The World Is a Garden

For many years I had a garden filled with a variety of flowers in our yard in Massachusetts. After we moved to Florida, I created a smaller “garden” of potted flowers on our lanai. Now, back home in the Boston area, the backyard we share with our downstairs neighbors really has no room for a garden like my previous one. Instead, I have begun taking long walks through the neighborhoods of our town to delight in other people’s gardens. I have found this to be an unexpected gift of my return to New England. I loved having my own garden, but now I am enjoying the entire town’s gardens, as well as those at nearby Mt. Auburn Cemetery. Suddenly, the whole world has become a garden—or I am realizing it always was.

What a beautiful truth that is. The Earth that is our home is a Garden of Eden available to all, if we could remember to see it that way. Mother Nature has no borders or boundaries, no “mine” and “yours.” Humans build fences, claim ownership, but trees, plants, and flowers have unlimited connections beneath the fenced land which we can’t even see. The strength of their living energy has a power beyond wire fences and concrete walls.  Vines can topple fences, and trees can break through sidewalks. Ultimately, life cannot be contained; it flowers everywhere.

In the 1960s we called this “flower power,” and it defined a generation’s consciousness and vision of the future. But you don’t have to call yourself a flower child to see the unity of life displayed in the gardens of the world (as well as the wilderness). Humans often think they are separate from Nature; yet all it takes is a shift in awareness to see the oneness from which we have all emerged and that links us together. And this is exactly what I experienced as I walked daily from winter to spring to summer to autumn. Every day was a blessing and a revelation. Each neighbor’s unique garden with its seasonal changes was a cause for celebration.

Beginning in March and April, I watched flower bulbs push up through the frozen ground and trees begin to bud. Crocuses, daffodils, tulips, hyacinths. Redbud, crabapple, dogwood. Forsythia and lilac bushes. What glorious colors everywhere! New growth each day. The tiny yellow-green leaves of the maple and oak trees silhouetted against the clear-blue spring sky took my breath away. In May, June, and July, the colors grew even more vivid. Rainbow reds and purples and yellows. Magentas and pinks. Azalea, rhododendron, hydrangea, rose of Sharon, columbine. Every yard I passed seemed to have different variations. I have never seen so many kinds and colors of irises and lilies as I have this past year on my walks through town.

I didn’t have to “own” these flowers to love them or to appreciate my neighbors’ creativity and imagination in the plantings. It was like looking at living versions of Monet’s paintings of the gardens at Giverny. The colors and life flowed together from yard to yard. Everything seemed to breathe and grow as one. And as I passed by, I too was a part of that living painting that Nature imagines into being each year when the seasons change. In September, the colors were still vibrant in the zinnias, black-eyed susans, marigolds, ageratum, and asters. The tree leaves turned in October to brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows, and soon the bare branches were once again silhouetted against the sky. As winter arrives with its white snows, red holly berries, and deep green pine trees, the seasonal cycles continue.

This is what I discovered in not having my own backyard garden: Everywhere I looked was Nature’s beauty, none of it “mine” but all of it a shared blessing. I was at times moved to tears by the simplest, most delicate flower or the splendor of a tree covered with blossoms, radiant in the sun. The Earth gives us these gifts every day. Open your heart and receive them. Even that small flower blooming in a crack in the sidewalk on a city street is a miraculous part of a greater whole that includes you and me.

You Are Perfect Now

Photograph © 2018 Peggy Kornegger
Perfection is not something beyond you. Something out there, to reach for and aspire to. It’s right here, right now. This is a small gem of wisdom that I sometimes forget. Small but it is at the core of all that is. There are no flaws in God’s universe (or in you within that universe). Everything is part of a seamless, intricately interwoven tapestry of divine creation. When I fully embrace this truth, I can let go of striving, comparing, and dissatisfaction. I can live with appreciation and gratitude in every moment for the perfection everywhere. I may not know the “why,” but I can trust in the reasonless reason for all Being.

This morning before dawn, I sat on the sofa of our new home in Florida and cried as I remembered my garden in Massachusetts. I ached inside at the memory of my colorful flowers and the butterflies and bees who visited them. There, I was part of the seasonal flow of nature. The robins called to me if I didn’t fill the birdbath early enough each summer morning. The squirrels and rabbits occasionally sat near me as I worked quietly in the yard. The hummingbirds darted rapidly from the bright-red cardinal flowers to the native honeysuckle. The goldfinches balanced atop the purple coneflowers as they ate the seeds in autumn. I missed them all.

Yet I knew it had been time to leave. The house was sold, neighbors were moving, and Florida was calling. It was all perfect. Today, that perfection met me when I went for a walk after my predawn cry. The immense stunningly white clouds against the intensely blue sky stopped me in my tracks. The skies are always breathtaking in Florida. At all times of the day I am in awe at the color and light. And then there are the tropical flowers and birds right outside my door: hibiscus, plumeria; ibis, egret, heron. I love my new home, even when I miss my Massachusetts garden.

