Listen as the garden teaches

Lilah, pictured above, oversees the garden as the temperature climbs towards 90 degrees.  She appears to be sleeping, but listens as the garden teaches.

It’s not that unusual for us to go from blustery, gray, chill and damp directly to summer. But this year the perennials are more confused than usual. A feast for the eyes and soul, a grand allergy provocation (all those grass and tree pollens.) The sixty-foot Linden tree that anchors our property and shades the house is barely budding. Yet blooming all at once, we have, left to right:

Row 1 Jack-in-the Pulpit, Goldenseal, Solomon’s Seal

Row 2: Pulsatilla, Dwarf Comfrey, Greater Celandine

Row 3: Senencio,  Cramp Bark, Apple

Row 4: Lenten Rose, Horny Goat’s Weed, Tiarella

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We began populating our city lot with perennials and medicinals several decades ago.

In 2009 we studied how the water ran, the sun moved, the winds blew, the soil clumped or didn’t – and began applying permaculture principles. We dug up and sheet-mulched vast swaths of lawn and added medicinal trees and shrubs: Fringetree, Vitex, Witch Hazel. We put a bamboo-management plan in place. We added a couple of apple trees and a fig to the venerable grapevines planted by an earlier owner. We’ve drawn back the no-longer common swallowtail caterpillars and gold-finches. The neighborhood fox. And many curious neighbors.

Some plants have flourished, some are just hanging on, many others  did not survive.

The garden teaches

1.  Not everything blooms where it is planted.

2. Not everything blooms.

3. Living things do not mature at the same rate.

4. Some parts of the same living thing may mature while other parts remain stunted.

5. It is wise to feed the roots.

6. A tree shaped by storm damage (aka Life) is no less beautiful than before.

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

This summer was a stretch.

This summer

– more than ever I have felt blessed to wake up with a roof over my head, an uninterrupted supply of electricity and running water, ample family time and collaborative work, and absorbing and hopeful conversations in, around, and about Baltimore.

– three family members traveling abroad returned home safely. Two of them had enjoyed a meal at an outdoor cafe where guns and death showed up just a week later.

– has also been a time of sorrows near and far, of losses and illnesses and declining health among dear ones.  Of fears both real and imagined in the psyche of our country.  Of polarizing words both heart-felt and calculated in this election season.

And because a life of practice is about meeting the movements of life, all of them, the tent of the world I live in has been unimaginably stretched this summer. Not the least by my inviting into that tent my feelings of frustration, resentment, and helplessness at the state of things, even as I bless my blessings and stand up as best I can for the good as I see it.

A Life of Practice blog will start coming to you weekly this fall… and watch for news as the website and blog approach their first anniversary in October.

Do drop me a comment below if you are facing a particular challenge to practice in daily life that you would like me to chew on and write about, or an issue in herbal care you’d like me to shed some light on.

I hope your summer has been full of simple and satisfying pleasures, and that you have had the support to make it through any adversities both strengthened and softened.


July viewed from September

by Sara Eisenberg


Seashells from July travels

four out of five week-ends on the interstates,

a measure of my devotion to not missing out on the best lines of the season:

“You should never wear your best trousers when you go out to fight for freedom and truth.”

“Full disclosure.”

“Good fool, help me to some light and some paper.”

“I’m a seed in a pomegranate.”


I deduct and reason from the evidence of these seashells

how brave and tender we are,

gathering to weave words, music,

to choose life.


All this while CSI tapes criss-cross the world:

193 “terrorist incidents”

1528 dead, excluding perpetrators

2269 injured, excluding perpetrators


No EZ pass propels me through these tolls.