To Be Here Now…

There is a moment that comes along once a year, it happens right about now, just before the Summer Solstice, just before the sun reaches it’s northernmost point and the days begin to shorten.


And if I were to describe this moment, I might call it an exquisite paradox, for it delights and torments all at once, holding us suspended between the poles of savouring and anticipation. Savouring handfuls of new peas, crisp and fresh and sweet, encapsulated in pods that always manage to taste of spring rain, as though they have stored the water of the spring sky within them.


Savouring the sweet-red-tartness of just-picked-raspberries.


And cherries…


Breathing in the heady fragrant blooms of old-world roses.


This, and simultaneously anticipating the plump perfection of vine ripened tomatoes. Standing in the poly-tunnel urging each plant along, enriching the soil with ash and bone meal, gently removing side-shoots, celebrating the evolving roundness of each fruit.


Encouraging the borlotti beans to climb higher.


Imagining Tuscan dishes, made under a harvest sun, eaten around a country table overflowing with bouquets of sunflowers and rudbeckia and dahlias. There is no question, gardening invites us to be entirely present and simultaneously one step ahead, every step of the way.


Yes, exquisite paradox. To hold onto one moment whilst simultaneously peering into another, this is the world of the homesteader. For a life lived close to the earth brings the awareness that we are always on the threshold of something. That while one thing is happening now, something else is completing and another thing only just beginning.


And I wonder, perhaps this is what is meant by “being in the moment,” that a moment is the sweetness of savouring and the thrill of anticipation combined. That being present to what “is” contains within it, ALL that we are experiencing, that is, the savouring and the anticipation, the rapture and the torment, the joy and the sadness, the complete totality of experience, with nothing left out.


I have for so many years worked hard to find this place the wise ones call presentness. I have worked hard to “be here now” and I am fairly certain, that despite my heartfelt, somewhat naive and dedicated efforts, I am nowhere near any kind of enlightened destination. It has however, recently occurred to me, that to be here now, might have little do with favouring one thought over another. That presentness is an invitation to be with all that is, and this includes the paradoxical landscape of the human experience. I still don’t know anything for sure, except what I am feeling now, and that it has something to do with being suspended between the poles of savouring and anticipation. And so, what to do when you find yourself standing in a paradox between here and there? Well, there is only one thing to do: Eat freshly made strawberry Pavlova, made with Honey Grove eggs and strawberries, in the kitchen of Katie.

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And then share this cloud of summer delight with Mark’s Dear Mum and Dad who have traveled all the way from England to be with us, and to lend their loving hands and hearts to Honey Grove, as they do year after year. Or you might wish to harvest some of the flowers that are growing in the garden now, to celebrate their momentary radiance by making them into crowns and archways. (There is, after all an event taking place this summer at Honey Grove that will require lots and lots of flowers, and there are new techniques to practice. Floral art classes with Mark’s Dad have officially begun!).


Or, you could cut into Mark’s freshly made wood-fire-sourdough bread and eat it with an inch of butter and this spring’s dandelion maple honey.

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Yes, Mark’s Bread! He is baking twice a week now, and you are welcome to drop by Honey Grove on Monday and Wednesday evenings, between 4pm and 6pm to get yourself one of his incredible loaves. They are, as dear friend has recently said, like tasting a bit of the old-world. (There is a whole blog post coming soon, that will highlight Mark’s Oven and the Grand Opening of his Wood-fire Bakery, so stay tuned).

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And now I must be off, for a new day has begun and it is calling me away from my computer and back into the garden.

In Gratitude for your company. May this find you in the midst of a beautiful day~

Nao, Mark, Gus, Cohen, Katie and All at Honey Grove.

PS- Gus would like to say that life is always a combination of savouring and anticipation. He says he experiences this particular paradox of sensation every time he eats his supper  (although his version of savouring manifests differently than the human version, I can assure you). Mostly though, he suggests we simply enjoy the varied landscape of feeling that comes with being alive and to remember his secret of the universe, which is, as many of you well know, “not to worry.”


PPS- I must also mention that all of the beautiful photographs you see here with the exception of this one of Gus and the one of me in the raspberries have been taken by Mark’s good Dad, Trevor Sims, who is, as you can clearly see, a very skilled photographer with a wonderfully artistic eye. Thank you Trevor!


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Mastery~ Far From It!

