June 7, 2013

Lessons from My Greenhouse. ~ Christine Fortier

“Pick up a shovel and plant some shit.”

Ron Finley, Guerilla Gardner

So that’s what I do; I plant shit and lots of it.

I didn’t always farm, and in comparison to what most people imagine when they think of a farm, I do it on a much smaller scale. I can’t even say that I have a plan really—I learn by doing, at the very least trying and every year I learn from the mistakes and successes of the previous year.

It all happens as one day blends into the next; I roll with mother nature and receive what she has to offer at any given time.

This year was a late start—the frigid temperatures and late-winter blues, both of which stayed with us until April had me feeling heavy with reservations about this years harvest.

I needed to get my heart pounding, my juices flowing and my gardening hat on.

So, I built a greenhouse.

It wasn’t an ordinary greenhouse—bought from a big-box store and assembled from pre-cut pieces of plastic in an afternoon—but one that was fashioned from an eyesore of a structure occupying the southeast corner of my yard. It’s where I stored my ‘stuff’—tools, wood, soil and the parts of a wooden playhouse bought online that I never managed to erect.

It’s where I buried my shit—where things ended up to be dealt with later, forgotten for a while, maybe even to hopefully disappear. Out of sight and out of mind.

There is only so long that you can ignore the structure bursting at the seams with things still to be dealt with; seeds planted years ago were now weeds that had entangled and rooted themselves in my life.

I held on to the thoughts of failure, of being vulnerable and not good enough, smart enough or even worthy enough. These deeply rooted feelings have held me back in so many other capacities, but I was determined to tackle the unknown. I questioned these thoughts often and wonder: what would happen if I put myself ‘out there’?

That little structure was a stark reminder of what I do when I find myself stuck in my own personal life. I bury it. That way, no one has to see it. But eventually those dark, cramped areas become the elephant in the room.

It was horrendous and I couldn’t look at it any longer.

So on a cold April morning, I ordered a 14 foot garbage bin which stood in my driveway for one week. In those 7 incredible days, I de-cluttered, and began what was to become one of the most important shifts in my life. It was a project that forced me to also peel away layers of myself; it was about digging into the darkest, ugliest corners of this structure.

I started by stripping away the walls, then the roof, and by the time I was done, it was nothing but bare bones. A skeleton devoid of it’s cluttered contents but now holding the opportunity to start new.

Then I began the job of rebuilding….

The foundation was sturdy, the frame was strong and the opportunity to sustain the elements of mother nature was set. I could see beyond the ugliness and could envision what could grow within this structure. I could feel it’s energy manifesting with every bead of my sweat—I saw life growing, seeds blossoming and my heart aflutter with love and anticipation.

On the other hand, I had limited knowledge, funds and time. And I needed to have this completed soon if I was to begin seeding my seeds.

In meditation one evening, I was inspired by the thought that there is something about human nature that compels us to want to help others. That what we often see in others is often a reflexion of our own nature. Having the courage to not only give, but to also receive fearlessly and without shame.

Yet, I doubted myself—I questioned my capabilities, my insecurities of years past re-surfaced.

Was I weak? Did I sound helpless, needy and insecure? More importantly….was I begging? Doubt your doubts, right?

My first attempt to ask for help was with my ex-husband. I bought a crow bar and peeled away the shingles on a freezing cold day, but didn’t have the strength to remove the chip board roof. He did, and helped. Asking my ex wasn’t the easiest thing to do, as I still held resentment and angst towards him. He genuinely wanted to see this built for me and he knew it was important. So, without reserve he stepped up without asking for anything in return.

Money has always been an especially sensitive issue. As a yoga teacher, I’m not swimming in dough, even though people might think living where I do automatically makes you wealthy— it doesn’t.

On the contrary, it creates more fear around the subject—for me at least. I reached out to my Facebook friends one afternoon. If you don’t ask, the answer will always be no—non? On this particular day, I publicly asked if anyone would be willing to barter energy in exchange for wood. I’d barter food harvested from my garden, private yoga/Pilates classes or whatever I might have, in exchange for building material.

The response was over whelming.

Not only did I receive private messages about wood stored in their backyards, left over material from a deck that was torn down, but I also received (from a wonderful like-minded friend), a load of new 2×4’s directly delivered to my door. She travelled with her husband from the city, made a stop to a Home Depot and bought what I needed to frame the greenhouse.

I was asking and people wanted to help. What a concept!

Finally, it was the actual building of the frame. How do you frame a greenhouse?! Again my knowledge is limited, but I do learn easily. I once again asked a good friend and fellow yogi if he could spare some time and if I could pick his brain to help—he graciously did.

Was it this easy to ask for help? In my mind no, but in my heart it was an astounding yes! Yes! Yes!

Shift happens when we have the courage to begin, strip away the ego and ask for help. The beginning can be the most challenging. What was holding me back was my fear of letting go, my fear of asking, my fear of failure, and more specifically, my fear that if I asked for help, I would be surrendering all control.

When we bury or seed anything, it will set deep roots and as long as we hold on to these thoughts they will grow. No matter if it’s a beautiful flower, a plant, a vegetable or weeds.

The ‘shit’ that I had seeded long ago was finally being shovelled—and what I recognized in this symbolic experience is that I am good, I am capable, I am worthy and most importantly, I am fearless.

Mother nature tells us that exact story over and over again; I choose to to be brave, to be fearless and to live with courage.

My beautiful garden is blossoming on this gorgeous day in June; my seeds have flourished in the greenhouse and life is exploding all around me.

My daughter has made herself Princess of the Greenhouse and takes care of all the fairies living there.

There is a sense of lightness and joy in this structure that was once a place that I could not look at, let alone enter.

And now, there is also that very same lightness and joy within my own structure as well…


Christine Fortier is a mother, teacher of yoga and Pilates, gardner, healer and writer. She believes the most important asset in life is our spirit, body and mind. This philosophy has kept her in the health and fitness industry for the last 12 years.

Christine has always loved making art where movement is involved, as it yields a concentrated mental clarity. In making the shift to the yoga mat, the physical, mental and emotional challenge yoga in particular has provided her the stimulus for so much personal development. Her most intimate soul connection was made after the birth of her daughter, Maya Lily. The experience of motherhood has centered her to a most profound level.  Maya Lily has become her most important guide and teacher, and she embraces each and every lesson.

She’s a strong believer in intuitive healing, natural and homeopathic medicines, as well as living a vegan lifestyle. Organic gardening and farming have been her most grounding and meditative practice to date. A long distance hiker, a nature activist and outdoor enthusiast, Christine has always felt at home within and around Mother Nature. You can follow Christine on her on Root to Rise Urban Lifestyle Facebook page or on Twitter.






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Ed: Bryonie Wise


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