Gardening with Grief, Fear and Anger

by Nicole Wires

“Gardening Is An Act Of Resistance” by Jess X Chen

Last week, I watched with shock and horror — alongside millions of Americans — the selection of Donald Trump as our 45th President Elect, a candidate who has never held political office and has run his entire campaign on racist, xenophobic, and sexist rhetoric.

I woke up the next morning unable to shake the constricted feeling in my chest, the tightness in my throat, the sense of fear, anxiety, dread and anger about what has passed and what is to come.

I begin every morning with a daily ritual — an invitation to wake up my mind, body, and spirit and to honor my ancestors, my wisdom, and my heart. With the words of beloved Poet John O’Donohue in mind, I practice this ritual to remember that:

“Each day is the field of brightness where the invitation of our life unfolds. A new day is an intricate and subtle matrix; written into its mysteries are the happenings sent to awaken and challenge us.
Each new day is a path of wonder, a different invitation. Days are where our lives
gradually become visible. Often it seems we have to undertake the longest journey to arrive at what has been nearest all along. Mornings rarely find us so astounded at the new day that we are unable to decide between adventures. We take on days with the same conditioned reflex with which we wash and put on our clothes each morning. If we could be mindful of how short our time is, we might learn how precious each day is. There are people who will never forget this day.”
(To Bless the Space Between Us)

My ritual begins — always — with touching the Earth. The very first thing I do in the morning, before checking my cell phone, before downloading my news podcasts or checking my schedule, is enter my garden. I do so with mindfulness, with deep reverence and care, with a sense of ongoing awakening. I greet the plants and medicines, glistening in morning dew, with the curiosity of an old friend. I ask what wisdom they have to share with me today. I ask what care I can offer in return. I note the emergence of new buds and new fruits — alongside new weeds and new pests — and respond to each with the unique care and respect they individually merit.

This morning was no different, although I will admit it was hard to open my mind with such a heavy heart. When I feel grief, fear, and anger, I often seek solace in my garden. The meditative practice of tending the earth literally grounds me in my humanity. I also believe that the earth has great capacity to absorb my heartache, vulnerability and rage; and compost it. In every moment of every day, microbial and mycorrhizal activity in the very soil beneath our feet works to deconstruct, decompose, and transform those beings whose time has come (dead plants, dead insects and animals, and even accumulated toxic compounds); creating humus, nutrients, and a bounty of fruits and flowers that nourish us in return. The earth has immense potential to transform everything she touches; to build the source of today’s sustenance from yesterday’s detritus.

This morning, with the heaviest of hearts, I ask the earth, my garden, those plants to whom I give and from whom I take so much, to transform my anger, my grief, and my fear into fortitude, courage, and steadfast determination. This journey is not over. We who believe in freedom will not rest until it comes.

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