Have you noticed how the Universe will keep serving you the same lesson over and over until it’s learned? At first it taps you gently on the shoulder as if to say, “Hey there, this needs a little attention please.” Then it gets increasingly more insistent. The shoulder taps become more insistent, then violent. Your shoulder gets sore. Ever more annoyed you impatiently swipe the issue away. “Not now” you say. Finally all goes quiet. Whew! You really dodged that one haven’t you? Then BOOM! You are in the middle of a hurricane of an ass-whoopin’. From the eye of the storm you are able to see how ignoring the signs have contributed to the situation you’re in. The Universe won’t be stopped until you pay attention. When you’re lucky it’ll follow up the epic ass whoopin’ with a soft sell.
After the hurricane of this past weekend I dragged myself to my feet and attempted shake it off, vowing to do better. But will I? It’s a lesson that has been served to me many times. One of the places I find joy and perspective is working my community garden plot. After two months of 90 hour weeks some garden time was sorely needed. Time to head over to my garden to dig in the dirt- literally and metaphorically.
Having been neglected the garden had largely gone to weed though though several plants actually survived rather well. Time to clean house and consider how amazing Mother Nature is in caring for her creatures during my absence. As I’m pulling weeds the woman in the neighboring plot strikes up a conversation. She has a thick accent and speaks in broken English. She tells me pulling weeds will be easier if the ground is wet, brings her hose over and says she will help. As she wets the soil where the worst of the weeds grow we chat. It turns out she has been watering my plants- “because you didn’t come”, she tells me, “I help!”. She smiles. Mother Nature had little to do with the successes of my garden. It was my Secret Gardner all along!
Secret Gardner offers one of her garden tools to help with my weed pulling. It is so much better suited to the task than my poor little trowel! As we chat Secret Gardner points out plants I thought were veggies were actually weeds! She tells me to pull them and I do. She says she visits every other day for a little while or the soil dries out. Sage words of advice.
While I work on clearing my plot of weeds Secret Gardner goes off to water her other garden plots. After a while she starts singing and reciting something- poetry? Joyful and beautiful. I worked away at my weeds while listening to the birds, the insects, and her song.
In the space of a 10 minute conversation Secret Gardner painted a perfect metaphor for my life. The lesson the Universe has been serving me over and over summed up in a brief interaction with a stranger. I haven’t shown up. For years I’ve been burried in my work, which I do find great joy in, however overscheduling also allows me to ignore the real work of maintaining connections and building community. Those things that can simultaneously be sticky and difficult and are also some of the most fulfilling things in life.
Last year I joked that my garden had grown accidental tomatillos- crops I hadn’t planted. This year as I cleared away the weeds there was a good bit of barren ground. And there were accidental tomatillos to fill the space.
So many parallels between gardening and life. It is necessary to show up to do the work. Showing up regularly and putting in a little work each time helps avoid marathon weeding sessions. Caring for things in a more gradual, gentle, and sustaining way lightens the burden on any given day and makes for a healthier garden. Creating space allows the things you plant to grow, holds room for the accidental joys (tomatillos) to manifest, and sustains the things you want to cultivate while making room for the things you didn’t know you wanted.
While digging in the dirt it occurred to me that there are countless secret gardners in our lives, friends and strangers alike. I started to recall small kindnesses- a simple need seen and fulfilled without fanfare or comment, a kind word, the lending of a garden tool. How many of these small kindnesses are anonymous and go completely unnoticed? How many opportunities have I missed to extend similar gifts to others?
Ok Universe. I’m listening. Let’s do this.