Thresholds and Transformations – In the Garden, In Life

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This is my last post of In a North State Garden at A News Cafe.Com. It’s been an enormous pleasure to be part of this vibrant community these past 7 years. I deeply admire Doni Chamberlain – her vision and myriad contributions to the world around her and us. My new program on North State Public Radio, Cultivating Place: Conversations on Natural History and the Human Impulse to Garden, will begin airing at (KCHO/KFPR) beginning February 4, 2016. Best to all of A News Cafe.Com in 2016 and well beyond – Jennifer

PHOTO: A statue of Quan Yin, the Boddhisattva of Compassion, watching over the garden tool shed at Green Gulch Farm, near Muir Beach, CA. Green Gulch is a working farm and part of the San Francisco Zen Center. The statue marks the transition from mental and spiritual contemplation to the hard, physical work of everyday in the center’s expansive food and ornamental gardens – perhaps reminding practitioners/gardeners of an intention to balance and integrate the two worlds.

Thresholds are such interesting aspects of life – aren’t they? They’re important physical and metaphysical moments between this place and that place. Powerful zones of transition.

The Winter Solstice is now past and the New Year is upon us – iconic moments in time that come around again and again – each time reminding us how endings are so intimately intertwined with beginnings.

The Winter Solstice marks an annual threshold in our ingenious planet’s comfortingly regular cycles of turning. For us Northern Hemisphere gardeners we move – almost imperceptibly – from losing light back to gaining light – a little each day.

It’s not so much that the threshold itself is a dramatic change – but rather that the crossing of it marks a change in perspective and direction that incrementally changes everything.

PHOTO: Thresholds can be marked from above, side or below. Arching branches of native Blue Oaks meet overhead to form a cathedral-like archway in Bidwell Park, Chico, CA.

On one side of a threshold you are exiting something and on the other side you are entering. In the garden quite literally, on one side of this threshold we are moving away from summer’s peak growing season, and on the other side we are moving toward it.

PHOTO: Nature creates her own thresholds – from protected to bay to open sea, a stone bridge creates a natural threshold.

Similarly with the new calendar year – on one side we are quickly winding down, on the other we are very slowly gearing back up. For trees, shrubs and perennial plants, this is a season of relative dormancy in a long journey from germination to ultimate decomposition.

PHOTO: An open gated entrance to a graveyard in Charlottesville, VA.

At some thresholds, it can all feel like loss – a big tree is felled, an entire garden is moved away from, a beloved gardener dies. But step over the fallen tree and you are in the full sun, dig the remains of last year’s composted prunings and chicken manure into the soil and you are feeding next year’s starts, open the metaphoric gate to new home garden and all of sudden there you are – amazingly moving toward potential and possibility.

What can feel like constant cycles of gain and loss – seen from a slightly distanced perspective become a longer, more balanced journey of transformation.

A journey we, and our gardens, are always along the course of, and along which there are many transformations to be experienced.

PHOTO: A garden gate leading from front garden to back garden and Atlantic Ocean beyond in Little Compton, RI.

Eight years ago, my family crossed a big threshold moving from Northern Colorado to Northern California. We crossed over and cultivated a new home, new garden, new friendships and new work. And we all grew in this new place. My work – the North State Public Radio program, In a North State Garden, took root. Like many a fine seedling, it grew.

In February of 2016, In a North State Garden will cross its next threshold: transforming from a 4 minute weekend morning piece to a 30 minute weekday program entitled Cultivating Place: Conversations on Natural History and the Human Impulse to Garden to be broadcast each Thursday at 10 AM starting February 4, 2016.

PHOTO: Another natural threshold from sun-exposed rock mountain side to cool, shaded forest on Mt. Eddy in Northern California.

Cultivating Place will continue to celebrate the art, craft and science of gardening. I’ve enjoyed fully experiencing the people, places and plants that bring our gardens and us to life through the course of In a North State Garden – I am honored to move forward cultivating an even deeper conversation on this very human, and humanizing, impulse.

PHOTO: An old wooden gate marks and frames the threshold from a quiet side street in Mendocino to an informal back garden.

For more information on Cultivating Place: Conversations on Natural History and the Human Impulse to Garden, weekly essays and podcasts can be found at Created by Jennifer Jewell and produced by Matt Shilts, Cultivating Place is a co-production of and North State Public Radio.

Happy New Year and New Season to you all – may this threshold be a particularly joyous one in the cultivation of your place.

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Jennifer Jewell
In a North State Garden is a bi-weekly North State Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California and made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum - Exploring the Natural History of the North State and on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell - all rights reserved In a North State Garden airs on Northstate Public Radio Saturday morning at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time, two times a month.
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11 Responses

  1. Avatar Joanne Lobeski-Snyder says:

    Congratulations Jewel…..and I will miss your wonderful articles on anewscafe.  What you write is timeless.  I look forward to hearing you on North State Public Radio.  Your article made me think about this: the season’s of earth’s year are slow but sure.  Some of the biggest issues we face in this world did not develop  overnight and they can’t be solved in one day one week, one month or one season.

  2. Avatar Karen McGrath says:

    I look forward to hearing/reading your thoughts in the expanded venue! Your writings are so evocative and thoughtful, so well-crafted and insightful. A new year indeed!




  3. Avatar Charles Dethero says:

    Surely appreciated all your coverage on native plants; and when it came to identifying natives, certainly made my job a bit more feasible.  Thanks.  Best of luck.

  4. Avatar K. Beck says:

    I will miss your articles! Congratulations and best of luck in your new endeavor! I have kept all your articles. Is there some way you could transpose your radio articles to print and post them on the KCHO/KFPR web site for those of us trying to transform our yards into a native plant habitat?

    I will miss your writings!

  5. Doni Chamberlain Doni Chamberlain says:

    Oh, Jennifer, it’s with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to your column on A News You’ve written hundreds of thousands of just not words, but columns filled with insight, inspiration, facts and beauty. You’ve made us smarter about horticulture, and more aware of what grows here in the north state, and what’s possible.

    You’ve introduced us to fascinating people who’ve shared their love and passion for all growing things.

    You’ve posted gorgeous photos to illustrate your columns, some some so beautiful that they were printed and made into framed photos or special cards.

    You’ve invested countless hours of work and time and thought into these gems of Jewell columns. We never took you for granted, and I was always aware that like all good things, eventually you might outgrow your column, and move onto other bigger things  – bringing your column to an end here on A News

    All this you did tirelessly for years, starting when your children were little, and as they grew as the years passed, so did your column.

    “Thank you” doesn’t quite express the depths of my gratitude, but it will have to do for now. Thank you, Jennifer, for your incredible contributions to A News We miss you already.

    Not goodbye, but until we connect again.

    With love and admiration, I wish you the very best as you explore this new chapter.


    Doni and everyone at A News

  6. R.V. Scheide Jr. R.V. Scheide Jr. says:

    Sounds like you have a lot of work on your hands on the other side of this threshold! Will miss your writings. Good luck on your new venture!


  7. Thank you very much for these touching words. They are very deeply appreciated. 🙂 Jennifer


  8. Avatar Blake Dorsey says:

    in your article you mention a Buddha in the tool shed other Green Gulch farm that is not a statue of Buddha that is a statue of Quan Yin the Bodhisattva of compassion if you go to Greenville to the website you’ll see a picture of it and it is labeled a Quan Yinjust thought you should know.


    Northstate buddhist


    • Ahh thank you for that! I am so glad you corrected me. There are several statues of both throughout the Green Gulch gardens and I did not photograph the label of this one. I’m a fan of Quan Yin too. I’ll get this corrected right now.