A few years ago, a friend gave me a cutting of a pink salvia called ‘Wendy’s wish’. I propagated it and planted it in my front garden, where it thrived and soon became a nice shrub with plenty of flowers. The following summer, to my great delight, I noticed some native blue-banded bees in the garden, who seemed to particularly love visiting this salvia, so I promptly took more cuttings and planted four more ‘Wendy’s wish’ in the garden. Since then, the plants have been very popular with blue-banded bees, a family of wattle birds, European bees, hoverflies, and even, once, a visit from an Eastern spinebill, a small shy bird which is local to my area.
There are many ways in which we can nurture life. In my work as a music therapist and instrumental music teacher, for example, I frequently come across adults who were discouraged from playing a musical instrument or singing in a choir when they were a child. Sometimes they take up learning an instrument as adults or join a community choir, but often there is just a sense of loss, of a valuable opportunity missed. It’s easy to cut off someone’s dreams and aspirations with a thoughtless remark or intentional put-down. In the Zen tradition, one of the ways that the injunction ‘do not kill’ is sometimes expressed like this: ‘not to kill, but to nurture life’ (Norman Fisher) or ‘I take up the way of supporting life’ (Diane Rizzetto).
My garden is a little haphazard – it would never win any design awards, but over the years I have tried to encourage a diversity of beneficial insects and animals into the garden through my choice of plants and care of the soil. The way we can ‘nurture life’ in others and ourselves can also be haphazard at times. It can be a random gesture of kindness, or allowing a toddler to bang away on the piano having fun with music, or pulling out some weeds by hand instead of spraying them with chemicals. We can also allow space for the quiet ones among us, who are not always comfortable speaking out in large groups, but who have a lot to offer.
When we become more mindful and slow down, we have more opportunities to notice ways in which we can nurture life – and each one of these can have ripple effects for years to come, as the gift of a salvia cutting by my friend has done.
Think about some of the different ways in which you are currently nurturing life – sometimes it can be helpful just to notice what we are already doing well!