I don’t want to fill my schedule with activity, but I am discovering in this mid-pandemic landscape, I have too much time on my hands. As a corrective, I put on a green bandana to cover my hair, pull on the stained and holey overalls from college over the t-shirt I slept in and take myself to the backyard. An onslaught of weeds overtakes a shady garden space. It is hard to see the purposeful plantings with the volume of weeds spreading across the 6 x 15 garden.
I have no particular agenda, but I know that my gloved hands in the dirt help to weed out the clutter in my mind.
I’d woken up hearing the quote, “Don’t believe everything you think.” Lately, I am hearing a lot of things I should not believe about myself as it pertains to my professional life. Maybe I could write about that, so I googled to see if the quote is attributed to someone specific. Allan Lokos wrote that line in his book, Pocket Peace: Effective Practices for Enlightened Living. Just as I consider what a walk through a labyrinth will open before me, I approach time in the garden with the wonder of a fresh metaphor and curiosity about what will spring to mind. Nature rarely disappoints.
I sync body and mind with each fistful of weeds plucked from the ground. It’s a satisfying occupation for a Saturday morning before August heat blankets the day.
I think a lot about how instructive play is for children and lament how we drop it like outgrown toys as adults. My garden is where I connect with the best of my childhood. I remember fondly the grown-ups who welcomed me by their sides as they tackled grown-up chores knowing now how much easier it is to get a thing done without a child’s interference. They fed my curiosity and wonder. They encouraged my playfulness. That’s what I tap into now as I stand back admiring the progress, lifting a pile of nature’s refuse and dropping it into the bin.
Play informs my next move as I see clear earth reappear. I walk into the shed and out with my hoe—the only tool I own that can help me tear out grass that encroaches the perimeter of the garden. I lift the hoe, and tear at the grass with every blow to the ground. I feel by t-shirt dampen with sweat. My legs are shaky from the pressure to keep myself steady and safe. My lower back reminds me I’m middle-aged and that I’m going to feel these efforts in the morning.
The stressors I carried out to the garden melt away with my exertions. I drop to my knees to test the hoe’s effectiveness and yank out clods of soil. I spot teeny earthworms and do my best to return them to the soil before sending the grass flying over to the discard pile. I pick up the hoe and take a whack at the earth from a different angle. Like entrenched thinking, it takes hard work and repeated efforts to remove what’s not working.
The ground before me is a mirror. It reflects back to me a clearer mind. I can see the problems plaguing me, and hints of solutions that may ease my concerns. It takes persistence to remove the thoughts that sabotage progress, the whispers of others who poured their own insecurities into me.
Like in the garden, this work is iterative. The work never ends. Unhelpful thoughts shoot up, and plucking them takes time and attention. The dutiful gardener stays on top of the task, so the weeds and the invasive thoughts stay in check.