By Deb Avery
When our mind is clear, when fear, anger and despair no longer rule our thoughts, but are instead replaced with trust, love and calmness, a shift occurs.
This shift can change us and everything in our life.
The breeze blows gently as I sit rocking on my back porch. It’s peaceful here surrounded by the old oak, hickory and poplar trees. The flowers, plants and shrubs placed here and there throughout the backyard were lovingly planted by my son and I many years ago when he was just a small lad.
Some have multiplied and grown in abundance with little need of my interference. Some grow and flourish with the lightest of touches and gentle attention. But others have been lost over the years. Droughts, lack of water, disease and poor soil contributed to their demise. But what remains is priceless to me, for they and I have something in common—we are survivors.
This small piece of land that I call my backyard, is an oasis of peace for me in a world gone mad.
Yet it has not always been so. For mixed into the soil itself are the blood, sweat and tears of my labor and from the life I lived in conflict and far from peace. Yet, even in those dark times, I could put my calloused hands in the rich dirt, made myself from my own compost heap, and feel the connection to the very essence of nature and life itself.
I have cried tears of frustration, anger and despair into this soil. There were times, exhausted from trying to live an inauthentic life, that I would simply sit feeling numb, trying to escape the pain in whatever way I could. There were even times I wanted to get away from it all. This was especially true in those summers when the water that came from the spring ran low. Those were the times when the rain was scarce and the temperatures would soar and the spring would lose half its flow. Water was rationed. Flowers and plants had to come last—if at all.
There is a deep sadness in the heart when the plants you’ve watched grow from seed, tenderly cared for and communed with daily, begin to wither and die right in the middle of their prime. A little part of you dies right along with them. But those with strong roots or healthy bulbs always came back. And if I was lucky, some of them didn’t die until they had left the blooms that would become next seasons seeds.
I lived my life much as the flowers and shrubs in the garden.
Sometimes only my roots would survive and it would take some time in the dark to recover and rise again when springtime would come. Other parts of me were evergreen like the juniper and rosemary; sometimes covered with ice or snow, but still green underneath. Those were the parts of me that loved being alive with my son, nature, the animals and plants.
There are many memories of struggling, tears, not knowing what was coming next, or how I was going to get through it. There were many nights I sobbed quietly in the garden after everyone else was asleep, worn down from the pressures of trying to be the wife and person I was not—could not be. But then right in the middle of some of the most heartbreaking memories, I also find the good, life-giving ones, the kind that lights up the heart and brings a smile to the face.
The memories of my son growing up outdoors in the garden, grasses and woodland, they are emblazoned in my heart forever.
The joy of taking an outside shower in the garden at night with a camp shower hanging from a hook, filled with water from a barrel, both borrowed from a nearby neighbor because the water had ran out about mid-day while trying to do the laundry. The relief and excitement when the rain finally came and I danced in the garden until I was soaked and chilled to the bone, but loving every moment of it; my son running, splashing and squealing with delight.
There were the nights sitting out with the moon’s beautiful light all around us. And the time the mother raccoon leading her babies crossed the yard not 6 feet in front of where we were sitting. Not rushing, just strolling across the yard with babies in tow and lined up behind her, apparently headed to some late night raccoon festival. So many happy memories among the sad.
For this is life, with happy and sad memories strung together like pearls on a most precious necklace.
As I sit here, looking back at the life I have lived, there isn’t much, if anything, I would change, even if I had the chance. For all these memories, all these pearls of my life, they have been strung together to make a stunning piece of jewelry that I wear proudly.
The pearls are not cultured.
No, these are the truly beautiful, natural pearls with flaws, uneven shapes and colors. Yet they sparkle and shine more with each passing day. How I cherish each and every one of them. Like the garden that I share these memories with, they are priceless.
So here I sit and rock as I look out over the backyard with the garden, the grass and the remnants of the old house I grew up in and lived for 16 years of my adult life. The only things remaining of it now are pieces of wood and the flattened roof awaiting a huge bonfire this fall. A lot of my life was spent within those now broken pieces. And for awhile I was just as broken and in as many pieces as it now lies.
A part of me will miss the good memories stored within the lumber, sheet rock, wires and pipes. But the new me, this happier, more peaceful me, will be glad to see some of the reminders go up in the flames.
Life can be so bittersweet at times. Sometimes the best we can do is to make use of what we have, where we are, at any given time. I have tried to do so. And what I have learned has helped shape me into the person who sits here peacefully, in gratitude, wearing a beautiful necklace of many pearls.
Editor: Daniel Scharpenburg