Over the past few weeks I built some fences. Yep, Me. All by myself (well, the children helped a little and my sweet husband figured out how to make a 70×50 garden a square instead of some wonky rhombus). I feel very thankful for the ability and determination God has given me. I also feel effing achy and sore because that’s a lot of posts to drive and holes to dig and…it’s just a lot, okay?
It took me many hours over several days to build these two enclosures. I had so much time to think and observe. The Donald Wyman Crab Apple went from barely opening blossoms to nearly spent while I pounded posts into the ground. It was such a gift to stand in its shade and enjoy its beauty. The weeds grew, were tilled under (big mistake) and grew again while I strung the fences. The bees came, and the birds, and just yesterday, to cries of delight from my children, the butterflies as well.
I have gates to put up still, three of them, and I don’t really know how that will work out. I learned how to cement a post into the ground, and how in the world I was supposed to be able to use the post driver on posts which were eight feet tall, so I trust that YouTube or some smart person I already know, can teach me how to secure a gate. And I’m waiting that for a couple of days anyway. Today I will stand back and admire what God allowed me to do, I’ll contemplate whether or not it is good to be this stupid stubborn, I’ll watch the monarchs find the milkweed in the pasture.
There is still much to do, everyday I wake feeling already behind these tasks. I did get cool season veggies in the ground (umm, yesterday, when it was 85°, but they’re in!!), but everything else still needs to be planted or brought out of the greenhouse. The yard is a field of dandelion fluff which I will regret to be sure, the main flower garden has been seeded, but will be full of grassy weeds by the time seedlings are tall enough to weed around. Once those chores are done others will arise.
This is why I love Spring and Summer. There is always, always, always something to do. And while I admit that I’d love to sit in the shade on a scorching day with a glass of rum and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation; I’m happy to do the work. Especially now that I bought myself a tool belt, seriously, who knew how much of a game changer that would be.
I used to sit here each morning scratching out thoughts on a page. Not looking for acceptance, but seeking to hear my own soul more clearly. I haven’t come to this place in quite some time, not that I don’t still have questions to wonder aloud over. Rather, the being simply still was too much amidst the global pandemic and fear mongering. I had thought that the writing was good for me, enabled me to get my thoughts out of my head, work through them bit by bit, and I would say that I don’t doubt that process even now.
My routine had to change though.
Much like yours did I am sure. And so I began, in the early morning hours before my children awoke I would read all of the news articles I could, trying to understand as much as I could. Looking for reassurance in the numbers or potential outcomes. As I was forced home at the end of winter with no friends to visit, no homeschool meetups, not even grocery shopping was “allowed”. My only link to friends and family was social media, something I will admit is not good for my mental health. It pulled me in with cute baby pictures, but then led me down ever-spiraling rabbit holes of conspiracy theories. I could not pick up my phone or sit down at my laptop without feeling my heart rate increase at the fear that was surely waiting on the other side of my device.
Fortunately, anxiety and I are old friends.
I recognized it and what was causing it pretty quickly. I was able to insist I leave my phone on the charger most mornings, that I not open my laptop until the children had spilled their raucous energy into our family space. I’ll admit how hard it was to not know what was going on. I wanted the information; how many people had died, how quickly the virus was spreading, I needed to know how afraid I should be. Except I really, really didn’t.
There were a few days where I had to ask my sweet husband to take my phone from me. A realization early on told me that this routine would not be sustainable. My days could not continue in this overwhelm of information and input outside of my control.
Everything was outside of my control. When I focused on those words I knew that “control” could not be where I swung the pendulum from, yet “out of control” seemed to add only more fear. “Outside” though…that was a word I could start with, and so I did.
Most of my days since mid-March have been spent outdoors. I have dug into the earth while the ground was still cold and heavy and wet and I have felt the weight the soil held deep in my own soul. I divided raspberry beds on a damp, cool, misty morning. Far too early or not nearly late enough in the year to do such a thing. As the brambles scraped my skin and the fog lay around me I knew the quiet sharpness and dense peace of the world was still here, just as it has always been. I hauled mulch and moved plants, I ensured the greenhouse stayed warm and the seedlings grew strong. I built, and rebuilt, a coldframe, and have a better plan for it for next spring.
I stayed busy.
