Tag Archives: nature

Creating a Garden Environment

03GardenEnvironment is defined as the circumstances, objects or conditions by which one is surrounded. Creating a garden environment provides an opportunity to be in harmony with the natural world. Whether it is a pot of flowers on your deck, a full-blown perennial garden or the surprise of a blue garden door, both the design and planting begin a partnership with nature. And just looking out your window onto flowers or woods, offers a visual connection that provides stress relieving moments.

I have loved gardening for as long as I can recall. My Mother loved to garden so, perhaps, that was the influence. I began serious flower gardening after I was newly married and we moved into our home. There was lots of yard and an existing large garden that had not been attended to. It became my laboratory for learning about different soils, annuals, perennials, colors, shapes, mulch and “zones.” It remained a source of creative pleasure until, twenty years later, I moved into a townhome. I was newly divorced and working full time. No time to garden. My townhome was landscaped with rock and shrubs and the absence of maintenance was a relief. For the first summer! The second summer I realized something was definitely missing in my life – I “needed” to get my hands in the soil!

To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.  Mohandas K. Gandhi

It wasn’t until my third summer in the townhome that I was able to act on that WheelB“need.” I slowly and laboriously removed the rocks and shrubs that surrounded my townhome. I started amending the soil. The following summer, a garden was born. Six years later, I began my study of Feng Shui and a new perspective to gardening was introduced.

While the practice of Feng Shui is more commonly associated with buildings and their interiors, the outside world (nature) remains its original focus. The Feng Shui of your house is believed to influence your life from a personal point of view. The Feng Shui of your landscaping influences the more public aspects of your life.

Your space reflects your life is a basic Feng Shui principle. When you decide to change the color of a room or engage in a major redecorating project, something is either shifting or is about to shift in your life. When change happens in your physical environment, your life is affected in some small or big way. These may be intentional changes to call in a partner, enhance an existing relationship, create an opportunity for a new job or career, and so on; however, be aware that, even without intention, when you modify something in your physical environment, a change in your life will present itself.

garden-2And what about the outer aspect of your environment, the landscape? The health and appeal of your outer environment must be well tended to create and attract healthy Chi and it matters not whether you have a large or small garden, a container garden, a window box, or shrubs and trees! Think of driving by a home that has a well-cared for landscape with healthy shrubs, a lovely garden or pots of flowers. Now think of driving by a home where the shrubs are dead and flowers uncared for. That’s the difference between healthy and unhealthy Chi! And it gives us insight into the lives of the inhabitants.

Feng Shui taught me to garden with a different intention. I was able to more deeply tap into my inspiration and creativity as I became more in harmony with the natural world. It focused my attention on optimizing the Chi of my outside space to welcome new opportunities and experiences in my life.

 The garden is a love song, a duet between a human being and Mother Nature. –Jeff Cox

 The gardens in our culture are typically a yang experience, that is, we often see the entire garden as one large burst of color. No surprise there! The Feng Shui garden, on the other hand, intentionally creates a balance of yin and yang, encouraging more of a “journey” of the eye, allowing the garden to more slowly reveal itself.

garden2Instead of straight borders, I began to curve the garden beds to create a gentle flow of Chi. Balancing active energy with still energy, I incorporated large rocks to anchor and define the garden. I added fountains and birdbaths to bring auspicious water to the property. Sound is an important component of the Chi of a garden and is present in the gentle gurgle of my water fountains, the melodious sounds of an added wind chime and the songbirds attracted to the birdfeeders. I added garden benches and sculptures to provide focal points for quiet thought and contemplation.

A charming fairy statue stands as a sentinel among the hosta at the entry of my patio. BuddhaBall
statues sit among the flowers and contribute to a sense of stillness. A gazing ball stands at one end of the patio and its mirrored reflection serves two purposes: it “doubles” the garden and allows me to see who might be entering the patio.

GdnHomeComing upon something unexpected and delightful definitely lifts your Chi. A little elf house is tucked in the front garden, seen only by those who take the time to look. Throughout the gardens, fairy houses add a sense of playfulness.

