Six months ago, by the light of the bright moon, my friend John and I dug in earth and planted a daffodil with a wish wrapped around it. He had come to the house, after hours of writing his law school essays. He was frustrated and blocked, momentarily out touch in with his own amazing potential–the big dream of his life loomed huge, a mountain insurmountable. So he came to take a break and I dragged him out to plant daffodils.
Max and I wrote our wishes for John on pieces of paper and he too played along. We went outside and planted them, and then having declared what we hoped for him we all gave them over to the earth and recognized that like the daffodils–they too would bloom in time. I told him that now that the Earth was holding those big dreams he could let go of the “biggness” and focus on what was immediately in front of him. I think he thought me a bit crazy (as he often does when I drag him out to do these things) but he listens to me because I cook him dinner and tell him I am old enough to be his mother.
We watched the Caps game and cleaned the house. We stayed up late talking and even spent some time trying to break open the stickiness he was feeling around his essays. Somehow the weight of that essay–the need for it to be amazing as though it was a magic key that would unlock his dreams (or forever keep them hidden away)– made it so big. But I told him if he could just let go of all the meaning he was putting on the essay and write he would have no trouble. He is a gifted writer.
The next morning after Max’s hockey game John went home to write one of the best essays in the history of law school applications. I am sure it would have happened anyway but some how letting go of the big huge massive vision of the change we wanted, trusting it to the Earth or to God or to whoever makes sense to trust, made it easier to take the immediate steps. Its a lesson I keep forgetting but remember frequently with joy.
This weekend I have a heart both heavy and full. Yesterday, 6 months to the day when John planted his daffodil, he left the city where we became friends and headed out to begin his new life at his first choice law school, a top ranked school which not only accepted him with open arms but offered him cash as well. I am so incredibly proud of him for all the tiny steps and big leaps he took to walk the path toward his dream and I miss him because he was in every way a daily inspiration.
For so long now I have been overwhelmed by a very big dream myself, a dream of becoming a healer. On a good day it feels still just out of reach and on a bad day I can think that I am bat-shit crazy. To even get to the place where I thought I might be able to do this has required so much transformation and change and release of fear. All fall, I planted hundreds of daffodils myself, each one of them a prayer that I asked Mother Earth to hold. The flowers are blooming now and for me well its time to get cracking.
All spring, I have been consumed by hundreds of small steps that may just open up the path for me. Truth is I have been walking it already but now after months of slow wandering, it feels as though I am sprinting down it at lightning speed. There are thousands of tiny (but huge!) things that need to be done to pull me a long and I run the risk of getting paralyzed by each of them. We are renting our basement and I need to find the right tenant, line up the contractors to do work on the house (so said tenant can come in). Line up my financing, apply for scholarships, restructure my current paid work, figure out new ways to plug the gap between what I will be making part-time and our current expenses. And yes, I am doing all this while trying to keep our life humming along. To quote a dear friend of mine, I feel like I am balancing a refrigerator on my head. I could at any moment just give up and let the whole thing come crashing down, declaring that it is too damn hard.
But instead I keep remembering what I told John that chilly October night. Give the big dream over to the Earth and let her hold it and just do what is in front of you–right now. Don’t give it too much importance. Just walk, tiny step by tiny step and trust that if you do that, one day, that dream will blossom.
There have been some big changes in our life lately. The biggest came at my paid work a couple of weeks ago. It was the kind of change that calls everything into question and frees me up for new possibilities. It was the kind of change that open windows when doors get closed; the kind of change that promise new adventures if you follow the string. It is also the kind of change that can stir up all my big fears and set my security-loving gremlins all a-tremble. Everything is in a sort of limbo and its completely unclear which way it will go.
This autumn, like every autumn, I am enchanted by how nature is in transition too. Moving from the juicy goodness and abundance of late summer to the stark, bare essential-ness of winter. Leaves let go so the trees can rest. Birds fly away, frogs disappear into the mud. Oak trees lets their acorns drop with the hope that some of them will find fertile ground come spring. Letting go of everything without any promise but with every bit of faith that eventually the sun will come round again. Autumn is the exhale.
These days, as I marvel at nature’s transformation, this deep letting go, I am profoundly aware that in my own personal changes, I have no idea how it will all work out. I am letting go without any real sense of what comes next. The only thing that is inevitable is the change. And I am practicing finding peace in all the ways things are different than I thought they would be, practicing finding my center and exclaiming, “How fascinating” at every squirmy turn.
Yet, through it all I have found great comfort in the simple act of planting daffodil bulbs. Digging into the cold wet autumn ground and hiding a treasure. Its an act of faith, really, planting bulbs. It seems crazy this sticking something into the earth just before it freezes, trusting that despite the cold and ice and snow, the thieving squirrels and other hungry animals that it will ultimately spring into something lovely and green and beautiful. But I do it and I never really doubt my flower garden. I can’t say how or why it works but I believe that God and nature and Mother Earth will do their jobs and come spring my garden will be full of color. Like the trees who drop their acorns on muddy fall paths, I am trusting that if I just let go, something new will (one day) be born.
