The Queen of My Self

Being an urban being, I have never had a garden where I grew food. My terrace is devoted exclusively to flowers, food for the soul, for sure, but with the exception of the day lilies they are not edible.

My container garden gives me immense pleasure. I love digging in the dirt with my bare hands. No gloves or trowels for this Queen, thank you very much. I cherish the feel of the earth on my skin and don’t mind getting it under my nails. That is why the Goddess invented scrub brushes and soap, after all. I even make my own rich fertile soil by composting dead leaves and food scraps in a garbage pail.

I can spend hours on end dead heading my plants and picking off the dry leaves one by one. I tend my garden with love and care and it cultivates me in return. My plants are my dear friends, my children, really. They have been with me, loyally flourishing and flowering for decades. All of my geraniums, for instance, are from cuttings from one small plant that I had on my windowsill in my Greenwich Village apartment in 1969!

My ceremonial space, Mama Donna’s Tea Garden & Healing Haven is an indoor garden paradise decorated with vintage yard furniture and filled with plants. Some of these I have had for 30 years or more. Some I have inherited from family and friends who have passed on. I am so glad to be the caretaker of these living memorials. Their spirit is alive in the plants that they loved and nurtured. And everyone who enters this sacred space feels the green healing energy.

Once upon a time I grew weed(s) for imbibing from the seeds in my stash. This crop, too, was food for my soul. But that was then and this is now. And now I am drawn to plant and raise some foodstuff. My options are limited by space constraints, but the time feels right to start with some herbs and maybe some berries or baby lettuces. Or maybe it is too late for this season. I don’t know. I will have to do some research. What I do know is that I want to taste what I grow.

The first gatherings of the garden in May of salads, radishes and herbs made me feel like a mother about her baby — how could anything so beautiful be mine. And this emotion of wonder filled me for each vegetable as it was gathered every year. There is nothing that is comparable to it, as satisfactory or as thrilling, as gathering the vegetables one has grown.

-Alice B. Toklas

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to

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