Getting My Hands Dirty

St John’s Wort

I have always loved gardening. It is one of the things that I did not come to late in life, though many of the greatest things about me have bloomed late. I tend to look at myself as a gardener of life. For many folks, I am compost. They may think that I’m poo, or full of it, but what they can’t see is that from their interactions with me, from having my amazing self in the gardens of their lives, things grow in abundant beauty.

It seems to be a fact, though, that in my own home I am to be body-blocked from gardening. I have made beds, composted, hauled rocks and manure and plants donated by friends. I have planted and tended, weeded and watered and stood fast by my denial of all things chemical in my garden beds.

My gardens are shrinking though. A few years ago my husband and I were embroiled in negotiations about what to do with the edges of our vegetable garden. He wanted to edge everything with stone or treated lumber. I wanted to use nothing, or split, cedar logs from our property. We never reached an agreement. I went out of town and came back and he had done all of the beds his way, using treated lumber, and he stood proudly by as if awaiting my excited praise. Imagine his disappointment when all I saw was his negation of my feelings, my research and of our ability to ever agree. He took all of the power and did what he wanted and then expected me to be happy about it.

I haven’t helped in that garden since, not in any real way. The heart has gone completely out of it for me. I look at the wood and feel the damage of the chemicals leaching into the soil. I sometimes sit and pray there, calling on the Devas, offering healing to the plants there, but it is no longer my garden.

Instead, my son and I made one, small, round bed on the other side of the house, outside the kitchen door. It is, perhaps, three feet across. I asked my husband to help me move a small rose bush there. I prepared the hole with rabbit manure and compost, added some banana peels and we dropped the rose in. She has flourished.

Last spring, my husband wanted to do something involving a dump truck and my one, small bed. I told him to drive around it. Not surprisingly, he waited until I left town, yanked out all of my plants, including the rose and the chives he had practically obliterated with the weed-eater while using on the plants in my ONE, SMALL flowerbed. He jammed the rose into a pot and did the same with most of the other plants which subsequently perished. The rose is still struggling along. Me? Not so much.


I feel like there is not one sacred place for me on this land now. I am expected and pressed to keep my gardening to pots and to never, ever, get my hands into the soil. I *need* with a deep, visceral realness to be able to push my hands into the dirt, to know that as much as I find this land sacred, that I am also a sacred being living on this land. In fact, the land seems to get that. My people, not so much.

The final gut punch came today when my 13 year old daughter ‘weeded’ one of my remaining beds at her father’s command. She pulled out my Evening Primrose; ready-to-bloom zinnias; Catnip; and St John’s Wort and threw it into the compost with a wheel barrow load of grass and other weeds. I was upset, to say the least. In 30 years of gardening I’ve run across St Johns Wort and Evening Primrose plants for sale exactly once. The plants that were brutally murdered today were those plants.

In, “The Heroine’s Journey,” Maureen Murdock quotes a woman, saying, “‘Now I garden. I’ve never gardened before in my life, but now it is the only thing I can do. I love the earth. My family is worried about me, they want me to go to a psychiatrist, to go back to work, to smile again. They miss my income. They think I’m crazy, but I don’t even hear their words. I’m finding my way back to me in the earth every time I turn it over.'”

That is me. I wander out into the yard and feel the desire to dig, to plant and tend in every bone of my being and yet, I know, that there are people all around me watching, ready to trample my efforts with every sort of vengeance. It breaks my heart.

It breaks my heart that they think that they can trap me inside a box, a flowerpot, a house. That they think they can stifle my power by doing what they do. Don’t they understand yet that my power cannot be held inside a box? That even if I plant my seeds in pots, the pots cannot contain what grows in them? That no matter what happens to this garden, or that one, my path back to myself with explode in any direction because this growth is what must happen in order for me to continue living in this world.

When I think of the things that have been stifled or have died in the name of control I can feel Durga rustling around in my heart. I see myself with a machete, cutting away things that must go. None of them are plants.

One Comment on “Getting My Hands Dirty

  1. When I saw the dead trees in your front yard, poisoned by gravel treated with pesticides, my heart cried in anguish.

    We now have to be just as careful with what we put on our land as we do with what we put into our mouths. We live in a time where all processed foods should be considered potential carcinogens. And, it seems, we live in a time when mulch, gravel and lumber will also poison the land. There are no labels on our food saying “GMO Corn products inside—POISON.” I’m sure there was no skull and crossbones on that treated lumber or gravel. But if we partake unknowingly, we are still at the effect of the contamination.

    What a painful experience, Be. To feel the call of the land,YOUR land, the land you grew up on, the call to dig and plant and nurture and be nurtured… this is a call I know you feel in your bones, in your sinew, in your heart… But when you’ve answered that call, the masculine (in the over culture and in your home) has not just disrespected your efforts, the fruits of your labors. The masculine has poisoned, killed, and eradicated what you labored for and loved.

    Even if that poisoned gravel, and the treated lumber, were hauled away, how many years would it take to return your land to it’s previous condition of vitality? My heart aches for your land. And for you.

    I’m so sorry.

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