Yard of the Wu Li Messes

When I was a young pup in art school, I had a wonderful opportunity to take a class called "Geometry in Nature" taught by Gary Gaffney, who is a scholar, artist, mathematician, New Orleanian and an overall great human. Gary assigned us to read a book called "The Dancing Wu Li Masters" by Gary Zukav (c. 1979). This book was about Zukav's "new physics" that included ideas of quantum theory, the nature of reality and relativity. I admittedly skimmed it and wrote my assignment, but the thinking stayed with me - if not in an intellectual way, definitely in a spiritual way. The Chinese word for physics is Wu Li, "patterns of organic energy." I feel that I carry that into my work in my gardens. 

My gardens are the kind that look like a hot mess at least five months of the year, followed by a colorful "spring awakening" of bluebells, forget-me-nots, purple deadnettle, forsythia, dandelions, clover, daffodils, phlox, grape hyacinths, wild violets, weeping cherry trees, and a giant magnolia that I, naturally, named Maggie. These are, of course, interspersed with spikey thistles that are attention hogs, but they coexist with the beauty none the less. I think about my dear neighbors who take such meticulous care to remove each dandelion, and how they must think I am a complete oddball for letting the leaves rest in the fall, and letting the dandelions grow in the spring and summer. They are beautiful (to me), excellent pollinators and they are edible in so many ways. I pulled out my Nana's Dandelion Wine recipe recently, and I will be picking blooms later today to try my hand at this old-school beverage shared among neighbors back in the day.

Someday soon, it will be time to glove up and face the prickly thistles, clear away the dead matter from this winter and allow the emerging perennials to soak up the sun's warmth. Now, however, I will be that woman, milling about her wild-ass yard, probably in pajamas or overalls, watching the dandelions grow and dreaming of the life that vibrates just beneath the soil, waiting for its curtain call. Some are already skipping onto the stage, but others...they patiently wait for their turn, which has taught me to wait as well. My mother, Shirley, and her mother (Nana), taught me the skills and joy of gardening, communing with the earth, watching and listening to what she is telling us through leaves, weather, harvests, soil, etc. The patience, however, is another story. I spent at least 20 years gardening before I could wait and rest with Mother Nature as she worked her magic. I wouldn't even plan rhubarb in my early years because I couldn't "wait" for next year's harvest. It seems silly, but it's true.

Now...six years after having my lawn removed to begin my lifelong dream of a pollinator yard, I enjoy my own garden's pattern of organic energy or "Wu Li" if you will. I will rest and know that whatever happens, Mother Nature knows best. She seems to have lots stacked against her these days, so I will do what I can to help, so I invite you to take a moment to pause the next time you see a dandelion. It might seem pesky to you, but it is serving a beautiful purpose for so many beings (many of whom we don't even see or notice when they are all around us working hard at pollinating and keeping our food growing as a result). So, let's raise a glass (of dandelion wine or whatever you like) and toast to spring...to pollinators...to the beautiful weeds and the ways they serve the world around us.