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I spent the better part of four months with sweat on my lip, with dirt caked under my fingernails and into the creases of my hands.
I created space for new growth, pulled thousands of weeds, and yanked invasive species out from the root, chasing them across the yard before being able to pull them completely from the ground.
I split healthy plants and transplanted them throughout the yard, dug holes, and filled them with my food scraps before shoving a new plant on top of them and covering it again with dirt.
I planted seeds in the winter and babied them indoors, cooing at them as small seedlings began to poke their heads out of the dirt. I waited for the moon to become full, knowing the soil would be richer in moisture and would help my seedlings grow. I watched my garden grow, flowers blooming, bushes growing taller than me. I made meals for myself and my loved ones with the vegetables I harvested from the yard.
And yet, there I was again, the days becoming shorter, colder, and I trimmed back all the growth I had created. Chopping back bushes, planting garlic bulbs, hoping that this will be the year that they survive through winter as well. I covered the garden beds in yard waste to keep the soil protected over the winter, internally mourning that my blooms and harvests have passed.
Every day, while in the garden, I couldn’t help but draw the comparison to personal healing and the garden.
When spring would begin to peak its face around the corner, I began the process of uncovering the yard from the winter, peeling back the layers of leaves, and uncovering the fresh dirt beneath. When I built my vegetable garden, I needed to create a clean slate to nurture new growth, the same as we would in healing. As I made this blank canvas for my vegetables, I knew this was the same as processing the pain of my past. I needed to remove the debris of trauma and come to terms with these wounds before I could grow.
Pulling weeds was just like healing some of these inner wounds. Some weeds I could pull easily, their roots coming unplugged from the earth in just one hand. There were other weeds that had taken root and traveled. I was able to pull these weeds but had to carefully follow the root, making sure to not break it, until I reached the source. Some of our own wounds can be so deeply entrenched that in order to rewire them, we have to approach them with intention and considerate care.
When the seedlings began to poke their heads out of the earth, I had to be gentle with them, covering them from a cold night, watering them, but not too much, so much like when we begin to see our own growth within ourselves. When we begin to show ourselves we can heal, we have to provide space and acknowledgement to allow our healing to plant roots and bloom.
One of the most profound things to witness was the return and expansion of flowers long forgotten beneath the cold crust of the earth. Each year, they return exactly where they had been before, bravely pushing their way from the frosted ground, bigger, prouder, and with deeper roots than they had before. Some of the kindest individuals I know have risen from their darkness, their winters, with roots so firmly planted that nothing can shake them throughout the seasons of their life.
And the piece that I can struggle with the most is the deep yearning for the return of spring, green, and growth. As soon as the temperature hints that it will begin to rise, I spend mornings looking out the window, urging the grass to grow a little greener, for the purple crocuses to poke their heads out and greet me as I walk into my front door.
So often, when we experience pain, we want to rush our way through it. Especially when we choose our healing, we have an expectation of how quickly it should happen. Our mind tells us when we “should” feel better, but in truth, deep, sustainable growth takes time.
When the growth does begin to flourish outside, there is such a deep feeling of satisfaction. The time, the sweat, and the planning was all to reap the rewards. There is a pride of knowing that you truly did create something with your hands, with your own work.
The thing about the ebb and flow of the seasons is that we do not judge it for happening.
Perhaps there is sadness or nostalgia when the nights are long and the days are cold, but just as the sun rises the seasons continue to turn. We cannot fight nature, and the same can be applied to ourselves. We are cyclical, and life will continue to have mountains and valleys.
Beauty can be found in the presence of each season of our lives.