Rest so you can tend.
In the Spring, I headed to my side yard on a mission to revive my fledgling raised beds back into the lush, nutritive garden they had been in years past. After my daughter was born, most of my life went on hold. The garden grew partially tended, partially wild. I planted some things, cared for them when I could, and allowed ample space for weeds and self-forgiveness.
By the time my daughter neared her second birthday, I had my parenting legs under me. My daughter could even explore the beds with me as I gardened. I dug into the soil with excitement. This is always my favorite part. The part where I just get into the dirt with a trowel and ungloved hands. It’s a holy ritual of sorts. Partial tending, partial exploration of the underworld, partial earth festival. It’s all so earthy, lively, and fecund.
As I dug into the garden beds, I observed the soil quality. I don’t measure or test. I just use my eyes and hands. I quietly celebrate when I find plots that are dark, soft, and give easily under my hands. I noticed something interesting. Despite all getting the same treatment of litter from the chicken coop and compost in the fall, there were 3 kinds of beds that emerged. A: The well tended garden beds. These were the very few plots I had planted and tended well through the season. These beds had great soil. B: The partially neglected beds. These were plots I had prepped and planted and then neglected. These beds had the worst soil of the lot. C: The beds of total neglect. I didn’t prep these for planting. I didn’t weed. I barely looked at them. They lie ready for weeds, wind and wild. These beds had the most gorgeous soil I’d ever enjoyed on my land. The sort of soil I kept scooping into my cupped hands to hold, smell, and revel over.
There are moments when I’m in the garden and I know she is speaking to me. Who is she, you might ask? I do not know for sure. The earth. My gut. Spirit. Inspiration. But, something or someone definitely speaks. Do you have these moments? The moments where you think you’re part lunatic, part sage? Where the earth under your fingertips grabs you by the wrist and hands you a missive. Well, it happened to me here. This is what she told me: rest so you can tend.
Let me tell you something: I am busy. I have a child, a job, chickens, and a large garden. I know what it takes to grow a wonderful cornucopia of vegetables. I’ve spent seasons on farms. I am aware of the long days and hard labor of growing and making food. And parenting is its own kind of growing season, but the growing doesn’t have a winter to pause. The tending is constant. What I know from all of this experience is that tending takes work. It might be a labor of love, but labor it is indeed.
I heard the message, but felt indignant. I could feel my defensiveness rise. Doesn’t she know how busy I am? How many things require my care and attention? But, I could also feel the flat, dull rise of depletion in my body. I was garden bed B. Partially tended, partially neglected. Planned and planted, then left to its own devices due to overwhelm and fatigue. My soil was gray and hard. In truth, I could not support life. My soil needed amendments and nourishment. Here’s the tricky thing about dealing with self. I can’t just add the right inputs to yield a great output. I am dust and to dust I shall return, but I don’t respond to the right blend of carbon and nitrogen in quite the same way as dirt. My chemistry is different, thankfully.
What I needed as much as air or food or water was rest. Rest is its own kind of sustenance. In order to keep going, in order to keep giving, we have to give ourselves space to rest. It is built into our biology. Into the very fabric of our daily rhythms as our earth spirals its way through orbit. And, for some strange reason, I needed to remember that resting was needed. A natural element of my humanness. In order to nurture all the wonderful things in my care, I needed moments of full, deep rest. I needed to be garden bed C and do nothing but accept weeds, wind, and wild. In order to really tend. Attend and be tender. I must occasionally let the field lie fallow.