I’m writing this on a blustery morning, the springtime sun is obscured by cloud. This past weekend, with the help of my friend the Plant Whisperer Audrey, I finished the garden. We dug new soil and compost, peat, and worm castings into the earth; planted the last of the seeds and tender herbs. I sprinkled bone meal and crushed eggshells, along with a generous amount of cayenne pepper to discourage hungry squirrels. This is the time of earth magic. I trust the sun will return, right now we need the rain.
I am grateful for this day, my mother would say every morning. I used to view this as naive, a way to insulate herself from the sharpness of living. An old lady nonsense prayer.
I knew her to be an optimist, a tender heart, guileless. People sometimes took advantage of her generosity, yet she maintained a belief that the world was a beautiful place, and all one need do was meet people where they’re at.
I don’t write this to falsely eulogize my mother. Like all of us, she had her faults—including an inability to speak her mind honestly. She stayed in situations that were often unhealthy; for most of her life she believed she did not deserve to be treated with respect.
I have inherited all of it, it’s in my DNA. I trust too easily, love too readily, feel too deeply. I am a creative, sensitive, intuitive person and, just like my mother, I struggle with self-worth.
In the last year of her life, my Mom and I would draw angel cards. These simple suggestions from the unseen world – “release”, “willingness”, “openness” and the lighthearted images of angels in action, buoyed us. Often the words were spot on, we’d laugh or just as easily, cry. Those were numinous days. I was surprised to discover we shared a love of divination. The simple act of card drawing connected us, offered proof that truth can be revealed in many ways.
Yesterday I drew a card from a new deck. The image was of a clear blue ocean, a sea turtle, a treasure chest of golden light. It ignited a feeling of joy in me. Here’s what it said:
Take a risk for you have nothing to lose but confinement in a prison of your own making.
This resonated, and not in a happy dancing angel kind of way.
Sometimes I make myself small. I fear that, if I grow tall, others will cut me down. I do this in the mistaken belief this keeps me safe. It feels wrong.
I know when something feels right. I think we all do. For example: When I need to make a decision, I pay attention to my gut. Am I tense? Not a good decision. Am I feeling grounded and calm? That’s a yes. When I stop and listen to this deep inner knowing, I trust myself. When I ignore this gut sense, I am living the lie.
Pandemic time has provided an opportunity to practice this kind of inner listening. As a result, I’ve become a quieter person, more thoughtful, less reactive. When I listen, I know what I need to do. Virus time has underscored just how uncertain life on earth is. I don’t want to waste it.
Which brings me to the idea of unfinished business— the (often) end of life realization there was something one wanted to do or needed to share.
My mother had always wanted to see Paris. She never did.
Did she die with regrets? Maybe. But here’s what she did do: She left the farm, went to college, got a job, moved to a new city where she knew no one. She married and raised four children with little support. As a widow in her fifties, she returned to school. She took care of her dying mother, and modelled how to do this for her children. She left a legacy of kitchen magic and kindness. She loved and was loved.
She learned to trust in herself.
This is a time of deep listening, a time of healing and new growth. Is it true that anything is possible? I look outside and see the sunflowers pushing up through the damp earth. In a few weeks, these two small leaves will become a thick six-foot stalk. All this from an unassuming seed. It’s a miracle ladies and gentlemen!
At the very beginning of pandemic time, when I was living in the basement hiding from virus, when my resting heartrate was 120 and sleep eluded me, when I was so anxious I could not eat, take a deep breath or hug my family, my husband ordered a pulse oximeter. I compulsively clipped it on my index finger to monitor heartrate and oxygen levels. I wrote down my accelerated beats and I wondered how long this could go on for before, you know, something really bad happened.
And then I wondered if I could change. I started a pretty rudimentary biofeedback practise; I watched my heart rate number pulse on the tiny screen, and tried to bring it down. I breathed deeply, my oxygen levels went up. I tried humming a song that made me happy, my heart rate went down. I began writing, playing music, singing. My heart rate stayed down.
I moved back upstairs; we played board games, ate together, went for walks in the park no matter the weather.
I got to know my neighbours, spent time raking the garden, cutting and clearing away, augmenting the soil and planting. I moved old plants, started a new garden outside my back fence, called it the Whatever May Grow garden. A giant hollyhock emerged. The end of that first pandemic season, we harvested three seven-foot sunflowers, roasted the seeds and saved some to plant the following spring. Those seeds are sprouting now. We’ve taken last year’s sunflower stalks and tied them together in the land of Whatever May Grow as a tripod to support the new hollyhock.
We are supported by the stalks of last year’s garden, I like that.
I don’t know how it goes from here, but I know it is time to adopt the wisdom of heirloom sunflowers and follow the light. It’s madness to stay in the dark, pretending to be small, worried the world will cut you down.
Grace and Good Fortune was originally conceived as a place to share glimpses of my life in the hope that it might vibe with yours. I wondered if we weren’t walking a path of universal truths and small miracles.
Over the past year I have started a writing practise that’s grown from the essays posted here. I’ve begun writing short stories, poetry, and laid down the groundwork for a book about my Mom’s dying, my daughter’s coming of age, and my own stumbling along the road to crone.
I’ll be launching a revised site, a new writerly home on the internet. I’m letting my freak flag fly.
I’ll keep posting here. Grace and Good Fortune is my wordy sketch book. Going forward I might share a few lines, a recipe of my Mom’s that I have rediscovered, a poem, a story. These will be smaller bites, I hope they will be tasty.
My words might not be for you, and that’s okay. Thank you for being with me on this part of the journey. It has been an honour to have you as a fellow traveller, a reader, a friend.
I wish you ease and healing as our world begins to hum again. I hope we’re able to treasure the gifts of this time; born of solitude and reflection. Our lives will have a different rhythm, I encourage you to keep doing what stokes your spirit: baking or cycling, walking or gardening. Singing, ukulele strumming. Writing.
Let go of what no longer serves. Compost it. Plant something new, tend and water with care. Something else will take root, let’s be mindful of what we’re growing.
From my heart to your heart,