How Gardening Heals Me

Well I suppose it was only a matter of time before my 2 blogs conjoined but I didn’t think it would happen in the same week I started them both. I’m writing here about my health and in the other about gardening and here they come together in a post about how my gardening is good for my health. It makes sense I suppose since it’s so much of my life. Perhaps the two most crucial factors in my existence except for my partner and our relationship. My relations with Gardening go back to my childhood tho so do my illnesses, some of the most significant ones that is. I’ve had Asthma since I was born. Literally. They put me in an incubator at birth so I could breathe and gave me medicine from the get go. And I can look back and see how the Bipolar Disorder has affected my whole life, from the time I was a small child even. So here they come together in a post that will tell you a bit about how it’s worked for me to garden so long and so faithfully, and not so faithfully and how that’s impacted me.

In many meditation classes they teach you that a very important part of learning to meditate is learning to “ground” as they call it. It means being able to connect with the earth and put your energy in synch with that of the planet we live on. Out of which our bodies are made. It’s not just a metaphorical expression. It’s a literal one for me. Grounding for me is literally putting my hands in the soil and getting dirt all over them. It’s diving into the realm of earthworms and compost and the decay of organisms and the regeneration that comes out of that mix. It’s a primal instinct to stick our hands in the dirt and mothers are always fighting their children to keep them from getting dirty. But I’d say that there have been enough studies to show that we’re depriving our children of something instinctive when we keep them out of the dirt. It’s been focused on bacteria that may help us keep our bodies free of disease but I think it’s more than that. It’s the primal connection we’re missing out on and keeping our children from experiencing.

I’ve put my hands in the dirt for as long as I can remember. Before I was actually gardening I was building in the dirt and making waterways where I could play with the runoff of the water as it flowed over the soil in patterns I loved. At some point I started to work with my mom and dad in the garden and help maintain it. I learned to plant and prune and to weed and hoe and all those other things we hate when we’re kids but I didn’t hate them. Well maybe the weeding I did some. But I loved the gardening and started  landscaping at an early age, something I’d develop into a profession as I grew older and went to college and studied Ornamental Horticulture and Landscape Design. I worked in Nurseries and had my own businesses for well over 20 years making gardens for other people, including my parents where I could experiment and play with my ideas. I did this in  my work too of course but I got paid for that and had to accede to the wishes of my clients. I wanted to do my own thing of course and I often was able to even in business.

My story takes a different turn in my late 20s when I started having migraines and was in agony too much of the time and couldn’t work as I had before. I’d gotten a job building logging roads in the high sierra to survive and that was bad for me who had always valued planting trees, not cutting them down. It went against my souls’ journey and it messed me up. I was involved in a serious auto accident that crunched my spine and began a period of disability that continues to this day. I kept landscaping tho I had to hire workers to do things I couldn’t do myself. But I still did it. I even moved back to the mountains in Washington where I was living and tried to homestead in the hills. I tried to create a garden with not enough water and too hard a soil to work and eventually I had a breakdown and my back gave out on me for good. I never again was able to work commercial landscaping. That was in 1988.  Since then I’ve had to work jobs that were indoors and kept me away from the gardens I loved. I couldn’t have access to green ever in the apt. I lived in in the city and I began to get more ill. In 1995 I had a severe breakdown and was diagnosed with the Bipolar Disorder that has plagued me my whole life. Finally I had an answer but it was a curse as well.

Over the next few years I lived alone and in an apt. with no way to garden. I was too disabled even to work a small community garden that was only a 10 x 10 plot of land in the neighborhood. I was sick and failing badly. I couldn’t touch the soil and even tho I went for walks in the neighborhood it wasn’t the same as gardening. This went on for several years until I met my current partner and in time moved into a home with him and had a chance to garden again. Here I’ve created my garden again. Here I have my Botanical Garden that allows me to collect the plants I love and to put my hands into the soil whenever I feel the need and to ground myself and get back to the earth in a real way and live fully and completely again.

I’m not cured or anything, I probably never will be,  don’t think that. I still suffer a lot and I’m in pain all the time, Especially when I garden. But it’s so good for me that I do it anyway and it keeps me alive and strong and as healthy as I can be. I have to ask for help when I need it but I do and I find it with my partner and friends. You can read about this aspect of my life in my other blog: Gardening in Greenwood, and I’ll continue this story there. But this will give you a sketch of my life as a gardener and why it’s so important for me to dig in the dirt and heal myself with the planet we live on. It’s a real thing and getting dirty is essential to us all if we want to live good lives and be healthy. So do it. Get dirty and feel the soil in your hands and let it heal you. That’s all I can say for now.

Health and good growing to you,

Steve

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