Both the approach to your home and to FtDoorthe front door are critically important areas to attract positive Chi. Two Foo Dogs protect the approach to our home and potted rose trees flank our front door, welcoming all who enter.

I continue to translate the concepts I’ve learned from my Feng Shui practice to balance the yin and yang in my garden. I’ve integrated the Five Elements of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water for added balance. I’ve made significant headway with choosing colors, textures and varying heights and bloom times of plantings in my ongoing goal to create a perennial garden that blooms throughout spring, summer and fall. And the inspiration derived from my visits to ancient gardens in China continues to motivate. Creating a garden environment is a work in progress; a labor of love!

The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul. –Alfred Austin

The Season of Gratitude

VegNovember arrives, ushering in the season of gratitude.Throughout history, fall has been a time for celebrating and giving thanks for Earth’s bountiful harvest. While the nature of these celebrations has evolved through the centuries, the spirit of the occasion remains the same: to reflect on life’s gifts.

In anticipation, we reminisce about our blessings as we plan how our Thanksgiving Day will be spent: whether to be a host or a guest; what traditional dishes to serve and with whom we will spend this day of gratefulness. For some, this Thanksgiving will have new meaning and a different energy. There are those who have experienced the loss of a spouse, a parent or a dear friend; a deep void will be felt as those who are no longer with us are lovingly remembered. Thanks will be given for their presence in our lives. Others will experience an expansion of gratitude as the birth of a child or a grandchild is joyfully acknowledged. Loved ones may be absent because of distance; others will embrace the addition of a new family member or friend to their Thanksgiving festivities.

Regardless of our individual situations, Thanksgiving provides an auspicious time to gather with those we hold dear and share in gratitude for both the gifts and the challenges that brought us to this day.1292

 “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie

Changing Course

The month of September has never been my favorite. The variable temperature changes are a reminder of what’s to come as we transition from summer to fall and then the cold of winter. Nature’s cycles remain consistent year after year, yet I still find myself especially resistant to changing course from summer to fall. Those transition periods, based on the ancient Chinese theory of the Five-Elements, relate to the Earth element. This element is typically associated with what the Chinese refer to as late harvest, or late summer, the period of time from early August to early September. But the Earth element also plays another role.

As we transition from season to season, we are presented with a few weeks of a different kind rhythm. For example, as summer transitions to fall, there is a fluctuation of warm summer-like days with cool, fall-like days. It’s a sort of “tease” of what’s to come and in that tease, there is a gift of “pause.” That pause is the Earth Element gently preparing us to change course. And, every year I resist! The most obvious is my obstinate refusal to begin wearing “fall” clothes. Not in September, thank you very much!

In Five Element Theory, everything and everyone is influenced by elements that make up all matter. These elements are Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal. Chart2Water is considered the storehouse of vital essence. It is responsible for growth, development and reproduction and promotes introspection, persistence and motivation. This is the element associated with winter.  Wood represents growth; it carries the seed of new life and is associated with spring. Fire reflects the warmth, brilliance and vitality of summer. Earth brings fullness, fertility, order and stability; it is the center from which we operate. When we are centered and grounded, we are better able to embrace change. The Metal element symbolizes the harvest of fall. It signifies a gathering of soul and spirit and brings decline and contraction with shorter days and colder nights.

ColorLeavesAnd, of course, this decline is evident as we watch our gardens give one last eruption of beauty before dying back in preparation for the dormant rest period over the winter months. We transition from basking in the warm sun to basking in the exuberant fall colors – one last hurrah before the leaves fall.

“Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.” – Lauren DeStefano

While I appreciate the display, I remain in resistance through the autumnal equinox until about two weeks into October. When I can no longer ignore the Halloween decorations and pumpkins that suddenly dominate the landscape, I release my hold on the Earth energy and allow myself to become a full-blown participant in the activities appropriate with the new season. This burst of energy compels me to re-organize my closet. I put away summer clothes, shoes and bags while deciding what stays for another season and what gets recycled. Ah! I’ve been infused with the sense of order the Metal (autumnal energy) element brings. Next, I re-organize my kitchen. I unearth the slow cooker; squash soup replaces tuna salad. Fall is officially here and its Metal energy insists on change and a sense of order I can no longer deny.