Its that kind of faith pure and simple that I need right now.
This fall, as I plant my bulbs I am adding a new practice. I am writing on tiny pieces of paper the things I am cultivating my faith around. I am wrapping each tiny piece of paper around a bulb and blessing it before I pile the dirt back into the hole. Every day for as little as 5 minutes a day, sometimes as long as an hour, I am digging, praying silently. I am, quite literally, asking Mother Earth to hold onto my dreams, my needs, my deepest wishes.
Here are just a few of the things I am holding the space for, opening up to, trusting in:
That there always will be enough and we will not want.
That an open path to the next phase of my life will appear.
That I will have the resources to support us and to do the work I am dreaming of
That the cat will stop peeing in the house and my house will smell good every day when I walk in.
That allies and friends will show up when I need them.
That life will slow down.
That Max knows how much I love him and that he always feel cherished
That abundance and goodness will find us and that there will be more than enough to share.
That creativity will guide me and I will grow into the healer I am becoming
That I will know what to do at the moment I need to do it
As the days get darker we need to trust more and more. These practices, which feel so ancient to me give me strength. I have a bag of daffodils and I want to share. Leave a comment here or drop me a line at meg (at) megcasey (dot) com and whisper what you are offering up to faith these days. I promise that between now and Thanksgiving, I will plant you a bulb with your wish/hope/statement of faith in my garden where it will rest all winter before it blooms into magic I promise will be just for you.
When I arrived home from Boston after my birthday trip to the Mother’s Plunge, it was late. We pulled into the driveway and the automatic security lights came on. Like a spotlight they shone directly onto something new.
In my front garden where there had been nothing before, a tree stood. A beautiful tree with a cluster of slender trunks all reaching up to the sky, like a yogi greeting the sun. It was new but it looked as though it had always been there.
A half hour later I stood in front of it with my friend Edamarie, a garden designer who had placed it there, a gift for my birthday. She told me it was a witch hazel. Every healer needed a native healing tree in her front garden.
I have come to believe that everyone who shows up in my life is a teacher, and this tree, no less has much to teach me.
Witch hazel, so strong and flexible that its wood is used to construct bows: teach me to bow to life as it is, to bend not break.
Witch hazel, used to calm inflammation and wounds: teach me to gently take the sting out of life, to soothe those I come in contact with.
Witch hazel, which is so connected to the earth and magical. Witch hazel with your branches used to make divining rods and to discover underground water and energy: teach me to pay attention to the treasure underfoot.
Witch hazel, winter bloom, which only blooms after letting go of its leaves: teach me faith and to bravely let go so I might blossom.
This may sound absolutely crazy but it is totally true.
There is a major intersection I need to pass almost every day. On the corner is a restaurant–and old fashioned inn. They have a pretty garden which does a lot to brighten up an otherwise dismal urban corner, full of concrete and speeding cars. This time of year that garden is full of sunflowers.
Every time I pass, I comment on them, exclaiming to Max (my perpetual passenger) “Look! Look how spectacular these sunflowers are!” These particular ones have flowers the size of my head. Their stems reach at least eight, maybe ten feet tall, maybe even taller. I have never gotten out of my car to stand along side them (though I have secretly longed to do so). Its not good “busy intersection” etiquette. And the garden is private property and all that.
One recent morning, Max and I passed by in the early morning. The intersection was not terribly busy, even though he and I were running late. As we passed those sunflowers, whose heads are now bowing, whose leaves are now yellowing, I said one more time, “Look Max…Look at sunflowers.”. From the back seat a tired Max piped up. “Mom, you always are telling me to look at the sunflowers. Why?”
“Well,” I said, “Because they are beautiful.”
“But they are dying” he said. “”Look, that one is almost dead”.
“They are not dying”, I said. “They are changing. They are giving their power back to the earth, and they too will go there and their leaves and roots and decaying bits and parts will be food for the plants who grow next. And next year they will return again. There are always sunflowers here every summer.”
We turned the corner and I took one last fleeting look. “Oh how I love them,” I sighed. “The sunflowers are so beautiful.”
And just like that a voice strong and clear but gentle and sweet rose up from my heart and whispered to me, “And the sunflowers think you are beautiful too!”. I immediately, without warning started to cry.
Several years ago, during the height of my grief over my marriage, I would go out to my yard an sit with my back against the oak trees. It was the oak trees that initially attracted me to this house–their ancient arms seem to embrace the whole property. This space feels held, if a little shady. It is always several degrees cooler up on my hill than in the rest of town. And I always feel protected. Whenever I would lean my aching back against that tree, I felt like a little girl leaning against her strong grandfather. I knew I was safe.
I have been thinking a lot this week about our relationship to the plants around us. Perhaps it is the fact that I am keeping a garden now. My veggies are not just something that show up neatly stacked at the grocery story, or charmingly arranged at the farmers market, but they are growing in the ground before my eyes. I planted tiny seeds, watched with surprise when shoot grew, was amazed as I saw the plants grow up before me. For the longest time my chili plants seemed to do nothing and then all of a sudden after weeks and week of heat they took off to the races and are now laden with fruit. When I pick them, I realize that something living, something which is always changing, is now changing to the point where it can share with me. It drew some power from the earth and now offers gifts. I will take those gifts and consume them and the power will be transformed. I will be transformed and the cycle will continue.
