Finding harmonious energies in Nature

“Whenever I have read any part of the Vedas, I have felt that some unearthly and unknown light illuminated me. In the great teaching of the Vedas, there is no touch of the sectarianism. It is of [all] ages, climes, and nationalities and is the royal road for the attainment of the Great Knowledge. When I am at it, I feel that I am under the spangled heavens of a summer night.” Henry David Thoreau

One of my herb harvests became a herb mandala!

One of my herb harvests became a herb maṇḍala! View more on my Flora Mandala page.

We have certainly had some “spangled heavens” this summer, with warm summer nights, clear skied full moons, and an extraordinary meteor shower. Did you see it? Here in our woodsy home, surrounded by tall firs, we only managed to catch a few ‘shooting stars’.

Though most the summer has been warm and lovely, it’s also been challenging for me due to an infected tick bite, followed by several weeks of antibiotics, causing other problems, more drugs, yada, yada, yada. Tired, achy and hot on the 90+ degree days (those same sky-view-limiting trees like to hold in heat!), my muse was looking for a creative, calm distraction from bodily woes.

a few of my little color doodle designs

a few of my little color doodle designs

Ten years ago, sick with what was diagnosed as idiopathic gastroparesis (I wonder about that word “idiopathic”, does it come from idiot? Is it when doctors don’t know what the heck is going on and feel like idiots?), I started drawing mandala-type designs I called ‘color doodles’. The color and geometric foundation of my ‘doodles’ was calming, centering, and focused my mind away from constant nausea and pain. There was something soothing and healing in each little design as I concentrated on drawing it. For about 3 months I drew one design after another and the little drawings became transformational for me.

Geometric form has helped people order and calm their minds, homes and communities probably since people learned to draw forms. Geometric designs and architecture are found in all the great civilizations, from the Incas of South America to Egypt, ancient China, and the Indus Valley culture of India, with which I am most familiar.

Our tiny Vastu building has in common with all Vastu buildings a cuppula which corresponse with the open space below, or the Brahma, or center. The center of mandalas is also often called the Brahma or center.

Our tiny Vastu building has in common with all Vastu buildings a cupola which corresponds with the open space below, the Brahma center. The center of a mandala is also often called Brahma.

Vastu Shastra, (also spelled Vaastu and sometimes called Vastu Vidya) the ancient architectural principles of India designed to bring harmony to buildings, like many Vedic teachings, was lost as a science and art for centuries because many ancient texts were destroyed or misinterpreted by people and cultures who invaded, dominated, and suppressed the Indus Valley culture. But ancient buildings, both residential and temples, built according to those Vedic principles were not destroyed and through the efforts of Ganaparti Sthapati, who was an architect, sculptor, and teacher, there has been a revival in India of Vastu architecture. We were fortunate 11 years ago to find a young American architect who studied with Ganaparti. He drew up plans for a small Vastu building, designed for us based on the land and our Vedic astrologic charts. Though only a ‘mini’ example of Vastu Shastra, it is a lovely building and folks comment on the ‘energy’ of the building. (You can read more about Michael Borden, Vastu architect, and look at pictures of gorgeous homes built according to Vastu principles here: Vastu Design.)

a variety of flowers and berries make up this little manadala.

a variety of flowers and berries make up this little mandala.

When the ancient rishis, or sages, wrote the Vedic texts Thoreau refers to above, they wrote about Ayurveda, Vedic (Jyotish)astrology, Yoga, and Vastu. They understood the energy fields of the material world, including the earth and everything on it. The existence of those energy fields has been confirmed by modern science. The rishis understood the importance of working in harmony with those energies for health and well being, including the magnetic fields of the earth and cosmos. The rishis understood the magnetic fields of the earth to be laid out in a grid pattern. That grid pattern is a theme repeated in a Vedic astrology chart, in the architectural plans for a building build according to Vastu principles, and the patterns of mandalas and yantras, intricate patterns created for the purpose of calming and interiorizing the mind. The energy grids are the foundation of the sacred geometry found throughout Nature.

A 'floating' mandala on a hot day of calendula, borage, feverfew, mint, rose and other flowers.

A ‘floating’ mandala on a hot day of calendula, borage, feverfew, mint, rose and other flowers. You can see in each flower a mini-mandala!

