Shall I not have intelligence with the earth?

Today I visited an amazing Nursery, Annie’s Annuals and Perennials, in Richmond, California.  A living museum of things green and growing.  A place where many things begin…

A gardener’s delight, but also a place where even those ignorant of the ways of the garden spirits, gods and goddesses – those with nary a green toe, let alone a green thumb, in their entire being, can still wander the aisles of growing things and stare in silent wonder.

The first thing that caught my attention was a cow.  No ordinary bovine, this…

Tom Robbins says,  “You should never hesitate to trade your cow for a handful of magic beans.” But this cow seems to contain her own magic, if not her beans.

When I turned away, I came face to face with an age-old garden spirit, not The Green Man of druidic lore and legend, but mayhap his sister, mother or bride…or more likely his predecessor, his inspiration, perhaps his queen…

The Green Woman!

Seeing her brought Thoreau’s words to life –

“Shall I not have intelligence with the earth?  Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mould myself.”

An old poem about The Green Man, from William Anderson’s book, is equally applicable to her –

“I am born on May Morning – by sticks, bells, and ribbons
I am the sap – in the dark root I am the dancer – with his six fools
I am the tump – behind the old church
I am the lost soul – under the misericord
I am the oak – against the stars.”

Author, sculptor, mask artist and performer Lauren Raine has penned beautiful verses about the ancient Green Deity who comes to us every year —

“When you think that winter will never end,    
I will come.   
You will feel my breath,   
a vine caressing your foot.  
I am the blue eye of a crocus,   
opening in the snow,   
a trickle of water, a calling bird,  
a shaft of light among the trees.   
You will hear me singing  
among the green groves of memory,  
and the shining leaves of tomorrow. “

Singing among the green groves of memory.  And the shining leaves of tomorrow.

If you listen very closely, you might be able to hear that song in some gardens.  In Annie’s in Richmond.  In Michele’s garden in Talent.  In Gail’s garden in Emeryville…

But other things come into gardens too.  Critters, pests, bugs and varmints.  Who needs must be scared away at times when the gardener is not present.  This is why we have scarecrows.

But in Richmond, the local scarecrow has a hipster’s style.  He’s grooving to the beat of some hidden ipod….could it be the vibrations of the very garden in which he sits?  He’s not your normal scarecrow.

L. Frank Baum, in The Land of Oz,  speaks about the differences between being normal….and unusual —

“’That proves you are unusual,’ returned the Scarecrow; ‘and I am convinced that the only people worthy of consideration in this world are the unusual ones. For the common folks are like the leaves of a tree, and live and die unnoticed.’” 

Hmmmm….  Okay.  Let’s go with that.

And though most scarecrows are there to scare the crows, this one boasts a waterbowl to allow them to drink. Definitely one of the unusual ones.

Turning away, I came upon a motionless figure.  Seemingly in his own world…but he could have stepped straight out of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows.

“But Mole stood still a moment, held in thought.”  (Kenneth Grahame)

Walk into a garden.  Take the time to stop.  To breathe.  To look.  To listen.  You’ll look like Mole too.  I know I did.

I was slowing down down.  I turned, moving across rows of green pots, green plants, green, green, green.  And then, above them, I saw a flash of red.  Someone spirited, flying above it all like she owned the damn place.  And like she wasn’t going to take shit from any insect, bird, or biped.

And being in addition to a writer, also a father, I couldn’t help remembering the wonderful words from Eric Carle’s book, which I read to my sons over and over a thousand years ago….or was it yesterday?  About a Ladybug with….an attitude.

“Hey you,” said the grouchy ladybug, “want to fight?”  (from The Grouchy Ladybug)

Walking out and away, minutes later, or was it hours? I had to stop.  Again.  And stare.  At another series of what to me were and are amazing forms.  Sinuous living sculptures whose purpose I can only dimly guess at….whose secret language I yearn to decipher.

What are they saying to each other?

I don’t know.

But Shel Silverstein, another poet and writer whose words resonate with young and old alike, is asking a similar question I think.

“Once I spoke the language of the flowers,
Once I understood each word the caterpillar said,
Once I smiled in secret at the gossip of the starlings,
And shared a conversation with the housefly
in my bed.
Once I heard and answered all the questions
of the crickets,
And joined the crying of each falling dying
flake of snow,
Once I spoke the language of the flowers. . . .
How did it go?
How did it go?” 
―Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

I sit here, staring at the photo.  At those curving flower heads, like thoughtful birds, like predatory garden dinosaurs, and I am certain they contain a secret message.  I just can’t seem to make it out right now.

They say those who know, don’t talk; and those who talk, don’t know.

Well….I don’t know.

But someone out there does, will you tell me?  Can you make it out?  What they’re saying?

How does it go?

How does it go?


the one less traveled by

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
― Robert Frost

The poem in which these words appear – “The Road not Taken” – was first published in 1916, ninety-six  years ago, but they still feel relevant to me today. And not just for roads that lead through woods – highways that bisect plains – or suburban streets like the ones I walked, bicycled through and later drove on in the Pasadena of my youth.

I think they apply to many things.  The choices writers make every day about their characters.  The choices actors make when they are taking a role and finding ways to make it live.  The choices you have to make when you are thinking of quitting a good job that pays a nice regular salary and trading it for uncertainty, nerves, and maybe the chance to finally try to do that thing you’ve been thinking about for years.

Or the choices I made last week walking down the main drag of Puerto Vallarta, along the zona hotelera or Hotel row, as I was nearing el Centro or downtown, a large boulevard with multiple lanes of traffic, signage, and buildings, many elegant, which all seemed designed to channel me in one direction.  I almost didn’t see it.  A tiny path which led off to the right as the road went over a small bridge that seemed to span nothing but overgrown watery reeds….

This is what I saw.



The one less traveled by.

In Vallarta.

In Pasadena.

In Los Angeles.

In Mexico City.

It’s there.  Waiting for you.

At least, I think it is.

But sometimes so hard to see.  So easy to just walk right on by…

I think I need to clean my glasses.  Excuse me…..


That’s better.

Now I can see, now I can—– Hey!  What are you doing there?  This is my road! Who invited you?  Oh…..I did?  Well, I guess maybe there’s room for two.  What do you think is at the end down there, behind those bushes?


Shall we find out?


Come on.