Wild Gardens

By Hunter Liguore

Slowing down time never seems more needed as when we emerge from the cold months and face a new season. All the seasons have a way of acting as checkpoints, the metamorphosing landscape deliberately reminding us of what we’ve done well and what we’ve failed to manifest. It is generally what we haven’t made time for that sticks with us the hardest—and it’s not so much that we didn’t make the time, it’s that the tidal wave of Life rushed over us unawares. Coming up for air, then, becomes its own season, the kind that knits our dreams and possibilities against the current. With resilience, we plant new seeds to try again, dusting off old projects and friends with a deep certainty that this season will be different. We’ll get to it. 

But will we, we ask? 

On dew-soaked ground, I walk the small square of land I steward. A hub for urban birds and wildlife, its an important ecosystem that offsets the busy road and supermarkets just beyond the trees. At the end of the property, cornered by neighboring, manicured lawns is a sacred grove that has gradually rewilded after an asphalt blacktop was dug out years ago, put in by the previous owners. For the untrained eye, the space might seem like a downright mess, with its strange emerald grass that sprouts even in winter; or snarling yellow-barked trees rising up without order; or fallen branches dropped and left beside piles of autumn leaves. It’s also what makes it special—sacred, even—that within the disorder, it is capturing the ever-present moment, always in flux, always changing; we can’t stop it. 

Like many, I was taught what a garden ‘should’ look like, and every year, when I got my moment to come up for air, I’d venture outside to clean it up, plant new things, and wait for them to grow. If I got more breathable moments, I’d tend to it some more. But if you’ve ever been short on time, you’ll know wild things grow wilder when they go unattended, and so, gardening can look an awful lot like a seasonal battlefield in a perpetual war for more time. In fact, I’d argue that the changing seasons are there, in part, to force the gaps that can allow us to catch our breaths: the lawn needs cutting; the leaves need raking; the snow and rain will come and force us to slow down. The hard part is recognizing the way a garden mirrors the disorder in our daily life and asks us to make peace. 

If you’ve ever experienced a Time Warp, the kind that comes, often forced on us, when tragedy knocks—loss, illness, the rug being taken out from under you—then you know that the garden goes on without you. All it took was my wife’s life-threatening brain surgery to make a year disappear. In that time, a bramble of wild raspberries rose up next to a new baby oak. Summer brought lightning bugs for the first time to twinkle the night with sparks. Somehow, without my noticing, a sacred grove emerged with the presence of three new trees, their branches like unkempt hair in the winter and in the summer, with leaves, look like giant bodies cloaked in green. 

I wish I could take credit for planting them, or any of the incidentals that have appeared on their own. In a way, though, I did bring them. I stopped fighting: fighting life, fighting time, fighting circumstances—fighting the good days that were being weighed against the bad. After tragedy, I stopped rushing back to the fray, and found myself lingering in the gaps, until I ended up with one long gap enough to notice the carefree bumble of a bee, and firmly decided that I wanted that for my own life, everyday.

When the landscape speak and shares its love, it is rarely in full sentences. Instead, if you learn to listen, you’ll see it spouts with new things, seasonally, granted us a clue, then another clue, then another… adding up to a whole picture. It takes exercising our freewill to notice and not discount it as coincidence. Today, I can stand in my sacred grove and tell you what tree or plant or bird arrived that paralleled something needing to be tended to in my daily life and how I went about it, creating a new life. Eventually, we get to where we no longer see the borders of our gardens—or separate times for work, family, play—but see all of it as a collective unit of time unfolding. 

It comes with an awareness of accord that we aren’t standing outside of the change, but have always been interwoven and moving with it. 

Nature’s timeless love is like that. 

It’s the gentle bird song that plays throughout the day; 

It’s the wind clamoring against the house, ushering in the stormy thunder; 

It’s snowdrifts and rain puddles that make a mess of things; it’s the resting chipmunk basking in the sun after a long workday; 

It’s the changing and changeless. 

It is the walk of one who listens to the effortless-allowing of any given day. 

It is the moment you’re walking barefoot in any garden—could be your sacred grove, the supermarket, or driving on the highway—and recognize that there is nothing to fight, no place to go, no self that will be better tomorrow if a to-do list is done. It is the moment that you see all the fallen logs and leaf piles—the tragedies—in your own life and allow them to be what they are without needing to fix or repair them. 

And time, you ask? What becomes of it? 

Time is like an nature’s whisper pressing you nowhere but here—and in this moment, seasons don’t just number four, but roll like waves, infinitely, reminding us we’re the ocean, no longer fooled into believing we can be dragged under. Instead, if we listen closely, dreams will appear like lightening bugs and possibilities will be never-ending—where your intuition leads, you simply follow. 

When we do, it’s like walking in the footsteps of angels, willing to see the hidden magic interwoven in the fabric of life, a place where time and gardening is our friend. 

Learn more about Hunter in her bio on the Featured Author page.

Published by HLWW Featured Author

Featured Author of the Heartland Society of Women Writers

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