Consciously or unconsciously, people have always sought to reproduce and harmonize with these grid patterns in architect, art and the lay out of towns and cities. Examples can be found in stain glass windows found in the great cathedrals of Europe that have similar patterns to the mandalas of Hindu culture and yantras of Buddhism, or the patterns found in ancient Aztec and Mayan art and architecture, best known being Sun Calendars, or Sun Stones.

a little bontanical mandala I made at Grayland Beach of the flowers found amongst the dune grass.

a little botanical maṇḍala I made at Grayland Beach of the flowers found among the dune grass.

When my muse began to make botanical mandalas this summer, I realized the theme of geometric design has repeated itself in my life, often at times when I needed an outer expression of creative harmony. Our little Vastu building, my color doodles, labyrinths I draw in the sand at beaches, and now mandalas made of herbs and flowers, all have this theme of symmetry and geometric pattern. It is human nature to be attracted to these grid-like patterns as a way of finding harmony in chaos. We all seek that harmony. The symmetry brings balance, the creation process brings calming focus. I encourage you to try working with the harmonious geometric patterns of energy and Nature in whatever way you find to be creative.

another floral mandala in Nature! Part of the beauty of flowers is their harmonious forms.

another floral mandala in Nature! Part of the beauty of flowers is their harmonious forms.

I find the process of actually creating geometric designs most beneficial, but there are oodles of coloring books of mandalas and some of yantras available.  At the very least, notice the spirals and grid patterns found around you in Nature, from a conch shell or snail’s shell to the interior of a flower.  It is not difficult to find energetic harmony in Nature, even when there appears to be such in-harmony around us.

Nature creates beautiful harmonious mandals grid patterns everywhere, as in the center of this poppy.

Nature creates beautiful harmonious mandala grid patterns everywhere, as in the center of this poppy.

Wikipedia has a very informative page about mandalas in art and architecture, with scrumptious pictures! Mandala

 

 

May Day Reflections & Poetry in Fairyland

Yellow & Red Cowslips, Forget-me-nots, cranesbill, wood hyacinths, a white narcissus & a velvety maroon primrose make up my rain drenched May Day nosegay.

Was hoping my muse would awaken this morning with inspired and eloquent words about May Day, but transitions in Mom’s life requiring increased care have tapped my creative energies, so I share a poem written by my Dad. I shared this on my old blog, but it is worth repeating, for it is a lovely poem from a man not known for his poetry, but who had a poet in him.

 

 

Spring Rites

Come, come High Priest of Spring,

Come to this sanctuary, following a path

looking like a caterpillar waking up, the last tip of a fern frond unfolds.

Lit by pale rose and white wild bleeding hearts

Held aloft by leaves of green lace;

Come on a carpet of coiled fern fronds

Interwoven with the dark green of succulent nettle tips;

Come under the vaulting arches of red alder

Whose twining branches out waited winter to greet this time;

Fill your breast with perfume

Floating down from a million bursting leaf buds and

Rising from a million more life forms

Stirring in the rich moist earth;

Be bathed in cloud filtered sunlight tinted green by emerging leaves;

Listen to the chorus from a thousand pulsing frog throats

Providing backup for robin soloists marking territory boundaries;

Come, it is time, as you have for centuries beyond count,

To bless the life cycle renewal of yet another spring.

1993, Harry Hubbard (1919 – 1998)

 

lacy leaved wild bleeding hearts tumble out of the woods into our backyard, already starting to set their seed pods.

My Dad, moved by the same fairyland that leaves me in speechless wonder each April & May, describes the unfolding of spring on our little patch of northwest woodland.  The carpet of wild bleeding hearts, hidden Trilliums, emerging leaves of Vanilla Leaf, False-Lily-of-the-Valley, pink Salmonberry blooms, clusters of white Elderberry blossoms and yellow Oregon Grape, and lush, bright yellow-green new growth everywhere creates an environment begging for visions of sprites and faeries.

Even in my Mom’s yard in Seattle yesterday, as I picked her a big bouquet of her favorite pink lilacs and blue wood hyacinths (a favorite of mine, which she has in abundance!), I could feel the magic of new life not just unfolding, but bursting forth with color and energy! I’m quite certain, hidden in her tiny yard, dense with tall, mature, flowering bushes and beds packed with perennials and tulips, there are fairy beings reveling in a yard minimally maintained by an occasional visit from a gardener.  Well into her 80s Mom tried to garden, but pain and fragility required hiring someone.  At 91, her garden fairies reward her for her past care with perennial blooms brought into the house. She LOVES flowers, it is a well-earned reward!

complementing the fairy plants in the wild is this patch of cowslip in our garden.

