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Bread, milk, salt. . . Tabasco?

May 10, 2010

The second time I visited the house that I and my husband have since purchased and begun to make our own, when I stepped into the back garden I felt a strong wave of welcome – essentially, <<HI! I’m so happy to see you! It’s such a relief to have someone who knows how to see and cares and who could help make here become what it could be! YAY!>>. It was obviously a place that had been thoughtfully designed and well cared for at some point, although it had clearly run riot for quite some time – that summer? A year or two? It definitely seemed redeemable, and very appealing and promising, but I could tell it would take far more work than I had any skill to even begin to estimate.

My husband came out at that point to ask me what I thought of the property out of earshot from our real estate agent. It was at that point I said something like, “Drat, I didn’t want to want this place, but I can’t help the fact it just feels right. . . “.

This was last fall; we moved in on Thanksgiving week. Since then we – but particularly I – have done a lot of work in the yard and garden trying to clean things up from the chaos left by the previous owners. I’ve always gotten a very positive vibe as I’ve gone about doing so.

Recently, though – for the past several weeks – I’ve felt intimidated, by the back garden in particular. I wasn’t sure why; I just avoided it, despite the tons of work to be done and the cooperative weather.

One Saturday a few weeks ago, an explanation occurred to me: there were plants waking up that had been dormant all the time since we’d been in the house, strong-willed ones that quite possibly dominate the garden in summer. Things were different from last year and the garden didn’t know why. . . another round of introduction seemed like the best bet.

Well, what’s the first thing to do in that situation? Find an appropriate offering, of course. An initial glance around my sparsely stocked kitchen didn’t inspire any thoughts, so I went over to the (very amply stocked) single malt cabinet.

<<No.>>

Well, then again, maybe not. Hm, if not liquor, what DID I have?

<<Bread, milk, salt.>>

A whole wheat English muffin torn into bits got the green light somewhat grudgingly – good thing, because it was the only real bread I had on hand, and I don’t think crackers would really have done the trick. Skim milk was next (sorry, again with the what-I-have), then some largish sea salt crystals with a bit more coarsely ground on top.

<<Not done.>>

Something else was desired. I went poking through my spice store.

<<That.>>

Tabasco sauce? Really?

<<That.>>

Okay, okay. I sprinkled it on lightly, and headed to the back.

I felt a sense of guarded wariness towards me as I walked into the garden, and I was rather intimidated. Just then, a breeze blew and set the deep-toned wind chimes I’d put up to ringing. That served as an ice-breaker – there was a slight mellowing, followed by the admission, <<We like the new chimes>>.

I vaguely thought I was simply going to make a short introductory speech, present the offering, and then sit and be in the space for a while. Not so much. I found myself ranging around the three sections of the back garden at a slow measured pace for some time (doing walking meditation there hadn’t previously occurred to me), holding the bowl of offerings and talking about who I was, how I came to be there, how I felt about being there, what I hoped for in our relationship, what the garden could expect from me, and so on. I then completed what had turned out to be an impromptu land-taking by carrying the offering bowl around the rest of the property boundaries at the same slow pace and returning to finally place the offering on the little altar table. I sensed a positive, cautiously enthusiastic response to my declarations, somewhat lighter in tone than the garden-feel I’d had before, but also deeper and more nuanced.

I was then inspired to speak out in praise of Idunna (we have *a lot* of apple trees) and Gerd (the center portion of the back garden is very much an inangard), explaining that since my garden space seemed to manifest both their special interests so strongly,  I would very much honor Their presence there and welcome the opportunity to build a relationship with each of Them.

I sat in a chair facing the altar table for a few minutes, but was guided to move to another position shortly. As I idly looked at the grapevines that had sprung up like mad recently and considered how to train them on the trellised fence – vines I could not see from my original sitting position – I was struck by a sudden, deep realization.

I know myself to be a person of innate potential with a variety of strengths, but coming from a home life of neglect and some emotional abuse, I bear scars that I’ve generally believed to beyond the capacity to heal fully. As hard as I might work to improve, I’ve never expected to get any further than “minimally broken” at best. In first looking at this garden, I reflexively disregarded the effects of neglect to imagine what it could be with hard work and nurturance, how I perceived it “really” was underneath. I didn’t presume it was limited because of how it had been treated in the past. Perhaps while bringing the garden to a fuller manifestation of its potential, the work could also help me revise my view of what I am capable of as a person. We could move towards healing and growth together.

Written out like that it sounds so simple, but it was a very profound moment for me. After absorbing the concept for a while, I solemnly thanked the garden for the gift of such deep wisdom so early in our relationship, and went into the house.

Coda: the Tabasco was certainly no deterrent to the consumption of the offering; when I checked a day or so later, the bowl had been emptied and flipped upside down onto the ground. Traditional or not, Tabasco there shall be.

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