Question: If your life were a garden, how would you describe it?
Flourishing + Vibrant? Pest infested + Unkempt? Manicured + Polished?
Over the weekend, my husband and I decided to explore Stone Barns at Blue Hill. If you haven’t been and live locally, you must go! What a respite for weary city dwellers, and also just a really fun and inspiring place. Backpacks in tow, we decided to eat lunch at their cafe and use the wifi to get our work done as planned, but swapping an urban setting for a rural one.
Five hours later, sweaty from the strong September sun, we had accomplished zero work but had learned about sustainable farming and how to eat an entire sunflower stalk and all. Apparently you can eat anything if you sauté it in enough garlic.
We also took a greenhouse tour and that is when I became overwhelmed with farming metaphors that applied to my life. If you think I'm the urban gardener/farmer type, you are mistaken. I am more the overworked/can’t keep succulents alive type. The fact that garden and farm metaphors resonated with me seemed worth noting and sharing.
A few minutes into our greenhouse tour, our adorable guide Naomi told us that crop beds need three things to be healthy and grow:
OMG. I need those things too.
Overcrowding a soil bed can inhibit the plant's roots from growing properly. You have to provide each planting enough space between rows to breathe and grow freely. This is a tough one when residing in a crowded city and a small house. I constantly feel I am fighting for space here; on the subway ( can I just have enough inches to hold my book? No. Ok, how about we adjust so your armpit isn’t in my face - cool?), in the parking lot, and even in my own home. Five of us ( now 4) all reaching, prepping and generally moving in close proximity. I’ve always tried to carve out one small space for myself that is sacred, separate and other from everyone else, but it is a challenge. ( see an old post on a room of my own.)
I have found editing and decluttering our living space really helps my mental state and aids my productivity and creativity. A peaceful space with as much elbow room as possible definitely helps me breathe more easily and therefore grow and co-exist with my people more peacefully.
Aside from physical space, there is an abstract sense of space that has eluded me for a long time. It is only recently that I've become more comfortable with the idea of taking up more space than I used to in the form of my actual physical self ( no longer a size 0), voicing my needs and asserting my opinion, and allowing myself to upset the apple cart every now and again.
Naomi then shared how periodically, a farmer uproots the crops and relocates them to give them much needed movement and to draw new sources of nutrients they can’t access when they remain in one place.
Ugh. Just what I need; yet another person reminding me that exercise is good not just for my body but my overall wellbeing. While we have an “active” lifestyle - a busy family on the go, very little of my personal movement is intentional exercise for the purpose of exercise. I tried to listen to what Naomi was sharing about exercise but I found myself wondering if there was some element of farming I could turn into the latest exercise craze back in the city. Maybe Hoes to Toes or Cropping your Core.
I am diligent in keeping my mind sharp, always trying to read and learn new things, but I lack all motivation to get to an exercise class or go for a jog. I know this body is a gift and I need to take better care of her while I am able.
Without rest, a plant becomes strained and wilts. There is a period of time a farmer must give a crop to simply be in their space with no interruption to it’s process.
There’s sleep and then there’s rest. I have no trouble sleeping as I’ve never met a pillow I didn’t like. But resting is another story. I couldn’t even stand here listening to farmer Naomi without beginning to write this essay in my head or attempting to monetize my new found wisdom. Can I rest in a way that removed work and productivity as the goal, and instead simply allowed myself to be with those I love or even just along in thought and prayer? Could I perhaps not use the word goal when thinking about rest?
During her “rest spiel” I looked gently at my husband. Ok, I glared at him. He really needs to work on rest. Oh shit, I just thought the words
“ work on rest.” I guess I will just focus on myself.
Just when I thought her sermon on how a garden thrives was over, she dropped this truth on us.
“If you want to know the story of your garden, just look at the weeds, they’ll tell you.”
Um, where’s the gift shop? I’d like to buy some raw honey and goat cheese and get back to the concrete jungle now. K, thanks, bye.
See, me and my husband? We have been in the weeds lately. Financial stress on a level we haven’t experienced before. Relational conflict that comes with two decades of togetherness, and new life changes in the form of children going to college, high school and middle school, and everything that goes along with all of that.
But instead of pulling the weeds to avoid appearing unattractive, we are taking a good long look at our weeds. It is not fun. It is so the opposite of fun it isn’t funny. It sucks and it’s time consuming and the act itself forces us to slow down,to look and listen, and to rest.
Our garden is a mess. We are weeding. We are asking the weeds to tell us their story and by Grace, we will listen and try to restore some beauty. We know now that we aren’t ever going to have a perfectly manicured garden and we aren’t striving for one. We would be happy with wild and free.