My Garden of Life

“Show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are.”  

Alfred Austin

This post is in memory of my father, Richard “Dick” Connelly Lyon who passed away on Saturday, June 27, 2020 at the age of 85 years. These are the words I wrote and delivered as his eulogy to honor him at his Service of Remembrance. He was an amazing man who was always persistent in being present in my life. I love him very much and his physical presence will be profoundly missed.  

As a family, we can look at each other and see the physical characteristics we inherit from our parents and our grandparents. My square jaw and teeny, tiny fingernail beds definitely came from my father. In celebrating my dad’s life today, as his time in the physical world has ended, I would like each of us to shift our gaze inward to observe what essence of dad, or grandpa, you embody. 

Both my parents have a love for the outdoors. Dad was all about the fun. His sense of adventure was conveyed to me through a multitude of ski trips, sailing voyages, bike hikes, and plane rides. His love of the outdoors was evident in all of his hobbies and he was eager to share his enthusiasm and expertise with his children and grandchildren. I see in my own children their deep, sacred relationship to nature, adventurous spirit, and love for water and snow. I know our family ski trips and the time they spent with their grandpa at Snowshoe, Keystone, and Mont Tremblant expanded their appreciation for the outdoors. In reflection, however, his love for the natural world was deeply instilled in me in the quieter moments of backyard stargazing. As a young child, Dad and I spent many a dark hour together on the back porch. He would recite the story of each constellation that we traced with our fingers in the sky. We peered through my telescope at the moon, or the North Star, or whatever celestial wonder we felt like observing that evening. Orion, with his signature Three Sisters belt, is one of the first constellations my dad taught to me and it is my favorite in the winter sky. 

In my work, I facilitate a lesson where participants imagine themselves as a plant. A plant that most describes who they are – their personality and character, their essence. As I was thinking about the characteristics of my father that I most appreciate and seek to honor and emulate in my life, as well as exemplify in my children, I wondered what plants would represent him in my garden of life. There are three different flowers that come to mind.  First, is the sunflower.  Who doesn’t love a sunflower? They are cheerful and elicit joy and happiness.  They represent longevity, optimism, and a sunny disposition.  With his enduring smile, easy-going attitude, and steadfast positive outlook, he flowed through life as gracefully as the sunflowers turn to follow the sun through the sky.  Sunflowers are big and almost animated. As they sway in the garden, sunflowers remind me of my dad’s love of the piano, music, and theater. As a child, I stood next to my dad at the piano belting out show tunes during our evening “Sing Songs,”  a tradition that continued with my children and my sister’s two girls, performing hours of Disney song and dance routines with Grandpa accompanying them at the piano. 

Secondly, is the red poppy.  The red poppy represents my father’s colorful and vibrant zest for life, his exotic and extensive travels and adventures that he would share with his grandchildren upon his return through stories and trinkets.  In addition, its rich color represents my dad’s deep love of learning and commitment to education, always encouraging his children and grandchildren in their academic endeavors.  His bright creativity was evident in his landscape photography and musical talent.

Lastly, is the stargazer white lily.  This flower represents his humility, generosity, patience, and quiet, but profound spirituality.  My father was always grateful for any small task fulfilled on his behalf and time spent in conversation. In addition to his far-reaching community service, he shared what brought him joy through so many experiences with his children and grandchildren. He offered unfettered patience through hours of Calculus tutoring, ski lessons, and T-ball coaching. 

The stargazer white lily has a distinct and memorable scent. It infuses a garden space with its abundant essence. Like the lily, my father left lingering impressions with everyone he met. He was all about connecting with people, establishing and nurturing the roots of strong and lasting friendships and community. He cultivated a joyful, authentic life rich in relationships and ample in adventure. In tending the seeds of patience, optimism, adventure, and connection to community and the natural world that my father sowed early in my childhood, those of us close to him, can honor and embrace his spirit.


“A tree’s beauty lies in its branches, but its strength lies in its roots.” 

