healing this – part 2

These weeks, since I’ve been back from Ontario, I’ve been digging around quite a bit in this piece of earth that so graciously offers a home to me here. Getting my hands in the earth has always been healing for me and, I was sorely in need of a bit of that.

For some reason, it’s not been an easy acquaintance between the earth and myself here in this place. At times, I have considered that I really may not want to get to know her too well. It might get too intimate, I might fall in love, after all, and then I’d be stuck.

Though I’ve not wanted really to alter the naturalness of the earth here with formal gardening of any sort (after all, I’d spent all those years at the last place in my life, working so hard at trying to reseed and reroot a wilder, less domesticated, more native landscape), I have planted a few natives here and there – few of which have survived my misplaced notions of what belongs, some of which stubbornly refused to ‘bloom where they were planted’. Alas, I am still learning her ways in this place, what it is that she is trying to tell me.

As I consider our relationship now, I wonder if it could be that we have been giving one another permission somehow to be free. She has set me free by not demanding of me that I be constant caretaker of her.  I have set her free, in a way, by pulling out the stranglehold of exotic intruders planted by generations of folks trying to tame this woodland village , by letting the leaves fall and remain where they will, by allowing her the space to emerge and create what is easeful and natural for her to do, and by feeding to her here and there what might provide her the energy to do so…. shovels full of compost each spring from the worm bin.  As I spell out each of these phrases, I can hear echoed her reciprocal invitations to me – the untaming of self, the letting go of control, the allowing of space to emerge, the letting die what does not belong (no matter how many times I try to replant it), the ease of being myself, the feeding of unseen roots.

There have been a few discovered delights in these most recent days of making our reacquaintance. A family of cohosh multiplying where the creeping nancy was pulled away. A clutch of ash saplings sprouting up where the pachysandra once choked. An enchanting dogwood toddler peeking out at the hem of my skirt as I fill the feeder. A spindly adolescent rhododendron uncovered with the lopping  off a burning bush.

I consider also the relationship between a man and a woman at this time of transition from working so hard at supporting a family and a career to discovering who you are now that you are cutting away those entanglements. At times it can feel as if nothing is taking hold. At times the old ways of being can grow smothering. At times it can even feel dead. But then there are sudden surprises revealed — old, long-covered ways you once knew how to blossom and new ways of being green- with just a little pulling back of vines that have grown unheeded from misplanted seeds, and a few shovelfuls of rotted and foul-smelling compost turned over to nurture the depleted soil.

Oh you, earth sister, how you continue to surprise and delight, to heal and transform, to offer your fruits just when I need them the most.

M.C. Reardon

photographer~painter~poet

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