Planting A Life: How Keeping A Garden is Good for the Soul (May)

By Rev. Judith Laxer

As a gardener, you engage with seeds twice during the year. Late Autumn for the gathering from what is dying and late Spring for the sowing of what will grow. You’ve been preparing the beds for the last few months, removing weeds, adding compost. You’ve walked around deciding exactly how you will rotate your crops this year, deliberating whether or not you will get the best yield if you plant the same crop in the same place as last year where they did so well. Some say never do that, some say all that matters is that the soil is amended, so plant at will. You’ve changed your mind again and again, but that’s part of the fun.

Though it’s a safer bet to plant vegetable starts here in the short Northwest growing season, and you do, there is something about the mystery of seed that is too intriguing and exciting to ignore. So you get the sweet pea, pumpkin and nasturtium seed you harvested last year, and walk from bed to bed holding them in your green-thumbed hands, imagining their fruition, listening as they silently tell you which ones want to grow here, which ones there. Now is the time to get them in the Earth.

In an attempt to keep the neighbor’s cats from using them as their litter box, you’ve been taking your time removing the dried maple leaves from your garden beds until the very moment you need the space for planting. This is a bit of a new experience for you because usually by now you have cleared all the spent leaves in that first garden-spring-cleaning frenzy. You notice that you have to keep telling yourself that this is an intentional choice, that you are not behind schedule, that it’s okay to keep some dried brown among the moist green.

And then you find yourself on your hands and knees and you remove the crispy top leaves to find the slimy ones beneath, and there are earthworms ( good!) and spiders (yikes!) and then the potato bugs (or are they called pill bugs?) and who knows what else is there, too microscopic to see. But it smells like home. Clean. Sweet. Comforting. And then you shovel in the compost you’ve made during the colder months, with its occasional chip of egg shell that never quite broke down, and you toss in some organic fertilizer and use your hands to mix it all up and aerate the soil, relishing the sensuous feel of it all. And then you draw the edge of your trowel in lines through it, making the rows ready to receive seed. And no matter how carefully and slowly you go, too many will surely fall in one place which will later have to be thinned, but right now you know you are planting the future. Your eyes watch your fingers drop a seed but your mind sees a beautiful flower and your nose gets a sweet whiff of fragrance. Your eyes watch your fingers drop a seed but your mind sees a delightful orange winter squash and your mouth waters at the thought of pumpkin pie. Your eyes watch your fingers drop a seed but your mind sees a spicy edible flower gracing your salad bowl.

It causes you to ponder. What seed will you leave for others to gather when your life is through? What seed of yours will get planted and bring itself to bear long after you have gone? Will your now lived life help make a future generation’s life easier or more difficult? Bring inspiration and wisdom, or indifference and foolishness? Cause a chuckle or a tear? Inspire awe or derision? Will the seeds you leave behind heal or harm?

Suddenly, the seeds planted, the soil tamped down over them, you return from your cultivating reverie to where the clock is ticking and it must rule the day. Standing up, you stretch the stiffness from your muscles, thinking there will come a time when you are too old for this. But not today. Today you know you have left the world a bit more beautiful. The month of May invites beauty to be a priority. And you feel grateful for a priority such as beauty. You just never thought it would make you feel so seedy.

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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