With May being Mental Health Awareness month, I thought I would write a series of blog posts focusing the spirit, mental health, and creation care.
Several years ago, I found myself standing on the right side of my driveway with a hoe in hand banging on rocky, dry soil. That area had been the bane of my gardening existence for years. During our “yard” phase, I couldn’t get grass to grow, then later when our driveway was paved, the company dumped all the old gravel and broken asphalt on top of the soil. That ground was so depleted that nothing could survive.
On that Saturday afternoon in the spring sun, I pounded that dirt as hot tears streamed down my face. I was spiritually and emotionally weary–tired of my church, disheartened by male leaders, frustrated with the system, and questioning my membership. I had no words left, only tears and my hoe, and I spent the better of two hours working the dirt beneath my feet.
At the end of it all, I propped myself up on my garden tool and stood looking at a 2′ x 5′ oval of shallowly dug ground. I didn’t have much hope for it, but I christened it my “therapy garden” as it had allowed me to work through some of my grief.
In the following days, I mixed in some potting soil and mushroom compost and began with colorful flowers and mulch and items from around my yard–hostas, creeping jenny, and some lamb’s ear. I dug up larger rocks and outlined the bed. By the end of the summer, everything had taken root, and my spirit delighted in the way creation and re-creation inhabited my therapy garden.
For the first couple of years, the therapy garden expanded each season–a blue bird house the spring I was diagnosed with cancer, lilac bushes to remind me of those outside my childhood bedroom window, samples of native shade plants that I’d collected along the way, and blackberries I’d nursed back to health so the birds would have food. Then three years later, our colorful chicken coop and run, perched atop the hill right above the spot where the initial garden was dug.
Don’t tell my other gardens, but this area has become one of my favorite spots in my yard. It’s where I go to rest after a long day of cultivating and homesteading. I lie beside it on the driveway at dusk and listen to the birds sing themselves to sleep. Most days, you’ll find me there chatting with the chickens as they scratch for their dinner.
And yes, I still go there to when I feel the tears well up in my throat or my heart breaking. In reflection, I can honestly say that my therapy garden has probably nurtured me more than I’ve nurtured it.
You know, left to its own devices, Creation has a way of caring for itself. Sometimes, however, if we let it, Creation has a lovely way of caring for us as well.