A torn piece of land, not quarter acre in size. A bite of dust on the horizon, a place of the unknown. It looked shallow in its attempt to reach the sky, yet underneath the earth I knew was a mountain just waiting to be born.

A small frame and size, my garden is but a land of possibilities. Giving the right attitude, a purposeful intent and a determined bit of labor this barren place can produce miracles if I only reach downward and put my heart into it. I dream of the lost emotions of love and forgiveness, I search for inspiration and growth, and most important I seek to understand the true emotions that God and I can manifest with a little review and hard work. Nourishment abounds, of this I am sure. It is in the darkest of places for both soil and soul that I seek to find the essence that sustains life and hopefullness.

It was a cloudy day when I first approached my small garden plot. I had recently left my job of 26 years, lost a relationship that I thought was important and had no idea of what to do with my life from here. So I sat and stared at what appeared to be nothing more than unturned dirt. I sat for days looking at this upheaval, and then in the silence of one brief moment, I heard a small whisper off the wind as it called me to its natural existence. This warm and inviting wind, one not seen but often felt through the years, gently nudged a longing within my soul. It addressed the hunger that drives my appetite; an appetite to overturn and digest the hidden meanings to both my life and myself.

Well, I went to the garage, you know how us suburban homeowners are, we keep tools in the place where our car should be and we keep the car in the drive for others to see. It seems that I am always ready and poised for any next adventure away from home – away so that I do not have to think or feel about the issues beneath my own human existence. Anyway, I retrieved my shovel, the one with the shiny and not so dull blade and began my walk to this unforeseen foothill of weeds and dirt.

As I stepped into the “patch” I let my imagination roam. I envisioned bright colors of both vegetables and flowering plants and wondered where these colors had gone and how they might relate to me. The task ahead brought groans through my lungs. My head and body began to swim under the current of a heavy weight. I realized that in order to achieve such beauty, I first had to remove the weeds and other debris that had accumulated there over the years.

There were the old concrete stones that I removed from the patio several years ago, followed by grass clippings and old flower pots worn by the weather. A few limbs cut from trees, another grouping of entangled trees growing wildly in the corner and a little trash from years of neglect. And of course there were roots growing away from the few pines left after building the house followed by a bending yet strong something that mom and pop said looked to be an old Haw tree. And the Hickory nut tree – why couldn’t those squirrels take all these acorns with them when they departed so I would not have to clean up their mess. Still I knew there existed dirt somewhere beneath the Bermuda grass and dandelions and other weeds of unknown origin growing here.

Now the weather was getting warmer. I had begun the day with great joy and anticipation, but soon realized that if I were to get this job done I was going to have to work with nature, not against as my past suggest, to survive.

Several weeks following my initial intent and clean-up, the ripening of a new sunrise revealed my first turning of the soil. Ahh, it felt good to finally get to a point where I could actually begin to see progress. The sound of “crunch” as the shovel entered the earth was like music to my ears (little did I know that this music was going to last longer than expected). Still, my soul began to open as I smelled the dampness of the earth below. Vigilant in my endeavor, I turned and turned one shovel after another, stopping to kick the top soil back to the earth before discarding the uprooted mess that had grown so wild. I had always been told that the top soil was one of the most important parts of the garden – it is the most fertile part of the land carrying vital nutrients to the outer world and below. In terms of my soul I knew that whatever was underneath had survived because of the topsoil of my spirit–the spirit of journey with its central outer layer for the world to see. Huh, I must not be all bad I thought, just a few wrong turns somewhere I suppose. And the fact that many farmers would tell me that it takes almost 500 years to replace one inch of topsoil, well, I knew I did not have that long to resurface the area or allow my colors to show, so I continued to work.

Now after about four days of shovel in, shovel out, turn the soul, break the topsoil, discard the weeds, I realized that I should have started this project sooner. For one, the temperature was beginning to rise quickly and much earlier on the clock as days flew by. And second and most important was the fact that “playing in the dirt”, talking to God in the process and being almost child like again felt good. Hard work was beginning to rally round me to help me prioritize the important things of life. I began to see the good that my mother and father had taught me as a child and wondered how I had become a person so far from the simple truth. As the line in one song goes, “You have to give a little, take a little and even have the blues a little. that’s the story of, that’s the glory of love”. Yes, I was beginning to see the real me. And a little hard work in nature, with earth, the first thing ever created, this very earth was releasing the adopted attitude that someone owed me something or I could ever get anything from life without a little effort or change on my part.

Finally, after two months, my garden revealed a patch of land almost suitable for planting. Hope it is not too late in the year for these beautiful colors I have always dreamed of, I thought. But, one thing was still not right. Most of the dirt that I now stood upon was nothing more than sand. I don’t know about you but I was taught at an early age that a house built on shifting sand cannot survive. So back to the hardware store and farmers fields I went. I wanted to obtain the most nutrient rich addition to soil I could find – poop. Yes, poop of almost any kind. Chicken poop has lots of nitrogen; cow manure has other nutrients assuming that the cows were pasture fed and ate off the grass and land and well, other poop that I just always ignored because it smelled so bad. I must say that the cricket crap delivered early childhood memories of bait and tackle shops and fishing with dad. Now I guess that can’t be so bad can it?

Again, I went to work. Throw a little here, a little there, test the soil with this inexpensive test kit to make sure the ph is good and off we go. New plants of various kinds….a few tomatoes, a little romaine lettuce, a few radishes for the rabbits to nibble on, some sugar peas to bring sweetness to the soul, cucumbers and squash, they always make a good salad and of course some potatoes to add roots to my garden of life.

On this side I will plant a row of trees instead of a wooden fence. I like fences but don’t fence me in one friend suggested. A few Japanese cypress, a few laurel pedlums and oh my favorite – double knock-out rose bushes of every color. My grandmother loved roses. I’ll surround all of this with pine straw to keep it warm and moist, an outline of rocks to help set my boundaries and a little love for the world to see.

What I did not know when I started this project was just how peaceful the setting would be; a sunrise of peace, a sunset of contentment and a haven for birds, squirrels, rabbits and other unknown creatures to visit. Even my cat finds time in her busy day to step out into the world and review her daily mediation with God’s other creatures.

The land represents God’s gift to us as individuals and as a community. Left untilled, the land exaggerates an often toxic flavor that once worked and reworked yields the ripest red juicy tomatoes, the most lush and green varieties of vegetables and an abundant crop of goodness that only resides in the heart of the one who feels compelled to dig deeper and feel the aromatic nurturing that the soil and soul provides. Maybe our body is the land afterall.

Each day is truly a journey and weeds are never ending. I may never complete my collection of new things in my garden but I learned from this experience my own sense of purpose: the need to be one with nature, that stillness is what the soul requires to build and rebuild and most of all I have learned that to walk with nature is to be a loving human being who has put something back for others to see.

Author's Bio: 

Susan M. Dykes is a licensed Massage Therapist, Holistic Health Counselor and now gardener residing in North Augusta, South Carolina.