We have a special treat today, an interview with Diane Glass and Debra Engle, founders of the Tending Your Inner Garden® workshops. Diane and Debra just published Winter, the first in a series of books that shares the stories and poems of women worldwide who’ve drawn inspiration from the seasons of the year. I have the honor of being one of the women sharing my writing in their book.
Diane and Debra are giving away five copies of their book this month on their website. Read on for details of the giveaway or click here and start now. Read an excerpt from Winter below.
Thanks for joining us, Diane and Debra. Tell us about yourselves and how you came to work together.
We’ve been friends and colleagues since the 1980s. But in the early 1990s we came together as women experiencing rapid change. One of us left a corporate job in the midst of breast cancer treatment. The other married, wrote a book and moved to a new home. We experienced all the stages of change and the challenges of making transitions. That led us to ask, “Do other women need support as their lives unfold in new ways?” Ten years of experience tells us, “Yes!”
What is Tending Your Inner Garden?
Tending Your Inner Garden brings together women looking for connection, community and conversation. We create a nurturing context in which women discover what brings aliveness and joy to their lives. They do this by tuning into their inner voice of wisdom and by connecting with the spirit that animates all of creation. This search for renewal often invites change. The seasons of the year—the new growth represented by spring, the rapid change of summer, the harvest and letting go of fall, and the rest and stillness of winter—provide a wonderful guide for making that change.
Why did you decide to publish books?
In our ten years of offering the Tending Your Inner Garden program, we’ve been struck by the power of women’s stories and how honest they are about their lives. As they’ve discovered more of their inner selves, they’ve shared their wisdom, triumphs, heartaches, courage, fears and joys. And so we thought it was time to publish books, letting more women’s voices be heard and extending the community as far as the books would take us.
As we sit here in the heat of summer, it feels odd to be thinking about winter. Why did you start with Winter?
Winter offers the gift of dormancy and solitude, both in short supply in today’s world. Too often we strive for continual productivity, at the expense of pausing, reflecting and discerning. This leads us to make decisions that reflect the priorities of the outside world, rather than the insights of our own hearts and souls. Although we think of spring as the time of new beginning, often that beginning starts with the period of rest and renewal offered by winter.
Who are the authors and how did you find them?
We posted a call for entries on our site, and then we used the connectivity of the Internet to help us spread the word. We posted it on Facebook, of course, and it ended up appearing on other people’s blogs and in writer’s groups in other countries. In some instances, we asked women specifically to submit, knowing the power of their writing and their story.
What do you hope for people who read these books?
We hope that women will see they’re not alone. The material covers so much ground—being a new mom, experiencing unexpected changes, understanding yourself better as you grow older, the value of friendship, etc.—that we’re guessing every reader will see herself somewhere in the book. For instance, Paula Sampson contributed a powerful piece on grieving the death of her son. For any woman who has lost a child, that essay will give solace and inspiration.
What are your plans for the other seasons?
We welcome submissions for all the other seasons. Our next book will feature the experience of Spring in women’s lives. That might include experiencing new growth emerging through the soil of their lives, cultivating a rich environment, or envisioning what they would like to grow. Women interested in sending us a poem, story or essay can find additional information here about guidelines for submission.
Thanks for joining us, Diane and Debra. I wish you the best through all the seasons!
Win a copy of Winter. Debra and Diane would like here how you’ve drawn inspiration from the seasons. Click here and share your story on their blog for a chance to win one of five copies they’re giving away this month.
About the Editors
Debra Engle is the author of Grace from the Garden: Changing the World One Garden at a Time and the owner of GoldenTree Communications, publisher of On Thundering Wings, Semi-Sweetness and Light and other books of artistry, new thought and inspiration.
Diane Glass serves as a spiritual director, working both with individuals and groups. She is a member of the staff of PrairieFire, a program of spiritual renewal and growth, at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center.
An Excerpt from Winter
By Angela Renkoski
SWF seeks wise mature man for solitude and contemplation. Must like long walks in the snow, heart-to-hearts by the fire, and enlightenment from silence. Best if able to tolerate, even appreciate, darkness and cold, and long nights and short days.
This would have been my personal newspaper ad in the years before online dating questionnaires—if I had known my true soul mate was closer to Old Man Winter than the more summery Adonises I set my eyes on. For too long I chased after the gorgeousness of spring’s lushness, the lust of summer’s bounty, and even the looming ache of fall’s harvest, and skittered away from winter’s, well, wintry, advances.
When I first faced that I might be in winter in my soul, it was early fall outside, my favorite time of year. But I was reaping nothing inside and couldn’t bear the thought that the frozen, barren picture I had of winter also described my inner world. The deeper fear was that this icy void I associated with the season would last forever—not an unreasonable fear in Iowa where I was living at the time.
After much howling at the wind in protest, I surrendered and could say without reservation, shame, regret, or fear: “I am in winter. And that’s OK.” Until then, I was more attuned outward to bright appearances and the opinions of others for happiness and security. These wilted, however, when met with adversity and were doomed to disappoint the more I depended on them, sacrificing the authenticity of Self.
Learning how nature works drew me to appreciate winter’s charms. When I looked about, I thought all was dead. Not so. Winter is the time when the trees put down new roots. In dormancy, plants and flowers prepare for new growth or suspend activity in wait for the more favorable warmth of sun and showers.
Braced with this knowledge, I peeked at and then contemplated the winter of my discontent. I came to see that it is in winter that my center is cultivated and strengthened. Like a hibernating bear, I had plenty to draw from and sustain me as I peacefully slowed down and rested in Spirit, content and less distracted by the outside world. It became a time of tremendous healing and recharging and a metaphor for seeing what was previously ignored or resisted in a new light.
In embracing winter, I also came to love previously dismissed and hidden parts of myself. Like a sled dog burrowing into the snow, I pulled within and curled around my soul, affording myself insulation from the dark and cold. I drew all the pieces of my past into my heart so it throbbed and glowed with life and love—an ember upon which I would fan the flames of growth in spring.
Now I court winter, looking for those times I am called to go within. And winter seduces me with the sensory pleasures of romance: candlelight, roses, and music that warms the soul. I take long walks in whatever snow is on the ground, hunker down next to fireplaces in coffeehouses and restaurants, and spend more time in the exquisite silence of the season.
Winter is not so distant and forbidding, nor so interminable. It is a time that begs for the space to encompass activities, thoughts and fears, a space that allows for new perspectives to breathe and stretch and put down roots in quiet and safety. Come hither, Winter. Come hither, Self.