Planting A Life: How Keeping A Garden is Good for the Soul (March)
By Rev. Judith Laxer
The year grows. The third month marches in and flowers begin to bloom in the northwest garden. Primrose and Crocus boast the first welcome colors in the landscape. Lenten Rose hangs delicately from her yellow green stalk, a sure sign of resurrection in the season of Spring. Soft green shoots emerge through their blanket of papery brown leaves promising tulips and daffodils, hyacinth and iris. My soul is uplifted as I witness.
I am anxious to get my garden going. I long to buy a plethora of vegetable starts at my local nursery and get this show on the road. But something tells me that exercising caution in early Spring will save me heartbreak in late Autumn. Move the rhododendron, yes. Build the new raised bed I’ve been dreaming of, yes. Mow the lawn if I must. But be very selective about planting just yet.
There is an order of things in nature, like a specific dance with its own sequence of steps. The workings of a garden are like a full length ballet telling a specific story. Like all fine art, it requires time to learn the steps and discipline to perfect them. Soil is the stage from with this drama will unfold. Nature’s rhythm is the music to which it is danced. And I am the stage manager. My job now is to make sure that everything is in place and ready in time for curtain.
First I must prepare and set the stage. I weed. I chop and turn in last year’s unbroken leaves used as mulch. I remove any stones that have mysteriously surfaced and break up the clumps that have formed. I amend the soil with compost and fertilizer. Secure the trellises for the beans. Determine who grows well with whom and map out where to put them. (I rotate my crops even in my city garden. Last year’s garlic patch will be this year’s beets.) I know the stage must be well lit for my agricultural tour de force so I stand poised, waiting until at least after the Spring Equinox so that there is enough daylight for photosynthesis to assist in healthy growth.
What I desire in this years’ dance will determine when to plant. Broccoli and cabbage, or any other cruciferous vegetable, peas or poppies, are planted or sown early in Act I, when the temperatures are still cool and the season, like the story, has yet to unfold. Act II plants are those whose seedlings need more warmth, so I don’t want to ruin the story by, for example, planting corn in March. Act III plants will fill in bare spots later in the drama and finish the storyline. The garden teaches me planning, putting, patience.
It causes me to ponder why we keep racing to the finish line all the while complaining that life is going too fast. If we were to return to living in earth time, we would not only slow down our experience of times’ passing, but ensure that we have more of it. My soul wants to savor, not rush through, the miracles my garden offers during each season. The return of life to the surface of the planet is one such miracle and I don’t want to dismiss it by scurrying onto the next. I want to ooh and ahhh over my sweet cicely’s grand jete up from the soil, every sweet pea’s languid port de bras, every carrot and tomato’s romantic pas de deux.
There is much to do. And although the work begins now, it is not necessarily planting my garden just yet. The work is in preparation, provision and rehearsal. It keeps me on my toes.
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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