How do you connect with the land you stand on? The land, the Earth is a living entity, while our home, also holds stories of oppression and degradation. The work of decolonizing begins with ourselves and the land we stand on. Connecting with the land for healing is not only about ourselves but to do the work of honoring and unpacking the legacies we’ve inherited, both personally and collectively. When I started gardening, I often reflected on my ancestors' hands and bodies forced to work the land, but how the land was not the enemy. I wonder if the soil still held solace for them?
I’ve always felt a connection to the earth beginning with a deep regard for it’s beauty. Growing up in California, the rolling hills dotted with oak trees, the redwood forests were a place of magic for me but I could also perceive the suffering of it’s inhabitants in my own body from a young age. I always wondered about the people pushed off the land. I wondered how they lived and what they intimately knew about the land. I think it was so present in my mind because we are nature and children are so intuitive and pick on subtle things. As a child, I lived on Ohlone Land. Today, I live on Meskwaki, Sauk and Ho Chunk land. The land holds their memories.
And while the task of doing my part to begin the work of healing the world’s suffering is large, often seems insurmountable, there are small, tangible ways we can cultivate collective healing, for ourselves, our lineages, our community. We are all connected.
Gardening helps me cultivate healing within and without. I plant food to feed my family, herbs to heal, flowers for the birds and the insects but gardening has also helped me understand nature within myself. We humans are not so different from the earth. Collectively, we are being called in to repair our relationship with the earth and each other.
In tending to the land, I understand how the elements work on a microcosm. I learn how to be a part of the cycles of nature. I am connected to the moon, the stars, the soil and the sun. The alchemy of water, fire, earth and air that makes up all life, works through me. The elements are reflected in our own being. From the air that rushed into my lungs as my first breath, to the waters that carried me in my mothers womb, the waters within that carried my children and flows through my tears. From the soil, my nourishments grows and feeds my body. The fire of the sun, our star, is embodied in my own spirit, courage, and when I shine my light. We all contain this alchemy, within each of us an abundant inner garden grows.
I found gardening is not only for self care but for collective care. It is a portal to understanding and connection with the earth around us. When I have my hands in the soil, I’m connected to my ancestors whose hands were once forced to work in the soil but understood the earth was home. I honor the people forced from their homes who tended to the same land before me. In caring for a small plot of land, I have intimately connected with my roots. Reclaiming a relationship, repairing an understanding of our interconnectedness. With my children’s hands beside me, I teach them how to care for the earth and others. They learn about where our nourishment comes from and how to nourish themselves. As I tend to my garden, I come to understand myself as a garden. The garden is my mirror. I learn so many lessons on the cycles of life, death, rebirth and how to be a human.
In late winter, I plan, dream, and plant seeds. I cultivate hope in the darkness. What do I want to see take root in the seasons ahead? Simultaneously, I reflect on what seeds I plant in my life through my thoughts and words? What are the possible outcomes from the stories and programs that play through my head? How can I be more intentional with where I let my thoughts go? Have I been planting seeds of love, hope, justice in my heart and mind? Or am i sowing seeds of fear, self doubt, resentments, and anger within my own garden? How does what grows in my heart and mind ripple throughout my life?
Spring comes, I’ve been watering my seeds, tending to them, giving them my love, and attention because I am invested in how they grow. Do they need more nutrients, more light, less water or more water? Do I have an overabundance of seeds? How about within? What about the seeds in my heart and mind? Are my daily actions tending to my intentions? Am I giving my energy and attention to what I want to see more of in my life? Am I consistent? Am I nourishing? How can I focus on what I really want to grow? Composting behaviors and thoughts to start anew. I learn that failure doesn’t define me, but teaches what requires refinement.
In my inner garden, the inputs often look similar, the elements once again: more water, more sunlight, more nutrients, and more communication.
In summer, I pay closer attention to what weeds are crowding out what I have planted. What can be harvested or worked back into the soil? How do I tend to my inner terrain? Are there thoughts and feelings crowding out the intentions that I want to take root? What is growing that no longer serves? Self doubt, mistrust, anxiety, and unchecked fear, are weeds I’m constantly pulling, just to name a few. I assess what I’ve neglected, left to grow wild and unwieldy for far too long. What resources are available for help? What is growing that is no longer mine? Maybe inherited thoughts and actions that come from deep within the ground. How do I get to the root? For me, I found internalized white supremacy, fear, and self hatred when I dug deep. How can I compost this into fertile soil?
I learn growth comes through community support and trust. It takes many hands and hearts as we are a part of nature, of systems, and cycles. This work is not supposed to be done in isolation. I find support through relationships, through my therapist, and through the plants which are energetic beings too. I learn in the process, I can trust myself and I can trust others to help me grow - reciprocity.
And at the end of the day when I gaze out over my garden, even when things have failed, I relish in the journey, the process, and the growth available in every moment. It is here I feel whole, rooted, and hopeful. I find solace and connection with the earth. No matter the outcome, appreciate yourself, rejoice in your embodiment and the abundance within. Without judgement, the earth supports you.
As I reflect back on this tumultuous year and the winding path still ahead of us all, I know there was a great deal of hate and fear in the collective, but there were shining examples of compassion, love, and connection. How do we plant seeds of hope in the soil of our grief, outrage, and discontent? As we move forward, our gardens provide us with important lessons, first and foremost, what we nourish grows.
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