Cool as a cucumber and a friend to the bees

Every year, one herb seems to grab my attention. Last year, I centered parsley for my Passover project – selling and donating over a hundred parsley starts to the local Beacon Hill community during the month of April.

In 2023, I’m all about borage. I’m surprised by how few people know about this plucky pollinator favorite, which many garden experts recommend planting around squash, tomatoes, and other vegetables to increase yield.

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Sowing Food Joy & Harvesting Wellness

This summer, I’ll resume online educational programs focused upon nature-based stress reduction and strategies to deepen food joy. It seems like only yesterday – yet it’s been 16 years ago, since I attended a Mindful Eating retreat led by Dr. Jan Chozen Bays at her monastery outside of Portland, Oregon. This experience occurred in the middle of other professional mindfulness trainings (MBSR, MBCT, MB-EAT, ACT) that I began around 2000; my personal exploration of mindful eating continues to this day.

As I’ve written previously (and shared via my real-time journey on social media), mindful eating offers a doorway into an ethical, pleasurable relationship with food. Mindful eating can be as simple as slowing down when we eat, noticing the many layers of our sensory experience, savoring our favorite food experiences, or connecting more intimately with the food system that feeds us.

If you’re interested to learn more about my approach, check out this blog post that I wrote back in March 2020, which still rings true. You can register and find more details regarding my upcoming 4-week series Sowing Food Joy: Mindful Eating & Savoring Practices, which begins Wednesday, May 31, 2023.

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Nothing is wasted in nature

It’s springtime here in the Pacific Northwest and throughout our Seattle neighborhood, many glorious green things are emerging. In my own tiny front yard, bees circle new blossoms, birds swoop in to snatch nesting material, and a variety of salad greens, radishes, and snow peas stretch toward the fleeting sun.

We’re also halfway through National Poetry Month, which I adore. Aren’t nature and poetry such good companions? Probably because I tend toward verbosity, I appreciate how each artist (earthy or human) invites us into the present moment with a few simple blooms – or words.

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It’s time to center joy

Recently, I’ve been (re)exploring the practice of savoring, which remains just as integral to what I do and how I live as when I first established The SAVOR Project several years ago. If anything, my understanding of what it means to savor has deepened into a taproot that also branched out into many other areas of my life. Especially spiritually and creatively. In ways that I’m still struggling to define. Not surprising, given what I’ve lived through, what we’ve all lived through, and what lies ahead.

On days when I become lost in my own thoughts or in my own troubles (yeah, that’s pretty much every day), I turn to the nature poets to lead me out of the woods. Or back into the woods, or into the garden, if that’s what I need. Ross Gay is one of my favorites. I adore everything he’s written, from a series of letters exchanged with Noah Davis in The Sun, to his collection of essays The Book of Delights, and his newest book Inciting Joy.

“The way I think of joy is that it is what is luminous about us when we’re helping each other, when we’re holding each other through our sorrows.”

Ross Gay

I need to step away from this screen now to do (be) other things, but trust me when I say that he’s a writer worth reading. You can check out his recent Seattle Times interview here.

Or if you catch this blog post in time, I hear there’s still digital passes (FREE) available to tonight’s reading through Seattle Arts & Lectures. I’ll be in the audience, savoring every word and listening to a master gardener of joy.

Herb of the month: Borage

Botanical name: Borago officinalis

An easy, fast-growing annual herb distinguished by its fuzzy, prickly leaves and bright blue flowers; also known as starflower. Fun fact that I just learned from the NW Horticultural Society: the nectaries in borage flowers are replenished every two minutes, which is a bonus for our bee friends!

Suggested uses: culinary, medicinal, pollinator friendly, companion planting, therapeutic benefits

I began growing borage in 2018 on our Portland-based farm, sowed around my vegetable beds in what I’d called my “soggy bottom garden” and in several wine barrels by our deck.  I loved watching bees buzzing among the dozens of borage plants that sprawled happily upon each other.

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Savoring as the soil for gratitude

Yesterday morning I read from Camille T. Dungy’s collection Trophic Cascade, while I waited for a doctor’s appointment. The poem Characteristics of Life, in particular, reached out and grabbed me; luckily, I had a chance to read (and fully savor) her words several times. I might mention that I’m in this strange new phase where lately, I’m processing things at the heart level instead of allowing the mind to race ahead and tell me what they mean. Interesting times.

How many times this week have you found yourself struck by beauty or stopped short in delight? Hopefully, often.

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Eating with intention

New calender years are like agricultural seasons, filled with opportunities to apply life lessons and to reassess what we hope to plant, moving forward.

Usually at the beginning of each new year, I reassess my current eating habits and ask myself a few of the following compassion-based questions:

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Herb of the month: Rosemary

In keeping with The SAVOR Project’s mission, I like to feature content that incorporates a hearty helping of mindful eating + therapeutic horticulture education, grounded in everyday strategies to engage positively with our food.

So….rosemary! Rosmarinus officinalis is one of my favorite herbs, and perfect to kick off the first of a series of monthly edible gardening highlights. Rosemary is a botanical star, even as cooler temperatures move us toward winter when many gardens are at rest.

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Composting the Messy Stuff

This month’s Mindful Writing session focused upon the organic process of composting, which turns discarded materials from our meals, gardens, and lives into a rich medium that enhances growth.

The methods of composting can vary – from worm bins (known as vermicomposting) to traditional composting piles that utilize homemade or commercially purchased containers. Composting requires the collaboration of many macro- and micro-organisms, including worms, slugs, spiders, nematodes, mites, fungi, and bacteria, which aid in decomposition and improve soil fertility. Healthy, happy soil = healthy, happy plants.

Amending our own mind/body health also helps us grow good things.

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Move your precious body

In previous years, I’ve written about the benefits of mindful movement, especially walking. Check out those posts (and associated resource links) here and here. As we each cope with the daily and accumulated impact of living through this pandemic, especially for those of us who identify as primary caregivers, I find it reassuring that research-supported self-care strategies (to also include good sleep hygiene, mindful eating, therapeutic writing, and nature engagement) remain available to us all.

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