Planting a Life: How keeping the garden is good for the soul

By Rev. Judith Laxer

Urban gardeners know the labor of love that keeps us connected to the Earth within city limits. The changing of the seasons in the garden are metaphors for the cycles of our own lives. They help us make sense of the ebb and flow, the growth and dormancy, the harvest and the fallow times we encounter along our life’s journey. With this experience comes the understanding of what it means to be soulfully alive and intimately connected to Mother Nature. As we work the soil, plant the seeds, tend the growth, harvest the bounty, enjoy the spoils and then rest for a season, our souls revel in that connection.

I am an urban gardener methodically transforming her back yard into a sacred place of beauty and bounty, creating sanctuary for my heart and soul. I never tire of any aspect of keeping it. On any given day, regardless of the weather, I would prefer to be out there fussing over every little leaf and stem. One exception may be to spend some time at the computer and writing about it. Which is where this column comes in.

It’s fitting that my first column lands in September. It is full on harvest time as all we’ve planted and tended comes to fruition. It is also a time of reflection; what has grown well, what has not, and why. I’ve been happily assessing and devouring my vine ripened tomatoes, pulling up another crunchy carrot or ruby beet, delighted with the surprises sprouting from my own compost, the herbs drying on the wrack, the jars of apple sauce and chutney on the shelf.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that this year two neighbor cats, whom I’ll call Salt and Pepper, have decided to make my garden beds their litter box! Although I have managed to protect and enjoy some of my garden, including the lettuce starts I planted during Spring, my lettuce seeds barely sprouted before Salt and Pepper chose that spot as one of the many perfect places to do their business. In fact, that entire bed has not yielded what it usually does -- not one eggplant, winter squash, tomatillo, cucumber or potato. Even the hardy nasturtium seeds I planted early on, which by now have usually flourished, their bright flowers a treat for my eyes and spice for my salads, gave up the ghost.

This causes me to ponder the needs of the more-than-human-world as we coexist on Earth. I decided this plot of land was going to become a garden bed. Salt and Pepper decided it was going to be something else. How can each of us get our needs met? Salt and Pepper seem to be getting their needs met just fine. I am the one in turmoil, losing out on quite a bit of my investment; monetarily and emotionally, in labor and in yield. I wish they would find another place to relieve themselves. But wishing won’t make it so. I tried asking them nicely to cease and desist. They merely purred. I tried the Findhorn way; mentally communicating which area I left specifically for them and which I had not. But I’m no cat whisperer.

My current plan is to surrender. Mourn the loss of this year’s crops, heighten my gratitude that I don’t rely solely on my garden to fill my supper plate, pile the fallen maple leaves even more thickly on each and every bed this Autumn in hopes of keeping them out during the fallow time, and try chicken wire under the soil before planting next year.

Honoring diversity is the way to a healed future. My pumpkin is no more important than felines. Reflecting on who grows well next to whom and how to maintain that balance is an apt subject to contemplate as the season begins to rust the leaves. On the twenty second of this month, the Autumnal Equinox will bring equal day and equal night as we enter the darker half of the yearly cycle. The weather will cool, the nights will lengthen and the sunlight will wane. Gardeners gather, take stock, and save seeds.

And the cats? They’re probably napping.

Rev. Judith Laxer is a modern day mystic who believes that humor, beauty and the wonders of nature make life worth living. She is the founding Priestess of Gaia’s Temple, an inclusive, Earth-based Ministry with over a decade of service. www.gaiastemple.org, www.judithlaxer.com

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