I do not remember this photo – who took it, where, when – but I can guess. I was probably about five years old, and my paternal grandmother, Lorez, almost certainly was the photographer. On her visits, Lorez always brought what I deemed to be fancy clothes for me to wear. And she always put me into ladylike poses that were entirely alien to my nature. Note the stiff posture and the clasped hands – that was never me. But I can see my happiness – in the eyes more than the mouth. Most of all I can see I am happy because I am among friends – members of the Green World that have been my companions from my earliest memories.
This happy child is standing among a towering field of broom sedge (Andropogon virginiana). Behind her are oak trees still holding on to most of their leaves despite the chill evidenced by my scarf and jacket. Such places were common in rural North Carolina in the 1960s. Abandoned farmlands returning to field, then forest, were everywhere.
I’ve always loved the way stands of rust-brown broom sedge rattle in winter winds, providing cover for birds and small mammals foraging within their shelter. I love the way I can see this child’s happy soul, surrounded by friends as she poses for her grandmother.
I believe all children, especially the youngest ones, show the light of their pure souls to the world every moment. The light they bring into the world hasn’t been darkened, or worse, extinguished. They greet every day with joy, and any adult with all but the most hardened heart can’t help but feel lighter around these glowing souls.
This solstice in my hemisphere is all about the return of the light of the sun. Nights grow shorter, days grow warmer, slumbering earth wakens to bird song and spring flowers. But we don’t need to wait for light’s return. We carry Light within us always.
Call it heart, or soul, or whatever you like, but I am certain every child enters the world equipped with a sacred spark of Divine Light and a plan for their soul’s work. I have been fortunate. Despite dark times, my Green World allies ensured that I always had enough light to see my way back to their embrace. I feel certain that my ever-deepening knowledge of the Green World was always meant to be shared with others. I take the work seriously – writing and speaking to those who want to understand the native plants and animals of the Southeastern Piedmont, where I have lived and gardened since I was a small child with an open heart.
As my part of Mother Earth begins to tilt her face toward Old Sol’s light, I am deepening that commitment by writing a book describing what I have learned about gardening in my region for over half a century. In it, I recount how my gardening approach changed as the environment changed around me and my awareness of threats to native flora and fauna grew more alarming. Embedded within my story are ecological principles that explain the lessons I learned the hard way. Every chapter includes a section offering concrete steps that property owners can take to create vibrantly healthy green worlds of their own. My hope is to reduce the frustrations of trial-and-error gardening for new or less experienced gardeners. A description of a favorite plant or group of plants concludes each chapter.
My goal for the book is to empower anyone from anywhere with the knowledge they need to work effectively with my beloved Southeastern Piedmont environment, reducing frustrations and creating beauty while also providing healthy habitat for native flora and fauna. Two publishers asked for proposals but eventually declined to publish my book. Thus, barring unforeseen developments, I’ll be self-publishing. Right now, I’m still writing, and then I must figure out the best publishing option, so my book won’t be available for a while yet. But one way or another, I am determined that my soul’s work is going to see the light of day.
On this Winter Solstice, I invite my readers to contemplate their inner lights. If that feels difficult, try gazing into the eyes of photos of your child selves, or perhaps the eyes of your children or grandchildren. Have you unintentionally allowed your light to dim? Perhaps it is time to reawaken your light as Sol reawakens Mother Earth. I think we can all agree that more Light will benefit all of us.