– Matshona Dhilwayo

Simple in structure and covert in function, roots anchor a plant in its substrate, absorb water and minerals necessary for plant growth, and store excess food and water. There are two types of true root systems. Fibrous, or diffuse, are thin, profuse, elegantly branched, and relatively shallow root systems that draw nutrients and water from the top layers of the soil.  Taproots grow singularly, or in pairs, deeper into the ground, drawing in nutrients and water closer to the water table. There are many taproots specialized for food storage that are important agricultural crops. Commonly known as root vegetables, they include carrots, beets, radishes, yams, parsnips, and turnips, as well as others.  Moreover, in response to stressful growing conditions, such as flooding, nutrient deprivation, heavy metals, and wounding, plants can form roots from non-root tissues, like stems and leaves. Although not true roots, these specialized structures know as adventitious roots are ultimately considered part of the plant root network.  They are adaptations that aid in plant growth, as well as provide a competitive edge in survival. Cypress, oak, mangrove, and aspen trees, ivy, horsetail, and economically important agricultural crops, such as wheat, corn, and rice are examples of plants with adventitious roots. 

Found in North America from Canada to Mexico, the Quaking Aspen, Populus tremuloides, is a species of aspen tree with thin, stalked leaves that tremble in the slightest breeze. Their root system is shallow.  Most aspens grow in large, clonal colonies that have been derived from a single seedling. It is through their shared, adventitious root system that new trees, genetically identical to the parent, bud and grow.  Pando, Latin for  I spread out, is a colony of aspen trees located in south-central Utah.  Pando, also know as the Trembling Giant, occupies a 106 acres and is believed to have originated from a single, male Quaking Aspen tree.  Although individual aspen trees have a life span of 40-150 years, the aspen root system endures and sustains itself, even through disturbances, like fire and drought. Pando is a single organism, perhaps the world’s oldest, living on a single, archaic root system believed to be over 80,000 years old.  Aspen colonies are indicators of ancient forests and grounded in their robust, resilient root system, they grow and spread steadfast and strong.

Just as the aspens, our beauty blossoms from the stronghold and stay of our roots. We must stand affixed and deeply connected to our authentic self to remain resilient and resolute in our growth. In turbulent times, when we may feel untethered, we extend and adapt our reach to re-establish our stability in shifting ground. Immersing ourselves in activities that engage our five senses, turns our focus to the present. In the moment of feeling groundless and un-rooted, find a quiet, comfortable place to sit and take a few deep breaths. Name five things you can see; four things you can touch; three things you can hear; two things you can smell; and one thing you can taste.  Simply and purposefully plant your bare feet on the ground and breathe down like you are growing roots.  A daily grounding practice of mindful meditation, sacred connection with nature through gardening, cooking, or medicine making, a quiet, watchful walk through the forest, or a silent, sunrise stroll down a sandy beach keeps us rooted in the joyful present and provides the adaptive structure through which we may continue to grow and thrive in times of turmoil and wounding. 

Innate Resources

“Trees do not force their sap, nor does the flower push its bloom.” -Ranier Maria Rilke

Our planet is blanketed with the beauty and biodiversity of five major biomes, large, naturally occurring communities of plants and animals that occupy a broad geographic area. The five major biomes include the tundra, desert, forests, grassland, and aquatic. Within each of these major biomes we can classify these ecological communities into smaller, distinct categories. For example, forests can be classified as temperate or tropical.  Aquatic biomes are classified as freshwater or marine (saltwater).  The Earth’s distinct biomes are shaped by the interactions of various abiotic conditions with the biotic populations of the geographic area. Abiotic factors are the non-living, physical and chemical conditions of a natural system and include temperature, water (precipitation, humidity, salinity, tides and currents), dissolved gases, sunlight, atmosphere (wind), pollution, pH, soil, nutrients, topography (altitude, aspect), and geography, specifically latitude, as areas of similar latitude globally have similar biomes.  Biotic factors include all living organisms and their relationships – producers, like plants or algae; consumers, animals that eat producers and other animals; scavengers, animals that eat carrion, dead plant material, or garbage; and decomposers, fungi and microscopic organisms that breakdown dead and decaying matter and re-cycle nutrients to the system. The interactions of these living organisms with their environment and with each other move matter and energy, creating the uniquely diverse, dynamic ecosystems of our planet.  Healthy ecosystems maintain an equilibrium and can efficiently recover from disturbances and perturbations. They are strong and resilient. As a result of their well-balanced, vigorous productivity, ecosystems provide a multitude of benefits to humans.

