“She gathered bits of inspiration around her.” ~Jennifer
I’ve always been a gatherer. I remember wandering out of our yard and into the neighbor’s woods as a five-year-old in search of blooming daffodils. Back then, it felt like I was venturing into a wonderland of flowers, quickly plucking as many as I could before being spotted by the mysterious people who lived in the white house two doors down. I’d sneak back onto our property, running with my head down and my daffodil bunch pressed to my chest. Heart pounding, I’d go to the back door, eager to deliver my present to my mom. She’d smile that way her one cheek crinkled, eyes happy but heart knowing I’d technically been trespassing. Her reactions were similar when numerous wild fern plants appeared in our woods, pulled from the bases of tree trunks elsewhere and transplanted to holes dug by my little fingers. I had no concept of property or ownership back then; I simply wanted to create magical spaces with flowers and unfurling fiddleheads like the ones I’d seen in our copy of A Child’s Book of Poems, illustrated by Gyo Fujikawa.
Now I’m the mommy, with a little girl who loves flowers as much as me. She’s always asking to go out on the back deck while I’m cleaning the kitchen. I usually oblige, provided she stays where I can see her. Within minutes, she pops up at the sliding glass door with something she’s picked for me. On occasion, she has brought me entire zinnia plants, roots and all, and has stripped more than one pot of lavender. I know she means well, though, so I smile like my mom did and graciously accept her gift.
It was one of her floral offerings that inspired me to begin gathering again. One sunny September day, I arranged the zinnia and handful of asters she had collected for me, spontaneously making a nature mandala. That day something shifted in me. Or maybe it was a buried part of my that got unearthed by her innocent love of nature. Since then, I’ve been enjoying the practice of making nature mandalas with leaves, flowers, and seeds from our woods and gardens. I feel grounded, relaxed, and refreshed when I get the opportunity to gather bits of inspiration and then arrange them. It’s a practice in meditation as well as a lesson in letting go, allowing either the wind or my daughter to dismantle my creation. I’m reminded that no one owns the beauty of nature. It’s here for all of us to enjoy, from the three-lobed clover leaves to the heart-shaped redbud leaf, to the cosmos petals and silvery sage.