You see, writing keeps my mind hyper-focused on my problem or my concern. That was not what I needed. I could do nothing about Covid-19. There was no real way for me to solve this problem, even for my own family. I needed to physically wade through it. So many friends tried to help, wanting me to Zoom chat or Facetime or come to other online dates. I’ll admit the thought of those interactions still fills me with dread. If that becomes the norm I will have to fail yet again at being normal, because I despise the online interactions. What helped (helps) me most was staying busy. Not as a coping mechanism, please understand. I needed to put all of the anxiety, fear, worry…more into action. I could not sit with it, write it away, it needed to be handled, dug into, moved around. Gardening was the way I have dealt with these feelings. It is, yet again, how I made it through a hard season.
There were also early Spring wanders through state parks with my littles. This walking with small people wakes me back up to what is needed. I’ve read somewhere a poem about how you can not take just anyone into the woods with you, they won’t feel it the same way and spoil it for you somehow. I believe this to be true, but taking my littles into the woods with me is a gift to my heart. They don’t often go my pace, they are sometimes rough-and-tumble when I’d prefer smooth and calm, they occasionally would rather make epic slow motion videos of themselves jumping off a half-fallen log while I could endlessly sit and watch the sun shine through fern leaves. However, the rhythm we have together is made perfect when we go wandering. I have clung to those rambles on some of my hardest days.
I share this today as a reminder to myself, I was not in a good mental place this past spring. I worked through it in a fairly healthy way though. The digging in the earth has sustained me through some of my darkest days. The wandering in the woods has carried me through some of the darkest thoughts. Knowing how I did it “then” helps me know that I will be able to do it again, and I will need to do it again.
Again, I am sharing this because, yes, the days get hard dear ones, but you are still loved, and I am still here for you. We are going to make it to the other side, to see what is out there beyond this muck, together.
I dug in the dirt on November 28th, 2020. That makes this a good year in my book. Yep, that’s really all it takes for me to see the good. Warm days late in November where the soil is not yet a block if ice, where I can peek under the fallen leaves and still find green herbs. I moved some raspberry plants and dug some peony roots in anticipation, took down some chicken wire fence to be used again elsewhere.
This was a good day.
At one point I sat, near the compost pile, in the sunshine, wrapping twine to save for another use, another day. The dog came and lay in the fresh earth beside me for awhile. It felt all too perfect for this world we live in, like I was just a little too blessed or fortunate to live this life. I want to remember that feeling on the days where my trust is lacking, my faith is faltering, my hope for the good dwindling.
There is good. And, for me at least, it is usually found in the dirt.
How long does it take to grow a garden? Can you rush it along and hurry it to it’s final, beautiful stages? Can you drop store bought plants into the ground, mulch heavily, water and then sit back and relax away the rest of the season? Is it possible to work diligently for one solid season and enjoy for the rest of your days? This is not just about the garden dear ones.
I can assure you it takes a very, long time.
This is our seventh Summer living in the midst of my garden. Each year, except this one (so far), I have carved away more and more sod to lay garden beds. Lilies, Iris, Lilac, Hosta, Coneflower, Borage, so many more now spill out everywhere. Happily thriving in the rich, heavily composted soil. My sweet husband once replied to my request to extend a bed with something like; “Well, it’s less to mow.”.
Y’all know how hard the winter is on me here. The garden itself and the work done in it is what saves me from deepest depression. Oh sure, there are myriad other contributing factors, but really, the garden keeps my soul above water. I can see it now, this year as I have faced walking away from it. I can see that I did not just grow a garden, I have grown a place for my soul to sit with God and find rest amidst all of the work it has required of me.
I have grown the garden for the riot of color, for the produce, the herbs, the smells, the feel of the dirt under my nails and on my knees…but there is so much more. When you pour yourself into something, like a garden in Minnesota, you get to miss it and think of it and dream of it for several months of the year. It is something to be desired, longed for, ached over even. It is not just a space to sit and sip rum ( I wrote about this once) or a pretty place to rest; though it is that as well. For me at least, though I know not for all of you, a garden is a place to straighten out my thoughts when they are more scattered than daisy seeds on the wind. A space to pray the darkest, scariest, most fear-filled prayers while surrounded by light.
