Ten Thousand Days

Good for the Soul

June 15, 2018

Photo: Tom Ezzatkhah

Day 1381 – Day 1387

We are having a cool and rainy June.  Since so much of May was spent working under a blazing sun to clear and weed my garden, I am grateful for the cool and wet days.  On days like today, I like to sip cups of tea and gaze out the window and let my mind wander.

Yesterday I was at the garden and, like a first time parent, I was doing what amounts to watching the grass grow.  I have a lawn chair tucked into my plot because I find myself getting tired when I’m working all day in the garden, and I need a little rest from time to time.  A visitor to the garden asked if it grew better when I watched it, and I wondered.  I do know that my tomatoes grow better when I talk to them and sometimes sing to them, because one emits carbon dioxide which the plants can use.   I wondered if just being present and really attentive had any impact.

It certainly has an impact on me.

I stood and bent over my garden looking for weeds.  I noticed what looked like alfalfa and I had pulled several similar shoots from the plot when I was first clearing it.  I was curious how I could have so many new weeds in such a short time.  I enlisted a neighbour and together we tried to discern weed from pea from bean from broccoli.  When we could not be certain anymore, I left the sprouts intact.  I was, however, delighted to see my cucumbers, sweet pea and bush beans sprouting along with a yellow squash emerging from the soil.

There is no need to water today , so I find myself yearning to go and spend time in the garden, just looking and paying attention.  I have a kayak race tonight and so I won’t have the chance to go see…but I am wondering how they are doing and if they’ve grown more overnight.

Nurturing something, it turns out, creates a deep sense of connection with it.  Research has shown that we are more bonded to those for whom we have done favours than to those who have graced us with their service.  I suppose that is why mother’s love for her children is unconditional but – to be frank – a child’s love for one’s mother is often self serving.

I’m a nurturing person, and a healer.  I know in my heart that the work of tending this garden is a part of my service to tending to the soul of the planet and changing – in my 200 square feet of soil – some of the energy that is attached to the relationship of the modern humans to the earth.  I do this with attention, and by treating her as sacred.

The earth is our mother and yet I have become a surrogate mother to a part of her bounty.  My children are peas and beans and broccoli and my foster children are the worms that aerate the soil, the birds that come to visit and feed on the worms and the bees that find sanctuary in the flowers I have planted, and in turn, who pollinate the vegetables.  Although I build my fence to protect my lettuce and greenery from them, even the bunnies that come out at night and race one another around the garden are a part of the ecosystem in which I watch these alfalfa-like delicate shoots become bean stalks.

I live in a valley at the edge of the Cascade Mountains.  And to the west of me is the ocean.  There are plenty of opportunities to feel the presence of that which is bigger than oneself by floating on the vastness of the ocean or by standing in awe of the vastness seen from the mountain summit.  And yet, there is something quite egotistical in basking in that grandiosity.  It is humbling and also deeply personal to spend time with the smallest of creatures and watch, with full attention, the micro-movements and changes in the earth.  To participate in the bringing forth of life and to be deeply enmeshed in the ecosystem is a very different experience and fosters a true intimacy with that which is bigger than ourselves.  Rather than feeling our smallness in the cosmos, we become assimilated into the microcosm.  We become not awestruck, but ‘of service.’

This is my first garden, but I have long wanted to grow at least some of my own food.  It is part of my cultural and spiritual heritage to do so.  As humble as it may seem, having this 200 square feet of soil is a dream come true.  My friends have been delighted to see me gardening, and when I ask why it makes them feel good to see it, they all say that gardening is good for the soul – or so they have been told.

I’ve wondered about this, too.

Presence, it turns out, is good for the soul.  To be of service is good for the soul and it creates a sense of purpose in one’s life.  To be in communion with the subtle vibrations of the earth and the interactions between parts of the ecosystem – and to find a place in that ecosystem, it turns out, is good for the soul.

I’ve wondered what their happiness about me tending to my soul has to say about their view of the state of my soul.  I have been in a kind of hell, for which death seemed the only metaphor.  Emerging from that influence to find life sprouting all around me, and partly because of me – it turns out – is good for the soul.


For what are you most grateful today?


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