My musings on things
I feel passionate about...

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Companion (Planting)

Nature is so awesome. This is the month for abundant growth. Where I live, in the north of New Zealand, we have had abundant rain too, which certainly helps. I am amazed every day when I wander around the garden to see that the tomatoes have grown since I looked just a day before.

And on the micro level there is plenty to feel wowed by too. I was recently pricking out Little Gem lettuces (my favourite!), ever so gently easing the little seedings out of the potting soil. I was blown away by the length of the tiny rootlets ... they went on and on...

I had to stop and measure them: the roots were approximately SEVEN times the height of the green leaves. Don't you think that is amazing? Goes to show that there is so much happening under the earth, before much is evident above ground.

There's got to be a metaphor for us humans in there ....

If we are to grow, we need to make sure we have roots first. Like the seed, we need to wait until conditions are right before we start sprouting with ideas and taking action. I am always astonished every spring, when the soil is warm enough, overnight there seem to be hundreds of tomato and pumpkin seedlings coming up all over our garden from the compost we've applied.

So, in order to grow or start a new project, not only do we need to feel rooted, grounded, safe and steady, we also need to be in a supportive environment that nourishes us.

I have long been interested in the kind of environment that supports children to grow. Like that wee seedling above, children need lots and lots of tender, loving, respectful care as well as nourishment and protection,

This gets me thinking about who we hang out with as adults. Like plants in a garden, we live with or alongside different people (plants).

In the many gardens I have created and worked during my life in different parts of the world, I have always been interested in what I plant as neighbours in the garden. This is called companion planting. It feels good.

 Rachel Clare wrote in an article in Stuff in 2019:

Even though the scientific jury is out regarding the efficacy of companion planting, my response is why not do our own experimentation? Why not play?

It certainly seems smart to have plants in our gardens which bring pollinators and natural pest controllers. Like borage flowers attracting bees to help increase our strawberry crop.

Other plants like beans create nodules of nitrogen on their roots which can provide nutrients for the next crop.

Whatever science may say currently about companion planting, my guess is that it  will be found to have validity. For decades soil has been treated with chemicals with corporate agriculture not understanding the inter-relationships of the different components of healthy earth. Over the last few years there has been  an explosion of research and knowledge gleaned about the importance of fungi networks and that trees, for example, communicate with each other (the work of Suzanne Simard)

Why wouldn't plants respond to some of their green neighbours more favourably than others. Gardens are communities after all.

If you want more info on companion planting, click here

Plants need space to grow... and so do we.

Individuals and communities of people, just like plants and gardens, are so subtle and rich in complexity.

I continue to reflect on friendship and what it means to be a friend. I firmly believe that who I choose to hang out with can really assist me to grow as a human being. Or not.

Some friendships endure, others are for a time, a place or a phase. I have needed to let go of some friendships over the course of my life.

I can't be bothered anymore with superficial, gossipy friendships ... life is too short.

The most nourishing friendships, for me, are ones where both of us can dive deeply into reflection and honest robust communication when desired. What enables this to happen is the acquired art of deep respectful listening.

Recently I was asked to do something by a friend to support her that on reflection I wasn't able to say yes to. After a lot of thought on my part, we made time to connect and I was honest about why I couldn't help. I didn't find it easy to say No.  I want to be supportive to my friend's needs - and my own. She expressed her appreciation of my showing up and being honest. The conversation allowed me to think about the ways I can support her with major life events where I can be in integrity with myself. That way my support of her will allow me to shine. Out of her request and our conversation has come more depth and new possibilities. We both felt heard.

Just as there are plants that bring benefits to other plants, the literature around companion planting maintains that some plant combinations are not conducive to growing strong, disease resistant healthy plants that thrive.

The same is true for us in our social networks. I have had the experience of being around someone with whom I had a strong visceral reaction. That feeling was telling me that I was not being respected or that I was unsafe.  This communication on the inside can occur on a very subtle level. There have been times when, because of my desire to belong and be part of this group, I have overridden my deeper intuition that this person / these people are not part of my tribe. It hasn't usually had a good outcome for me.

So, just as some friends can support and encourage us along our life path, there are others who, for whatever reason, want to hold us back and even enjoy putting us down. If we object, the retort is "oh come on, can't you take a joke?"

I was facilitating a Nourishment group for some younger (young to me!) people recently and one of the themes that arose was 'friend roasting'.

One of the participants was exploring her growing unease at the culture within her friend group of banter and having each other on. She was coming to the realisation that these friends were not supporting her to grow. She was beginning to reflect on who in her social networks built her up, empowered and cheered her on and who didn't.

There is such a fine line between sharing a laugh with someone about their quirks - - and, putting them down. Roasting can be an underhand way to pass judgement on someone else. Sharing a laugh is fun when it is loving and has the intention of strengthening connection.

Our friendship needs change over time.

Friendships - relationships - are so complex and multi layered and we all bring our past history to the table. I know that I can take things that people say to me a bit too seriously at times. My partner Terence has a keen sense of humour and I can take his joshing  personally.

Like teasing out that wee lettuce seedling, I have gently and lovingly followed the hair-thin 'roots' of my discomfort back to my childhood. Perhaps my position in my family, 5th of six, meant that I often had the feeling of trying to keep up with the naturally more sophisticated banter of my older siblings. Reflecting like this has enabled me to relax and find more joy and fun.

And it's good to remember that laughter really can be the best medicine to ease the inevitable challenges and setbacks of our lives and this pretty chaotic world we live in.

My belief is that we all want to be loved and accepted. Relationships that are important to us are the most fertile ground in which to grow to our full height as human beings, to be the best version of ourselves..

It's not that different for plants ...  they too want to flourish and blossom.


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