Happy May Day to you all……..may there be a impish harbinger of spring hidden in your garden today!

 

(You can see photos of some of the woodland flowers I mention on my Wild flowers page.)

Primrose Cheer

new planter boxes warrant some new primroses this season!

There are two plants that bring cheer to this three-year run of cool, gray springs…the first is Pulmonaria, or Lungwort, the second is Primulas. I appreciate them both and will write about each, starting with Primulas.

I love Primulas and find them endearing and familiar, perhaps it’s my English genes, or my early life longing to go to the Himalayan Mountains. My rational reasons are: they grow in shady areas, which we have in abundance, and the varieties I grow are not fussy. To survive in our soil one cannot be fussy.

Even some of the names: primrose, cadelabra, denticulata, cow-slip, farinose, Juliana, are lovely to say.

Primulas grow all over the world, in vastly different environments, from wild primrose meadows in Britain to plants tucked into the alpine regions of the Himalayan Mountains.  There is even a primula that grows wild in Alaska.  Dramatic, thick leafed auriculas, the primulas of shows and connoisseurs, grow in dry rock gardens. Fairy like, lacy leafed Candelabras love wet boggy areas.

My favorite Primula book (out of print, but the library or an on-line used book store is a good source) is A Plantsman’s Guide to Primulas, by Philip Swindells and is loaded with colorful pictures.  Written for the novice it gives both the history and growing preferences of the different sub-species.  The Genus Primula in Cultivation and The Wild, by Josef J Halda is the primula encyclopedia. It took the author 30 years to compile, traveling all over the world.  It was published in 1992 for the national Primula conference held that year in Portland, Oregon, the first such gathering in several decades, as I recall. Caught up in the fervor of the gathering, I purchased this book, a wealth of information, but at $45 (not a lot of copies were printed) it is likely the most expensive just-under-400 page paperback I will ever own!

a new little denticulata

But I digress. I want you to meet the modest and diverse primroses that grow happily in a northwest garden and encourage you, when poking around your favorite nursery, to look for priumulas beyond the ubiquitous, usually primary colored and single petaled supermarket variety primroses.  Primulas have been cultivated at least back to the 16thcentury and there are a wide variety of the herbaceous varieties (the alpine ones are more difficult to find, and grow, and not good candidates for our wet springs).  As old and hardy as they are, you would think they would be more readily available, but you do have to hunt for the more unique cultivators. Peninsula Nursery in Sequim has, and will be getting more, double petaled primroses, and the ‘drum stick’ looking denticulatas.  I occasionally find a good primula ‘fine’ at Garden at Four Corners in Port Townsend.

You can view my collection over the years on my Primula page. My favorite primula information web site is Arlene’s Garden (a dream garden for a primrose lover!) Another good site is Primula World.

another newbie this spring.

Primulas show up each spring regardless of the weather, bright cheery color, they add charm and bring hope to a garden waiting to wake up.

a tub full of one of my most prolific primroses.
Want to trade a few plants?

“It would be difficult to imagine a time without primroses.  By the Middle Ages they were being praised in literature by poets and playwrights ~ the name ‘prime flower’ meaning the fairest and best, as in Edmund Spenser’s later lines:   
 ‘As fairer nymph yet never saw mine eie
She is the pride and primrose of the rest.’

from The Book of Primroses, Barbara Shaw

Wanderlust vs. homebody…dreamer vs. pragmatist

‘Tis the season of movement. Plants are on the move, so to speak, poking up from under leaves, pushing through the soil where they slept through the winter; birds on the move, for mating and home building…and my mind is starting to wander…around the yard and the countryside.  As Mike and I start spring clean-up, cutting out dead leaf debris, uncovering new growth as perennials appear, clearing away space to widen our ‘back yard’, and putting in a new fence for the vegetable garden, I also start dreaming, which then becomes scheming, and eventually planning, where to take a spring vacation.  I imagine us hitting the road on weekends throughout the spring and summer.

But there is conflict – be home wresting gardens out of the woods, or hooking up the trailer to be part-time gypsies. You can tell by my choice of words where lies my bias!

