Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Keeping in Touch:The Other MaryJane
I was careful to fill only a third of the bucket with a few good rocks at a time and carry one with my free hand. I opted for lesser weight and more trips, as I want to maintain my strong back and not over do it. Every once in a while I stopped to reframe the chore at hand. I looked ahead at the herb garden and thought of how grateful I will be when I have finished lugging the rocks and how they will serve as a decorative and functional part of the whole.
Quite hot and sweaty, I gave thanks for the cardio workout and expected outcome. When the wind wasn’t blowing, I was surrounded by aggressive deer and horse flies. I have learned that having a determined mindset helps to endure their relentless attacks. If you swat at them or react in a manner that indicates that they are getting the best of you; they have won. Every so often, one will land and bite. However this happens less and less as I create my own vision of them circling and not landing (I wish I knew this trick when I was a kid).
Oftentimes, I stopped and stood with arms outstretched as the fresh breeze washed over me, drying the sweat and reinvigorating my senses. Generally, I try not to lose focus on the project and I monitor each step. It is significant to be attentive to what you do. Be present. For instance, if you are washing the dishes, wash the dishes. Watch how the soap bubbles reflect and capture the light. Feel around the edges of the pot with your hands and notice how smooth it feels when it’s clean. If you think about your shopping list or how you shouldn’t have eaten that chocolate ice cream that you thoroughly enjoyed earlier, you have just missed the moment that you are in. Paying attention to washing the dishes is where I began the practice of completely being present. Even if it seems dull or unpleasant, you should experience it fully and perhaps it isn’t as dull as you imagined. It is what you decide it is.
So that being said, today I found myself watching where I placed my feet when I walked. The ground is uneven and soft in some places and hard and dry in other spots. It is somewhat dusty now, as much of the topsoil washed away in torrential rains and it has been a dry week. It was once my favorite pine grove and it has been cleared. I used to mourn the loss of the grove, but now I am working in the earth to bring about new life. There is purpose in my work. I honor the memory of the grove each time I pull out roots and debris.
After making the last trip with the rock bucket, I sat on a boulder at the edge of the woods and sipped my water. The sky was clear and bright blue with a few real (not manmade) puffy clouds sailing by. With a fair amount of deer flies swarming around my head, I looked past my damp ringlets and marveled at the landscape. Like a spirited artist’s canvas dotted with wildflowers, trees, ponds, vegetable, herb and flower gardens, I paid tribute to all that I loved. At that moment, I was one with my grandmother; the original MaryJane.
I have a vivid memory of her wildly digging poppies and daisies with bugs swarming aggressively around her head.
With untamed curls framing her face she said, “Mary, you will love these.” She put the shocking red poppies in her basket and bent down and dug a few more before turning to the daisies. “They’re my favorite.”
Like my grandmother, I often declare so many plants as my favorite. It’s almost impossible to choose just one.
I watched with deep admiration while I swatted the bugs, unable to comprehend why she didn’t seem to notice them. I now know; I hadn’t discovered the art of acceptance and disregard of such things. I took my flowers home and planted them in my garden, grateful for her wisdom and generosity as they graced my garden wall, multiplying with each season.
She worked tirelessly on the farm. She was not only a master gardener of flowers, herbs and vegetables; she canned, pickled and baked everything that grew in abundance. She also cooked for all the farmhands at the boarding house, as it was a rather large dairy farm.
I am thankful that I had the insight to invite her to my home to actually make a batch of strawberry rhubarb jam. Hers was what would be considered ‘blue ribbon’ and I enjoyed it tremendously. She made her jams and preserves the old fashioned way without gelatin and she sealed the jars with paraffin. She was my teacher. I became a master at jam making, baking, wine making and basically preserving everything that was in season, from peaches and berries to rhubarb. I think of her every time I engage in this activity, which is yearly.
Today, as the sweat trickled down my face and the small of my back and as I took each step, carrying the heavy rocks for my garden, I thought of how I had become like her. I was at one with the earth and our stories, although somewhat different had merged. I am strong of body, mind, spirit and will, just like the original MaryJane. I know that spider bites, torn flesh and tinges of pain from reaching, bending and pulling are part of the joys honoring Our Mother. The fruits of our labor are the fruits of our heritage. I am a descendant of a long line of ambassadors of the earth.