As I mentioned, this is my seventh season in this garden, and this year for sure it is a little out of hand. We were enjoying ourselves at the beach for the month of June and so the garden at home was allowed to run wild. I have been gifted truckloads of mulch twice and that kept the weeds down to a minimum, but the flowers (and the wild-flowers, aka weeds that I allow to grow in my space) took the month to explode and grow and soak up all that my absence allowed. In the old testament it is required to let the fields rest in the seventh year, I wonder if the Jewish people were still able to collect some sort of harvest from those resting fields? Did the fields still provide something of value to those people as my garden has provided for me even as I have given it (part of) the season off?
I wonder about this as I wander among the raspberry brambles collecting as many berries as I ever have in the well-cultivated years. I don’t know how this matters to you, but it matters to me. I can’t help but assume that whatever seeds fell to the ground in those ancient fields would have grown up in the season of rest, even without tending. Sure, there would have been weeds and wildflowers too, but…
Provision is a word that I can not help but associate with my Creator as well as with the garden He allows to grow up around me. He provides all things in their season. He allows all things at their most perfect time. He gives good, good gifts. I see this clearly not only because I grow a garden, but I see it amongst the flowers and herbs more than most other places. This Summer as I look around our yard, trying to decide what to do next (both in the immediate and life-altering sense) I have found my rest, I can see the provision ever-more obviously. This is not what I expected to find here.
This morning I definitely planned to write about the garden, to reveal to you in some small way that it takes a lot of time, effort, and passion to grow. I wanted to examine a bit how the garden has shaped me as I have worked to shape it. Somehow I have lost that track. Now as I sit, I can only see how the Lord has provided so many, many times for me. There has never been a moment that I have strayed from His care even when I ran hard and fast away from His will for me. I’m not really sure I can finish this post well.
I have been sitting with a decision this past week. Well, really we’ve been working on this for the better part of a year now, for me though a lot of it became real in the past couple of weeks. I wasn’t really going to tell you how I have realized that I could not ask all of my people to do something “just for me”, even though they were willing. I wasn’t going to write out how selfish that made me feel or how I knew at once the words were spoken that we could not follow through with our plans at this time in our lives. I was not intending to let you know that we changed our plans and were moving hard and fast toward a different end, yet here I sit typing it all out.
And now that plan is changed as well.
The garden is where it began and this garden is where I will stay. I didn’t come here this morning to tell you that we were not going to move away, but I suppose maybe I did. I wasn’t completely sold on the plan to stay here in this house, in this neighborhood, in this garden. Typing this out though has made me realize more than I would be willing to tell you. I now realize that knowing your family is willing to move across the country for you, in planning to do just that, and then choosing together to stay. That is not the abandoning of a dream, but the realization that you are truly loved, there can be no fear there.
The garden. Provision. Goodness. Peace.
Someday I will go friends, though it seems that day is far off. I’m a little sorry for dragging you along on this emotional journey, but not too much so. Over the year of planning to leave and the last couple of days and weeks in deciding how and where to stay, I have seen how loved I am. How connected to community we are. How leaving this village would not benefit any of the people I love enough to do it. I had felt that there was too much concession on my part, but that’s just not true. I am not giving up a dream, merely postponing it. And I completely trust that wanting this one thing and receiving another will work together for our good. I have no fear and no regret, only peace…though it did take some time in the garden to get there.
Have you been up early at all this Spring? I swing back and forth, as some of you know, from rising at 4:45 A.M. and sleeping until one of the children wakes me. I greatly prefer to have the quiet of the morning to myself, but if the teeny girl has been up three or more times in the night it’s really just too hard to wake up early and to be a good person. For the last ten days or so, I have been out of my bed before the children though. Waking in the silence and the dark of my house, sitting with a cuppa and my Bible or my journal tracking all of the goodness that fills my days. I love this. I have missed it.
The early morning has brought the moon back into focus for me as well. Have you seen the moon in this present cycle? It has been so clear in the early morning that it lights up our yard, Venus always following hard after. If I end up taking a drive East I can sometimes spot Mars, low and glowing a bit red above the horizon. The predawn hours are my favorite time to stargaze and moon-watch. Never is this more true than in early Spring when it is still dark until the littles wake up, and yet not too frigid to step outside in stocking feet. This morning I went out in my bare-feet onto the deck to breathe the cold air and watch the waning moon shine out over us all. It was so peaceful, even in town.
