Hands in the earth

I’m someone who always used to think of gardening as boring and for the middle-aged.

I’d wonder why people would spend so much time working on something that I felt so little for. I didn’t see the point of pretty flowers or growing things you could get so easily in a supermarket.

It pretty much reflected my relationship with nature. I didn’t have one.

But things have shifted this year and I’m having to swallow my pride (or acknowledge that I’m entering an early middle age!) as I start to spend time gardening.

That’s what I did last weekend and I want to share with you here the things I noticed from my experience:

Noticing

I have never been one for paying attention to detail.

It’s just not that important to me.

A friends birthday party? Great, yes I’ll accept but only have a cursory think about how I’ll get there the moment I have to leave the house, which often leads to me being late!

But I found a real beauty in slowing down and noticing what was going on around me. The garden bed which I considered to be mostly empty was actually full of clever bind weeds that had tentacles spanning over the whole of the bed.

I suddenly saw how prolific they were – a lesson from Mother Nature that things are not always as they seem and how slowing down and paying attention can be worth it.

The web

Oh my gosh, the amount of roots I discovered as I dug around the patch of earth!

It was like the earth was webbed together with roots. The flowers woven with the honeysuckle, the weeds and the vine we have growing in there.

Little thread veins were EVERYWHERE and I loved the living metaphor for how much we too are connected. With each other, with nature and with something beyond us.

It was beautiful. And so comforting to think about the world beneath our feet. The wildness under our pavement and roads of tree roots and plant roots which network and co-exist together.

As I stare at the Level Park nearby where I’m writing this, I imagine the trees that have been here for hundreds of years and must have a web of interconnected life beneath us. A source of power and strength that we can’t see with our bare eyes but very much is there.

Shifting problems

As I attempted to clear the weeds from the bed, I soon realised why a gardening fork is needed for this work. Because attacking a weed front on – attempting to pull it straight up from the earth – doesn’t work.

The leaves snap off and the weed will soon grow back.

So instead you need to first loosen the weed’s hold on the earth. Wiggling and jiggling the earth around it until it is loose enough to pull out.

There again, another cup full of wisdom from the earth!

How often do we try to solve our problems face on and fail? Try to get healthier by dieting until we fall off the wagon as we haven’t addressed all the things around it –

  • The comfort we get from food
  • How we associate it with a past we haven’t been able to let go of
  • Our disassociation from the raw ingredients that make up our food in this fast-consumption society.
  • Our life that is too busy to take time for real self-care
  • The numbing that foods high in sugar, fat and salt gives us

But start to wiggle and jiggle these things and we might be able to let go of what binds us.

Being physical

My back ached at the end of my weeding session but I adored the focus on being physical. It’s not something I often get in my office job.

In the garden, I used the power in my arms to chop back the blackberry plant. I felt the wind against my skin as it whipped around me. My senses were heightened as I heard the birds calling in the skies.

It was a pleasure to get into my skin and just be there instead of living inside my head – being hijacked by the galloping pace of my thoughts and my emotions.

Being physical brought me peace.


So there you are – a few reflections from my time in the wonderful world of plants.

I’m sure there’ll be many more musings to come.

Wisdom from my tomatoes

Strange title of a blog post, eh? But it’s one that I’ve been pondering on my ride to work.

Thinking of the tender tomato plants I grew inside my house.

Sheltered from the wind and the rain.

Given access to water, feed and sunlight.

Protected to grow tall, stretched towards the sky.

And yet who have all snapped as they have been moved into the garden.

Unprepared for the elements.

Too delicate for this world.

And I see the gnarled, thick-stemmed plants who have continued to grow, despite being abandoned outside as saplings who were in my ‘B’ team.

Unlikely to grow so left in the garden where they have adapted.

Grown thick to protect against the rain.

Become hairy-stemmed to protect against being nibbled from garden creatures.

Bent over to not be tossed around in the wind.

I think about myself

How it is through the conditions I’ve lived through – the storms I’ve weathered of anorexia, orthorexia, people-pleasing, finding myself in the patriarchal society, stepping out, stepping into conflict, abandoning old beliefs, learning to stop numbing – that has made me strong.

I am here, who I am, because of these storms.

I think of my son

And how my job is not to protect him, lock him away, enable him to not have to deal with the brutalities of this world.

It is to provide good soil for him.

To water his spirit when there’s not enough abundance around him.

To bring him up in an environment that allows his growth – the human equivalent of sun, clean air, protection from the wind.

Love

Acceptance

Us role modelling the behaviours we want to instil in him – setting healthy boundaries, being self-accepting, following our passions.

I’m amazed by how these outdoor plants have thrived.

They’ve been knocked down, buffeted around, left out in the elements.

And likewise, I take a moment to recognise how I’ve thrived despite challenges in my life.

In part due to the conditions my parents provided for me to grow up in – secure in their love for me – and in part due to the trials-by-fire that I’ve gone through and emerged stronger.