Gerdr’s Garden

I have been very absent for quite a while, and for this I apologize. I also apologize that my return does not bring poetry (I cannot find the journal I was typing poetry up from and all the poetry I’ve been working on currently are specific projects that I can’t share just yet). What I do bring is some pagan gardening excitement.

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Gerdr oversees the walled garden I have dedicated to Her.

Early in my days living in this house (it hasn’t yet been a year) I made a simple godpole using some driftwood I found on the premises. I carved out Gerdr, the etinwife of Freyr, and I dedicated the plot of garden area on the property to Her. It seemed fitting: the area was enclosed by a simple wooden fence (which my partner recently discovered is quite rotten in places and has been working to repair) and includes a small brick fire pit I thought could be perfect for some low-key rituals. When we moved in there was a tangle of strawberry vines and what I would only just recently discover were not just weedy useless strawberry vines but an different plant altogether (see those yellow flowers up there? Those ones). There is a sort of brick patio to this garden area, and the strawberries border this on two sides. The bricks are slowly crumbling, with dandelions, grass, and other plants pushing their way up through the brick.

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The gate is currently off its hinges as a part of my partner’s repair project.

Through the winter this area was submerged in three to four feet of snow, so I wasn’t able to do much with it. On sunny days, however, I’ve been using whatever resources I am able to find on the property to construct garden beds. Piles of brick were left out back and in the carport, some partially submerged in the earth and already beginning to deteriorate as badly as the brick in the garden patio. They were perfect for my vision of a rag-tag, friendly garden dedicated to Gerdr. I used up the bags of gardening and potting soil I found abandoned in the carport (the soil here is rather poor, due to the fact that over the centuries it has received very little fallout from Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier due to wind patterns and the location of the valley) before buying more bags to fill my garden beds/mix with the pre-existing soil.

Besides this, and besides keeping the strawberry vines well-pruned and unleashing Fred the Turtle to control slugs, you may be able to tell that I haven’t done a whole lot of gardening per se. Grass and dandelions still push their way through the the bricks, and I’ve encouraged the growth of moss in the cracks between the bricks walling in my garden beds. Today I planted several things, which I’ll get to in a bit, but for the most part, I just let things grow.

When I carved Gerdr’s godpole and placed it in the garden and dedicated the area to her, I formulated the philosophy with which I approach tending the garden — Her garden. I wouldn’t uproot and toss aside a plant or animal simply because I didn’t like it. In this garden, I wanted to cultivate herbs and other food plants for our consumption, but I didn’t want the growing of these things to be disruptive to the growth and life already present there. I didn’t want my gardening practices to be harmful in any way and besides, Gerdr is jötunn. She may the Goddess of the Walled Garden, carefully tending to her herbs, but her background is that of a nature spirit. The jötnar are, essentially, spirits of nature — they are untamed, they are ferocious, they are wild. It seemed only fitting to honor this spirit by allowing the grass and the dandelions and the moss to push through the brick, to aid in the process of its weathering.

So I have kept the dandelions. They are among the first flowers to bloom in the year and as such, they are a vital food source for bees while they’re waiting on other flowering plants to bloom. I’ve planted many native wildflower seeds for the same purpose and though they have taken their sweet time in germinating, a few of them are finally starting to unfurl the first of their leaves. Instead of mixing cement and sealing the bricks of my garden beds in place, I’ve encouraged moss growth to stabilize them. This way the walls are also easily deconstruct-able, in case some tenant down the line decides they do not want such garden beds (I would think them a fool, but to each their own). I will not use chemicals in my garden. Yes, it’s frustrating when slugs eat the strawberries, but that’s why I take the turtle with me to garden: she gets to chow down on some free-range slugs and I get some chemical-free pest control. She doesn’t get all of the slugs of course, but that’s okay. Again, I don’t want to toss aside any creature simply because I don’t like them. They have a roll to play in the ecosystem as well. (In this case, they offer a tasty treat to Fred and other animals that pass through the garden.)

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The two lilac bushes may not be native…my hope is that they will attract pollinators, but they do serve a very nostalgic purpose as well.

As you can see my gardening philosophy is very much tied up in my spirituality. I’ve been spending so much time in the garden lately in part because of this: it is such a positive and active self-care for me. The peaceful and respectful nature of the garden is a beautiful reprieve from work that exposes me to amounts of vicarious trauma I never thought possible and often puts me face to face with racism, misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia in both overt and covert ways. The effects of abject poverty are explicitly clear to me as I work directly with the children of impoverished families, meaning that I am regularly working with kids who are illiterate and have ACEs scores through the roof (homelessness, addiction, hunger, abuse, neglect, family incarceration, etc.).

Gerdr’s garden is my sacred sanctuary. I tend the garden for Her and in the process I get absolutely filthy — I have to trim my nails every time I work in the garden because I can’t get the dirt out any other way, and as I take my post-gardening showers I take great satisfaction in seeing the water that’s running off of me actually dirty. I work out the tension built up from the stress of work and the stress of keeping up with global and local politics as I dig holes to plant or as I clear out invasive species to make room for native wild flowers. I get a sense of child-like glee as I gather up a bouquet of dandelion poofs and blow them over the hill behind the carport — away from where they would take nutrients from my strawberries and herbs, but still given a chance to grow.

I think this is why I’ve been investing so much in this garden lately, even though I’ll only be able to enjoy it for another two years at most. I genuinely lovely tending to this garden, and I genuinely love the untamed sensation of a garden where dandelions and other plants classified as “weeds” are allowed to just exist. So invest in it I have. Here are some of today’s additions:

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Two huckleberry bushes, which not only produce berries but are also native! There is a third just outside the fence alongside two tiny blue berry bushes.
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Two tomato plants! Alongside some very sad-looking wildflowers that I transplanted from outback. I’ve been watering them vigorously and hoping they’ll recover soon.
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A fig tree! Whose fruits I will likely never get to eat, but I hope a later tenant gets to enjoy the fruit.

Hopefully soon I’ll be back in full force with some poetry to share. In the meantime, I hope this has been a somewhat satisfactory taste of where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing. I’m sure there will be more on this to come in the near future.

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