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Growing Pains

August 28, 2017


Watching a bumble bee make its way slowly around the late summer blooms, I absentmindedly wonder what it must feel like for that to be the only thing you really have to think about- in all your entire life.

Sustaining and pollinating.


Very important work-


Vital to the evolution of our whole organism, and yet, there really is no thinking about it all.


It’s instinctual.


It’s all about survival.


Weaving in and out of layered gardens, together with the bugs and the trees, my senses are saturated by the sounds of water trickling, splashing onto all the green and red and yellow. I run my fingertips through soft grasses and over velvet petals as I inhale the scent of growth and life, right here, right now, as my search for perennials begins. I carry a hope to fill up empty spaces in my garden but there is a yearning to fill a hole in my heart.


It’s been four years since I left the gardens and deserts that changed me, so utterly, completely, and profoundly.

Oh. How I miss them every day.


After we left those places, the longing became so unbearable, like that of missing a long lost lover who you know will never return to you, no matter how much time is spent in yearning and regret.


Some days, I could hardly breathe from the pain of it all.


Just to go back and plant my feet firmly into that brilliant red Earth- one more lazy Sunday afternoon to lie beneath the avocado trees that, every day at morning’s break, would generously nourish my child with his first foods.


Doubt and anger would regularly stream down my face as my heart kept breaking over and over- finding places I didn’t even know it had grown.


If you were to look up the definition of ‘homesick’ in the dictionary, there would be a picture of my soulless eyes staring back at you.


I felt like an alien in my own land- a stranger to myself.


I was afraid- and believed I was so very alone.


And as is the way of it, what I was most afraid of was what I needed most to do.


But how could I let Africa go?


If I let Her go, I was convinced, it would be as if the good parts had never happened. If I let go and settled HERE, it would be as if who I had become there, had never even existed. Like it had all been some distant, far-fetched dream.


I had completed my metamorphosis amongst the bright lavender blooms of the Jacaranda tree- I had arrived there a girl, but left a woman. I’d become a wife and a mother.


Africa gifted me with the opportunity to learn exactly what I was made of.


A fighter, a survivor, braver than any of my childish dreams.


If I wasn’t there, rooted in the richness and reality of those experiences- was I still really any of those things?


She had found me, I decided, so she could keep me.


I held on.


I resisted.


I relived the glory days- if only in my mind.


And as a result, I forgot how to grow.


Roots buried in a shallow surface of the past, I convinced myself that was all I needed. I figured out a comfortable way to keep lingering in a cracked pot of memories, because it was mingled together with the only African soil I had left. I refused to mix in any other dirt, as I was waiting for the time when I would be transplanted back “home”, placed in the garden I had conjured up in my mind.


The grass was so much greener out there in that other space. I was sure of it, because I had seen it with my rose colored glasses. I figured I could wait.


But while I was waiting, I slowly began noticing how dried out I was becoming, how limp and lifeless I was feeling. How parched and thirsty I was- for connection , for a place to lay down my roots.


I was withering away, in my broken pot, the fertile freshness of new beginnings all around, and still I refused to get out because I was just so overwhelmed and I guess, afraid-of the work, of the fear itself-of letting go.


My husband came to me one evening, and in the exhaustion that is left at the end of an evening full of stories and bedtimes and trips to the potty that were the result of limitless sips of water. He confessed to me, tears pooling in his eyes, that he could tell I was withering, and try as he might, he just couldn’t figure out how to keep me watered anymore. My pot, confining and ‘safe,’ was cracked to the point of no return, and everything he kept pouring into me was leaking out. Fear had left me too hard to absorb anything. Anger had fueled the energy to pack my roots together, leaving no space. Life giving water was just rolling right off the top, being wasted in a puddle on the floor.


So sweetly, so selflessly, he promised, “Whatever you need, wherever you should go, whatever you want to do- please figure it out. For me, for the kids, but mostly for you. We can’t watch you wither away….we need you come back to life, to grow- we need you to bloom.”


So, on a cold and sunshine filled March morning, I gathered with a group of women who were just like me, and completely different. We were a colorful array of cultures and races, life stories and experiences. We were there to learn about plants. We meditated in our teacher’s sacred gardens, spreading fingers and toes within the blooming life of chickweed and violets, singing heart songs, writing soul poems, mingling with the Earth, waiting for connection.


Together, we discarded the confinement of our damaged pots, using the cracked pieces to make a mosaic, reminding us of the hard times that had brought us to this place. We sought out growing spaces full of green, ready to be cultivated, waiting just for us, in the great bright Sun. Every month since, we enter the garden, together, with the plants, who are becoming stronger and brighter and lovelier, as they are fed and nourished by the Earth- the rain and the Sun….together, we are finding ourselves, each other, The Way.


I step back and survey the work that I have just completed- I’m digging around in blooming beds- I just planted a native Virginia Butterfly Weed, touted to attract winged creatures, striped bees and all the good garden kinds of things. The hostas are blooming, and the Motherwort is spreading like crazy, the tippy tops of her proud little head peeking out their new growth of lavender that I will soon harvest and make into a tincture.


As I rest beneath the shade of our giant Magnolia, I am struck by her fragrance and presence, solid and feminine, steadfast and present, always evergreen. I consider the power of acceptance in Nature, and think about a time out hiking, when we came across a tree trunk that had been forced to grow into a strange, unnatural U shape. It was amazing in its ability to adapt and be molded by its environment. It is survival at its best- becoming a work of art, as it had figured out how to grow around whatever had gotten in its way.


The tree never stopped growing, and although it took me some time to realize, as most things do, it turns out, neither had I.


Envisioning my garden growing, and what it would look like a few years from now reminded me that when we surrender and accept where we ARE, we suddenly realize where we are, is in fact, exactly where we NEED to be. And when we are where we need to be, we eventually understand that place, even if it is the furthest space from where we ever dreamed it, in the end, is all we really ever wanted anyway.


I miss Africa every day, but finally, with bare feet rooted in the Virginia soil, working alongside my ever patient husband, raising these two little beings so lovely and so loved, I can say, as I scoop that last bit of soil into my weary hands, I am EXACTLY where I want to be.



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Jessica Buchanan © 2017

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