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Best Of Cultivating Place: Gratitude & Morning Altars

This week on Cultivating Place, we revisit our Gratitude Special of last year - celebrating this season of harvest, of taking stock, of giving back, of deep GRATITUDE and of preparing for the restorative dark of winter ahead. Our central conversation is with earth artist Day Schildkret, who makes meaning and beauty with his daily practice, and now global outreach and book known as Morning Altars. Woven throughout the episode are gardeners from around the world sharing with us what gratitude in the garden looks like to them. 


It’s incredibly painful again to write this week - one week since the #CAMPFIRE of California broke out and swept across (so far) 148,000 acres of this beautiful landscape of the California Floristic Region, close to 10,000 human homes destroyed, hundreds of businesses, at least three nurseries destroyed or damaged, the members of several dedicated garden clubs and master gardener groups profoundly impacted. And that's just what we know as of today. I know that the fires continue south of here, ravaging those landscapes. I recognize that there's loss, devastation, and tragedy of all scales around our globe daily - today my heart is heavy here, in my home -  home of the Maidu, Wintu, Concow and other indigenous peoples, home of so many endemic and native plant and animals friends and lives held dear, home to me and my family for 11 years now.

Several weeks ago now Sarah and I determined to revisit our Gratitude Special from 2017 this week, in part to prepare ourselves for this traditional season of harvest and thanksgiving and in part to celebrate the publication of Day Schildkret's new book Morning Altars. Which is well worth celebrating. It did not of course occur to us that this episode would air in this time of chaos and loss. And yet it did.

While for some the storylines might feel too soon, too raw, to hard to hear - I hope for others it hold seeds of hope and possibility for the next season of growth. While the landscape and nature all around us in the midst of natural disaster might not seem like a source of solace, might instead seem like causes for fear, the words of Leah Penniman of several weeks ago come back to me: "While the land might be the scene of the crime, the land itself is NOT the crime." While she was of course speaking to Black and Brown farmers and cultivators, reminding them of their rightful, beautiful, and dignified reciprocal and ancient relationship to the land - I would offer her thought out as a seed of hope for all gardeners in my region for whom gardening, relationship, and pleasure from their scarred landscape might seem distant right now.

While so much is being done in the here and now for immediate needs of people affected by this disaster - my thoughts are toward the many dedicated and passionate gardeners in our area and all that they’ve lost. Losses like these will come into clearer focus as time goes on and be very painful, and yet might also seem insignificant to these gardeners in the face of everything. I want you gardeners to know that you are seen and supported, and that the gardening community wants to help your and your important gardening passions as they rebuild. Stay tuned for support efforts in the works and coming soon.

I am grateful to be here with you in community,




A Morning Altar created by artist Day Schildkret

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Jennifer Jewell is the creator and host of the national award-winning, weekly public radio program and podcast, Cultivating Place: Conversations on Natural History & the Human Impulse to Garden, Jennifer Jewell is a gardener, garden writer, and gardening educator and advocate. Particularly interested in the intersections between gardens, the native plant environments around them, and human culture, she is the daughter of garden and floral designing mother and a wildlife biologist father.