Behind our house are acres of dense woods. We try to maintain a thin strip, which we call ‘the back yard’.  There is also ‘the side yard’, and even a ‘front yard’.  The recent clearing project, which we do every five years or so on one side or the other, is an attempt to reclaim a small space designated for human fussing and messing with, and keeps us from being engulfed by northwest flora and fauna, which is designed to engulf.  Once there is ‘open space’ we get all energized to create a new planting area, cut out tree limbs, and even trees, for more sunlight, and imagine ourselves sitting in a yard surrounded by flowerbeds, basking in the sun.

Possibilities....cleared (for now) of Salmonberry, nettles, and an overhanging Osier Dogwood branch, a fresh pallet of dirt awaits a garden box for new plantings.

But I know better.  I’m not sure about the adage “with age comes wisdom” but I know with age, and experience, comes cynicism. I am married to an optimist who still thinks, though in his mid-sixties, he will miraculously have time and energy he has never had, after working long physically demanding days, to come home and work in the garden. The reality is he gets caught up in this spring ‘revival’, goes gung-oh, digging, building, cutting, and then goes off to critical projects, like firewood, coop repairs, house maintenance, etc., and doesn’t understand why beautiful beds don’t magically happen and everything he diligently dug out grows back.

Sigh…

This year he is especially challenged by my ‘threat’ to tear out all garden beds, many of which have already ‘gone wild’, and surrender to Nature’s embrace, smothering though it can be.

For one more year I go along with this fantasy, after all, in the past I was the one with garden schemes, and will attempt to do my best to plant newly made beds with plants that like ‘partial shade’ and clay soil (we do add a lot of ‘soil amendments’) and try to keep the weeds down to a small invasion.  We are only in the dream stage and my body already aches. I imagine a weekend at our favorite beach on the coast, or exploring some corner of the NW we have yet to discover.

Mike's inspiration for garden dreaming-crocuses open to the sun, which he would stop to oh and ah at. Today they are closed up tight in the cold rain.

Every spring these two dreams we share collide as other responsibilities…Mom care, Mike’s job demands, as well as health challenges, etc., work to tatter the dreams.  But that is the glory of spring; each new spring brings new hope.  Visions of garden possibilities seem to sprout, like dormant bulbs and plants, which regardless of how they fared last growing season, begin again with fresh growth. As spring fades to summer we will have taken a weekend excursion, planted a few new flowers, and seeded some veggies.  It will be modest compared to spring aspirations, but with age also comes acceptance for what is, and contentment in enjoying little successes (working on this!).

I appreciate I am married to a perennial optimist. And Nature, literally waiting in the wings, is always willing to engulf us in her embrace next year…or the year after that…or…..

Duck and Cover

Crocus

Hellebore

No, this isn’t a post about earthquakes, or ducks.  It’s about the bits of color and soft petals showing up in the winter debris of our yard.  Though it’s the same flowers every year, it is like finding treasure when the Crocuses, Snow bells and Pulmonaria begin to bloom.  And tiny Violets, so hidden, peeked out from under their leaves in January, perhaps they’ve been there all winter!  Our one and only Hellebore is to me a miracle; I did not think they would grow in our ‘extreme’ shade (yes, I know they like partial shade) and clay soil.  I have come to call our yard “Clayville”.  A few years ago I planted the hardiest Hellebore I could find, nothing fancy, and though it looks pathetic, with just a few leaves year round, not lush and leafy like I see them in other gardens, it blooms cheerfully about the time winter becomes tiresome.

tiny, ground cover Violets

The strategy of these early bloomers seems to be stay low (duck) and be sure you have lots of leave debris around you (cover).  The Snow bells and Pulmonaria poke through moss, leaves or whatever is in their way, Violets hide in their own leaves.

Happy to see them, Mike weeded around the first crocuses to show up, and their almost-ready-to-bloom Daffodil neighbors.  They might be feeling a bit chilly at night, and with snow predicted for this weekend, their bright color may soon be gone.

Crocuses are remarkable, they boldly bloom very early, yet even rain will melt their petals, if it snows, they disappear.  Not so with the others, Snowbells well deserve their name, Violets just bury their heads again, the Hellebore and Daffodils will survive, albeit maybe not standing straight, if winter challenges their early arrival with a snow dump.

These early bloomers arrive each year in time to tell us, there is hope, the cycles of Nature begin anew, the world is not just a gray-green-brown blob!  Color will reign!

Snow bells

Pulmonaria, or Lungwort, always puts up one flower stalk very early, then fills in with leaves and more flowers later.