May 22, 2016

Do You Know What You Believe In?

 So every two weeks I get to submit an essay for my English class this semester. This time the topic was to write about something you believe in. Apparently most of us should have had experiences that have made it so we believe in something. I confess that I question whether I have had these experiences because I had the hardest time trying to figure out what I was going to write about. I tried to make a list of things I believed in and the list was fairly dismal....things like:

I believed in facing your fears.
I believed in connecting.
I believe that you are in certain places in your life for a reason.
I believe in being on time.

None of these ideas seemed to be willing to come together on paper for me. I struggled for a few paragraphs with the, "facing your fears" idea but it was quite embarrassing how serious the writers block was. I finally settled on writing about how much I believe in gardening. This was quite a laborious process. I tried to give up once and my teacher gave me permission to change my topic but then he casually included a sentence to me about the amazing-ness of re-writing something and I decided to stick with it.

As I write I am trying ever so hard to not be so wordy. I am trying to think carefully about the words I use and make sure they are all necessary. I am not sure if I would ever think any word would not be necessary :) I find myself wondering where is the balance between writing in your voice and yet refining what you are writing.

Anyway, enough musing here is my essay, enjoy.


Have you ever found yourself sitting in your favorite chair with a pile of seed catalogs, using the perfect pen to circle all the seeds you want to buy? Have you ever deeply appreciated the perfect dirt of a freshly rototilled garden? Have you ever dug a perfect trench and carefully laid some seeds in it? Have you ever gone out to your garden for the hundredth time to check for seeds you know should be up and yet they aren’t? Have you ever scolded yourself for not having faith when they finally do come up? Have you ever gone out to your garden in the pouring rain to pick slugs off of the helpless plants in your garden? Have you ever harvested a bucket full of peas and sat in the grass with your children, shelling them and eating them without a care in the world? If so, then you will easily understand why I believe in the, “act of cultivating or tending,” which is otherwise known as gardening.

You could argue that I have to believe in gardening because I grew up in a home with not one, but two of the “cultivating and tending” kind of parents. It is most likely that this is a huge factor in my love of gardening and my ability to see how the actions I perform in a garden often parallel life. There is no doubt that those seeds were planted early in my life. Throughout my growing up years my mother could rarely be found in the house. I always knew I would have to search our fourteen acre yard for her. As I would wander around looking for her, in my head I would cross off the options of where she might be; weeding, pruning, planting, harvesting, all the gardening words were there. On weekends or evenings my father would often join in, both of them working side by side in the yard, giving every growing thing it’s very best shot at reaching its full potential. 

 The first time that I realized that there were parallels in gardening to life I was about 13 years old. I was in my mother’s enormous garden, begrudgingly and murmuring-ly on my hands and knees, working my way down a seemingly endless row of corn that I had to finish weeding if I wanted to go with my friends. I was feeling indignant and picked on. An equally indignant, picked on sibling was weeding alongside me, a companion to complain with about unfairness. Without realizing it our conversation morphed into a silly yet, at the same time, meaningful chat about how we were saving these seedlings from the evil weeds who were trying to choke out their chances to get sunshine, and rain. We had to help them get these things or they could never reach their potential, which was to grow up, and give us corn. To this day anytime I am weeding I still cannot help but imagine what the weeds represent in my life. What is trying to choke me out and destroy my chances of reaching my potential? What can I pull up in my life that will simplify my days? 

The other part of working in a garden is cultivating. According to the dictionary if you are cultivating you are “promoting or improving by labor and attention.” Most of my life I have been a most fastidious gardener putting in lots of labor and paying excessive amounts of attention to every detail. I simply must have nice straight rows. There must be perfect fences for the cucumbers and peas to climb. The weeds must get tugged up before they get to big. I must labor intensely to provide the perfect environment for my plants to grow: removing rocks, adding compost, turning the dirt over, noticing where the shade is, and hand picking pests off the leaves. During this process I often find myself wondering am I being this fastidious in other parts of my life? Am I “promoting or improving by labor and attention,” my relationships with those around me? Am I “promoting and improving by labor and attention” my spiritual life?

About five years ago for the first time in my life I lost all desire to cultivate or tend my garden. I did not notice until many months later that the loss of my desire to garden correlated with an enormous trial in my life that I could not make sense of and did not want to deal with. The weeds in my garden were left to choke out anything and everything they wanted to. They grew taller, and taller, wider, and wider, filling in every space they could find. I did not even go out to harvest. I could barely look out the windows at what my garden was becoming. I knew what was happening. I just could not muster the strength to go face it. There must be another way? Maybe the decisions would make themselves? Maybe the garden would just weed itself? 