At times I think I should always be upbeat and smiling. Centered in my inner God wisdom and flowing along life’s path in complete synchronicity with every experience. The crazy truth is that I am synchronized, whether I’m crying or laughing. Perfection is not the exclusion of certain feelings; it’s the inclusion of all of them. There is absolutely nothing that is not the way it should be in my life, and yours. Our human design is so tightly constructed that every part is essential. If any of it was missing, we would not be who we were created to be, and there would be a hole in the fabric of the universe. Everything is unfolding as it’s meant to, for the greater evolution of life.

In essence, none of us is flawed and nothing is wrong with us; we are perfect just the way we are, here on this planet to live an experience that is uniquely ours. God experiences life on Earth through us, and the universe expands through God’s own loving expansion (and ours). The entire cosmos is a finely tuned and orchestrated symphonic work of genius in which nothing is off-key or discordant. This is the “music of the spheres,” which spiritual seekers have sometimes heard on their journeys beyond the individual egoic self.

From this perspective, all is well, and if I accept whatever presents itself in my life moment to moment, with love in my heart, I tap into a deeper awareness and clearer vision which guides me through my life without suffering or judgment (of self or others). No mistakes have been made. The Divine is an all-encompassing energy that moves the universe beyond time and space or human questioning. What exists in your life and mine, and in the world’s, exists for a reason that is not necessarily logical or even intuitive. It just is. This is absolute Being, of which we are an inseparable part. Thus, everything we do arises from the evolutionary potential of the universe. We live and die, we grow and evolve, because we are Being itself, eternally expanding into new levels of beingness.

Sound wacky? Abstract? A little frightening? Only on the surface. At the deepest level, beyond whatever you or I may feel/think individually, this is our collective global direction now at this key time. In the midst of all the extremes of our lives, we are coming into full conscious awareness of exactly who we are and why we are here. We are God, living out infinite variations of the love that created the universe. The more clearly I see that, the more I can relax and just live my life, one perfect moment at a time. So can you.


Butterfly Effects

Photograph © 2017 Peggy Kornegger
The aptly named “butterfly effect” has become well known in recent years as people begin to take seriously the interconnectedness of all life on our planet, as well as the nature of energy itself. The name refers to the possibility that the movement of a butterfly’s wings affects the world around it in unforeseen ways. The greater truth of this idea resonates within my own life again and again, often quite literally.

Several weeks ago, I reread Sharon Salzberg’s book Faith, published in 2002. I had read it then, but I was moved to take it off the shelf again because its title called to me strongly. As my spiritual journey has deepened, I have found myself repeatedly stepping off the edge of certainty (or the illusion of it) into the unknown. Over the past two months, everything seemed to fall away until I realized that I was being asked to move forward completely on “faith.” Thus my reason for rereading Sharon’s book. With each chapter, I saw how much more deeply I connected with it than I had 15 years before.

Sharon’s personal stories and insights met me right at the center of my own current experience. In her words: “Whatever takes us to our edge, to our outer limits, leads us to the heart of life’s mystery, and there we find faith.” Faith is in essence “the ability to move forward even without knowing.” Which, ultimately, we are all called to do in life, however we may resist it by building an iron-clad belief system or distracting ourselves with what we think are facts. In their wisdom, Native Americans called life “the Great Mystery.” Over the preceding weeks, I had found myself spiraling at the center of that mystery. I kept moving forward inch by inch until finally a wider perspective presented itself in the one word faith. I understood that I may never know with my mind, but I will always know with my soul. And it was my soul that guided me to Sharon’s book.

Photograph © 2017 Peggy Kornegger

I decided to read the last few chapters of Faith sitting out in my backyard. When I walked out the door, book in hand, the first thing I saw was a monarch butterfly flying from flower to flower in my garden, my first sighting of the year. Monarchs have become less frequent visitors lately as their numbers diminish because of destruction of their habitat. However, its very presence, its brilliantly colored radiance, attested to the miracle of its survival in spite of all odds. My heart skipped a beat when it lifted its wings and soared right over my head and then circled back to land on another flower. Sheer magic.

After a time of just standing and watching the monarch in wonder, I settled into a lawn chair to read nearby. For more than two hours, it visited flower after flower. Periodically I looked up and gazed at its delicate beauty. As I read the last page, I could feel faith in the unseen divinity that is at the core of all life flood my soul with love and awareness. My small butterfly visitor embodied that blessing. It had come to renew my faith as it lifted its wings and my heart simultaneously. And this is also part of the butterfly effect: The butterfly’s divine life force and magical beauty moves our hearts into alignment with the grace of God’s presence, where faith resides, always. From that place, we too can share our own beautiful life force with others and lift their hearts.


Flower Child

Photograph © Peggy Kornegger
“If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.”
—Scott McKenzie

I went to San Francisco. And yes, I wore flowers in my hair. I was one of those young beaded, bell-bottomed kids who moved to California in the late 1960s, drawn by the irresistible call for “Love, Peace, and Flower Power.” 2017 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the famous San Francisco “Summer of Love.” Hard to believe that that much time has passed. In some ways, I still feel the same inside as I did when I left the Midwest for California, suitcase packed with utopian dreams. I still have those dreams. And I’m still a flower child at heart.

