We have now lived in our little rental home for five months, and it has been such a roomy relief from our close quarters in Chicago. While we loved every place we lived in Chicago, we are grateful for a garage that replaces walk-ups, sidewalks without potholes, and, of course, a six minutes drive from my in-laws.
Once spring rescued us from winter, it was time to clean up the gardens left around the perimeter of the house. Even though we are only renting, it felt like a good reminder to my mind and soul to tend to what is not ours; that nothing is promised or permanent, but we should still take care of it. So, each weekend, I have taken an hour or two and raked, pulled, dug, and uprooted. Here are a few lessons the Earth has sweetly taught me so far.
A few parts of the gardens around the house were so messy and tangled. It was as if the plants were in a fight with one another. With these areas, I took my time. With a rake, I gathered the leaves and with my hands, I pulled the weeds. The fact that weeds can look pretty is what throws me; some even grow flowers! The weeds were what brought me to an internal place. A place where I felt Mother Nature reminding me how this is all our stories.
The more I pulled and felt the tug of uprooting, I wondered if this reflected my own journey as I went through the hardest parts of counseling or self-love and self-discovery. Anyone who has been through this knows the beginning is the hardest part. It’s a lot to sit with what is in front of you, determine what needs to be pulled, and begin to pull. Not only that, what weeds have also shown me is that it is ineffective to do a quick tug. Nothing happens beyond taking off the surface. It can actually take a few tries of pulling before uprooting happens. Sometimes we need other tools and sometimes our hands will get the job done.
And then there are the worms. As I sat in the dirt, I saw that worms thrive at the root of weeds and other dead plants. I would pluck out every worm and replace it back, because — despite the weed — they served a purpose: they help aerate the earth for the plants, provide nutrients, and according to one site, “worm burrows allow water and air to penetrate the soil while making spaces for deep root growth.” Finding these lifegiving creatures at the root of weeds made me think … even though their purpose for The Garden does more harm than good, it still produced something for the worms and, therefore, the entire Garden.
Whatever brought the weed into The Garden, it still counted for something before its uprooting. Despite its necessary end, it gave a little piece of meaning. I have numerous examples of this in my own life. Whether it is in the shape of loss, heartache, trauma — each of these things shaped me into who I am today. Without those weeds in my garden (some of which I never asked for) I doubt I would have been able to create that much depth on my own.
There is also a section at the back of the house that is by far the densest and hardest. As a perfectionist, I felt robbed. I knew I would not be able to tackle this in the way I have before. As much raking and plucking as I could muster, it would take weeks to get it completely done. So, I sat with my perfectionist’s heart for a bit and I let her know that it’s OK to not perfect everything because that’s not how it works anyway. I’ve learned over the years that I cannot — as much as I would love to — clean up every part and perfect who I am. I have tried and failed so many times. I have a bookshelf to prove this.
I let that piece of The Garden remain a little unfinished as a reminder that I, too, am a little unfinished; a little weed here and there keeps me humble.
Now, will I take up more than just cleaning up the garden? I hope to! I need to do much more reading about caretaking and creating a happy place for new life. All this to say, though, I love the way Mother Earth speaks to us. This quarantining, in my opinion, could not have come at a better time of the year — the beginning of the buds and birds and Earth’s hibernation ending. I have appreciated the monotony of opening up my kitchen window blinds each morning to see the progress of the tree in our front yard. Even more so now, I appreciate the stillness and slowness of weekends to be at the foot of the Earth, on my knees, with Her and Her little glories.