not doing well, altho the plants on either side, just a little compromised, are doing well and fully productive. I have resisted the impulse to pull it out, entertaining the possibility of it being the Christ Plant, giving itself over to the infestation more fully allowing the other plants more health and resistance.

From Christine, The Greening Spirit

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I am in and out of the house all day long as I come and go, checking out things in the garden to my endless amusement and delight.  Viewed with a quick passing glance, the scene appears static and frozen, like a snapshot capturing a still moment for all of eternity….but….

But what a false impression is THAT! The garden is dynamic and in motion each second and things are happening at an uproariously fast pace even tho we might not register it in the way we experience time as a human. Take the beanies for example.

I with a sense of fun and anticipation go out in the morning to collect some beans, eagerly parting leaves and looking for those that can be collected of the right size. I even wear my reading glasses so I can find them and not miss the ripe and ready ones for lunch or dinner. When I have collected ALL of them that I have discovered, they come in with me to add a tender crunch of green to my meal. (Did you ever notice that green beans from the garden taste every so much differently delicious that those beans you pick over and choose at the supermarket which often have an odd flavor and take FOREVER to cook to tenderness?)

I feel good to have harvested all that I found making a stimulus for more little white bean flowers and eventually new pods on those vines.

What a surprise though that same day when I go out in the evening at dusk to water the grow boxes, and check over the plants one more time…you know, just to see what’s happened during the day. SHOCKING to turn over the bean leaves just for a peek, or to survey their well-being, and find fully mature beans hidden from my morning’s careful foraging… how in the world had I missed these newly giant beans in the former harvest just half a day back?? I think they are having fun tricking me…

OBVIOUSLY, the vegetables are a playful species… loving to play hide and seek. I find myself laughing out loud… I’m game….!  🙂

I must admit that the plants and I have a very personal relationship, as if they were pets or even people. We do seem to play games together as I pay such close attention to their habit, synchronicities and unique ways and a kind of “communication” happens between us through imagination and observation. Like when after a day in bright direct sunlight, the cukes and tomato vines give up and droop almost flat to the ground, dehydrated and thirsty. The Greening Spirit, concerned,  immediately comes to the rescue to water the boxes and spray them with a fine cool-down mist setting with the hose as if I heard them gasping… “oh PLEASE…WATER!”

This same attention, awareness and sensitivity is also needed with the people and relationships in our lives…noticing who needs a little extra care, watering through compassion,  a hug, or listening when they are dry and flattened by life, acknowledging or cheerleading them on for their special appreciated talents or gifts..their “fruits”… and saying grace and thank you’s for their friendships and nourishments in our lives.

It’s all one thing, you know……..  🙂

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From Christine, the Greening Spirit

Pearls Gardening

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