During 1967’s Summer of Love, it didn’t really matter where you were—that powerful energetic vibration affected you. In Michigan, I was preparing to leave for six months studying in France, but San Francisco was where I longed to be. All summer, I stayed up late into the night painting psychedelic posters and listening to Dylan, Donovan, and the Beatles. My longing continued right through the fall and spring at school in Europe (a French version of Scott McKenzie’s song seemed to be playing everywhere). Finally I reached the promised land in 1968. Was it all I hoped it would be? Yes, and more. It wasn’t exactly utopia, but it was a beginning. It brought me new adventures, new friends, and inner transformation, and that was just what I wanted.

Photograph © Peggy Kornegger

The key component was the Dream. All of us who headed west in those years were dreamers, free spirits awakening to a global movement for universal love, peace, freedom, and radical change that is still streaming live through this world today. California was/is a state of mind, the psychic birthplace of possibility, of expansion outward beyond limitation. I was one of so many who undertook that journey. Some lost their way, but others, like me, are still journeying, still choosing love over fear every day of our lives.

California has felt like “home” to me for most of my adult life. Even though I grew up in Illinois, it is on my return trips to California that I begin to cry when I look down from the plane and see the landscape and ocean beneath me. I loved my years there. It was a time of transition, from small-town girl to flower child/activist in the larger world. I was a beginner, innocent in many ways, learning about life, love, poetry, politics—and figuring out who I was within all those frameworks. Of course, like others of my generation, I never wanted to be just one thing, live just one place, so after a few years on the West Coast in the late 1960s and earlier 1970s, I moved to the East Coast for graduate school. San Francisco called me back once again for several years after that, but then I returned to Boston. Since then, I visit California; I don’t live there physically.

Still, my soul is somehow timelessly connected to California. Perhaps I lived there in a past life, in addition to those key years in the 60s and 70s. Now, when I return, I stand looking out at the Pacific Ocean, and my mind quiets, my spirit rests. My heart recognizes “home.” The home that transcends time and place and links up with something intangible in the universe, in myself. The home that I found among those sweet youthful souls with visions of a better world—the “gentle people with flowers in their hair.” I will always be one of them.

“If You’re Going to San Francisco”:

Spirit of the Garden

Photograph © 2015 Peggy Kornegger
Photograph © 2015 Peggy Kornegger
In my flower garden, I encounter all of life on a daily basis. I am also continually given opportunities to practice classic spiritual principles: Be in present-moment awareness. Accept what is. Let go of all attachments to a particular outcome. Each one is perfectly applicable to both gardening and living. Nature doesn’t play by human rules or expectations. Nature just is. Entering the natural world that surrounds us brings us home to a part of ourselves that often gets lost in the clock-centered busyness of daily life.

When I walk through my back door in the early morning stillness, I am met with a presence that I would call sacred. Neighbors still asleep, traffic sounds distant and minimal. I am alone with the beauty of the green and growing Earth, my eyes clear and open to all that is before me: nature in living color and infinite variety. Immediately I am completely engaged and present. Thinking has faded to the background, and I am just being. When I look at each blooming lily or rose, there is no separation. The flowers and I are one in the spirit of life that flows through us. Standing beneath a towering maple tree, I am drawn into the silence that holds both of us in timeless being. I AM. The tree IS. We are both part of a consciousness that links every living thing on Earth and in the cosmos. Each morning becomes a meditation in slow motion that centers me in the now and eases me into my day.

The actual work of gardening—seeding, planting, weeding, pruning—is another practice that both engages me and teaches me acceptance of all that is. The past winter’s cold has killed my butterfly bush as well as several other perennials. My native honeysuckle, covered with bright red blossoms, has aphids that are eating the new buds. Finding replacement plants and removing insects and dead leaves are all part of gardening. Within that process of letting go of the old and welcoming the new, I surrender to the flow of life, with both sadness and celebration. The garden teaches me to hold it all in my heart without judgment or distress. Every day is a new opportunity to embrace each event in my life and in my garden. When I have sudden unexpected expenses or a painful migraine headache, I am reminded that living includes these challenges as well as the joys of laughing with friends, listening to music, or watching a glorious red sunset after a dramatic thunderstorm. To be human is to encounter all parts of the experiential spectrum.

Gardening immerses me in nature, but it also aligns me with divine presence. My soul is with me in the garden. In truth, my soul is with me everywhere. And it is being in presence within my garden that teaches me this. There is nowhere and nothing that is not filled with spirit, that is not God experiencing life on Earth in a multitude of forms and expressions, including human. We are so much more than we think we are, and it is only in not thinking but just being present that we experience that expansive awareness. Heaven is here on Earth, and when we realize that, we see paradise everywhere we go.

“We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the Garden.”—Joni Mitchell