soil work, soul work


It's hot and I'm pulling weeds out of the dirt. Sweat is starting to bead up on my forehead and I look at a long row of gnarly grass ahead of me. I’m tired but I force my gaze down on the stubborn foliage under my shadow and keep cutting the dirt, pulling up roots, and casting away what would choke out the good.

My mind is also in a sweaty place of detangling thoughts that have some very deep roots. I've been doing a lot of soul work this year. It has been hard and it has been sweaty and I have often wanted to give up.

Last autumn felt like what some might call a “breakdown” but it felt more like a slow breaking… like a crack in the ceiling that starts small but begins to travel. I was suddenly standing in a garden overwhelmed by weeds and I couldn’t find my way out; I couldn’t even see a place to start. I sat in bed with my husband as the words spilled out like tears, “I can’t seem to outrun this…”

Much like a novice gardener pulls up a handful of leaves and roots without knowing what it is, I couldn’t have even told you what “this” was, but the last few months have helped me name it better.

“Unaddressed trauma,” “stored losses,” and “unexpressed grief,” are what I call it now.

My husband graciously offered me the “permission” to see a counselor. (Not that our marriage is one of “permissions” but I needed his nudge to move forward.)

I started meeting with a great counselor and sitting in ACA rooms trying to claw my way out of the chaos in my head, identifying poisonous roots, and sweating through one day of soul work at a time.

And I’m happy to now look up from the dirt and see that I am recovering.

Recovery reminds me of gardening for many reasons. Neglect, drought, poor boundaries, misidentifying, and choosing to stay ignorant (aka not realizing you are a gardener) can really wreak damage on a beautiful piece of land with potential for beauty. But attention, consistent nourishment, open space, naming what is, and inviting a wise Gardener to teach you how to care properly can transform any piece of broken land into an oasis.

There’s also a pace to gardening that has been so restorative for me both in the inner and outer world. There are seasons, and waiting, and working, and watering, and waiting some more, and savoring, and slowing down, to then working to prepare to do it all over again.

In the mornings and evenings when I water my garden, I begin with a buzzing in my head to rush and hurry and check off one plant so I can move to the next one. But as I go, my pulse starts to slow. I watch the tiny droplets fall on the leaves and the soil soak in every drop. My mind also begins to rest, to carefully ponder the day, to gather anything that was painful or beautiful and identify where those things belong.

This work is hard. But it’s also really, really good.

And who is to know what fruit and beauty lie ahead if I keep remembering my connection to the Vine? He is the Gardener who is wise, gentle, and curious. I’m just trying to keep learning from Him.