What i do with that power is up to me. Will I be as generous as the cherry tomatoes that never seem to stop? Will I be as sweet as the carrots which keep surprising me with the size of their carrot roots/hearts? Will I be as beautiful as the sunflowers that take my breath away no matter how heavy the traffic? Will I offer shelter and protection like the oaks.
Some people say that one of the hardest part about making a dream come true is finding the space for it to be born. Is it silly to say that about gardening too? It is certainly true about my dream of growing my own food. I think the hardest thing I will do in my garden this year is to create the blank canvass–to build that elevated bed where my veggies will grow.
I have to be honest, it is wasn’t for the encouragement of my friend (and the pile of brightly colored yummy looking seed packets on my dining room table) I might have given up before I got started. The idea of having to build a bed felt like a scary and uncomfortable amount of work for this fully employed single mom.
The process of building an elevated bed when spelled out in whole felt like so much that I wanted to simply go back to bed and wake up for the farmer’s market. Railroad ties, weed barriers, wheelbarrels of compost and topsoil… OH MY! But my peas wanted to be planted and I was already 3 days behind the Saint Patty’s Day “deadline” for getting them in the ground. So Friday morning, fresh off a red-eye flight I found myself in the backalley moving dirt.
To read the rest of this story journey on over to Backyard Bounty where I am blogging about my first year as an urban farmer!
Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be a farmer. I don’t know where it comes from, this yearning to get my food from the land. Certainly it wasn’t my parents. Just a generation away from struggle they did everything they could to convince me that the “hard work” was more than I bargained for. I grew up thinking that my dream of living my adult life in Iowa in a big white farmhouse with sheep and pigs and fields of wheat and corn and fresh green veggies would simply leave me overwhelmed, overworked, poor and miserable.
And from a political and economic standpoint, they may have been right. Growing food however called to me even as I grew. Some 15 years ago when Juan and I first moved in together, our apartment had a front yard which faced south and was bathed in sunlight. Together with our upstairs neighbors we planted herbs, flowers, and a few tomatoes and chilis. We grew lettuce in a bed in the backyard. We only lived there one year. and that was a year of lots of learning through failure. We didn’t haul in a big harvest but we did play in the dirt and the potential was intoxicating.
But then, we moved into the house where Max and I currently live. I love my house for many reasons but we almost didn’t buy it because of the lack of sunlight. it is surrounded by ancient, wide oak trees. The lawn has all but disappeared and in its place grows a thick carpet of green moss. Mushrooms and hostas and ferns thrive here. Veggies do not.
So I joined a CSA, found a farmers’ market, paid more for the organic label at the grocery story and gave up my dream of growing my own food. Well, rather, I tucked it neatly out of site.
Two summers ago I read Barbara Kingsolver’s book, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” and my dream lifted her head and started poking me. It seems so right to grow what we need in our own backyard. Many of my friends, much of my community have followed in the footsteps of Kingsolver and they are growing their own food. I have sat at many a table with the most delicious beets, the sweetest carrots, with salads picked right before dinner. I have shared in their bounty, bringing home extra cucumbers, tomatillos and peppers. I have made sauce from the tomatoes they could never possibly use. I have been a grateful consumer. But their generosity has only fueled my sense that something was out of place with a garden out of sight.
After years of bumping my head up against my dream of becoming a healer, I decided to take a bit of mondo beyondo advice and turn my attention to some others.
That is why, this year, I am finding a way to the garden. Magic has arrived in the form of neighbors offering unused but sun drenched space in the alley behind their homes. I am building beds where beaten down weeds and ivy and trash cans once stood. I am borrowing a corner in my friend Edamarie’s yard and setting up an elevated bed. And I am experimenting with growing my own food, if not in my own backyard, then in the forgotten corners of our community.
It started this winter, when January winds were still blowing, when I gathered with a gang of more experienced gardeners. I was a total beginner, out of my league but somehow in the sisterhood of these wise women I felt as though I could find my way. It was worth a try.
This Friday, my seeds arrived. I spread them out on my table and basked in all the promise that they offer. Promise of healthy food. Promise of heartbreaking loss due to bugs, or birds or drought. Promise that I will learn to accept what is, whether its a bumper crop of tomatoes or lost crop of peas. Promise of hours in the dirt, digging, hoping to coax something from the land. Promise that no matter what I bring home I will learn something, not only about the art of gardening but also about myself. Promise of adventure. Promise that, seed by tiny seed, I will manifest my dreams.
I will be blogging about my first year of being a farmer over here at Backyard Bounty, the web-home of Edamarie’s business by the same name. Edamarie has launched an amazing business to help people like me grow their own food. Her blog, which just launched this week, will be an amazing resource and a source of inspiration. I hope you join us over there as we watch my garden (and dreams) begin to grow.