*please scroll all the way down for links to other great blogs, my archive, and to follow or get new posts by email. to contact me directly, email kylaluaz at gmail dot com. *

Monday, June 30, 2014

It's All In The Conversation

Weed garden. Photo by Kyla

Long time since the last post here; I am learning that I'd better not announce how frequently I'm going to post, because it never seems to be sustainable. This past month and a few weeks since I wrote here last, I have often thought of coming in here to share something, but each time it has not proved possible.

The process has been too swift. There has not been time for anything to gel enough to get words around it in any adequate way.

But today I want to talk about gardening.

Even most people who love to garden, who feel an active bond with the natural world, don't seem to get that what's going on is a conversation. We have such a bias toward our notion of the evolutionary preeminence of human intelligence we can't see past it. (I made a typo and almost said "unintelligence.")

Don't get me wrong here. I'm not one of those who believe humans are some kind of blight upon the natural world, though I have in years past come close to that opinion. But for me, the fact that we are a part of it is predominant. If we are a part of it, there has to be a way for us to benefit the whole (which includes us), instead of what we've been mostly doing lately, which is more a kind of colonizing and often rapacious misuse.

I won't get into why I believe that is so, right now. There are, after all, whole books about that notion.

Let's accept for argument's sake as a given that, a., humans belong and have a rightful place here, and, b., that rightful place is not one that involves despoiling the environment.

So, how does a person find that rightful balance? That's been a question I've investigated for many years. 

One thing I have found about the natural world in general is that it is outrageously forgiving. There are no grudges held. Unlike some human conflicts, where conversation eventually seems to prove impossible, with the natural world the door is always open to humans with the right approach.

Which is simply the very same right approach as it is to human conversation: you have to be willing to listen.

Listening to a garden means paying a kind of deep attention that is deeper than the mind and its cognizing, but involves an atmosphere of fellow-feeling. T. Allen Boone wrote a little book called Reverence for All Life in which he shared how he communicated with animals. He used the phrase "high and horizontal" to describe the necessary attitude of approach.

It's perhaps a bit easier to think of paying attention to an animal with a high and horizontal attitude than it is to a plant, or a patch of soil, or an earthworm. But the results are similar.

There is a tremendous amount of bias we have to overcome. We have to give up the notion that because we are human, we are always right, for starters. And then, we also have to give up the notion that because we are human, we are always wrong.

The thing is, when you begin to enter into the conversation, the whole of life becomes something so much richer than it was. Even if your prized plants fall victim to a mysterious ailment, the rest of your garden will be singing with a vibrancy that puts any failure into perspective.

The forgiving, grudgeless attitude of nature toward us does not mean we always win. It does not mean there are no situations where we need strong defense. I am not an advocate of letting the mosquitoes bite or the other predators prey without restraint. But attending to the whole with a respectful attitude of listening gives a context to all of the less pleasant aspects of the communication. We don't understand a lot of what is conveyed even after listening for years and years. But over time, the listening offers such great rewards that what used to be failure becomes only another part of the mystery, to be listened to more deeply.

May you listen well to all of your life.


  1. "May you listen well to all of your life."

    Could I perhaps have a translator?


    Good to see you still blogging, Kyla--regardless the frequency. Maybe when my own drama is at an end I can lend a brain cell to my own. Nice post. :)

    1. :D

      Nice to see you here, Duchess. I chuckled about the translator. And I admit that sometimes the best listening seems to be in retrospect. Or maybe I mean the best translating. I guess the listening has to be done in the moment regardless of whether I understand, or think I do.

      Today I'm happily listening to the rain.