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Surrender in the Garden

IMG_2007I’ve been gardening nonstop this spring, for reasons that are both known and unknown to me. I come to the garden as a student, and while I can’t entirely say why I’m there, I know it’s where I need to be.

I am not educated in horticulture, but I come to the garden with lust of a young lover. I see a plant I want at a nursery, and my breath quickens. I swoon at its foliage, I drool for its flowers. It is young and and tender, but I can close my eyes and picture where it fits in my life, not in its infantile state but mature and comfortable and strong.

I am not esteemed in gardening circles, but I come to the garden with the longing of a mother’s heart. I want to give the plant a home in the earth. Its tiny stalks and soft baby leaves beg me to nurture it. In once glimpse of the tender plant, I can see myself feeding it in the spring, watering it in the summer, and gently pruning in the winter. I see myself caring for it when it is sick.

I don’t have all the right garden tools, but I come to the garden aware of the tension of needing control and dreaming of surrender. I pay for the plant and call it mine. I dig a hole and put it where I want. I can cut it back to shape it how I want. But I also know that the exchange of money for a plant and a receipt is a formality that doesn’t represent the beauty of the transaction. The plant is wild, and I must surrender to it.

I am on my knees, in that surrendered place with dirt around me and sweat on my brow. I’m here again, for the fortieth day in a row. There’s a sink full of dishes, emails to reply to, writing deadlines to adhere to, and showers to be taken. But the pull of the garden is stronger, and I beckon at its call. I might be hiding from my real life in the garden, or I might be finding my truest life here. Who knows. As I wonder, I dig a hole and put the tiny plant I bought this morning into the ground next to its brothers and sisters.

I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m in the dirt anyways, working with lust and longing and surrender and gratitude. I work out my questions in the garden. I think about my relationships and hopes and fears, but none of it seems urgent anymore. My shoulders are browned and my legs are scraped up and there is dirt wedged under my unpainted nails and in this moment, that is all that matters.

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1 Comment

  1. Bo Salisbury on May 19, 2015 at 10:21 am

    Very,very nice, Carly. I’m right there in the garden with you, through your wonderfully curated and cultivated words, sentences, and paragraphs – a literary garden. My wife, Denise, never had any formal training in horticulture or gardening. But, like you, she has a sense of belonging and an aesthetic in the garden. She has become a master at creating spaces that others appreciate and enjoy. I sit in her garden often, finding inspiration, energy, antithesis, knowledge, wisdom, relaxation, peace, and a sense of completeness or resolution. Yes, a garden can be all that. Yours will grow on you, because it’s growing in you and is providing a place for your family to flourish. The garden is a fitting metaphor for “real life,” where you will find both escape from and engagement with the world as it really is — how that all works out depends upon what you bring into it, what you leave there, and what you leave with.

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