Church of Green


On the weekend I went to a retreat to learn more about Kirtan, or devotional yogic singing…it was a restorative weekend in a beautiful place. I learned a great deal and even got to have a go at leading a Kirtan (very briefly!) which was terrifying and exhilarating all at once.  There were very talented musicians there and the two Kirtan concerts at night were beautiful experiences. We held silence after them and went to bed with uplifting music ringing around our minds as we drifted off to sleep.


As a parent who is constantly thinking about food and meals, where everyone else is, what they are doing and what they need….it was such a treat to have beautiful meals provided and to only have my own needs to look after and I relaxed in that deep way, where even your bones feel heavy and  liquid…

I won’t share photographs of the workshops here, as there are lots of people in the photographs and I don’t have their permission to put them on my blog….but here are some photographs of the beautiful gardens and bush – the church of green surrounding the retreat…


There were even dahlias!

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The vegetable garden at the retreat centre was just gorgeous – a permaculture garden with lots of companion-planting of flowers and a little bath-pond.

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No matter where my spiritual explorations take me, I always end up outside, with the plants – the beauty of the growing things, rocks, river, sky… soothing and uplifting me  more than anything coming from any human brain or mouth…





picking up what the wind drops

I took a walk to a nearby section where an old house had recently been demolished. They are building shops there. I dug up a wormwood plant and rescued an iron gate from a skip which I’ll use as a frame for beans in the vegetable garden. 

When I walk I am looking for stray plants and clues of what other humans are doing, their leavings, their signs.

So many gardens are neglected and full of mistakes – odd plantings, strange schemes gone wrong. It’s a lexicon of thwarted plans, migration, human error. But I love all the gardens, all of them. I love where weeds come in and grow where no one thought there was any dirt. I love the twee tidy gardens around the brick units where the widows live – all pansies and polyanthus and tight little roses. I love the student flat gardens with the crushed comfrey and the gnarled old lemon trees. There is a place deep in my heart for the gardens inside the gates of kindergartens – old tractor tyres full of marigolds and strawberry plants, glitter and matchbox cars.

These dahlias were planted behind a tin-shed, hard up against a damp bank… entirely the wrong place and where no one can see them (except me, because I creep and snoop) so I pick them and drop them at a friend’s door.


I pick up windfall apples from the house across from the supermarket. They are a bit bruised but will do for pie. At another house someone has left ice-cream containers of passionfruit for $2 each on their fence. I take one and leave a coin in the letterbox.

I don’t fully understand my own instinct for gleaning. It’s more than acquisition. It’s something to do with control, and side-stepping capitalism and burrowing into a universe where people trade in fruit and the urban environment is one big shared playground. I like my own company but I spend too much time in it and then I read the street and try to draw meaning from the random and the incidental.

Occasionally a garden is stunning and special and makes perfect sense, but these gardens are rare:


Right now, there is an American oil company doing exploratory drilling in the hills near Dannevirke. If they find enough, they have plans to frack for oil. Local farmers and  Iwi have been protesting there this week and it is getting almost no media coverage. There are similar exploratory tests going on near Whangarei, but for gold.

I have been following the effects of fracking in Pennsylvania, USA where fracking for natural gas has been happening for some years now. None of the news is good. Profound pollution, deformities and stillbirths in animal stock, rising cancer rates and the tap water is flammable.

Hold a lighter to your running tap and it lights up. Imagine.

Parts of the Manawatu River are so polluted from intensive dairy farming and factory run-off IT SPONTANEOUSLY CATCHES FIRE.

Water on fire. Water on fire.

On the way to pick the youngest up from school I pass a house with a big walnut tree. There are walnuts all over the path, so I pick them up. I always carry a cloth bag in my hand bag for spontaneous foraging. It’s like maybe if I notice the trees enough, maybe if I honour the fruit enough, maybe if I pick up enough windfalls and rescue enough plants….maybe then…? Maybe then.

The Dahlia Fan Club takes a field trip…

A great thing about a fan club having just two members, is that it is easy to convene. (I think this is also why I am in a writing group of just three people.) Emma was in town on Sunday, so The Dahlia Fan Club took a stroll to the Victoria Esplanade to seek out the Dahlias dotted here and there, they are usually in top form at this time of year, however because of the drought we’ve been suffering here in the Manawatu, they weren’t up to their usual standard. Still, we spotted a few good ones.

We also looked at the Dugald McKenzie Rose Garden, and I took some photos there too, however looking through the photographs when I got home I surmised that dahlias are simply more photogenic. Each dahlia has it’s own character – whereas a rose is a rose is a rose…. 

This Dahlia thing is catching on – Emma’s friend sent her these photographs of Dahlia Cottage in Featherston. 

Cue gratuitous Dahlia photographs…darlias_5 darlias_4 darlias_3 darlias_2 darlias_1

The Dahlia Fan Club


My dear friend Emma and I have decided to take our Dahlia Fan Club off the screen and into the world. Emma has blogged about her plans here and our Pinterest page here. (We had 300-ish followers within a couple of days of making that page, so there are a lot of Dahlia fans out there!) Details of my plans are to follow, but for now – here are some things I’ve discovered about Dahlias so far…


New Zealand has a National Dahlia Society.

The best time to plant them is July/August – according to the nice lady at my local gardening centre – this gives Emma and I the winter to prepare our Dahlia beds.


I was inspired to try growing my own dedicated Dahlia garden by this video. I recommend watching it with the volume turned off so you don’t have to listen to Martha Stewart because…ugh. (Plus she pronounces Dahlias “DOLL – leeahs”.) But gosh – Betty’s dahlia garden is truly magical.

Emma and I love to do old-lady-ish things, like drink tea from china tea cups, coo over old textiles and share copies of UK Country Living. I’m excited to take our Nana-core ways up to a whole new level with this Dahlia-growing, tuber-swapping activity.