I’ve attended a handful of classes with “Life in 10 Minutes“. Today, they offered a virtual session. Our goal was to use our senses in writing. Elizabeth asked us to think of an event, a place, or time, and we built in different aspects of writing while using our senses. What joy to have this space with others virtually and to write and to connect in a meaningful way.
The pandemic has caused serious reflection and changes of habits. The way of doing work, completing chores, just being together in relationship have remarkable new beginnings. As my world has become smaller in socialization, my life experiences have enlarged. One change has been the space of our yard. Our bit of Earth. We used to go to work, come home, do what we could to accomplish undone tasks, then we went to bed, tired and regretful that we did not get It all done, and anxious, as a thousand thoughts ran through my mind.
As we walk our piece of earth, we notice things. Bushes are brown and dead and consumed with weeds. We put gloves on and tackle the deadness we see. The smell of earth and rich soil consumes our overtaxed nasals—it’s allergy season, too. We begin to sniffle and laugh. The thorns scrape against our legs and arms. We jump and exclaim aloud, “Ouch!” We notice blood dripping. A tickle—nothing really to stop and fix.
My daughter decides to earn money by cutting the grass. At 16 years old, she has never cut grass on her own; we decide to teach her. As my son-in-law gets her ready, the smell of oil and gas fills the garage, and I whisper, “Keep an eye on her. Especially when she gets to the ditch.” She’s old enough, but I’m anxious. I regret those fleeting thoughts of my children getting hurt. They cause me to disassociate and to disconnect to all the beauty around me. I know this, so I quickly return to the reality of “all is well.” She is precise like her daddy. Up and down the line of the yard she goes. I smell the green grass, see her sweating, her rosy cheeks glowing with sun-kissed freckles shining on her cheeks and nose. She smiles at me, and I return the gesture, a thumbs up, and my thoughts are filled with a mixture of pride and gratitude. The lawnmower is too loud to say these things, so we gesture, and together, we just know. No words are needed. My son-in-law stays with her at a distance heeding my concerns. He stands in a ready, protective state that comforts me.
We had a storm that knocked over a wild rose bush and blocked a walkway. The flower buds are white. The wind slightly blows, and the smell of sweetness, almost like honeysuckle, rushes in. Later that evening as the sun sets over the backyard, I close my eyes and take in the sun’s emissions as pure energy to my bones and soul. I take in a long, deep inhale and let the sweetness create a delightful remembrance of childhood summers. As the breath leaves from my body, I tear up. How did I miss this? Why did I let life consume me?
Eventually the wild rose was pruned and placed on an affordable arbor ordered from a local store. The anticipation of the growth and beauty on this walkway excites me. It reminds me of hope and beauty. Beautiful things to come despite the chaos and confusion of the world around me. My granddaughter believes that when you pass through the arbor you magically become a unicorn named Priscilla. We prance around the yard as unicorns and laugh. My oldest notices a robin feeding her babies. Their necks stretch up to take in her food. We are mesmerized.
Small blue seeds, large white seeds, bulbs from a neighbor are planted. My 3-year-old granddaughter joins me in tilling up the earth with her play rake. Her soft, blonde curls are wild and her energy contagious. Her questions fill the air. She’s never planted a garden, and she wants to understand seeds, why do we bury them, and how long will it take to grow? I’m squatting and brushing her hair back from her face. My knees are aching, so I allow my knees to just touch the wet, warm earth. I’m sitting now. I notice the dirt on my legs, and sense a fitting together of earth, human, and joy. I answer each question with a patience I wish I would have had as a younger mom. At fifty something, you’ve cultivated a better sense of priorities. My husband walks over with his smile and giddy voice asking what we are up to. “Oh, honey, look at her small hands putting the seed in the ground. Do you have your phone? Take a picture. Look at her hands, so small, so delicate.” Why do these things overwhelm me with great delight? A flood of emotions tumble in and, with a polyphony of thoughts, my soul sings.
The new baby, my grandson, starts to cry, and my oldest daughter is sitting on the wicker bench. He nestles against her breast, and I hear his cries turn to sucking and sweet sounds of love.
