Gardens, Harvests, and Healers

The weather has turned. After a stormy day yesterday, today dawned bright, cool and windy. Now, the clouds have rolled back in. The sound and feel of Autumn hangs in the air.

I’m eating cereal with local blueberries, and listening to the Proms on BBC. We arrived home late Saturday, following a week at the family home on the Northern Maine coast. Last year we did not make it to Maine, so this trip was particularly sweet. The eagle who used to roost in the tree off the deck has apparently not been around this summer. He is much missed. However, this week two immature eagles appeared, one settling into the tree! Before Maine, we were visiting family in the Midwest, where we were reminded of the true taste of corn and tomatoes!

We came home to a late season garden. The tomatoes, which never did well, have mostly succumbed to blight. Borers have attacked the zukes and summer squash, and the cukes have run out of steam. For the first time, our leek crop has failed. The chard, however, seems happy.

I also came home to a backlog of posts from bloggers I follow. One of those was by SikiKorean, who frequently writes  about her experiences working as an advocate for battered Native women and their families.

One of my other favorite coworkers is going through a bogged down phase. I feel bad because I just want to pull her out of it because I know how miserable it can be. You just want to walk away from the shelter and never come back while at the same time your work is constantly at home with you. I don’t feel like I ever leave my job… I think it’s karma for all the HELL I put THE UNNI through. She makes fun of me for that LOL When I really think about it, I do like that even if I’m not able to life-changingly help someone I can at least ease their mind that there’s a place to help them.

This brought memories to me. About ten years ago I was responsible for family services at a large homeless services agency. I then became Dean of Students at a small college. My chief task at both positions was to support my staff and colleagues during the rough times. I often found myself wondering whether I was also burning Karma.

There are seasons in our lives. My father loved to remind me, and to teach others, the garden is a powerful metaphor for those seasons. Our task as gardeners is to prepare the soil, plant the seeds, and tend the plants. The harvest depends on the aid of the weather, the beings who predate on gardens, and our perseverance. Most years, one or two crops struggle to produce. Occasionally everything thrives. Some years the harvest simply fails.

My father was a master gardener. He did his best, then accepted the outcome, whether good or ill. He taught us not to take the ups and downs of the gardening year personally. We were only to do our best. Acceptance can be very difficult in a bad year, or when we find ourselves surrounded by the suffering, and self-harming of others. At such times, we may benefit from taking the long view. So much comes together to create this moment. Sometimes we have leverage, other times we do not. Sometimes, even the shaman must hug her patient, and acknowledge there is nothing to be done. In those moments, caring and loving must be enough.

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