Gardens hold more than dirt and plants. They hold power. They heal.

Gardens foster community and relationships and awaken the senses while they provide hope and teach patience and fortitude.

Gardens contribute to our quality of life whether we're working in them or sitting back and taking them in.

Here we will dig deep and expose what all gardens hold, teach and reveal.

Learning To Brave the Cold, Snowshoer Style

by Heather Ford-Helgeson

Winter's playing hide-n-seek with us here in Minnesota. One day it's 21 for the high the next it's 50. We're accustom to it but we feign offense because it makes for good complaining 'round the water cooler. Admit it or not, Mother Nature's inconsistency is part of why we live here. Weather is a game and we all like to volley guesses at any given day's highs and lows and when the snow will dump. However, we all know the inevitable outcome: cold with a chance of freezing our booties off.

Yes, winter will hit us with its subzero ferocity and we're readying for it. Stuffing carbs, cheese and meat as if its our civic duty, curling up on the couch with the lights low and the t.v. on by seven, going to bed to "read" by nine and sleeping 10 hours or more. We are Vikings to be sure, but we are also bears and we know how to hibernate.

For the approximately 18th year I am telling myself this winter, THIS WINTER, I will take up an outdoor activity. I will get out into the elements, no matter how earth shattering cold, and movemovemove. I am pushing hard this time and think I'll succeed.

Late last winter I tried show shoeing with a friend on a lake and it was exhilarating. In full disclosure here, the first 20 minutes almost killed me, but once I got used to my heart beating above 80 bpm and acclimated to the cold, I looked up and out and over the lake and it was awesome, as in awe-inspiring. Snow, sun, blue sky and the only sounds were our labored breath and the shoes through the snow.

Perhaps snowshoeing will be a form of mediation for me throughout this winter. I'm looking forward to finding out.

In this land of skiers and skateboarders, skaters and hockey players, I will snowshoe...but I'm still going to bed by 9pm.

What winter activity do you do that gets you out into the elements?

Natural Progression

by Heather Ford-Helgeson

Dawn crawls up in vivid pink and orange
Cool winds hold gusts of winter snap
Green gives way to red and yellow
Leaves play tag as they fall and blow.

School lends to quiet neighborhood afternoons
The sun tires faster, heading to bed early
Naked branches bend shyly in search of cover
The burning bush blushes bright as a young lover.

Frost spreads from tree tips to grass
Perennials brown and die back to rest
Sounds deepen and amplify as the temperature drops
The honking of geese incessant, lessens, stops.

Footsteps crackle and leave trails
Breath clouds, mingles and rises
Mother natures blows a cold kiss
A hush envelopes as snow falls, gathers and drifts.

Ode to the Blues

(I've got the blue-collared blues and I'm happy)

by Heather Ford-Helgeson

I have spent the last few months working hard in the great outdoors. My soft body with its desk-chair sized backside and atrophied arms initially shook after hours of shoveling mulch into wheelbarrows and moving it distances that appeared to elongate with each haul. Bugs have taken good sized chunks of my tender skin. I've been attacked by raspberry and barberry bushes galore -- my legs and arms illustrate that story with a labyrinth of scrapes and scratches. Many a spider, including a couple the approximate size of a Smart car, have sauntered over my arms completely ignoring my screams. Once, a snake slithered out from under my hand in a rock garden and didn't even stop to see if I was indeed having a heart attack or just overacting.

It has been awesome. I mean that, from the top of my sunburned scalp to the tips of my bruised toes.

I quit a job I loved before this gardening adventure. I loved the work but management was the worst I've had in almost two decades. It broke my heart to leave but I had to. I had to for the sake of my health and my family. If it weren’t for some fabulous friends I made on the job and the relationships I fostered with clients, I’m quite certain I would have lost it more than I did. And I did lose it. I completely lost my bearings and even threw up a couple of times while at work. Many days I couldn't eat without gagging until after 5pm because I was so tense. Even when I was home my mind was still at work, trying to figure out how to fix the situation. My toddler got less and less time with me even when I was right in front of her. I've spent years with previous jobs that were difficult. I can't stand giving up and I'm a bit of a Pollyanna but within five months I had to be done. For my sake and my family's sake. The following morning after my last day I ate a huge breakfast because I wanted to eat, for the first morning in months, and I smiled while I ate. I came back to myself so fast I knew I had done the right thing.

So here I am in the blue-collared zone and feeling very fortunate for it. The beauty of working with your muscles, of sweating, of starting and completing a task within a day and feeling your day’s work in every fiber of your being is a beautiful thing. I will go back to the white-collar world because there are parts of me that I want to utilize that I cannot in the labor world. However, I know the value, physically and spiritually, of a hard day’s work and I will encourage my daughter and others to not count it out as a life-long pursuit.

Working within your field of bliss is great if you can find it, but what if your bliss cannot pay the bills? Writing, singing, playing an instrument, painting, creating sculptures from old tin cans, some make a living from these things, many more cannot. But money should not be the divining rod to success, happiness and fulfillment should. Working a day in the elements, using the body instead of draining the mind, leaves enough creative energy  to pursue hobbies with gusto and fortitude.

What if you want to write a novel but find your desk-job is draining your will to create? A seasonal blue-collared job may be the answer. Many pay well so you could work from early spring to late fall, set aside as much in savings as you can to get you through the winter months while you pursue your art ten-fold. Yes, it's a stretch, yes, there are many factors to consider (i.e. health care) but with some planning you may be able to make it work and then won't you be proud of you?

Blue or white, it doesn't matter, as long as there is fulfillment, contentment, dare I say even bliss, everyday. If a job takes all the color out of our lives, as mine was doing, then something has got to change. Most of us need to work and we should be grateful for our work, but we do not need to be miserable.

Blue can be the perfect color and you'll never know unless you try it on.

Medicinal Mindlessness

Laid back on plush lawn chair in permanently shaded spot hearing only gentle brushing of leaves in the wind and chirps of birds and mind following sounds and sensations as
coming in and out of consciousness with the tide of breezes as they flow over hair follicles and
nothing matters but this moment and
this moment and
this moment and


by Heather Ford-Helgeson

I love the heat.
I love
It is in sun
every follicle
and sways
and sings
after months
of being
by wool

I expose my
skin to even
the slightest
wearing perhaps
less than
I should
but I cannot
as I have
There is no like
to hot skin
meeting cool
Nothing sticks
I am light
and free
refreshed and revived.

But the heat
waits for me,
to once again
flush my skin
stick my skirt to my legs
prickle the hairs on my neck
and leave me feeling
at night,
slip into soft
another day

Again Begin Again

by Heather Ford-Helgeson

A fortunate
who live among
where spring arrives
to a
sold-out stadium
filled in anticipation
of its

Dappled sun through new leaves
and puddles slop over curbs
dry up
and leave mud
and smelling
something old and new
all at once.

Birdsongs change from
caws only
cardinals courting
and robins
joyous in finding

Grass greens within
and toes
too bloom
from boots into
damp earth and
soft blades.

The sun finds
its stride
and its
in force
and every bit
of exposed skin
tingles and
revels and