 These ecosystem services, or natural resources gifted by the environment, are divided into four broad categories.  The four categories are provisioning, food, water, fuel, medicine, fiber, and genetic diversity; regulating, climate regulation, water and air quality, pollination, erosion and flood control, decomposition, and carbon sequestration, or storage; supporting, photosynthesis, or primary production, water and nutrient cycling, formation of soils, and oxygen production; and cultural, recreational activities, spiritual connection, creative inspiration, cultural heritage and ethnobotany, and aesthetics.  These gifts are the derivatives of nature’s prolific function.  As humans, it is imperative to our health and well-being that we acknowledge the source of nature’s gifts and honor the intrinsic importance of Earth’s systems.  

Looking deep into our own entity, we unearth the source and significance of our individual, innate resources. Digging deep with questions and journaling our thoughts connects us more intently to ourselves, revealing pattern and purpose. What brings me joy? What are my strengths? What did I love as a child? How do people that know me best describe what excites me? What do my music and book collection reveal about me and my interests? As in natural systems, our innate gifts are derivatives of our abundant, authentic self. As we acknowledge our elemental power and share our unique gifts, we connect more intentionally and deeply with others creating an interconnected support system resilient in times of turmoil. In embracing our own essence, we stand grounded and grateful, balanced and beautiful, creative and content as we freely share our intuitive gifts through our authentic power.


“Like wildflowers, you must allow yourself to grow in all the places people thought you never would.”    –  Unknown

Living in northern Alaska,  I was acutely aware of my place on the planet. The brilliant, stark, icy, white tundra juxtaposed to the warm, saturated, vivid, technicolor sky was an awe-inspiring landscape of infinite beauty.  Equally as breathtaking was its unremitting harshness – the unforgiving, frigid cold, the months of silent, sustained darkness, the ferocious winds off the frozen sea.  In both tranquility and turbulence, the vast tundra laid bare its unique aspect.  

There are many factors that affect plant growth and development.  Along with temperature, humidity, nutrients, and soil, light is one of the key climatic conditions that determines where a plant may have its best opportunity for growth. Some plant varieties require full-sun exposure for maximum growth and development, others require shade, or partial shade.  Climatic conditions influence the distribution of plant species in different habitats. In the tundra biome, sunlight, temperature, and soil are key factors that limit plant growth.  Depending on the landscape, topographic factors such as elevation, slope, and aspect can also influence plant growth and development and determine the presence and distribution of key plant species and communities in these habitats.  Elevation is the height or depth from a reference point. Slope refers to steepness, and aspect is the orientation, or compass direction that a slope faces.  The simple term for aspect is exposure. In the Northern Hemisphere, a slope that is south-facing orients more directly towards the sun, receiving increased intensity and duration of solar rays.  Solar exposure drives factors like soil moisture and temperature.  South-facing slopes are often drier and warmer than north-facing slopes. The opposite is true in the Southern Hemisphere.  In a deciduous forest, seasonal changes in the tree canopy cover affects the understory evergreen species as they shift dramatically from a low light, low moisture, high temperature environment in the summer months to a high light, low temperature environment in the winter months. The dynamic exposure to light and other elements has created varied and unique microclimates in which particular species thrive, establishing distinct communities of understory evergreens on north-facing and south-facing slopes. As humans, it is our aspect, our position or perspective, that reveals both our beauty and vulnerability and may be the catalyst or hindrance to our growth.

Unlike plants which are stationary in their display, we are able to shift our aspect to what we wish others to see. We limit our exposure for a variety of reasons. Perhaps previous experience has left us feeling fragile, scared, or uncertain. Withdrawn and hidden, our unwillingness to expose our vulnerability perpetuates feelings of shame, unworthiness, and insignificance.  We feel deeply disconnected and lonely. What if we could lean into our vulnerability and feelings of uncertainty, fully exposing ourselves like evergreens growing in the understory on the steepest mountainside or cacti in the hottest desert?  We can stand beautifully exposed, courageous and grateful, in the unpredictable, and acclimatize our thoughts from the shade of seclusion to the bright light of opportunity and growth. As we persistently alter our aspect and lay ourselves bare we become more easily accepting of the authentic self we grow into through our own forgiveness, kindness, and compassion. We cultivate a deep sense of worth rooted in self-love that prepares us to connect more passionately and authentically with others.


