I often say that my garden has helped me grow much more than the other way around, whispering life lessons in my ear through each passing season.
This was especially the case in 2014, when I took on the 365Project.org photo-a-day challenge.
Though I had taken photographs for years — during our travels, of our sons on the soccer field, and, yes, in the garden to prove that I had managed to grow something — I had never used anything other than the automatic setting on my camera.
Watching a friend’s 365 Project unfold on Facebook, each day revealing some new angle of creativity and insight, I was inspired to try it myself. I resisted the idea at first, since I had already committed to writing my book that year.
The more I resisted, the more the idea wouldn’t leave me alone.
So I jumped in on January 1, 2014, and started posting what were initially really bad photographs. Really, really bad.
But the exercise, for me, was intended to be part of my mindfulness practice. I kept at it, chronicling my progress along with my other mindfulness experiments on my blog.
What is mindfulness? Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, defines it this way:
Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.
I had stumbled into mindfulness, and eventually meditation, a few years earlier after breast cancer led to a complete reboot of my life. My debut book, Blooming into Mindfulness: How the Universe Used a Garden, Cancer, and Carpools to Teach Me That Calm Is the New Happy (January 2016), recounts that story.
When we are fully present, not thinking about the future or mulling over the past (where we can’t take action, so why not just let it go?), the details of our world come into full focus. When our head is cleared of the detritus of unproductive thoughts, it’s like a veil has been lifted. Colors are brighter. Tiny details are miraculous.
Though I hadn’t started out with a theme for my 365 Project, once my garden came to life that spring, I had discovered my niche. My photography became a parallel project to the book, both of which were inspired by the garden and mindfulness.
The greatest compliment has come from my social media followers, who have called my photographs “meditations.” As icing on the cake, my “Nandina Jewelry” image took first place in Washington Gardener Magazine‘s 2015 garden photography competition.
I hope you enjoy these gifts from my garden. Don’t forget to check out the Whispers From My Garden product line offered on my shop page!