Tending


With sunlight bursting through the windows this morning, I knew today was the day…

The yard was calling, needing her grass locks trimmed and winter leaf blankets removed from her beds. With dandelions and violets blooming, mating calls in the air, and arthropods on the move, the signs were all there to prompt that inner call I’ve been waiting for.

Time to tend the yard.

I always love when spring reaches that full-steam-ahead energy, as I feel the rise of new possibilities once again. As we leave behind the lethargy of winter, spring brings a freshness and reminder that nothing in life is permanent…everything has a cycle and season. Cold, grey harshness will end and give way to warmth and growth and an abundance of life. Then there will be slowing, death, and life again. If nothing else is certain, change is a constant we can rely upon.

Of course, this year is different than any other that most of us have ever lived. We have a global viral pandemic that has pushed the pause button on everything, and we’re feeling a level of uncertainty and fear that we probably never thought we’d encounter outside of war.

Our homes and yards are our sanctuaries right now, more than ever. It’s likely the one place we feel safe, though admittedly, some of us may feel stuck. We can’t make supply runs on a whim; we have to carefully consider if we actually need to go out or not. And if we do, then it requires planning and forethought for personal protection and organized, minimal shopping. It’s not a time for browsing, meandering through the aisles, to let ourselves slowly ponder whatever it was we were looking for, whether it was food, home goods, or garden supplies.

As I gathered pinecones and sweet gum balls before moving the lawn, I chuckled with the irony that this was the only kind of gathering permitted at the moment. I surmised that meetings are best done in the field, and touching your nose IS allowed if it’s with a dandelion blossom to fill your lungs with its sweetness. Hunting and gathering of fallen twigs seems okay, along with browsing the emerging spring ephemerals, frogs, and caterpillars. Howling at the moon, being enchanted by owl calls, and staring at stars also feel safe and acceptable.

I went back to the task at hand, cut the grass, then considered the daunting task of removing dead leaves from my front porch and flower bed. I live at the end of a cul-de-sac, so my front yard gets everyone’s dead leaves. They crowd in on one another each winter, wrapped together, clinging in vast clumps around anything that will hold them still. No social distancing there, for sure.

It takes hours to do this first spring cleaning. I removed my boots and socks, determined to leave less impact on the yard as I ran back and forth with the wheelbarrow. Working barefoot also makes me be more present, for if I’m not choosing where to step, I will be quickly reminded by thorns or sharp needles about my lack of attention.

As I started the careful work of removing dead leaves, I wondered if gently pulling them free from fresh greens feels like having your hair brushed…you know, like when someone lovingly untangles the knots, slowly so it doesn’t hurt?

As I excavated the leaves one layer at a time, so as not to accidentally pull new growth of tender perennials, I was greeted with the bright red leaves of a native I had just planted last year. This task had started as necessary, but morphed into a treasure hunt.

As I kneeled on the ground, bent low and stretching gently to navigate the multitudinous thorns of a rose bush, I thought about how holy this work is…tending.

Whether we’re tending a garden or some aspect of our life, we are reaching to become whole/holy. It is a grand and daunting adventure, wrought at times with tedious tasks or rapid river rides, but holy it is. We are part of a whole, and life here on earth lets us experience every aspect and every cycle…life and death, over and over again.

So as we're struggling with what feels to be a vast unknown right now as humans, there is a peaceful joy to basking in the sunshine. There is life in the soil, resilience in the sounds of spring, and growth to be had, if we’re willing students.

We have a unique opportunity to remember we’re part of a whole - part of nature, part of the animal kingdom. We have the chance to reconsider our lifestyle as we plant our vegetable gardens out of need rather than desire this year. We have an invitation to dance in union with the light and season, while time is less constricted by clocks and calendars during our seclusion.

Perhaps this is a great vision quest, and coronavirus will help us crown ourselves with the gifts of nature, the joy of simplicity, and the grace of silence. Maybe we'll remember that we are part of something bigger that supports all life on this planet. It’s likely that the human species will survive these trying times, even if human-designed systems fail. Nature serves life, and we are part of it. Death serves life too, though that’s harder to reconcile with.

We are invited to consciously participate in this whole holy adventure. 

I wonder how this chapter in our story will go.

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