“When leaves have to let go of the tree, they wear their best colors and they dance all the way to the ground.”   – Karen Kingsbury

In the botanical context, abscission is the shedding of various plant parts, the dropping of leaves, fruit, flowers, or seeds.  Senescence means “to grow old” and is the biological term for aging. In plants, the aging and deterioration of cells and tissues, an integral and important part of the plant lifecycle, is genetically programmed and biochemically orchestrated.  The genetic sequence of senescence determines the length of the life cycle of a plant variety. Annuals complete their full life cycle, germination to death, in one growing season and must be re-planted each year.  Biennials have a two year life cycle and perennials have a multi-year life cycle, some, the herbaceous varieties, dying off to the ground before returning the next year and others, the woody species, adding to their growth year to year.  

A multitude of hormones administer strict biochemical control over many plant processes including cell division, cell growth, cell differentiation, and the regulation of developmental processes, such as germination, flowering, stem elongation, flavor development, and senescence of leaves and fruit.  Consequently, once fruit ripening has begun, the process is irreversible. Moreover, there are environmental factors, such as seasonal changes in temperature and amount of daylight, that cue the botanical biochemical blast that begets the celebrated and colorful freeing of foliage in deciduous tree species at the end of the growing season each year.  The environmental changes signal less hormone production in one very specific area of the leaf, the abscission zone, the zone of separation. As the cells in this zone experience a decrease in hormone production, a very targeted weakening of the cell wall occurs.  As this weakening increases, a complete breakdown of the cell wall results and the leaf separates from its attachment at the branch. In addition, the decrease of chlorophyll production, the green pigment in leaves, allows other pigments to shine through, resulting in the vivid yellow, orange, and red pigments, that although always present in the leaves, only are observed as the green pigment recedes at the signaling of senescence. Abscission, the regulated and timely letting go of old growth in deciduous trees, is  necessary for new growth to occur.  As humans, letting go is a seemingly more arduous, but an equally important process for growth.

Imagine if we only had to sit with what does not serve us just as long as it takes a biochemical band of hormones to recognize, weaken, and destroy our old attachments and ideas, our tired, negative self-talk, and our ancient patterns of worry. With our genetic gifts of consciousness, creative thought, and rich emotions our letting go is much more complex than a clear-cut, physical separation on a cellular level.  We must wallow through our ego, fear, illusion, and a myriad of muddled feelings – sadness, loneliness, anger, resentment, insignificance, and a loss of control and connectedness.  In addition, we are now standing in the turbid, unpredictable path of a global pandemic and many of us have been separated abruptly from our jobs, routines, and loved ones.  We find ourselves scarcely clinging to our branch of normalcy as we struggle to let go of our feelings of uncertainty around our jobs, our income, and our health. 

With some practice, we can live fully, dancing vibrantly through life like a fallen, autumnal leaf, free from suffering, attachment, and mental and emotional fixation.  Engaging in daily mindfulness practice, grounding ourselves in the present moment, setting aside time for sacred self-care, and holding space for and fully feeling our emotions, wholly affirming that it is OK to not be OK, gives us the courage to let go gracefully into the free fall of change. As we shed what no longer serves us, honoring its place and purpose in our growth, we cultivate a sense of wild freedom, unbounded happiness, limitless personal growth, and deep, engaging relationships with others. 

This essay is published in Plants and Poetry Journal’s Autumn Equinox Collection and on their website,

Starting from Seed: Designing Your Own Seed Packet Activity

Seeds are “nature’s suitcase.” They protect and nourish the plant embryo. They are adapted to dispersal by wind, water, animals and many germinate under unique conditions, like exposure to fire. People, like seeds, are unique in their appearance and growing instructions. This activity is one of my favorites I developed for my program.  Any person at any age can participate and it can go hand in hand with an extensive lesson on seeds, or stand alone as an activity to cultivate self-awareness. The objective of the activity is to discover the unique and individual conditions under which people, like seeds, germinate, grow, mature, and blossom. The activity only requires the simple materials of a variety of seed packets, blank paper, and colored pencils or markers. However, the addition glitter, stickers, and photos cut from old magazines is also encouraged!

Activity 1 – Choose a seed packet that “speaks to you” and write down why you chose it.

Activity 2 – Open your seed packet. Notice the color, size, shape and texture of your seeds. Draw a picture of your seed. If you are participating in this activity with others, observe each others seeds and notice how they are alike and different.

