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Mindful : June 2019
the names of the other plants we will soon see. “Plants are our travel agents,” he says with a smile. “They take us places. And everything has a story and a companionship with the whole ecosystem: the soil, the rocks, the trees.” To walk through the garden with Good is to discover the garden’s undercurrents, the smallest and most elusive details. As we visit one plant after another, Good talks about each like an old friend. I watch as he lovingly runs his fingers along the branch of a bush, kneels down to look under- neath a plant, scratches at the soil to check the mois- ture content. I follow his pointed finger to glimpse a flitting bright-blue butterfly. It soars, dips, circles, settles on a leaf for a moment in the sun, then spreads its wings and drifts away. “There goes a pipe-vine swallowtail,” Good says. “And over there is the pipe-vine plant, where it lays its eggs.” Good knows this garden so well that he can see what is not yet there. He points to a tall stalk with buds along its length. “This,” he says, “will soon have flow- ers that will emerge as an unworldly crystal blue, as if we were in Avatar!” Paying close attention is Good’s way of caring for this garden, for hearing its messages. It’s how he spots the signs of a tree in dis- tress or makes sure there are enough native plants to keep the bees and butter- flies happy. When he pauses by a dry creek bed, he leans down to point out some tiny green shoots lying partly underneath the rocks— unnoticed by an average visitor, of course. “It’s quiet here now,” he says, “but that will change.” The little shoots will soon push their way out. In fact, Good adds, shoots like these could push their way through asphalt if they needed to! Hide and Seek Watching and listening, I begin to sense the hid- den power of this garden, the invisible, fierce force of nature that is at every moment nudging each plant along its own course. It reminds me of the line in a Dylan Thomas poem: “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower.” It’s spring and those green fuses are all sizzling. The garden is full of raw energy, more going on beneath the surface than I’d ever imagined. → On my own, I’d probably walk briskly through this garden, seeing the obvious sights. Today I deliberately slow down, allowing the mysteries to unfurl. Go lightly When you are out in nature, nothing is required but your presence. Put away your need to do anything and completely mute your cell phone. Unlike electron- ics, plants don’t demand us to click on anything; they signal subtly, so look for their clues. Stay awhile Biologist David Haskell spent a year observing one square meter of ear th in order to write The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature. Pick your spot, get comfortable, and resist the urge to move on. The garden will reward you and so will the rest of life. — Karin Evans June 2019 mindful 49 nature