It’s been over a year now since I started my community garden at the encouragement of my friends Tallessyn and Trelawney. The earth heals, they told me–and I needed healing. I couldn’t seem to find my place, my sense of home, in L.A. (I never have transitioned well), I had left my community in Boston and in many ways I had left my heart there also.
Tallessyn has written before about how the earth brings healing. In her article, “Can Creation Help Heal Society’s Wounds? What grass and garden pets teach us about the gift of grief,” published in Focus, a publication of the Boston University School of Theology, she shares that, “nature is the great equalizer. No matter our power or privilege, the truth we need to remember, perhaps, is that we never left–we still are earth, and to Earth we shall return” (PDF pgs. 17-18). She writes that time spent in nature is “medicine” (something my friend Edyka Chilomé has also taught me recently). Tallessyn explains, “anyone who has spent any length of mindful time connecting with nature, from wilderness to window garden” knows that “Creation confronts us with our deepest wounds.” And I have found that, like with other medicine, we are often afraid of it – mindful time with nature may reveal to us wounds we would rather not see and we sometimes have the terrible habit of turning away from our wounds and grief. However, I appreciate what Tallessyn writes: that if we are willing to see grief as a gift, we can then begin to move through it toward healing—and mindful time with the earth helps us discern our way through this process and begin to be released from our anguish.
I hear her. I have felt the truth of her words, experienced it. When Tallessyn and Trelawney encouraged me to begin gardening, it was an intimidating experience. They told me to start small, even with just one little plant: put it in soil, into the ground, and “let us know when you are about to plant it, we can be there with you in spirit.” I did, and with lots of help, the small garden turned into five raised beds with overflowing amounts of food. As I sat there recently, having the realization about the expansiveness of the earth and my need not just for sky but also for earth (my post recent blog post), I came back around to what Tallessyn wrote in her article:
The truth we need to remember, perhaps, is that we never left–we still are earth, and to Earth we shall return.
The healing I needed I found as I sat on the ground in the midst of my garden. As much as I love the sky and the views of my city—and living in my second-floor apartment—I came to also realize, to remember, that I need the earth just as much. I need the expansiveness of both but had been neglecting the earth and failing to be at home within it. And here is the deeper truth, or wound, embedded in my insight: I have not been at home with myself.
I don’t know if it was in the transition back to L.A, or the completion of 11 years of graduate studies, or because of falling in love, or if it was simply the fact that life changes and I was not attentive enough to be mindful to what was taking place, but I had definitely lost my grounding. Further, I had been trying to regain it “out there” somewhere, either in the expansiveness of the city, in my relationship with others, or the community I didn’t yet have in L.A.
I realize that much of what I have needed to do in order to transition well into my life in L.A., and in order to form healthy mutually enriching relationships, is to be at home with myself, to return to the value of my own be-ing. My dad often feels the need to tell me that I have to put myself first—he doesn’t mean it in any kind of narcissistic way, but in a self-preserving way: Yourself is all you got – he says to me – without you, you don’t exist. So he cautions me to not lose myself—to not live only in response to others or to that which is external to me. Start with me; start from the place of my own being, because if I don’t, I effectively cease to bring myself to the world. This seems like a lesson I have to relearn over and over again.
For my healing, I needed to not only return to Earth, that which we never truly leave, but also to myself; my healing is a process of reintegration. The home I’ve needed requires me to ground myself in my own being and to ground myself in the Earth—which, I have come to understand as the whole of which I am a part containing therein all the medicine I may ever need. It feels good and right to write that…but does that make sense to you all also?
When, in my previous post, I wrote about my restlessness, about how I noticed that my modus opendi had been exhaustingly destination-oriented, never with a sense of having yet arrived, what I left unsaid was that as I sat on the ground surrounded by the overflowing growth of my garden, my deeper insight was that in returning to the earth, I was returning to myself, and in that moment, I was already home.
P.S. I am so grateful for the powerful women, my friends, who teach me a better way to be and live. You are my teachers Tallessyn, Trelawney, and Edyka – thank you!
Xochitl Alvizo, loves all things feminist, womanist, and mujerista. She often finds herself on the boundary of different social and cultural contexts, and works hard to develop her voice and to hear and encourage the voice of others. Her work is inspired by the conviction that all people are inextricably connected and what we do, down to the smallest thing, matters; it makes a difference for good or for ill. She teaches in the area of Women and Religion, and the Philosophy of Sex, Gender, and Sexuality, at California State University, Northridge. Her volume, co-edited with Gina Messina-Dysert, Women Religion Revolution, is available through FSR Books.