Ascent Magazine – June 2008


I was recently profiled in Ascent Magazine’s sustainability issue. This article is the result of one of the best interviews/conversations I have ever had the pleasure of taking part in. I kind of wish we could read the interview although I’d imagine it would be a hard one to follow given how much I hemmed and hawed over language.

Ascent is a yoga magazine that is published by an ashram, so it naturally has a strong bend towards the religious side of yoga. I have haphazardly “practiced” hatha yoga on and off since I found a book for a quarter in a used bookstore cheap bin back in 1991 but I am not a religious person and have always kept that side of yoga at a distance. So I have to admit that when I was first approached by the magazine I was a wee bit timid about where things might go and how my thoughts might be framed. We did talk about “spirituality” as it relates to the garden but the writer, Roseanne Harvey, understood my need to choose my words carefully. The interview was more eye opening than I’d like to admit because I was able to see where our perspectives cross over but are separated only by semantics. Many gardeners experience a sense of awe and connectivity in the garden however where a religious person might call it god, I prefer to call it wonder. Most likely a very similar experience, just a different way of framing it. I’m not saying that my beliefs have changed, merely that I am a little more open to where others are coming from when they talk about religious experience in relation to the garden.


While I’m talking about the magazine I want to mention an interesting article about environmental activist Derrick Jensen called “The Complexities of Hope.” What drew me to the article wasn’t as much about his perspective on where we are headed environmentally (although that is interesting too) but in how closely the ideas in the article connected to thoughts that have been swimming around in my head for the last few years. In my recounting of the most recent garden incident I spoke a lot about hope and being able to feel everything no matter what. So I was interested to read about Jensen and the way he willingly breaks a cultural taboo by expressing the hopelessness and despair he feels while also turning that around and rethinking our cultural definition for hope as “a wish without agency” into something we can be actively engaged in achieving.

“There’s this idea that if you really recognize how bad things are you have to go around being miserable all the time. But the truth is I’m really happy, and I am full of rage and sorrow and joy and happiness and contentment and discontent. I’m full of all those things. It’s okay to feel more than one thing at the same time.”

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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12 thoughts on “Ascent Magazine – June 2008

  1. Both your post and the article bring to my mind Michael Pollan’s latest book “An Eater’s Manifesto”. Excellent food for thought, thank you.

  2. this part
    “Many gardeners experience a sense of awe and connectivity in the garden however where a religious person might call it god, I prefer to call it wonder.”
    Is extremely poetic. I always find a lot of hope in the small wonders of my garden, and a lot of despair in the broader world. It’s nice to have those little moments of affirmation.
    I’m off to read the article now!

  3. I love that your segment is called “tending.” That one word truly speaks to all that you do – tending your gardens, this site, and us. Lovely.

  4. Lovely, thoughtful — and I agree with renee — poetic post, Gayla. Thank you.

    I saw this issue at a local yogawear store. (I’m into Pilates rather than yoga, though). It’s not a magazine I’ve ever read but I’m going to buy this issue simply for your and Derrick’s articles.

    I needed to read the concluding quote this morning.

    Thanks for tending to our various needs (not just the technical gardening stuff) with your wonderful writing. Always spot on.

  5. Thanks for this. Not being into yoga, I would have never found this on my own, and I enjoyed both articles. Hope – what a beautiful gift.

  6. That’s a great final quote in this post. Perfect, and I feel the same way, but never have articulated it this way. And about religion, let’s not get confused with spirituality–religion is a human construction, fallable, often misguided and misinterpreting. God may be (I beleive he / she is) out in that garden, but it’s not the Catholic god, in the relgious sense–it’s the pure, real, connectivity of life god. Something like that. I’ll stop. Thoughtful post.

  7. That word “tending” reminds me of one of the best paragraphs I’ve read in awhile. It’s from the writer William Kittridge’s essay “Death and a Wedding” and it’s about taking care:

    “There will never be a simple program or set of programs to help us serve and preserve glories, but it might be useful if we heard more about the rewards of taking care – stories about humor, attentiveness, and flexibility—and not an endlessness of the self-righteous combat stories we now get from our anxious culture. Stories about the arts of building fortresses, revenge, and triumph are every time about divisiveness and semi-suicidal in an increasingly interdependent world. We can decide to dedicate ourselves to taking care. Many do. It’s said to be like learning an art.”

  8. it’s funny. yesterday i popped into this organic/vegan/raw eatery at the foot of mont-royal in montreal. while waiting for my smoothie i saw this magazine on the counter opened to this exact page.

  9. I feel hope all the time. And it is opposing the feeling of being overwhelmed. I feel overwhelmed by the focus on hopelessness of others. By their sublimated death wishes that come out in Apocalyptic fantasies.

    And I wonder, if they dont acknowledge that as speaking power to a kind of torturous un-natural death to the world and society, then how can we achieve sustainability when that is made obsolete by a desire to leave this world and take the chosen with you while leaving the rest to be tormented as sinners or worse, apostates.

    So working in the garden is a salve. Its a place where I can turn away from the sickness in the world that is couched in religious terminology and I can turn to the miraculous that exists everyday and be comforted by that.

    Oracular pronouncements from Ragnarok to Revelations, are warnings, not cake baking instructions. I wish from the bottom of my heart that more people would get the clue phone in that respect.

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