In A North State Garden: Thresholds and Transformations

Jan 2, 2016

This garden arbor at the Gateway Science Museum in Chico was handcrafted by Rafi Segal's Backyard Shade Craft
Credit Jennifer Jewell

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

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.

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, Calif.
Credit Jennifer Jewell

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.

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.

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.

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.

A natural threshold from sun-exposed rock mountain side to cool, shaded forest on Mt. Eddy in the Klamath Mountains of Siskiyou County.
Credit Jennifer Jewell

In February of 2016, “In a North State Garden” will cross its next threshold: transforming from a four-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 10:00 a.m. starting February 4.

“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.

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