**Full disclosure – the following post is told in a very Euro-western context as I refer to the place that I live in as “my yard” or “my garden”. I fully recognize that there is a total lack of acknowledgement of those that unwillingly gave up this space so I could enjoy it as described below. As this post is about my specific offering and giving back to the earth, and for the sake of brevity, I have not woven into the post how utterly ignorant it is for me to allude to any sort of ownership over the land.**
In the spirit of “reciprocity”, I show my respect and thanks to the earth through the flowers that I choose to plant in my humble little flower garden. I plant flowers that are attractive to butterflies and bees as not only do I love having them flitting around the yard, but, more importantly, I want to provide them with the food that they need to survive, especially the bees. I am an ambassador of the bees and try to educate my family and friends on their importance. I remind them to be careful where they purchase their flowers to avoid harmful pesticides and I don’t know how many times my kids have heard me say “you never kill a bee!” I also take a lot of pride in providing what I call a “bird nursery” in my backyard. We have had the same pair of robins nest in our backyard for the past eight years. In one of those years, in addition to the robins, we had a hungarian partridge nest under one of our dogwoods and a cedar waxwing nest right above it in one of our ash trees. To show my respect for these creatures, when they are nesting we limit how much activity there is in our backyard. We won’t allow our dog in the backyard and if any kids go back there they are made aware of the nests and that they aren’t allowed to touch them – instead just to look at them from a distance. In the true spirit of reciprocity, by providing a safe place for these birds to have their babies, these little glimpses into the sweetness of nature are really wonderful learning opportunities for my kids.
It has become a joke between my husband and I as I’ve always said, much to his scepticism, that the birds can feel how welcome they are in our yard and that is why we attract so many. It is very much how Wall Kimmerer (2013) says “…and I imagined that the land heard us – murmured to itself, ‘Ohh, here are the ones who know how to say thank you.’” (pg. 34). I swear the rabbits and birds and insects know that they are welcome near us and that we will never not want them here. Even when the rabbits are chewing my shrubs down, I tell my husband to just leave them as we have invaded on their space and they are welcome to the food I have inadvertently provided.
To represent this tradition of providing a safe and welcoming place for birds and insects, and inspired by the mandala, for my creative journal entry, I have created my favourite flower, and also a bee-favorite, a gaillardia flower. I haven’t had very much success in establishing gaillardia in my garden as the soil, or perhaps the location, must not be ideal for them to grow, but regardless, I keep trying. Almost every year I buy a couple of new gaillardia plants and try a new location in the hopes that they will come back the following year. “[F]ed from the [ ] bond with the land, founded on respect and gratitude” (Wall Kimmerer, 2013, pg. 36), I offer my intentional plantings to all of the insects and animals who can use them for food or shelter, as well as any space in our yard where they feel safe to bring their babies into the world.