When two things happen at the same time, it is hard to know which was the cause and which was the effect; and I know some will jump right in here and remind me additionally that correlation does not equal causation. If this were a scientific journal, I would take that very seriously, but this is just the place I process and share my thoughts, so I’m just going to share my experiences.
I’ve had a really good season. After gardening through the spring, June, with its heat coupled with all the anniversaries surrounding my husband’s death knocked me on my back. Literally, for about two months, I worked, came home, and laid on the couch. Sitting up felt like a workout, and all my energy was used crying and feeling the pain of loss.
Then it cooled off. We had a super long hot summer, but sometime at the very beginning of August, we had a random cool week, and I made it back outdoors to see what had become of the garden. I haven’t left the garden since that week. There is something about gardening that been so therapeutic and healing for me, and I am so concerned if I pause I will relapse into harder days, I am determined to learn how to garden through the winter. Determined may be too light of a word. It would be more fair to say I’m obsessed.
SURROUNDED BY NATURE AND MOVING
Before I had my own personal trauma in my life, I was a child abuse prosecutor, constantly hearing stories of the worst kind of abuse and experiencing what I now know as the very real vicarious- or secondary-trauma.
I learned then that nothing was better for my mental health, for clearing my mind, and helping me see the good in life than walking in beautiful nature. Beauty heals. Nature heals. Outdoor time heals. Movement heals.
Gardening brings beautiful outdoor nature and requires movement. It is my perfect combination. One of the things that got me digging in the first place was a book about a widow who ,in her tears, started digging up her whole yard with a spade, just because the hard work mixed well with her tears. I decided to try it, and liked it so much I had to set boundaries so I didn’t just dig random holes everywhere.
LIFE FROM DEATH
Even before my husband died, I liked to try growing tomatoes. I never knew how to garden and did a really bad job of it. I would buy the biggest plants, try to make them grow the earliest tomatoes, and plant as many as I had room to plant. The first spring after he died, I decided to try to grow from seed.
I had found this verse in John 12:24 very comforting. “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” I thought it might be nice to see this in action.
It was. I planted a couple of tomatoes and basil seeds, and I had more tomatoes from one plant than I had the year before from eight plants.
It was all about not rushing it. I grew the seedings, and then slowly moved them outside. Then I buried most if it back in the ground taking my 8 inch seedings and making them a three inch plant. Then as it grew, I pinched off the buds for a month, until it was good and strong and full of life. Moving slowly was key to life. A year of tomatoes came from the death of a seed.
HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
It wasn’t until I got serious about gardening this spring that gardening revealed to me that I was indeed healing. I don’t know that the gardening caused this, or just revealed this, and it was probably a little of both, but I remember starkly the first time I thought about doing something that would not bare fruit for a few years. We talk so much about the importance of being in the moment, but in the hardest times, being able to believe there might be a better day in the future is even harder.
I do think it is why gardening has been so key to my healing. For years after Shah died I truly couldn’t believe life would ever be good again. I knew I could learn to enjoy the light in the moment and bear through the pain, but couldn’t imagine life actually being good. Gardening is equal parts beauty in the moment and planning for an even better future. I have beautiful lavender and flowers in the front, bulbs planted for spring, and rotting food mixed with leaves that I’m hoping will one day feed my garden as it grows.
WHATEVER IS . . .
There is also something so pure about gardening. The news is full of death, evil, and destruction. The world is full of evil and brokenness. My job is focused on protecting the vulnerable from exploitation,;which means I spend more time focused on exploitation and brokenness than most (thought it is much better than my prosecution days).
Gardening provides the best outlet for me to fulfill Phil 4:8. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”