Welcome to the Soul Space community through this monthly newsletter. My hope is these reflections and photographs offer encouragement and resources to strengthen your own spirit. Summer joys to you!
Life on the land
Small surprises in the gardens often enchant us.
“I saw the most charming moment,” said Jim this morning after returning from preparing the Hearth for visitors. “There was a mother turkey with a flock of baby chicks by the front door. When I came back, she was hiding them protectively under her large wings. As soon as I left, she lifted her wings to let them happily scamper around again.” It just happened that a Daily Prayer app (free from the Presbyterian Church USA) that I read recently included this comforting metaphoric view of God. “In the shadow of your wings, I sing for joy.” Very similar to Psalm 91. “With his feathers he will cover you, under his wings you fill find safety. His faithfulness will be a protective shield.” Between baby turkeys and a flock of teeny baby quail, we keep our eyes open for spring’s delights.
But another truth is our actually hope that Mama Turkey finds another route for her morning jaunt as the babies grow. Turkey poop proves problematic, as does their scratching up flower seeds. One year we planted almost 200 sunflower seeds, and only three came up! Between quail and turkeys, they enjoyed a springtime of gourmet seeds.
“June is busting out all over.”
While in California on a mini tour for Soul Space, we attended a Gershwin concert where they performed “June is busting out all over.” After being gone only six days, we returned to a profusion of June blooms after Spokane’s 80 degree days. Ripe strawberries, arugula, and lettuce, dozens of pink, white, and rose peonies, hundreds of daisies, Japanese iris, and coral poppies all burst into bloom. What gifts the land gives. It still seems like a daily miracle that we can choose to plant a tiny brown seed, small bulb or nursery plant, and within weeks, a robust tomato plant, brilliant copper dahlia, or elegant purple and white slim iris fill our garden beds. Gardening feels like an immense healing action and research bears this out.
Scientists investigating the soil-health connection are a varied bunch–botanists, agronomists, ecologists, microbiologists-and collectively they are studying the importance of healthy soils. Want more peace in your days? There’s a strain of bacterium in soil, mycobacterium vaccae, that has been found to trigger the release of serotonin, which in turn elevates mood and decreases anxiety. We have long known that gardening connects us with nature, provides gentle exercise and bounty from the land, but this new research demonstrates that gardening can become another way to calm our spirits. If you’ve never gardened or space is limited, one can begin simply with a pottery bowl of herbs for cooking, or a hanging basket. Lots of fun!
More favorite readings
If you will be taking a walk in the woods this summer, or visiting botanical gardens, or your own back yard, you’ll likely change how you look at trees if you read German forester Peter Wohlleben’s groundbreaking book The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel and How They Communicate-Discovers from a Secret World An international bestselling author, he provocatively demonstrates that trees are social beings. Drawing from scientific evidence, he describes how trees are like human families, living together with their children, communicating, sharing nutrients for those who are struggling, even warning of impending dangers. I read the original version, but a friend shared with me this new illustrated edition that I’m eager to take on vacation! It’s a clear call to slow down and pay attention, or as Henry David Thoreau and John Muir argue, “discover the joys of sauntering.” In July we’re going to the Olympic Peninsula, the home to temperate forests including the Hoh Rain Forest and I imagine, even in the damp rain, I will see it in an all new light.
For sheer fun, I discovered the first Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs mystery novel on a friend’s nightstand in Alaska one summer. It won all sorts of “first novel” awards, including an Agatha Award, Best Mysteries, and New York Times notable books. A fictional series set in post-World War I London, it features the protagonist Maisie, who was a nurse during the war, but now is a psychologist-investigator with her own detective agency. Maisie’s story is smart, insightful on grief and loss, friendship, the impact of war on families, and British class issues. This led me to read all her books that had been published. Enjoy!
Responses to Soul Space
A creative idea! At one of my presentations in Claremont, California, I met Mary Fry, who started a wonderful practice after reading Soul Space. Each month she collects meaningful items, such as a feather found on a walk and a program from a beloved friend’s memorial, and places them together on a small table. “Every time I walk by, they make my heart smile.” Even better, when friends came over to visit, they expressed curiosity about these treasures and it started interesting conversations. She leads workshops, so she shared this experience with others. Many of them have followed her lead and started this new tradition! I loved hearing of this way to build community.
Upcoming TEDx Talk
A director of the Spokane TEDx talks read Soul Space and is very excited about the idea of creating places “where our soul can show up” and the many ways the book illustrates this. He asked me to audition and I’ve been selected to present at their October 25 event. The best part is they assign a coach to help speakers hone a 12 minute presentation. I’m looking forward to this guidance and opportunity!
Food for the Soul
Time for a picnic? Turns out that gathering together around shared meals to relax and connect, and even cooking with others, offers profound mental health benefits. This is on top of demonstrated nutritional benefits of home- cooked meals. Yet, Americans eat almost 50% of meals alone, which adds to the documented loneliness crisis. Even with our busy lives, we can find simple ways to connect with others over shared meals suggests The Washington Post in an article Food for the Soul. See
A favorite quote from John Muir
Hoping you enjoy some summer days of beauty and pause as you create or visit soul spaces that give you peace and strength! Linda