Every year, right about now, as the gardens and the beehives swell, and I am mulching squash plants and splitting yet another hive, I begin to wonder about mastery.


Why this is, I am not yet sure, but I think it has something to do with how much there is to accomplish at this accelerated time of year, and how very far from accomplishment I often feel. As I search for the queen bees within my own colonies, I marvel at the human being who has practiced something for long enough that there is an easeful and natural ability to give oneself to the task at hand, without a single thought of “how?” I marvel at the one, who no longer has a need to define himself by what he does, for the practice itself, defines who he is. I have been working with bees for 7 years, and there is no question, I am still a beginner.


Yes, it has recently become clear to me that I have met very few masters in my life thus far, and those I have met do not call attention to their skills, because at some point in the practice, there is no longer a distinction between the person and the skill. At the point of mastery, the skill and the person become one, and then the very idea of mastery itself dissolves. What is left, is the one who is practicing his life with a quality of mindful and spirited dedication that results in profound skilfulness.


When I meet a master (and I have only ever met 3 in my whole life, 2 beekeepers and 1 gardener) there is in my own heart a reverence, a deep down appreciation for the one who gives his whole self to his heart-song, for a long period of time, until the passion and the craft and the person are a radiant expression of ardent accomplishment. This to me, is one of the most beautiful expressions of the human being and it takes time, a very long and humbling and dedicated time.


When I look around, at this modern time, I see a world that celebrates the “idea of mastery” but this itself, is not mastery, at least not to my mind. Mastery, as far as I can tell, is not an idea or a goal even. Rather, it is the natural result of dedication and practice. It is what happens when we give ourselves to something for such a long period of time that we become the very thing we are practicing, and this is not an instant process. The fruit on the vine takes time.


This however, is just my opinion, and I am fairly convinced that our modern culture does not share my view, for we live in a time that celebrates the notion of mastery and not the journey to mastery. The world is full of Master Beekeepers and Master Gardeners and Master Shamans all offering weekend workshops. I know, because I have taken some of these workshops myself, hoping to rub up against a true master, hoping to leave with a little more knowing; a little bit of secret knowledge in my pocket, I was, more than once, sadly disappointed. It seems as though everybody is “a teacher” these days and fewer and fewer people are interested in the role of the student. ( I might just add, that the Queen Rearing Workshop I attended this weekend did not fall into this category and that I give my whole-hearted thanks to Frank and Urs, for the decades of experience you both have in the realm of bees and your humble wisdom gleaned there).


And so, you must be wondering what any of this has to do with Honey Grove? To which, I can only reply: Everything really. You see, here at Honey Grove, we have found ourselves on a journey, living lives that insist that we keep practicing the things that we love. Our days are filled with equal parts success and failure and there is not a great deal of instant learning, save for lessons like: Do not leave beekeeping record book in the bee-yard during a rainstorm (instant lesson learned). Yes, our lives here are a mixture of continued practice and heart-felt dedication and although we are a world away from mastery, there is a deep respect for the process, a deep and humbling respect that can bring you to your knees on a regular basis, wondering what in Gawd’s name we have signed up for.

Between you and I, I do not believe it is appropriate to call ourselves: Beekeepers or Bakers or Gardeners or Salumi Makers. I would prefer to say that we grow gardens and that we have bees, that Mark bakes bread, Cohen cures meat and Katie shares her passion for food culture. For what is the part of our human nature that needs so desperately to “be something?”  And I wonder, why can the doing itself not be enough, for surely, at the end of the day, the doing is all there is? And if we are doing it, why do we feel we need to declare it?


Honey Grove, more than anything else is an exploration of our passions and heaven knows where it is leading us, but it is clear to me now that we are still at the beginning of our journey. With any luck we will meet a few more masters before we get to the end of our lives, but until then, our only hope, as far as I can tell, is to keep on keeping on.


And speaking of keeping on, I really should be signing off, for I have pulled the first honey off the hives this year and I must get spinning it.

Until Soon~ Thank You for your Company,

Nao, Mark, Gus, Cohen, Katie and All at Honey Grove.

And then, it has just occurred to me that I have actually met 4 masters in my life. One of them is Gus, who has certainly become one with his practice. A practice which I can only describe as Loving Kindness. And according to Gus: “Loving Kindness is only a practice until you realize it is the true reality and that Love is All there is.”


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