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There is a shrine, and it comes downloaded through my heart, and out through my hands.
A sacred place for communion with earth. A place for rest and gathering.
It is my garden.
Long before it began to take shape, there was a vision. The clarity of space and nourishment was distinct and unwavering. From the very first sighting, the vision took root in my mind and settled there, as if in hibernation. In growing steps, the vision became the holy reality.
As limbs and broken fences were cleared away, I began to play with the soil. All sorts of treasures were discovered, from bottle caps to antique bricks, unearthed as I put my hands and feet into the earth.
A composting corner was started and developed into a space four times the original size. It is the place where completed parts are transformed back into the soil. It is a reincarnation of matter, inviting bugs and worms of all sorts. When the change is complete, the dark richness in them is transported to the new life being planted. It nourishes and fuels the growth.
Marble pieces line the shaded spot under the tree. This tree turns a magnificent golden yellow color each fall, floating the leaf confetti down to the ground. Sometimes it is gentle. Sometimes, when the wind is strong, they flurry down and swirl into corners in the garden.
The final portion of the fence was replaced one spring, creating the backdrop for the first beds planted. I learned a lot that year about sun and shade on this sacred ground, and how the tree that guards the west border between our home and the next, takes no mercy on seeds planted too closely to its root system. I now know to give a wide berth.
Each season, another rectangular plot was added. One winter, I shared my garden with a dear human friend. Now when I see the life planted by her sweet hands, I remember her with a smile. The tall chicory stands proud each morning, towering above the tomato plants, donning beautiful lavender flowers.
The yarrow has spread its roots, creating the new plants that are carefully transplanted around the edge of the marble border. Someone else may only see whisper fringe of a couple long leaves, sprawling over the somewhat bare ground. But there is a vision. I know that in perfect timing, the edging will be softened and completely green with plants and flowers. It will frame the space where humans can sit for meditation, yoga, tea, or a chat.
There is a portion of the south fence that is painted white and black and it looks like a portion of a piano. I carried that picture, clipped from a magazine, for years in a folder entitled, “dreams.”
Below this musical creation are the bulbs that I have also carried around, to five different places. Sometimes I had to leave them for the next humans. That would send me on a pilgrimage back to my childhood home to dig again. My mom and I walk around the sprawling acreage where she still lives, me carrying the bag and her carrying the shovel, collecting a new set of plants and bulbs for me to bring back. These have been carried for generations. I remember them at my grandmother’s home. I even remember the large lily bulbs from my great-grandmother’s home.
There’s a strip for herbs close to the patio, for ease of clipping when cooking. The most recent addition has been some seed sweet potatoes, mailed to me by my dad. He gave instructions, teaching me the difference between planting sweet potato slips from these, and the seed potatoes planted in towers.
The more love and attention put on the soil and the plant life, the more it grows, softening beneath my bare feet. It is never complete. I will always have a new addition.
Each morning I walk the complete garden, this holy shrine that emanates peace and healing. I examine and prune, and plan for the afternoon work—my respite, in the soil.
My cats join me. Toby looks longingly at the trees, climbing at times, and taking a peak at the dogs next door. Remi finds leaves and hides herself among them, watching us intently. Miso is the opposite of the indoor cats visiting outside. He is an outdoor cat that visits indoors. The cushioned seat at the table where I work each day has his hair and paw prints on it, as if to remind me that I am visiting his domain.
There are portals into the magical space. Miso knows them well. One is where the fence joins the house, with a hop onto the window sill of my office, then to the ground. Another is a tricky hop from a tree stump, to the top of the fence at the back corner. It requires a tightrope kind of balance to get to the corner, where he hops over to another yard for exploring. Sometimes he comes through the slight space between the bottom of the fence and the ground, slinking in and out of the garden with the ease of a dancer.
There is an unspoken communion with the animals. The ones who live here and the ones who visit. Sometimes it is a mama cat that is hungry and will bring her babies just to the edge of the fence. She eats eagerly from the outside bowl of kibble, keeping a close distance between her and the babies.
Sometimes it is a late night tom cat that needs nourishment, sneaking up to the large glass door to eat. At times, it is the nervous, wild kitty that is lean and lank from lack of sustenance who sits tentatively at the edge of the garden. We take the food out further from the house and the cat will gobble it down, glancing up at any sound.
Garth, one of my cats, spent his final six weeks of his earthly life in this space. I learned to meditate this way. Every morning, regardless of the weather, we sat with a blanket and a pillow and listened to the meditations and I journaled.
As he became weaker, he would go out to the edge, lying down on the grass next to the patio. When he was done soaking up the sun and the earth, I would carry him back inside. He told me when it was time for him to pass this world it would be in this spot. Now there is a small garden space there with chimes for his spirit.
Yesterday, I came out as normal, putting my coffee and notebook on the table. As I began to take my journey, I saw a small, still body lying next the the garden with kale and peas. It was a beautiful, long-haired young kitten, with light black hair, lying on its side. It had simply stopped walking, laid down, and passed this realm. This baby chose my garden. This sacred space was the peaceful spot.
Amidst my tears of sadness, there is gratitude. I am so thankful for all I know. I know the head stuff. I know the heart stuff. I know the spirit things. As I whispered farewell to the sweet body, the soul whispered back, “see you soon.” My cat whisperer nodded, feeling the warm tears as they baptized the closing.
When I returned to the garden, the resident felines were drawn to the spot that the baby had chosen. Without touching the space, they each circled the ground, paying homage to the life. Today, there are flowers planted there.
My garden sanctuary is sacred ground. Just as I did in my childhood, again with my daughters, and now in this season of my life, this garden is where my soul rests and recharges.
I am in one of the happiest places I know when I am on my knees digging and putting precious seeds into the ground. I am birthing life over and over again, to plants, animals, the memories of my families, to me.