You will be like a well-watered garden. Like a spring whose waters never fail. Isaiah 58:11
If anything is sacred, the human body is sacred. Walt Whitman
It was my last appointment with the dietitian three days ago. Joy is her name and she lives up to its definition. She’s radiant and beautiful, funny and fun and smart, and I worked hard to live up to her dietary expectations this past three weeks, to drink copious amounts of fluids and eat my share of protein, to live up to expectations that would help me move though the Gardening Project with more ease and grace. It wasn’t hard because quite honestly I never lost my appetite and food never stopped tasting good. In fact, I became a star foodie pupil and our appointments transformed into a time to share our stories. And, at this last appointment, she encouraged me to write down my gardening perspectives, to offer them to others as a possible way to approach such a project. And truly, I intended to do so. But now, as I sit here, I can feel it. I’ve moved on. I have said my good-byes to the staff on Floor Nine where I have had morning appointments for the past twenty-one days, to the nurses and PAs and doctors who are not only skilled and reassuring, but also kind and interesting, who I count with gratitude as dear friends along the gardening path. And I also have started to pack up my gardening talismans, the precious rocks and prayer beads, the homemade pillows and quilts, the gifts bestowed to me by friends and family that have provided comfort and strength as I’ve moved forward on this project. You see, tomorrow my gardening tools will find their way into the back of our Subaru and my husband and I will drive the several hours north to Duluth then east through Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to our home in Ishpeming. I’m going home.
So what do I want to tell you as my project winds down? I want to tell you that I wondered if it was possible to move through such a project while holding on to my joy. I knew I needed to try, that joy is not something to place, neat and tidy, at the finish line of such an adventure as you pant and moan and struggle your way along the path, that it has to be felt in the moment, in whatever moment you find yourself. And I want to tell you that I discovered it is not only possible to do so; it is easy. surprisingly easy.
From the Day of Purification, a day where I woke up hearing the songs of the angels, a day where we played holy music and Cam and my friend Roslyn, who happened to be in town visiting her kids and grand babies, and I sent positive loving energy, our appreciations and our blessings, into a bag of chemo and envisioned it purifying the bone marrow and doing exactly what it was supposed to do in a way that was helpful, to the time two days later when my over nine million baby seed cells were re-planted back in my stream of ever-flowings blood, another holy and surpisingly funny and poignant affair, to the next week and half of waiting while the seeds found their way back to their home in the marrow and took root again and grew a green and flourishing garden, through all of this, my beloved joy stood strong, wouldn’t budge from its place at center stage. And during this time, there were moments of laughter, moments as funny as any I experienced under the influence of that warm college keg beer at weekend parties almost forty years ago, moments where I once again felt like that nineteen-year-old girl who couldn’t control her giggles, wet noodle moments that can’t be defined as anything but fun. And during this time, there were sweet walks along the river, daily adventures, where we witnessed the outer gardens beginning to grow, the apple trees blooming, the tulips springing into blazing colors, the geese and duck babies hatched and lined up and learning to navigate their own waters. And there were creative afternoons where I focused on my writing projects and my gardening book and my letters to friends. And there were evenings, with Cam or my other caregiver friends, where we watched PBS mysteries and reveled in the delicious wondering of who-done-it. I want to tell you that it is not only possible at such a time as a gardening project to soak in the love and support of your dear friends and family, to be uplifted beyond measure by their prayers; it is also possible to laugh loudly and ride the wave of unbridled joy.
And while riding those waves — and this is the miracle — the garden, the one that resides deep in your bones, is nourished by the sweet sunshine of happiness and it grows. it grows and it flourishes and before you know it, you are on your way back north to your home in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where spring will be springing all over again.
What is blossoming in an arid desert of bones,
bones that have been cleansed and purified
down to the bare bones of bone?
An interesting question to ponder on a day
when the baby seeds are to be planted.
Helen Keller knew there is a god-given goddess-given
vibration, wider and more expansive,
than what might be seen or heard on a day of seed planting.
So I ask it again, what is blossoming in the bare bones of a garden?
Deep in the marrow, it is a wild garden,
free and flourishing —
flowers brilliant, amazed by their own beauty, by their shapely shapes,
their wafty fragrances.
And the weeds in my are healthy weeds and my garden —
because this is my garden I’m talking about — is of my making,
not constructed by someone else or outside forces and expectations.
These are my glorious flowers, my sunlit blossoms, my deep down roots
nourished by the rains of spring
and the fruits of my garden are sweet, sun-kissed
and dark and spicy
and my garden contains the perfect amount of bitterroot .
Everything in my garden rejoices in being itself.
My garden doesn’t try to be anything else
doesn’t stuggle or strive or sing a tune
that is not its own god-given goddess-given source-aligned SELF.
to a garden that is already present and flourishing!!!