Activity 3 – Seed packets contain all the information one needs to plant, germinate, grow, and harvest a plant from seed successfully. Examine your seed packet and find the following information for your seed:

  • Name of plant
  • Visual of plant
  • Description of plant, including uses
  • Sunlight requirements
  • Planting instructions including soil type, spacing, and depth
  • Sowing time, both indoors and outdoors, USDA Zone Map
  • Time to germination
  • Time to harvest

Activity 4:  Design Your Own Seed Packet

On a piece of paper, design your own seed packet. What are your “growing instructions?” What do people around you need to know to help to nourish and protect you?   Under what conditions will you germinate, grow, and blossom?

Information to include:

  • Plant variety – your name
  • Visual of plant – a self portrait; it can be a true self-portrait, or how you visualize yourself if you were a plant.
  • Planting instructions – favorite food, activities, routines; what makes you feel strongly rooted in your life so you may grow strong?
  • Sunlight requirements – What “lights you up,” or brings you joy? Are you full sun, life of the party, or do you need time alone in the shade? Are you an introvert or extrovert? What is your passion? What are your hobbies?
  • Time to harvest – What are your goals? What is your vision? How do you see yourself when you blossom and produce the fruits of your labor, centered in your authentic, best life?

This activity encourages us to look inward and examine the experiences that truly cultivate joy. Re-engaging in this activity at the beginning and ending of a “growing season” helps us to observe and adjust our requirements for growth, recognize what we need to nourish our life and grow closer to the blossoming of our dreams, and celebrate the fruits that burst forth while tending our heart and soul with persistent love, kindness, compassion, and self-acceptance as we stand fully in the garden of our best life.

Starting from Seed: Growing Intention from the Heart

“Be mindful of intention. Intention is the seed the creates our future.”   

                                                                                                         – Buddhist Proverb

As the weeks of quarantine and isolation continue, finding daily purpose is becoming more difficult.  I struggle to maintain focus on larger creative projects, so listening attentively to my body and leaning into deep self-compassion and forgiveness is relaxing me into a broader definition of productivity.  At the root of our productivity is intention, or purpose.  If we plant the seed of positive purpose and nurture that intention with our actions, we create the best possible garden in which to bloom and thrive. 

The Growing Seeds of Intention in the Heart Meditation encourages us to plant our seed of positive purpose in our heart, visualize its steady growth, celebrate its maturity in gratitude, and share its prolific abundance with others. 

Growing Seeds of Intention in the Heart Meditation

  1. Sit up straight in a chair, spine tall and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Take three deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
  3. Think of your intention as a seed in the palm of your hand. What does your seed look like? Repeat your intention yourself or aloud.
  4. An intention could be love, joy, compassion, patience, tolerance, kindness, forgiveness, active listening…
  5. Close your eyes and place the palm of your hand over your heart. Imagine your seed of intention being planted in your heart. Repeat your intention and water your seed. Imagine it beginning to take root and grow.
  6. Continue repeating your intention as you imagine the seed growing in your heart. It is beginning to blossom! What does it become? Perhaps its blooms are your favorite color, or its leaves a unique shape.
  7. When your seed has finished growing, acknowledge your gratitude for its presence in your heart.
  8. Take one big breath and open your eyes.
  9. Remember: The true power of your purpose is inside of you and your garden is unique!

During this unprecedented time of isolation, setting intention can create a path to change or simply keep us focused on the present.  I have facilitated this meditation at the conclusion of workshops and implemented it in weekly and daily meditation practice. Intentions can be set as a group or individually. When I was teaching, my students journaled daily. We set our group intention weekly and would discuss the actions that would support our intention, or purpose for the week. What actions support our intention? What does that intention look like?  How do we hold ourselves accountable in our purpose? In their journals, they would draw a flower with the intention written in the middle. Each petal listed a supportive action to the intention. In addition, we created an intention garden on the wall, adding a new flower each week.  In this time of quarantine, I encourage families to participate in this activity – perhaps create a colorful, window intention garden as a reminder of your collective  purpose. 

Starting from Seed: Soil Planting

“The soil is the great connector our lives, the source and destination of all.” – Wendell Berry

In my last post, I discussed the benefits of growing plants from seed hydroponically and suggested some activities for those of you who may be home and educating children through this global pandemic, or just looking for an interesting growing project. In this post, I am introducing a simple method to grow plants from seed in soil with containers made from recyclable materials you most likely have at home, so no need for a trip out to gather supplies as most us remain under quarantine and “stay at home” orders.