After fighting with all my might for clarity and answers for all of June and July, one day in late August I realized it was time to have courage, face my garden and my life. I wish I could find the words to describe how therapeutic it was to get on my hands and knees and start in one corner of that garden and methodically pull wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of weeds out of that garden. Ever so slowly my rows of plants emerged. It took three days of weeding to find my brick path and free all my plants from the evil weeds. It also took three days of weeding to find my courage to make some hard decisions. Once I removed all the weeds I could see clearly what I needed to do. It would not be easy to do but it was clear and the answer came as I crawled around pulling up weeds, putting them in a wheelbarrow, dumping the full wheelbarrow in the woods, all alone with my thoughts.

May 6, 2016

Too Many Words? What?

So my first writing assignment of my English class was to write a love letter to something I love....not someone....something. It was hard to think about what I love enough to write about. I spent a couple days driving along on my bus making mental lists of what I loved enough to write about and the main problem was that I appear to love everything. But I finally settled on writing my love letter to views. I really do live for views. They make me happier than Reeses but do not tell Reeses that...please. We had to have our classmates review our papers and edit them and this was hard for me. No one loves all my words and I do not know why. They all think I should simplify...I wish they knew I already have simplified far more than I wanted to. I just want to be me :) But I concede I need to learn the value of not being so enthusiastic. It is so hard for me to not want to overshare. Are you surprised by this confession? Yeah, I didn't think so. 
Anyhow hear for your enjoyment or not is my paper.....I would love to know what you think. And P.S. thankfully my teacher "gets" me :)


To My Most Darling View,
If I close my eyes for a minute and focus, I am confident that the first time I felt my heart swell because of you was when I was 6 or 7 years old. I was standing on the top deck of a Washington State Ferry, looking out at the emerald blue water of the Puget Sound. In the distance I could see our destination; a majestic pine tree covered island. Behind me on the mainland I could see the epic snow covered Cascade Mountains. Without realizing it I took a deep breath, trying to figure out how to store up the glorious-ness of what I saw. How that content, peaceful feeling thrills me.
Ever since that day I have worked hard to keep you in my life because I adore that feeling I get from seeing you. Whether it means signing up for a 10K Dandelion Run in Derby, Vermont, so that I could have rolling hills filled to bursting with enormous dandelions as my view as I ran, or taking my kids to Acadia National Park in Maine to climb on the enormous pinkish colored rock cliffs on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, or the time that it was sunflowers that stretched on for miles in eastern Kansas, the feeling is always there.
An important part of any relationship is that you encourage each other to be better. You constantly do this for me. What you provide for me always strengthens my bonds with my friends and family. I can’t wait to share with them what you have shown me, hoping that they can also feel the same immense joy that you bring to me. I love to hear their exclamations of wonder when they see you. The bonding moments that you have helped create as my girls and I catch the sun sinking behind the edge of the ocean at our favorite lighthouse on the Oregon Coast, or when we find ourselves at Devil’s Churn at high tide watching the waves crash up the long passageway of rocks, shooting wave foam into the air, making us all laugh with delight.
I love how you encourage me to keep a perspective. I start a hike in an uninteresting parking lot filled with so much hope. I walk on the trail through mossy, fern filled woods, up hills that sometimes could make a girl complain. I hear the hopeful noise of distant water, all the time wondering is the end going to be worth it?  Then suddenly the trees open up and there, hidden on the border of the state of Massachusetts and the state of New York, is Bash Bish Falls. It is rushing over boulders, plummeting into a pool that is surrounded by huge gray rocks of all sizes that are perfect for climbing on.
I am indebted to you for what you have taught me about being grateful. So grateful that I have eyes that can see you. Grateful that I have legs that can walk me to you. Grateful that you recognize how happy you can make me, and that you keep providing opportunities for me to notice you and feel that coveted content, peaceful feeling. Grateful that you have not always given me perfect things to look at so that I can learn to deeply appreciate, and understand when the great views do come. A relationship like ours that makes me overflow with gratitude is one I would fight for.
I appreciate how you help me to notice all the varying shades of colors in the world. Remember that time on the airplane flying from the east coast to the west coast following the setting sun? The fluffy clouds piled like sky scrapers all around making the plane feel so small and insignificant? The oranges, pinks, reds and yellows that were constantly changing as the sun set? And how could we forget the brilliant colors of the trees in New England in the fall? Every possible shade of yellow, red, brown, pink, and orange blanketing mountain after mountain?
            I cannot imagine my life without you in it. Words can barely express the content, complete feeling I can experience when you are with me. I love that I know you will always be there. I love that no matter who I am or what I have done you are always there for me. I strive daily to live worthy of what you show me.
Yours truly,

Jennifer