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.