While I have never been one of those girls who believes that the moon controls the behaviors of school children or criminals, I can’t help but feel it’s pull on me. Since I dug my first garden in 2002 my daddy has sent me an “Old Farmer’s Almanac” for my birthday. I was always thankful for the inclusion of full moon dates and the guide to planting by the lunar cycle that this publication included. I have followed lunar cycles for planting for most of my gardening years, trusting the best time to plant based on not just warmer days, but the full moon. I have looked to the night sky, tracing the path of the moon as curiously as I have done many a thing in nature, to say this is just one more thing is possibly, yet not quite entirely, true.
This year in our homeschool is an Astronomy year. While we unschool pretty exclusively I do follow the trivium model of classical education if only in concept more so than practice. Are you familiar? The trivium divides the schooling years into three segments; Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. The classical model then further breaks these groups down into four repeating themes; Ancients, Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation, and Modern which you explore once in each of the three phases. So each year our kids are free to learn what they please, knowing that mom will bring home all of the books about whatever stage we are in. That I will insist we take part in certain activities that tie in to the phase we are focusing on and that I will plan some activities to interrupt their free time but that fit with this more classical model. (For a jumping-off-point, please take a look here; https://welltrainedmind.com/a/classical-education/ if you’d like to know more about classical education as I am by no means anywhere close to an expert on this!)
I had always thought I’d classically homeschool my kids, until I tried to school Mady that way and realized I had birthed three stubborn driven babies who have their own ideas and interests. We got stuck on Greek mythology in the Grammar stage; I mean, we were knee deep in myths for most of that year, not just the Greeks; Egyptian, Norse, Roman. I didn’t want that learning or excitement to stop simply because we “should” be moving on. We are basically lost in mythology again now that my oldest little is in the beginning of the Logic stage. My kids just love it and I love it because: the moon. Ancient history ties in with the study of the night sky and makes perfect sense in how it does. It is easier for me to get my kids to study the sky because so much of what we see up there is linked to mythology. They have heard the names for the constellations, they are familiar with how different ancient people began knowing and understanding the stars and the planets. I guess I’m just saying that it works for us. Perhaps this is one of those homeschool momma ramblings where I am merely trying to convince myself that they are learning something…
The moon in Spring is easily my favorite, how can one not love the Spring full moons with names like; Worm Moon, Pink Moon, Flower Moon? Even pushing into June with the Strawberry Moon! This year the Worm Moon coincided with Spring solstice and was a Super Moon just to add to the fun. All of these things were added together in our homeschool as each of my children drew and created what they believed would burn this knowledge into their brains and deeper subconscious. They seem to enjoy it and the teeny loves it most of all. Honestly she loves that she is a part of these lessons, but the moon is something in her environment that she can see and interact with from afar. Being able to tell her daddy that the moon is waning shows her that she can know “bigger” things. Seeing the Super Moon fall on her birthday last year she has remembered how bright and big the moon was as it rose and she will carry that with her for as long as she chooses.
I was wondering recently if teaching the phases of the moon mattered anymore. If knowing the names of each of the full moons was even an important element for us to be considering. I’ve decided that it is. In our studies (and I use that term pretty loosely here friends) of ancient cultures we’ve seen how so many people have taken the time to label the moon and stars. How primitive societies have lived and learned by the cycles of the moon and it’s affect on the seasons and their activities. I feel like in giving my children this knowledge, it is a readying of the soil of their minds. They can add more information on top of this understanding as so many peoples have done before them, but that perhaps by skipping over this, some of the lessons we learn later won’t take root.
As the sky turns pink this morning and we begin another beautiful Spring day I will continue to lift my children’s eyes, my own eyes, to the sky. Contemplating the moon in all of it’s cycles and phases. Yearning to understand my connectedness to it, while also being grateful that I know I am connected to it at all. The final thought for this post is a reminder of sorts to myself. Once we know something we can’t un-know it. That knowledge will forever be deep inside of us. Perhaps mythology, perhaps the moon, perhaps a vague understanding of the how and why of the universe won’t inspire careers for my kids. It is enough for me to know that I have passed on some tiny piece of ancient wisdom to them. Some element that man has wondered over for millennia. That’s what schooling is for us really; the hope that we can inspire wonder.