Work, dreams, and being present: The gift of dirt

So, I have been hard at work on a smattering of projects lately, not least of which is trying to turn a shady piece of woodland into a possible gardening site. I am inspired to see it take form, and I am also aware of the way my current state of self mimics the plot of land that we are preparing to garden: uncultivated, craving more light, and in a state of decomposition, growth, and rebirth.

I have two kids, age 7 and nearly 5. When my youngest was born and my oldest was 2-1/2, I used to rock my baby endlessly during colicky afternoons while managing “quiet time” for my oldest, and I would dream of the nirvana of 5 and 7. (Actually, during the colicky phase I often imagined myself on a plane to the Arizona desert where everything would be quiet, completely quiet.) The nirvana of 5 and 7, though, was compelling. It got me through a lot. I nearly passed out at the beautiful possibility of two fully self-sufficient children who could eat their own food, walk around responsibly by themselves, and let me cook dinner without a hundred interruptions. Now that this precious phase has arrived, I feel as if I am bursting at the seams from the energy of all the ideas, plans, and work that I have been waiting to attend to: publish a novel; write a new one; start a children’s book series; launch a new program; throw a community art party; and grow, cook, and can all our own food ala Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver. Sometimes all the ideas and energy trying to burst forth are enough to make me enter a state of paralysis: which idea first? Which project? How to go about it? When should I work on it?

That’s when I look at my yard, pull on my rubber boots, and start pulling weeds. It is cathartic to pull weeds, isn’t it? Annoying as all get-out, but really satisfying. The weeds come out. They are there no more. The job is obvious, the result is obvious, and the effort is obvious in my body when I wake in the morning and feel the pain of the work from the day before.

I still dream while I am pulling weeds. I have not yet honed the skill of the quiet mind, although I do work on it sometimes. In general I tend toward a desire to be alone so I can think. And pulling weeds from soft dirt is one of the most uniquely grounding experiences I can imagine. I can see the immediate results. And I can imagine the future when I will be able to fashion a meal from the land beneath my feet. How I will get there is a constantly evolving path, but the feel of the dirt on my skin is a direct and palpable reality.


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