Groundhog Wisdom: Editing for Flow in the Garden, Life and Lyme

I love how life brings themes to our attention on multiple levels at the same time. In my case, I feel the need to edit for flow in several areas of life: the garden, relationships, and my book-in-progress, The Metaphysics of Lyme Disease. Although editing can seem like a left-brained process, I find a gentle balance of observation, patterns and ease provides the best indication of what stays, what goes and what grows.

In the garden, this means acknowledging that groundhogs rule this part of Kalamazoo. Our next door neighbor has already trapped and relocated two “whistle pigs” this year, and we’ve got at least three more who venture into our yards from across the street. Two weekends ago, I spent hours adding compost to the front beds, eyeing gorgeous lettuce, which I planned to harvest that evening. I heard some joyful squeals across the street and thought, “Those groundhogs are excited I added compost, because the produce will taste better. They are gonna love this lettuce!” I dismissed the thought, because who listens to groundhogs, right? Who thinks groundhogs cheer because of garden nutrients?

David and I left for a couple hours to run errands, and when we returned I immediately sensed something amiss. I felt, but couldn’t see a groundhog. Big energy. Big appetite! As I looked for the culprit, I noticed all my flowering purple kale stripped to the stem. And my lettuce, oh, my lettuce! In the center of a round bed sat the tiniest groundhog I’ve ever seen, finishing off the last of it. Five inches long, he was the cutest dastardly thing and ate his weight in lettuce.

Out came the very stinky sprays, which I suspect I hate more than the critters do. Within five minutes, back came the little guy. He nibbled on a couple leaves of chard and echinacea, but they must have tasted awful with all that stinky stuff. He made his way across the street and let out a whistle like a rowdy teenager completing a dare. Very naughty! The next day, out waddled Big Fat Mama, sauntering across our front porch and diving into red clover I’d vaguely “heard” a message to weed every time I passed it for the past week. Big Fat Mama doesn’t care about spray. She just likes her some lettuce, kale and clover — even locating hidden ones I forgot about.

This might seem like a minor mishap, frustration or tragedy, but Groundhog (the spirit animal) provides wise guidance.

Groundhog Wisdom focuses on the importance of clear boundaries and the cycles of life, death/hibernation and rebirth. A shamanic totem, groundhog goes into the Underworld and safely returns. Groundhog’s long winter’s nap connects to Dreamtime, and Groundhog honors Ancestral Wisdom by passing along track ways to generation after generation, even with no direct, physical contact.

Also known as woodchucks, whistle pigs, or marmots, groundhogs are resourceful, intelligent, persistent, and great problem solvers. Groundhog reveals hidden desires and aversions. Although they look alike, groundhogs honor their own personal tastes. They eat what they love and avoid what they don’t. They bring focus to long, complex projects, and they can keep these projects secret until completion. They can burrow and tunnel vast distances, but also climb trees and outwit traps. They know how to disappear when necessary. They look cute, but their sharp teeth, strong claws and metabolic control demand respect.

All of these qualities connect Groundhog very closely to the Faery Realm. Do not underestimate Groundhog!

What Do You Really Want?

When we first moved here, I had big plans for the sunny, fenced backyard: a mini orchard, along with various raised beds and a front yard garden, but I also intended a “right sized garden.” I wanted beauty and food with minimal effort. Anything would seem small compared to the food forest I planted in Goshen, so my big plans seemed reasonable. But beyond these garden plans, we moved here with an eye towards me writing more books. A right sized garden meant more time for creative pursuits, less time in the yard or preserving bumper crops.

The day we purchased our house in May 2017, who popped out of a hole in the backyard? Kalamazoo Kal, the groundhog who ended up keeping me company all summer while David remained in Goshen for work. Kal mostly ate dandelions and clover, but he chewed through all backyard edibles besides onion and garlic. He also provided hours of entertainment as his actions immediately responded to whatever telepathic messages I sent his way. Real time call and response. If I ever doubted my ability to communicate with animals, Kal provided proof for life.

I had so much soil and compost delivered in Summer 2017 that I injured my collarbone shoveling it into grow bags and hauling them all over the front and backyards. That stopped me in my tracks for awhile. When I finally got all the beds filled in the front — literally that same afternoon — Kal devoured front yard plants that had safely sat in pots for over a month.

Like clockwork, I found that every time I did something really nice for the garden, it drew groundhogs — even if I added no new plants. This pattern continued throughout 2018 and into Lettuce Weekend 2019. Each bizarre synchronicity — whether a message from my body or a groundhog buffet after adding compost — whispered and giggled, “You’re not supposed to be doing this. This isn’t your path anymore. Not this way.”

How could permaculture not be my path anymore?

Permaculture refers to “permanent agriculture and permanent culture. I, of course, had focused on the “perma-,” planting perennial vegetables, bulbs, herbs, and fruiting shrubs. Even though I opted for Big Bag Beds and Smart Pots in order to control the soil and not disturb existing tree roots, I filled them with perennials. Annual veggies got planted among the full time residents. Meanwhile, between all the critters (groundhogs, deer, rabbits, raccoons, squirrels and possums), dietary shifts, and our short Michigan growing season, each year I’ve grown fewer annual veggies. Why paddle upstream when we’ve got six health food stores, ample access to organic produce, an abundant farmers market, and delicious farm to table restaurants? Why battle intuition’s refrain, “You’re not supposed to be doing this. This isn’t your path anymore. Not this way.”

Discerning through Open and Closed Doors

When you think life should go one way, and it consistently runs in the opposite direction, it helps to reassess. First of all, the perennial veggies, bulbs and fruiting shrubs are doing fine. My garlic and herbs grow well, and no critters bother them. In that regard, permaculture remains my path. The big concerns have been annual veggies, along with fussy plants or trees someone else planted in less than optimal locations. A few weeks ago, the woman who owned our house for thirty years stopped by while David was doing yard work. She told him she had “replaced everything twice,” including the now dead weeping birch that forms a magical centerpiece of the front yard garden. She suggested we replace the birch with another of its kind.

