The Daily Muse

A  Garden Journal -- September 2006

Last Update: September 27

Oxblood lilies.

September 1 - morning

Yesterday, I had the sincere pleasure of interviewing Chris Wiesinger, the young man behind The Southern Bulb Company, a new East Texas-based internet source of heirloom bulbs for warm climates. Chris was recently profiled by the New York Times in a glowing story that describes his bulb hunting ways. The article also touches on the spiritual motivations that help shape his world-view and the way that he approaches the many encounters that result from rooting around the red dirt back roads of East Texas looking for unusual flowers. He is described as an "observant Christian." Nowadays, that can be interpreted just about anyway - from being an angry bigot to a model citizen. I sensed something different. What a pleasure to find someone who spends his time searching for the "liliies of the field" and finds a way to bless others through them. We shared a little bit about our own gardening roots, and I recalled that my earliest garden memory came from my sense of wonder at seeing daffodils push their way up through the snow.  He had a similar story where he talked about his childhood reverence for these stones ( bulbs) that turned into flowers.

Just a couple of days ago I was reading a new book of Wendell Berry's poetry when I found the following verse:

I dreamt of a quiet man

who explains nothing and defends

nothing, but only knows

where the rarest wildflowers

are blooming, and who goes,

and finds that he is smiling

not by his own will.

(from the collection "Given")

Who are we to explain anything? Why are we so anxious to defend or fight about everything?  We live in times when our faiths and our politics lure us to resentment. We feed one another our anxieties and test one another's capacity for shared outrage. Meanwhile, the great work of sharing our reverence for the transcendent goes unheralded.  Buddha once said that, "If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change." That is true for observant Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, and secularists alike. Seeing a flower in the way Buddha suggested is holy work, so too is "smiling not by our own will." Let us see and smile together. Our anger and the fear that propels it explains nothing, defends nothing, and sees nothing but the reflection of its own withered frown.

The stone that turns into a flower is waiting to emerge through cold and bitter ground.


Just a reminder...

I will be leading a "Soul of the Garden" retreat at the Seton Cove with the assistance of the Cove's Executive Director, Patty Speier, on Saturday, September the 16th from 10 - 4.  It will be an interactive retreat based on several themes developed in my Soul of the Garden video series. Lunch will be provided and the event will end with a visit to my garden. Call the Seton Cove to register - (512) 451-0272.

Hope to see you there.

September 6 - morning

A gentle mist fell throughout much of the day yesterday leaving us with almost three-tenths of an inch of rain, the most that has fallen in over two months. It isn't much, certainly no drought breaker, but I can already see a positive response in the garden... everything seems to be breathing a sigh of relief. Oxblood lilies and spider lilies are popping up everywhere - a sure sign that autumn is aproaching. It may take another month or longer, but the end of this difficult summer is within sight.


In the meantime, I've spent more time with Mr. Berry. Here is another short selection from his new collection, Given...

1999 - IX

The incarnate Word is with us,

is still speaking, is present

always, yet leaves no sign

but everything that is.

This reminds me of two of my favorite quotations:

The disciples said to him,

"When will the kingdom come?"

Jesus said, "It will not come if you look for it.

Nor can you say, 'It is here" or 'It is there.'

For the kingdom of the Father

is already spread out over the earth,

but people don't see it."


- from the Gospel of Thomas,

translated by Stephen Mitchell


I'm too religious to believe in religion.
You don't have to believe in a sacred world.
It slaps you in the face.
It's everywhere.

- An eighty-year-old friend of Gretel Ehrlich,
poet and novelist


Later in his collection, Berry continues with his mediation on "the incarnate Word." This time he reflects on our response to both hearing and speaking it...


2004 - VIII


It takes all time to show eternity,

The longest shine of every perishing spark,

And every word and cry of every tongue

Must form the Word that calls the darkest dark


Of this world to its lasting dawn. Toward

That rising hour we bear our single hearts

Estranged as islands parted in the sea,

Our broken knowledge and our scattered arts.


As seperate as fireflies or night windows,

We piece a foredream of the gathered light

Infinitely small and great to shelter all,

Silenced into song, blinded into sight.


That last line reminds me of a Zen koan... what is it to be silenced into song, blinded into sight? This is the result of our encounter with the incarnate Word which is within us and which holds us in "everything that is" at the same time.


What you should do is to know your own mind and realize your own buddha-nature, which neither rests nor moves, neither becomes nor ceases to be, neither comes nor goes, neither affirms nor denies, neither stays nor departs.

-The Sutra of Hui-Neng


And an old favorite...

The song of birds, the voices of insects, are all means of conveying truth to the mind; in flowers and grasses we see messages of the Way. The scholar, pure and clear of mind, serene and open of heart, should find in everything what nourishes him.

- Buddhist saying

Thanks, Mr. Berry.

September 10 - morning

One of our Spider Lilies (Lycoris radiata) in bloom.

It is very early in the morning and I am already feeling anxious about getting outside. Yesterday, I spent a long time working in the garden - I gave our boxwood hedges their last trim-up of the year, fertilized our grass, weeded, and pruned. Fortunately, we had another light rain shower two nights ago and there is the promise of more rain and cooler temperatures in the days ahead. We still need a good soaking, but things are looking up. I am going to stalk the hummingbirds again this morning in the hope of capturing an image to share - wish me luck! More later...

