How Did I End Up Here?

How Did I End Up Here?

I didn’t plan to be a gardener. In fact, my senior year of university I remember vowing to never live anywhere near a farm, where I’d lived through my teenage years, ever again. No more hands chapped, chaffed, and stained by soil or Black Walnut skins, no more broken, chipped fingernails, no more gloves with the ends of the fingers worn through, no more back sore from stooping and bending, no more picking hazelnuts up from the ground and stuffing them into my mother’s ruined nylon stockings, then hung to dry in the attic. No more sweating in noonday sun, picking raspberries and being scratched into a bloody mess. I even spurned one boyfriend’s proposal because I knew he would be a lifelong farmer. It would be the literary life for me—books, theater, symphony—and my life as a teacher. So it’s very curious, indeed, how I became the avid home gardener I am today.

At first, there was no place to BE a gardener in the town where I began my career. The weather in Southeast Oregon’s High Desert was not much conducive to farming in those days before backyard hoop houses. No one I met there had a greenhouse. But my hands and eyes got itching to play in the dirt and see things grow, even to pick those wretched raspberries. I began asking around and observed that some people did have gardens, and that they grew short season crops like radishes, green beans, and peas. I had a huge back yard and what else was I going to do with it? I’d missed the fresh vegetables every summer from my parents’ garden. If I hurried, between the last frost and blazing 100-degree weather, I could maybe get in some lettuce and broccoli. I, too, could spend time chopping up the hard, reddish-brown slugs of the region. The jars on the canning shelves in the basement began filling, as well as the freezer.

There still were not many flowers, only lawns and bushes, because, well…rattlesnakes, who hung out in the shade. The previous owner had planted phlox along the fence line, and those were flowers enough for me, then.

Ten years later, I had moved as far west as a person can go and still be on land, surrounded by lush greenery, and I thought I was in Heaven. I could really garden here! Once I bought a house, I put in a small garden, much to the consternation of my neighbor, who thought lawns looked much more dignified. He protested, à haute voix, to anyone who would listen, the sins of my garden fence. My gifts of fresh produce when summer came, hushed his tone to a quiet grumbling. I moved once again to a house with a hillside behind me, where I envisioned terraces of burgeoning flowers and a vegetable garden. Through trial and error, I learned how best to cultivate flowers and food a mile from the ocean, what grew and what didn’t and what worked to keep deer away (nothing, short of a shotgun).

Now I live inland on a lovely, flat acreage, where my husband and I grow flowers, small fruits, and vegetables; where we have a small orchard of fruit trees that give us more apples than we know what to do with every autumn. I am working in a garden of some sort from February to December. So much for young adult proclamations!

Why am I a gardener now? I have the genes of my father and his father before him. I also believe that the beauty of flowers and the magic of growing things wormed its way into my childhood brain until it was a part of me and an addiction I couldn’t and no longer wanted to battle. I can’t exist or imagine a life without sunshine and fresh air, my hands soaking up the healing microbes in the soil as I work. My guess is once you’ve spent time as a child in a garden, you’re a goner.

Create Harmony, Feed the Plants

I’ve had little time for reading this week, but what I’ve read (some of it re-reading) has been rich and worth sharing.
First, a quote from Anthony de Mello, a Jesuit priest:  “I’m an ass, you’re an ass.”  Here’s what James F. Twyman, author of The Proof, says about that:  “…it instantly allows us to be more compassionate and acknowledge that we all have issues…we’re all asses sometimes…we’re all enrolled in this Earth School to learn, expand, and heal, then we begin to set aside our complaints, our need to always be right.  We begin to embrace ourselves and others in ways that offer healing instead of greater separation.”
He goes on to say, “If you allow your grievance to control you, you engage in the losing battle of constantly perceiving threats and attacking.  Your actions, choices, and behaviors reflect this illusion; and you begin operating in a world of separation.  You create stories about the ‘bad others’ to assign blame and relieve the pain of your isolation…It’s your choice whether to surrender the nightmare of your self-created separation for healing or to continue to suffer in the darkness.”
This is a big lesson I continue to need to work on and it’s no coincidence I found it again, today, all full of a grievance I suffered last week.  I want to remember that I’m much happier filling up with Love than hurt and blame.
Gary Zukav presents much the same lesson in his Soul Stories, which I’ve been reading a little every day.  “Authentically empowered people forgive naturally.  They forgive because they do not want to carry the burden of not forgiving like heavy suitcases through a crowded airport…Have you ever thought that someone treated you badly, and then thought about it again and again?  How did that make you feel?  Were you angry, or sad, or frightened?…Until you forgive, you cannot use all of your creativity.  Part of you is thinking about what you have not forgiven.  Do you want to live your life that way?  Is it worth it?  Is anything worth that?  Forgiveness and harmony go together.  When you forgive someone, nothing stands between you and that person.  Even if the person you forgive does not like you, you have laid your suitcases down…Put down one suitcase at a time.  That is how you create harmony.  It is also how you forgive.”
Again, that I read these two things in the same time frame can be no coincidence.  I need to work, work, work that lesson.
How can I do that?  Gary Zukav tells the story of a Hawaiian shaman who explained how by saying that the most important thing of all is to bless everyone all of the time.  He was certain that there is something about everybody that you can find to bless; that if you look for it, you will find it.
“Just in case, I am going to give you an emergency blessing.  You can use it if you can’t find one thing about someone to bless…Tell yourself…His exhalation feeds the plants.”
Gary Zukav added another emergency blessing for good measure.  “This person is bringing me a lesson that is very important for me to learn.  If it were not for this person, I might not be able to learn it.”
These readings passed by my eyes for a reason and I’m paying attention.  Now I’m going outside, since it’s mostly sunny today, and pull weeds in my flower beds.  Working in the yard gives me a feeling of accomplishment and time to ruminate on the lessons the Universe has presented to me.  And since, indeed, I am sometimes an ass, I will be blessing myself and my exhalations will be feeding the plants.