Getting Down and Dirty With Susan Edwards!
Okay, get your mind out of the gutters! Or perhaps I should tell you to put your mind in your garden for a few minutes while we chat. I’m embarking on a huge gardening project–a 26 foot medicine wheel garden–which has taken me a couple of years of planning and researching. What I decided on was to incorporate elements meaningful to me. As I love outdoors, nature, etc. I planned my space to use the themes of Earth. I have sections for the four elements (Air, Earth, Water, Fire), the four seasons (Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer), the Sun, Moon, Stars. I have herbs, and lots of just plain beautiful flowers on order.
I also pulled into the design the aspects of Native American research from my writing which I’ve adopted into my own life. The number four is an important number in many NA cultures as well as the number 7 which I also have plans to use. Then there are circles. I have an outside circle 26 feet of hedge. Inside that, is another circle–a pathway to walk around. Inside that there is yet another circle. This circle is split into 4 areas with paths (4 of them) leading to a smaller circle in the center which will be close to a grassy knoll. And yes, there is yet another much smaller circle inside that where we’ll have a small fire pit to enjoy in the evenings and maybe roast marshmellows!
Circles have so many meanings. Life travels in a circle such as the seasons from birth of Spring to death in Winter to life reborn once again in spring. Our lives travel in circles, meeting and merging then separating and one of my favorite that I live by: What goes around, comes around.
I should also mention that around my garden area, my husband will have his vegetable garden.
Okay, so how does this tie in with writing? Aside from being a wonderful place to take my laptop and write (when done of course), it made me think of my characters in my newly re-released books (White Wolf, White NIghts, White Flame, White Dreams).
First, in the mid 1800’s, growing your own food was part of survival. Jessie and her brothers (White Wolf) would most certainly have grown some of their own food. They lived by the goodwill of the land. And on the Oregon Train, Jessie, Wolf, along with James and Eirika (White Nights) ate what they could find along the trail. Unlike Native Americans though, living with the land, on the land and surviving their trek across the land was new to many if not most of the travelers looking to start anew in Oregon. Those who understood the land and nature, the good, bad and ugly were the ones to survive and/or lead others on their westward trek.
The Lakota Sioux on the other hand were very well versed in survival. Unlike many other tribes and cultures, the Sioux didn’t “garden” for their food but instead harvested what Mother Earth provided. They understood the seasons, the circle of life. And even though they didn’t ‘work’ the land, they honored and respected and took care of the land–their mother. After Emma arrives in the village of Striking Thunder (White Flame), she learns to love and respect not only The People, but the land which provides for them. Raised in a city, living outdoors at the whim and mercy of nature is an eye opener.
In White Dreams, Star Dreamer leaves the land she’s known all her life for the city, turning her back on all that she’s ever known. But even in a city, she realizes that nature and all that she holds dear is close at hand.
In our past, we depended on the land for the animals raised, crops and food grown and also for travel–those who left their homes and bravely set out without knowing what was in store for them. Today, we don’t notice the land in the same way–we drive on asphalt, see buildings, houses and shopping malls instead of crops (most places) and gardens. We don’t barter what we grow for what someone else grows. If the weather turns bad and ruins crops, prices might go higher but we are not truly affected. Our ancestors went hungry or went without money if their crops were destroyed.
Having a garden isn’t part of our survival now. We go to the local supermarket for our fruit and vegetables. We want flowers? Again, supermarket or other store-bought sources. We travel and pay money to view gardens or go on the internet or buy books. It’s a fact of life. But it’s also sad.
There is nothing so rewarding or even calming than digging in the dirt, letting the life-giving dirt fall between your fingers. The feel, the smell, the connection is still there I believe but life is so busy, even crazy, that we forget to just stop and smell the flowers or touch the leaves, or admire the textures of Mother Earth. Our yards if we are lucky to have a yard are planted to be “care-free” and sometimes planted with conforming to the neighborhoods instead of our own hearts.
Tomorrow, a 40 odd square foot of my backyard goes under the blades of a rototiller and then my journey of getting down and dirty begins. And as I spend time with Mother Earth, I’ll think often of my ancestors who didn’t ‘garden’ for a hobby but depended on what bounty they grew for their survival.
So let’s hear from you. If you could have any type of garden (food, herb, English Country, formal, etc.) what would you choose and why? What would you plant? And what would a garden of your choosing represent to you. Do you think that working in the soil means anything to people in this day and age? Does it meet some kind of instinctual, emotional, or ingrained need inside us or have we as a race (those who don’t grow food commercially) gone beyond the need of connecting with our Earth Mother. And of course, any other comments are welcome.
Happy Reading (and Gardening). Check out my website in a week or so to see progress of my Medicine Wheel Garden. Also, news of a new contest coming soon
Coming April 2012
White Dove, White Deception, White Vengeance & Summer of the Eagle