Updated: Mar 10
Gardens display redemption. I know, that is a big word we don't use very much. The dictionary defines it as "the act of saving, regaining something in exchange for payment, or clearing a debt."
This beautiful woodland garden actually holds a tale of great trauma and loss. My dear friend called me as she wept over the beauty that was emerging all around the resting place of her beloved husband, whom she lost over 10 years ago to suicide. “There are things coming up that I don't even remember planting!” she exclaimed: daffodils and crocuses, ferns and hyacinths. She had been lovingly tending it over the years, planting and healing with every ripping open of the soil and plunging of seed or bulb into its depths.
We chatted long about the glory of the place, and the untended, surrounding graves sitting comparatively unadorned by nature’s redemptive work. She shared that the beech trees were beginning to drop their leaves. Unlike other deciduous trees, beeches hold their dead leaves all winter and only drop them when the new leaves push them out. This early-spring-fall provides another layer of mulch that should last through the summer on the forest floor. It is literally reigning death down on the decomposers who will take it and transform it into life.
These cycles of life, decay, and renewal lure me back into the garden again and again. I must sit with this cycle, become grounded in it, and allow it to transform me. I have learned this as well through watching my friend traverse the darkest of valleys. She is one of the bravest women I know. She sits with the decay because she believes that act is redemptive. She sows and plants in hope that goodness is on the other side of all the grim decay. She does not flee the darkness but is able to bear its weight of glory. She reminds me in the very best way of an earthworm who has superpowers to take in death and excrete potent life. To know her is to walk under the canopy of flowering spring boughs, in awe of life’s triumph.
Where are you tending death-like spaces in your life right now? Sit in a garden, grounded. Let an earthworm wiggle through your fingers. Marvel at the beautiful life that comes not despite the decay, but because of it.