With the rush to stock up on toilet paper a few weeks ago, toilet paper tubes are numerous. I re-purposed several tubes to make these seed starters. You can also use paper towel tubes, just cut them into three pieces before making the planter. With a scissors, I cut seven slits about one-third of the way up the tube from one end. Fold all the pieces in on each other, fill with soil, plant seeds, and water. Make sure the soil stays moist and place your tubes in a sunny window. The paper tubes are completely biodegradable so if planting the seedlings outdoors, the whole tube can go into the ground or pot. Although the egg carton can also be used a planter, I prefer the paper tubes as they are deeper and give the plants a little more depth to grow before transplanting. The egg carton does work well as a “stand,” to keep the bottoms of the tubes closed. I only planted four tubes, but there is enough room for a dozen. 

The following is a very short list of specific plants that grow quickly and provide a multitude of learning opportunities:

Dill – Dill is easy to grow and the plant is one of my favorites. It is beautiful, fragrant, and delicate with its feathery leaves and lacy, yellow flowers.  As the host plant of the Black Swallowtail butterfly, it is an ideal plant to observe the butterfly life cycle. Dill can be harvested and used in the kitchen to season a variety of dishes, including dill pickles. After  flowering, the seeds can be easily collected, dried and saved. 

Lemon Balm – Lemon Balm is another easy-to-grow plant. Its lemony fragrance is bright and cheery. Steeping the leaves in water or tea adds a light lemon flavor. It is just a happy plant!

Mint – There are endless varieties of mint…and kids just love mint. Most kids are happy just simply plucking the mint leaf from the plant and chewing it up, or adding it to water. 

Zinnia – Zinnias are tall, beautiful flowers whose bursting blooms remind me of fireworks.  Many of the zinnia seed packets are a mixture of seeds, so the anticipation of bloom color lends to the joy of growing these colorful bouquet flowers that children love to share.

Marigold– Marigolds, a relative of the sunflower, have a pungent, musky scent that some people find offensive. I love the scent. Marigolds grow profusely and bloom continually throughout the summer and into early fall, deterring garden insect pests while providing food for butterflies and other pollinators. The flowers are not only edible, but can be used as dye. In addition, marigold has a rich, cultural and religious history – a great research project for students! Like dill, its seeds are abundant and can be easily collected and saved as blooms wither and dry.

Green Bean – Green beans are large seeds that can be started wrapped in a moist paper towel and sealed in a plastic bag taped to a sunny window.  Using this method, they germinate quickly and are easily observed. Transplant to soil as the sprouts get larger. There are bush varieties and pole varieties. The pole varieties are great examples of vine plants and will grow up any homemade trellis. Picking and eating the beans straight from the vine is a feeling of accomplishment for young gardeners.

These plants are my top six choices of starting from seed projects that are simple, but bring a variety of learning opportunities to your growing space, big or small.  They are easy to grow and easy to manage with minimal maintenance, but offer many educational opportunities for children all summer long.  

Starting from Seed: Hydroponics

“No water, no life. No blue, no green.” – Sylvia Earle

As we move into the outdoor growing season, many of us are waiting impatiently to plant our annual flowers and vegetables. Although the days are warming up, it is important to be mindful of the time frame for the last frost in your location, so as not to plant too early. Growing plants from seed to harvest is a great activity for children to not only grow delicious food, but also examine life cycles and natural systems while relieving stress, anxiety, and boredom, promoting an overall sense of well-being. Our living space, as well as other factors, may prohibit us from having a traditional garden, but there are many creative alternatives to engage children in raising plants from seeds. One of these options is hydroponics, the cultivation of plants in water, without soil.

Dill, Parsley, Mint, Zinnias (just sprouted)

My first attempt at soil-less gardening was the addition of a hydroponics growing system to a therapeutic gardening program I developed and taught to incarcerated youth. Most of the youth enrolled in my program had little to no gardening knowledge or experience, including basic information about natural ecosystems, nutrient cycling, or plants. Hydroponics provided the opportunity to see plant growth quickly, fully, and without complications. These systems are so easy to use that no green thumb is required and success is almost guaranteed. It was a great way for my students to cultivate feelings of pride and success early on in the course, before we were able to plant outdoors. There are a variety of grow units on the market and they range in size and price. Currently, I have two table top units on my kitchen counter growing dill, parsley, mint, zinnias, marigolds, two types of heirloom lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and jalapeño peppers. My units are the six-pod unit from AeroGarden and are $100 on Amazon. Although somewhat of an investment, they are complete and simple units to set up and maintain and produce a considerable amount of food all year round.