September 10 - evening

Well, the hummingbirds eluded me. But, here are a few pictures of the more stationary objects of my attention...

Pink rain lily.

Oxblood lilies (with Salvia 'Black and Blue,')

September 11 - morning

Five years ago I wrote the following words, I thought it might be worth revisiting them today...


Once again, life and the world "go free of plans." In the middle of this terrible day I tore myself from the horror unfolding on the television screen and walked out into a garden that, at first, seemed distant, like a familiar shore slowly drifting from view. I wandered about, contemplating the events of the day- it started with Victor's pager going off with another of its "breaking news alerts" begging us to tune in the latest horror. At first, I resisted its prompting, not wanting to hear the breathless recounting of this new outrage. Then, Victor called from his car, he was on his way to work, and told me that a second plane had hit the World Trade Center. When I turned the television on, they were replaying the video of the plane with its familiar silhouette, strangely dark and ominous, sailing over the Hudson and exploding into the tower. Then came the rush of false reports and additional calamities... the towers imploding politely onto themselves burying thousands of fathers and mothers, brothers, sisters, and friends.

As I made my way through the garden, I slowly roused myself from the shock and let the sun warm my skin. The birds were active, the fish were circling contentedly, and the flowers were all enjoying this respite from the rain.

Life does go on, free of our plans. And, life will go on, free of their plans too.


Well, in many respects "their" plans have been accomplished. Bin Laden wanted to drag the U.S. into an endless war in Afghanistan, Bush delivered, but in a different venue. Five years ago we were united and the world stood with us, today our nation is bitterly divided and the world views us as a reckless and dangerous giant that has lost its way.

I would like to suggest that today we should remember where we were as a people on September 12, 2001. There was more than vengeance in our hearts - we were shaken, but stood ready to make any sacrifices we were called on to make. There was incredible power in that moment, but it was squandered by a lack of vision and dark exploits.

America's capacity for greatness is unequaled and we saw it on the day of the attacks in the courage and determination of countless heroes. Despite all of their chest-thumping salutes to flag and country, our leaders seem to think of us as a small nation, unable to rise to new levels of greatness. Instead of rising to the moment they resorted to lies and divisive propaganda to drag us down with their brutish agenda. (An agenda that is unraveling for all of the world to see.)

Today, I am saddened by the loss of life on September 11, 2001, and the lost opportunity of September 12.

September 12 - morning

Nearly a half-inch of rain yesterday! The most since, well, I can't remember...

I can't wait to get out into the garden to see how it has responded. Even though it is still dark. I may just grab a flashlight and go.

September 17 - afternoon

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of co-leading a 'Soul of the Garden' retreat with Patty Speier at the Seton Cove. It was a beautiful way to spend the day and I enjoyed the thoughtfulness and zest for life exhibited by those enrolled. One of our exercises was to produce a poem or work of art that reflected a moment of gratitude in our lives. I thought of the many times Victor and I have shared a beautiful campfire with our friends along the banks of  the Sabinal River near the Lost Maples State Natural  Area. Here was my contribution to yesterday's excercise:

A spark rises up

from the fire and floats away

on Heaven's River.

(Heaven's River is the Japanese name for the Milky Way.)

September 18 - morning

Heavy rain overnight - I just went out to the rain gauge (with my flashlight) and saw that we have received 1.25 inches since yesterday afternoon!  Yeah!

September 19 - afternoon

The weather has been gorgeous - dry and cool (for us!) The daytime highs have been in the upper 80's. I spent a good deal of time stalking the hummingbirds again, and once again, to no avail. However, I did manage to take quite a few shots and here they are...




















Graham Thomas Rose.


Fall obedient flower.


A wide shot of the back garden.


The labyrinth.


Lounge act.


Colors and textures.


The conversation room.


And again...


Potted Dioon.


Looking over our Zen circle towards the center of the garden.




More Zen.


His expression seems to be saying, "Hey, do you mind?" Or, "Now what?"


A little wider. My advice to him is to RUN AWAY!


Morning light at the end of our allee.


Salvia "Coral Nymph."

September 23 - evening

The first full day of autumn and we are celebrating 1.2 inches of rain that fell in a downpour this afternoon. The rain lilies and oxblood lilies were already throwing a party as you can see...

Popping up in our back garden,,,


...and in the front.




Yellow rain lily (Zephranthes.)


Another variation.


Oxbloods along a pathway.


And close-up again.


Along our front walk-way.

September 24 - evening

I just returned from an evening stroll around the garden. I was a bit shocked when I stepped outside and felt cool air - even before it had turned completely dark. What a beautiful beginning to fall!

Hummer visiting our "black and blue" sage.

September 27 - morning

More pics from the garden...


'Jude the Obscure' English rose - blushed pink by the cool nights.


A cascade of passionflowers.,


Anole lizard hunting.


The elusive hummer.


And again...


Surveying her domain.


A rain bowl filled with green pebbles.


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