Sunday, April 28, 2013

Joy rising from the dirt

There is a point in March when looking around the garden and yard feels overwhelming to me. Cleaning up from the winter, re-establishing garden in the midst of the wild fields, raking the driveway gravel out of the grass, starting all over with the process of nurturing plants and watching them become food for other wildlife, tackling the ever shifting vagaries of vegetables that thrive and succumb to the myriad issues of weather, soil, attention and bacteria... Well, it feels like more than I can stand. Alone I cannot prune all the trees, dig out those rocks, re-form the raised beds or even haul all the brush. So there are relationship matters to accommodate in my spousal partnership, allowing the priorities of both parties and energy levels of each of us to be thoughtfully and non-judgmentally considered.

And then there is that moment in early April when we can watch the dry brown grasses greening up over the course of three days of sun and slightly warmer nights. All this and the compost pile is still frozen.

Still, in January I begin to contemplate the vegetable plots and their rotations and by February and early March the seeds arrive. They sit and wait patiently in their envelopes, just as I go through this churning of helplessness and interpersonal negotiations. Then, as trees bloom in warmer climates and all the yards in New York City begin popping with color and fragrance, the little corner of upstate New York begins to awaken too. Where my garden lies is in the shadow of a north facing hill, and once all the snow and ice is gone, the cold soggy earth starts sorting itself out. The birds return and start house hunting. Just putting out the bird houses is an act of faith in the dark days of March.

Though I have not yet been able to turn the soil, I must pile all the earth to the middle of the beds because the wooden forms around my raised plots have rotted after so many years. By the next week, there is new wooden framing, the plots have been turned, and yesterday the onions were planted alongside the now 8" tall garlic greens.  My pants are filthy, hanging over the laundry basket waiting for me to put them back on for this morning's plunder of the thawed section of the compost pile.  My garden maps have been redrawn to make room for the arugula, spinach, lettuce mixtures, radishes, snow peas, sugar snaps, little shell peas, carrots, chard and beets. Packets of seeds sit in my basket, still waiting for my clumsy gloved fingers to open them in the bright sun and cold wind.

For the last two nights I have woken as the waxing full moon set across from the rising sun glowing behind the hill.  My tired muscles slightly regrouped after the night's rest, I am filled with joy at the prospect of another few hours laboring to welcome the seeds into the dirt we have prepared for them.

This is the practice. Seeing what is so and accepting that all of it is connected. Developing the ability to abide: patiently acknowledging while not judging the tough times, diligently putting in the effort as one must, but softening as one can; welcoming the joy that arises from the dirt with full knowledge that not all the seeds will thrive and some will produce splendor to share even with unwelcome guests. We are not separate from this ever-shifting inner and external see saw. It is the practice that gives me balance and equanimity. Now to put on those mud-shoes and get the morning job done.

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