As someone who paints portals, I’m an open door, closed door kind of gal. In permaculture lingo, we say, “The problem is the solution.” Since my life tends to flow in eerily consistent ways, when something blocks my path, I take note. In Goshen, when I first started transforming the yard into a food forest, synchronicities lined up free wood mulch and free cardboard all delivered for free. People gave me plant starts and hooked me up with just the right person for whatever task I needed done. If I spent an absurd amount of money on fruit trees or spring bulbs, three times that amount of money came through within 24 hours. But here? The opposite.

Well, it’s not exactly opposite, since we do have a wide variety of herbs, perennial veggies, alliums, fruiting shrubs, established trees, and perennial flowers. I love peonies, and we’ve got our entire East wall full of them. I’ve always loved magnolia trees. Proud and stately, by our back patio. Other than hollyhocks, zinnias and tulips (critter favorites), our yard features everything I wanted — except annual veggies, which I needed to explore. I also sense an undeniable block towards expanding the garden or creating something that will require a lot of work to maintain.

Looking deeper in the Groundhog Wisdom, I see how this powerful Spirit Guide’s been nudging me all along to creative authenticity. Somewhere along the way, growing annual veggies became a “should.” I love gardening, but it’s primarily the views and smells. I don’t even eat much fruit, so planting a fruit orchard really makes no sense. I do love flowers! I love watching butterflies, bees and birds. The dead birch tree draws so much more life than it did while living. Birds perch on it throughout the day, singing and diving down to sip on flowers. Goldfinches, hummingbirds, blue jays, sparrows, robins, cardinals, crows … they all visit this tree. Some of the birds peer in our window during sessions, giving me special messages for whoever’s on the phone.

Truthfully, I feel a real fondness for groundhogs, when they’re not devouring my veggies or too close to our house. More than their regular world influence, I enjoy their shamanic gifts. Since moving here, my Dreamwork has deepened and multiplied. A lifelong insomniac, I sleep long, happy hours since moving here. Creative projects arise from the depths like Kalamazoo Kal peeking out of his hole. My frustration over yard violations brought to my attention stronger boundaries I needed to implement with people in my life, as well as some people and places I needed to “relocate” out of my life for good. The relief and energy surge from cleaning up boundaries makes life so much sweeter.

Accepting Flow in Order to Thrive

As so often occurs with clients in sessions, I realized the “failed” intention had been cancelled out by a competing, even stronger intention. Should’s and old habits — growing most of our own produce, having a massive food forest filling the entire yard — over-road my soul’s cries for greater creativity and free time to write, to paint … and to dream and daydream. Groundhog’s intervention each time I tried to expand the garden forced me to explore that urge. Was it real? Was it mine? Had it already served its time and purpose?

After one more groundhog buffet on the remaining lettuce and kale stubs, I decided to replace critter attracting edibles with a butterfly bush and a Blue Kazoo Spirea that offers three season interest. I removed the very fussy yellow rose bush that never recovered after the Polar Vortex, and that requires the bulk of my attention each year to deter deer, Japanese beetles, rust and slugs. I ordered and planted my favorite, very hardy, beautiful and fragrant Robinhood rose bush in the fenced backyard, right by the patio. I added poisonous favorites delphinium and foxglove, and I let myself enjoy the process.

My word for 2019 is “Thrive,” and David helped me realize that the garden and relationship “edits” all trend in that direction. If someone or something requires the bulk of my attention and creates major frustration with little to no positive return, then Groundhog says bye-bye. If something interferes with my creativity or general enjoyment of life, my body or Groundhog say goodbye … and that feels good! I’ve expanded the process to clothing donations, foods, supplements and entertainment. Optimize to thrive.

Doing so much editing in the garden and life got me back in the mood to explore The Metaphysics of Lyme Disease with fresh eyes. I have many wonderful contributors, and I need to find and amplify the flow, edit and remove what doesn’t fit. My time away brought clarity, so what seemed a daunting task now flows well. All in good time. A time to add and a time to take away. A time to dig deep and a time for unconscious ideas to pop to the surface fully formed. Every day is Groundhog Day at Dra’Faven, and for me, that works.

What works for you? What do open or closed doors tell you about your own hidden desires? What Animal Wisdom calls for your attention?

 

 

9 responses to this post.

  1. Very wise! This is how my spiral path and shade garden came to be… after years of bemoaning my barren backyard of dirt, where “nothing” could grow, being surrounded on 3 sides by mature tall trees. Enter stones and mulch, woodchip paths outlined with fallen birch logs, a multitude of hostas, black cohosh, goats beard, astilbe and ferns. It’s beautiful now, a tranquil refuge. (Pics on my FB page if you are able to view.) Let the truth of where you are guide the creation.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “When a decision is made to cope with the symptoms of a problem, it is generally assumed that the corrective measures will solve the problem itself. They seldom do.”
    ― Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, that sounds so lovely, Diana! I’ll have to see if I can look on FB. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So true, Bo! That book informed a lot of my yard decisions in Goshen, and I suppose it’s still informing them here.

    Like

  5. I was able to pull up your FB page but alas, did not see any garden photos. Lots of delicious food photos, though!

    Like

  6. Posted by Linette on June 12, 2019 at 2:14 pm

    Thank you for sharing Groundhog’s wisdom! Seems just the thing I needed to read. Lots of love!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Reblogged this on dreamweaver333.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. ❤ lots of love to you, too, Linette!

    Liked by 1 person

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