There is no place like home.

Home.

After being away for most of October, we have at long last returned to our beloved Honey Grove, and how wonderful it is, to be home. Yes, we have been blessed with the opportunity to spend the past month exploring the south of Italy, both countryside and seaside.

We have beheld the kind of beauty and ancientness that takes ones breath away and stirs the very depths of being. We have stood within the sacred walls of old, awe struck at the frescoes overhead, beneath pillars that climb into sky. We have felt small and humbled and shocked by beauty.

We have wondered through olive groves.

And outdoor markets, selling pomegranates and wild mushrooms and an endless abundance from land and sea.

We have marveled at the ways in which the Italian garden is organized and tended. We have witnessed gardens growing next to train tracks and on terraced cliffs edges and beneath bridges, and we have bowed down to the shear dedication that the entire country has to growing its own food, a truly inspiring feat.

We have picked exotic things like almonds and prickly pear cactus that are not familiar to our northern climate, and we enjoyed them immensely.

And now, we are home. And as Dorothy, so knowingly said to Toto, upon their return to Kansas, in the Wizard of Oz, “There is no place like home.” (An undeniable truth, especially, when one is welcomed home, by Gus.)

Who we missed terribly (and it seems that he missed us too).

But the thing that most astonishes me every time I go away, is the ironic way in which one has to leave home, in order to truly appreciate it. As Tom Waits sang in his throaty and soulful way, “I never saw my hometown till I was leavin it behind.” And you know, this line has never rung more true for me. I am not sure that I ever really saw Honey Grove until I left it behind and gazed at it from a distance, through my hearts-eye, from a mediterranean hillside, 10 thousand miles away.

For it was not until we found ourselves in Italy, that we came to know the true extent of our wild love for this place.

Yes, it seems that we are deeply in love with our humble little farm, even more than we knew we were, and this surprised us, for truth be told, we were not sure that it was possible to love Honey Grove anymore than we already did. But love is like that isn’t it? That is to say, when we fall in love, we fall into layers of loving and of knowing, and there is a kind of infinite expansion that occurs. Goodness me, it makes me wonder how much our love for this place will be in 40 years time?

And so, all this is to say, we have come home, and yesterday the bees came out to welcome us back, and so did the sun ( for the 1st time in weeks, we were told).

And while the sun shone, we got back to work.

Digging up gladiola bulbs and putting the garden to bed.

Of course, even though some parts of the garden are sleeping, other parts are thriving.

There are turnips

and beets

and kale and cabbage and chard to eat, to turn into warm and nourishing soups and stews.

And when we have gathered as much as we can from our gardens, Mark and Cohen and I take long walks through the woods, collecting all sorts of wild edible mushrooms.

And yesterday, I am proud to announce, that my dear friend Lana Marie and I found our first cauliflower mushroom, a rare coral fungus almost too beautiful to eat.

Well, I must be off now, for I have been writing so long that the fire has gone out. Time to rekindle the flames and to put the kettle on.  Yes, it is good to be home.

Blessings from the Honey Grove Hearth,

Nao, Mark, Gus and All at Honey Grove

 

 

 

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Gratitude.

Sometimes, I wonder, am I grateful, often enough?

At the end of a long day, after countless tasks, before I close my eyes for sleep, I have honestly to ask myself, did I make space for gratitude to enter into the tasks of this day? Did I notice, as I hand-watered the pear tree at twilight, the way in which the late summer grass was reflecting the sky. Threads of sunlight woven into meadow grass. Did I say aloud or to myself “my goodness, this is beautiful.”

There is you see, for me at least, something about gratitude that has to do with awareness. Gratitude is the recognition of beauty, of goodness, of awe, of grace and I am not sure that I am grateful without reflection, that is to say, without taking the time to recognize the blessedness of this human experience. In other words, if I am so busy pushing my wheelbarrow from here to there and stacking firewood and cutting back old raspberry canes and collecting eggs, am I noticing the unsayable beauty of this world, and am I letting it in? Am I pausing enough times in each day (for the three-seconds that it takes) to notice what an honour it is, to be alive.

Sometimes, I think our culture’s conception of gratitude is an automatic response that comes after one gets what one wants. People say “you must be grateful for all that you have.” What does this mean? The words must and grateful should not even be put together in the same sentence. Gratitude has nothing to do with “having anything.” I am not sure we could hold on to it even if we wanted to. Gratitude, is like happiness, it passes through moments, a free agent in the great mystery, uncontainable, like the wind. Gratitude is not something to muster, or conjure, it is the natural result of what arises when we pay attention, when we pause for long enough to acknowledge the profound privilege that is, to be living on planet earth, having a human experience. I think our best hope then (if we want to know gratitude) is to stop for long enough to notice it passing by, to smile and nod and feel the great warmth that pours through when it swoops over. Gratitude after all, needs nothing more than a point of entry, a way into our human hearts, and somehow I believe that this is our task: to be the point of entry for gratitude to come into the world, and in this way, be known.

Maybe gratitude comes easier in the autumn months, when there is more time to reflect, after the harvest is in.  And if this be the case, then Honey Grove these days, is a flood gate of gratitude….for bees

and the medicine they make.

And when my dear friend (and fellow beekeeper) Nikiah Seeds came to visit, we could not contain our love for the bees. And so, with the help of her sweet daughter Zahra, we built a flower mandala in the bee yard, and oh what a time we had!

And as the day length shortens and the nights get colder, we are enjoying the fruits of our labours and we are giving thanks, in the way that I believe farmers always have done, with heads bowed and hands folded, in reverence. There are delicious meals being eaten next to the wood-fire oven. And when the oven is not full of bread or pizza….

it bakes granola and roasts local free-range chickens. YUM.

Yes, there is at long last a pause here on Honey Grove. As summer packs her bags and goes south for the winter, autumn is arriving in all her golden glory, and for this moment at least, we find ourselves in the pause between seasons, which has allowed us to stop for long enough, to allow gratitude to enter.  Welcome Gratitude.

Harvest Blessings from Honey Grove,

Nao, Mark, Gus and All at Honey Grove~

PS- The beautiful photo collages you see here are the creations of my dear friend Nikah Seeds, from her visit a few weeks ago.  Thank you Nikiah!

PPS- Gus wanted me to mention that gratitude is nowhere near as complicated as I have made it sound. He says it is just about feeling Love, and that Love is Everywhere. ( I think he is on to something).

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