I begin my garden clean up to assist in preparation for the progression to the Water element of Jimmieswinter, knowing, of course, it will make this natural evolution with or without me. I transition my flowerpots, replacing those plants that succumbed to the fluctuating temperatures with plants that enjoy the cooler nights. I add pumpkins and gourds. I finally fully embrace fall! Those outdoor pots are a visible statement that I am no longer resisting the change.

What other inevitable changes in our life do we resist when they show up? How long do we put off succumbing to them? And when we finally do, how do we acknowledge and celebrate the fact that we actually moved forward? Each season brings the opportunity to look inward at what course change or corrections are awaiting recognition. We can use the Earth energy of the changing seasons as a gentle reminder, a pause, if you will, to look at where and what we might be resisting in our lives. We can then use the elemental energy of the season to support us in making the transition. There is a rhythm to everything in life; there is a time for growth, and a time for endings. Being in the flow acknowledges these life cycles. Nature is, indeed, a model for changing course.

Conscious Travel

My friends know I love to travel! Locally or abroad, it doesn’t really matter to me; every place has something to offer and I’m both an eager participant and student. Implicitly compatible with my love of travel, is my practice of Feng Shui. A reverent system, Feng Shui offers practical advise about ways we can connect to the energies of our planet and is based in ancient wisdom that understood the inter-connectedness of everything around us.NautA01

These Feng Shui concepts have given me new ways to view the world, and as a result, increasingly engage in what I call “conscious travel.” We may get away with going through the routine of our day on automatic pilot, but traveling compels us to entertain a certain amount of alertness and awareness; it urges us to be fully aware of whom we are and where we are.

To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.Bill Bryson

Reasons to travel are varied and unique to each of us. We travel to learn about other cultures, try new cuisine, visit museums, cultural and historical sights, hike, ski, get away from the routine, relax and so on. And we are captivated by the natural beauty of the places we visit.  Whether it’s Minnesota’s land of 10, 000 lakes, the glacial valley of Bhutan’s lush national park of Phobjikha, or the gorgeous beaches of the world, we seek to connect with nature as it exists, independent of us.

The wind is mild, the sun is warm, the water is clear, the trees are lush. Such a spot has good Feng Shui. –Ancient Chinese couplet

Being in the natural world offers us the opportunity for relaxation, for visioning, for dreaming, for exhilaration, for comfort, for de-compressing, or for simplifying. And, indeed, the first principle of Feng Shui is “Nature is the Model.” Nature is beauty in its purest form. It can be our healer and our teacher. The practice of Feng Shui encourages us to understand what makes a forest of trees soothing or a beautiful sunset inspiring.  When we intentionally incorporate that energy  into our home or office environments, these man-made surroundings also become more soothing, inspiring and harmonious.

I was recently reminded of how nature can be both a healer and a teacher. We traveled to Glacier National Park earlier this month. It was my first trip where the primary intention was hiking. This brought me face to face with nature in a way different from previous travel experiences. I was confronted with the necessity of learning about the habits of bears and how to be respectfully present in THEIR environment. I was the interloper in their space! Definitely a new perspective that became real not just conceptual!BearA

Bear sightings were abundant. One lone bear decided to take the path I was on. Fortunately, it chose to walk away from me rather than toward me! If he, or she, had decided to come my way, I honestly would have been terrified, but with my newly learned knowledge, I trust I would have responded appropriately.



The majestic beauty of the area was inspiring! And having experienced a personal loss the month prior, the physical activity of hiking in the beauty of the mountains and lakes provided a healing perspective; a humbling reminder there is so much out there bigger than I!


Isn’t that really what traveling offers when we seek to experience the “nature” of a place? Don’t we expect, at least privately, to return changed just a little? More relaxed, better informed, more open to life, and to other ways of being, more expanded, if you will. This is what conscious travel is about. It’s also good Feng Shui!

 The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. Marcel Proust 


I would love to hear from you! Please feel free to contact me to share travel experiences that have changed you in some way.