Everyone who knows me well knows I’m a gardener. I grew up in a family with a vast vegetable garden. We ate from it all summer while preserving more for winter: corn, peas, green beans, tomatoes. My mother grew roses, petunias, geraniums and gladiolas.
And almost everywhere I’ve lived I planted a patch of something. In New York’s north country I put in perennials that could make it through the bitter winters. When we rented an apartment in Syracuse, I begged permission from the landlord to dig up a patch of the back lawn. After buying our first home, I planted cottage gardens around the front of the house. When in Nigeria I sowed all manner of vegetable seeds until I realized the pests were different there and I couldn’t outsmart them. But even then I persisted with a year-round flower bed, using precious water through the dry season for the beauty that helped sustain me.
In 2013 after returning to the United States, my spouse built a sturdy 28’ x 28’ fenced garden in the side lot of our home – enough to keep out deer and most of the groundhogs. I planted vegetables every summer. Getting out in the soil was a joy.
Until recently. The last few years I noticed I became resentful when the garden took so much time. I’d get a clutchy feeling in my stomach thinking about the needed weeding or the beans that were ready to pick.
This spring, every time I consider gardening, a loud “NO!” rises up in me. Something within needs to lie fallow longer than the winter. And this is a big deal for me, as gardening is part of my identity.
What does this have to do with you, client or potential client, or visitor to this blog?
Well, it’s this: change is normal. At times something we took for granted, deeply enjoyed, felt we needed or did all the time stops bringing meaning or pleasure.
I often ask a client, once I have learned about their challenges or symptoms, “Do you know what you need to do or stop doing or change?” And often they know. They just haven’t had a chance to voice it. Or trust it.
They may need to start to look at a pattern in a relationship where they are stuck or are giving up too much of themselves for the sake of “peace.” They may need to mourn someone or something that has died. They may need to stop taking care of other people at their own expense. They may need to start attending Al-Anon or AA. They may need to quit their job and go back to school. These are serious decisions that often take time.
My work with clients often involves helping them trust what they already know…that they are not broken or defective, but in process. That symptoms are telling them something is out of alignment with deep values. That often grief and letting go is involved. And that the path, though not always well-lit, is nevertheless clearer once they decide to take one step down it.
For me, even though honoring life’s cycles by getting my hands in the dirt has been vital, I need to stop vegetable gardening this year. It’s a way of honoring some other cycle now becoming clear in me.
I trust that when I follow my inner knowing, I’ll learn more what this is about, what opens up for me as I welcome more free time this summer. I’m committed to allowing the garden to go ugly this year if it needs to, or loaning it out or planting a cover crop to nourish it.
Mark Nepo in The Book of Awakening, says this: “There is very little difference between burying and planting. For often, we need to put dead things to rest, so that new life can grow. And further, the thing put to rest—whether it be a loved one, a dream or a false way of seeing —becomes the fertilizer for the life about to form. As the well-used thing joins with the earth, the old love fertilizes the new; the broken dream fertilizes the dream yet conceived; the painful way of being that strapped us to the world fertilizes the freer inner stance about to unfold.”
I’ll keep you posted on what this summer brings.
And trust your own process if something in you needs to be born or to die or lie fallow.
Painting Credit: Greg Hartman-Souder