The learning and seed to table opportunities are endless. Children, even small children, can examine seeds, observe plant growth, name plant parts, and engage in the sensory experience of plants through smell, taste, and touch. Growing the same variety of plants in soil and in water creates a hands-on, experiential opportunity for older children to examine and compare plants and plant growth with more depth, encouraging them to pose questions, participate in research, observe purposefully, and collect and analyze specific data. Moreover, gardening promotes a sense of pride and purpose. Tending to plants tends our soul. Hydroponics can provide all the positive benefits of plants to those interested in gardening, but not ready or able to grow a traditional garden. 

Here are some of the benefits to growing plants hydroponically:

  • Larger plant yield and faster plant growth
  • Low maintenance
  • Low threat of pests and insects
  • Conserves water as water is filtered and re-used
  • Controlled environment
  • 100% organic; needs no pesticides or herbicides
  • Space saving
  • Mental health benefits and stress relief all year round
  • Easy and straightforward – no green thumb needed!

A variety of hydroponic growing systems available and depending on the unit, a multitude of fruits, vegetables, herbs and houseplants can be grown.  The following is a shortlist of plants that seem to have the most success:

Lettuce, cherry tomato, jalapeno pepper


  • Lettuce
  • Cherry tomato
  • Jalapeno pepper
  • Cucumber
  • Arugula
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Beans


  • Basil
  • Thyme
  • Dill
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Cilantro
  • Parsley
  • Catnip
  • Chamomile


  • Snapdragon
  • Petunia
  • Zinnia
  • Orchid
  • Carnation
  • Gerbera daisy
  • Dahlia
  • Marigold


“Solitude is the soil in which genius is planted, creativity grows, and legends bloom; faith in oneself is the rain that cultivates a hero to endure the storm, and bare the genesis of a new world, a new forest.”     

–  Mike Norton

As we stand in the midst of a global pandemic, seclusion has become the new world order. Seemingly overnight we have lost our everyday connections with others – our work place interactions, social gatherings, gym times, and intimate, physical contact.  As social creatures, many of us are feeling lonely, isolated, and solitary. The adjustments to our routine and the implementation of social distancing along side the constant flow of COVID-19 information from news agencies, social media, and casual conversation has left many of us shell-shocked, feeling anxious, fearful, and completely unprepared to deal with life on a daily basis. Although some families may be spending more time together, many individuals live alone and, like me, are spending most of their time sitting in solitude. 

Although I am comfortable being alone and in my own skin, much of what I am feeling in quarantine is reminiscent of the emotions I experienced when I lived in the small, Inuit village of Wainwright, Alaska, deep within the Arctic Circle, remote, isolated, and alone. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought my 6 months in the cold, dark, tundra of Alaska would prepare me for a global pandemic, quarantine, and social distancing protocol. As we all struggle to establish a new “normal” routine, sustain our deep emotional and spiritual connections with loved ones and our community as we disconnect physically, and seek to preserve our overall well-being in a environment that is heavy with fear and uncertainty, solitude can seem overwhelming. Solitude, even in its discomfort, is necessary for all of us sometimes. It is an opportunity to check in and be fully aware and present in our own life, to peer into our heart to see if we are still manifesting the life that honors our vision, to explore our reactions and emotions and let go of what no longer serves us, and to sit in the quiet and hear our own voice.  In solitude, we retreat to our center, recognize and resurrect our authentic self, and raise our resilience.  Through mindfulness practice, meditation, and prayer we can find and hear our own divine voice that professes our unconditional self-love and worth. Immersing ourselves in the natural world and connecting to our environment not only improves our overall sense of health and well-being by reducing stress and strengthening immunity, but also expands our awareness of interconnectedness and social community by widening our perspective and growing our gratitude. In remembering our common humanity and holding space for others in loving kindness we can feel less alone in times of solitude. 

I appreciate all of you who take the time to read my blog. I hope you find some comfort and inspiration in my words. With our continued quarantine and social distancing protocol in place, and with schools closed for the remainder of the school year, I have decided to change the focus of my blog for now. Beginning March 30th, I will be sharing a variety of simple plant and nature-based activities that may be used as resources to promote social and emotional health, academic learning, and family engagement as we all continue to adapt to a new daily routine in the midst of a global pandemic. Please share this link with those who maybe interested. Wishing you peace and health!