There is a great clutter of discarded items and projects behind the house. All around the objects are old vines and dead leaves. I look at it. I get that old feeling and thoughts of disgust. Why do I hoard these things? A frustration of disorganization and lack of time remind me of my shortcomings. I have time now. I become detached and start throwing stuff away. I remind myself that we can work on this next weekend. I don’t have to finish it all today. This knowledge gives me peace, and I extend grace. My son-in-law picks up, carries, and takes loads to the local dump. One item was an old front door we removed from the current house about 8 years ago. As we work together to put the door on his truck, we notice that some form of rust and mildew had settled on the house. My husband verbally shares words of frustration. The negativity consumes me, and I choose joy and patience. “I’ll wash it.” A simple statement changes the direction of a conversation, and we move on.
As I rounded the corner to my mother’s garden that grows on her side of the mother-in-law suite, I’m reminded of her loving-care and her age. My mother and father are facing the pandemic like all of us—with caution and isolation. Their health is not as robust, and the garden needs some work. The steady son-in-law pulls up dead bushes and removes a white fence that is dry rotted. His youthful strength and boldness to move forward on such a long-awaited task brings sheer delight and positive energy. This energy transposed to new plants, weeding, steppingstones, and a sitting area. My mother asked if we should keep a part of the fence. “Maybe we could use it for a project.” “Oh mom, I know those thoughts and feelings”, I say to myself. “I just finished cleaning the back of the house of these very same thoughts and ideas.” We settle on keeping two of the posts in the best condition. Yes, I put them behind the house. One day, I came home to see my mom and dad in the garden. My joy was complete.
My lover, my husband walks this Earth with me. His strength and patience with my task oriented coping strategies overwhelm me. The assurance that he will delight in my world, my space invokes security. We have a rhythm that works for us. We rest in our rhythm. A covenant and passionate longing with so many stories and memories within the tapestry of “us”.
I’ve re-discovered my body. My hands, arms, and legs ache to work in the yard. I jump on shovels to force them into the earth. My legs squat and my back bends. I reach, stretch, lift, and run among the beauty of nature. The sweat on my shirt and soaking through releases toxins, and the stress is moved from my body to the beauty of creating and growing. My father notices. “I see you from the window. You look like you are enjoying your work.” I laugh, and say, “I was made for this!” The joy has brought beauty to my body, and He says, “You are looking more beautiful every day, my daughter.” The beauty he sees is my soul and body in balance.
After a long day in the heat and yard, I come inside to shower the dirt, sweat, and debris off my body. The warm water eases my aching muscles, and the lavender salt scrub oils my dry skin. I’m grateful for running water, little things, like lavender salt scrub, and a home to care for. The burden becomes the desire. In familiar rhythm, my husband and I join. The day is done. The senses are released, and the sounds of nature are still flooding in from the opened window. Lavender, roses, earth, and mint along with the sounds of neighbors still at work. The dove and the woodpecker find their voice and sing.
I wake up early in the mornings before the busy house stirs. I find my robe and a cup of coffee. I wrestle with the decision of shoes or no shoes. Pros and cons to both. This time I choose no shoes. I open the front door by turning the old, Williamsburg key and lock, it starts to creak, so I slowly pull open, and I leave it cracked. I need this alone time. I make a complete circle around our home. I start with my prayer garden and the butterfly bush. A dragonfly with purple wings flutters by. As I step on the wet grass, my feet are comforted until I step on something sharp and pull back from the step. I admire the repainting of the iron bench and notice the angel carved in the cast iron. Cucumbers are growing, the “baby green pepper” is now a teenager, almost ready. The mint is growing, and I promise to make myself hot tea and mint later in the day. The garden is growing, and I think I see the beginnings of carrots, onions, and beans. The peach tree that seems to feed all the squirrels in my yard has peaches on the ground. Certainly, I can do something with those. I try to pick them up, but I change my mind. No work right now. Just meditate. The blueberry bush has sprouted another branch, and I’m grateful. My youngest really wanted a blueberry bush to grow. My tomatoes are showing signs of small, red beginnings. I know they need a lot of sun. “Please grow”, I whisper. I am ever aware of the legacy of my aunt Adell, aunt Shirley, aunt Mary, and my mother. I feel their love. I see myself walking with them in their garden as a little girl. I’ve made it around the house by now, and it dawns on me that I’ve been communing with God and thanking Him.
My soul-hunger satisfied.