The Only Two Things I Learned This Summer

I want to share two things I’ve been pondering about my urban terrace gardening this summer.

The first comes from my Pokeweed.

Pokeweed is an extraordinarily exuberant weed that grows EVERYWHERE — and I mean it has literally sprouted in the tiniest cracks between the tiles of my terrace, and also found its way into every pot and planter it could.

My pokeweed bushes (above) grew to almost five feet.

It’s very pretty … and it’s very poisonous.

The dark pokeweed berries are quite attractive, but I’ve learned that even a single one can kill a baby.

(Birds are quite fond of them and apparently immune).

Here’s the more interesting thing my research revealed:

Poisonous as it is, there is a way you can actually eat pokeweed (the leaves apparently have a taste similar to spinach and the stems taste like asparagus) but you must boil everything three times, changing the water each time.

If you do not boil three times and change the water, it will almost definitely kill you.

My question is: how on earth did anyone figure that out?

By what set of experiments was this revealed?

After everyone died from a pokeweed salad, who thought, “Well, maybe if we boil everything it’ll be OK?”

And when everyone died from that attempt at cuisine, somehow someone was willing to keep experimenting with two, then three boils, also figuring out they had to change the water.

This kind of optimism goes way beyond “When Life Gives You Lemons…”

I’m not even sure what the lesson could be here other than perhaps that even the deadliest things can be transformed.

In the yoga tradition, the peacock swallows and transmutes poison, allowing it to become the most beautiful and splendid of all the birds.

Perhaps the pokeweed reminds us, too that sometimes an elaborate alchemical (or artistic) process of Transformation is required to achieve real wisdom and beauty…?


Here’s the other thing I’ve learned.

Over the last three years, the maple tree I rescued …


Has become this tree:


What I came to realize is that unlike the rest of my garden, I cannot count on the rain to water it.

Even in the midst of a torrential summer downpour, now that it’s two stories tall, the leaves get wet, but not enough water reaches directly into the soil.

My tree’s incredible expansion means I can’t count on the environment for support.

I’m required to water its deep roots.

And that’s mostly the reason I haven’t written in a while.

Yes, I had some major publications deadlines, but mostly I found I’ve had to water my own deep roots.

And now I have….

Soon, some announcements of exciting retreats and some new books, but for today:

Happy Fall Equinox!

Here’s to many more creative adventures ahead,


P.S. I’m a Special Guest Teacher in a FREE online symposium of Creativity Experts this week.

My segment airs online on Monday 9/25.

If you sign up HERE, they’ll send you the link along with lots of other FREE content.

Much of it does look deep and transformative, and I know that many of you will use it to water your own deepest roots…

(and perhaps also learn how to transform your own deadly pokeweeds into something between spinach and asparagus)!

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