Thursday, August 23, 2012


The vegetable garden has been feeding us all summer with generous baskets of produce  - lettuce, peas, beets, carrots, beans.  Now there's a row of tomatoes ripening on the window sill, a reminder that the bright days of wine and radishes are numbered.  There may be a few acorn squash and a dozen ears of corn to pick before the first frost warning is featured in the NB weather forecast.

Maintaining a garden is a conscious effort to harness nature. Gardeners carefully plan their plantings, select seed varieties, enclose and till a patch of earth, control irrigation, eliminate weeds and amend the soil.  The schedule of gardening involves daily sweat work, as nature is not easily subdued and pacified.   When the season ends with a good crop, the gardener feels personally responsible for the successful outcome and might even brag to the neighbour about the quantity and size of backyard zucchini in the same way one boasts about offspring.

The other day while walking in the back meadow I discovered an apple tree full of fruit embedded in the wild vegetation that grows thickly at the edge of our property. Perhaps at one time it was the project of an Acadian farmer who lovingly tended a small orchard, but from the looks of the unruly branches, the tree had been neglected for years.  Apples covered the ground around the trunk of the overgrown tree - a windfall that I happily collected and turned into applesauce.   The fruit was sweet and delicious, a total surprise to me, the busy gardener who had spent the summer focusing attention on my cultivated vegetable plot.  To think that the unexpected bounty had flowered, matured and ripened without my knowledge, without any monitoring or intervention gave me a chance to marvel at the goodness that happens when we simply leave things alone.

Carl Jung described the garden as an archetypal symbol for the conscious mind, while the forest represented the unconscious. Influenced by a Taoist guide to meditation entitled "The Secret of the Golden Flower" Jung wrote about the value of doing nothing at a conscious level to spur self-improvement or attain enlightenment.

"When I examined the development of persons who grew beyond themselves I saw that their fates had something in common.  The new thing came to them out of obscure possibilities.  In no case was it conjured into existence through purpose and conscious willing, but rather seemed to be borne on the stream of time.

We are so greatly tempted to turn everything into purpose and method.  I have been deeply impressed with the fact that the new thing presented by fate seldom or never corresponds to conscious expectation.... Consciousness is forever interfering, helping, correcting, negating, never allowing the growth of psychic processes in peace."                                    -   Carl Jung

One bushel of apples produced by an overlooked tree has restored my faith in the enchanted forest of the unconscious, where ideas grow to fruition blissfully unattended.

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