I think I’m allergic to my garden.
As I lay on the crinkly paper with my head down, trying to settle the inflamed itching spreading down my back, I listened to the words : “trees, weeds, grasses”. With each jab, my skin began to protest and swell with a rush of histamine in an attempt to repel the offending invader. I focused on my breathing as a smile crept over my face. This was supposed to be the stuff of life, these pollens. Without them, I would cease to exist, as would you, as would all creatures, as would life on earth as we know it. And yet my body is at war with it. I simply adore trees and respect their life dust. I marvel at the superpowers of a simple weed, and even when I am down on my knees wrangling them from the earth, I respect them. The waving grass heads provide more than just visual texture to the landscape. They are shelter and hiding holes and cover for countless of earth’s creatures, year-round. No, this almost holy trio of tree, grass, & weed receives my profoundest respect.
Yet I sense there is a root of bitterness trying to gain a foothold in the garden of my heart. How can these coexist, this reverent awe and this suffering? In the past, I might look on that struggle to uproot the bitterness with self-contempt. But now, having done so much work in the garden of my own heart, I recognize the struggle for what it is: something common to man, requiring the strenuous, exhausting effort of seeking to find redemption in the midst of the messy compost of our lives.
I have a choice. I lean in. I examine this root of bitterness. I know now that if I attune to it I can find upon closer examination the ancient rhythms of all creation woven into that very struggle. Another sacred trio of life, decay, and renewal begins to come together as I am mindful around my struggle to receive this unique trial. This struggle also gives me a gift. There is always a gift. As my body seeks to manage its overwhelming response to this dust of life, I can hold the tension of my “whys?” and my acceptance. I am free from any self-contempt, and seek to offer my body care. This comes in the form of educating myself on how pollen works, its purpose in the world, and when it is at its peak so that I can order my days accordingly. I will not stay indoors. But I can become wiser in caring for my body, and in that care, I am able to see the purpose of pollen and its powerful abilities. I respect its potentially irritating barbs. I see what it takes for the plants to both produce and expel this precious gift and the tedious work of the pollinators to spread it. I choose to respect the work of these creatures as they labor on behalf of the earth and its inhabitants, including me. I choose to be grateful. And the root of bitterness dissolves, and turns into compost, which then nourishes my mind, heart, and spirit. I connect myself to the ancient processes of life, decay, and renewal. I repeat this to myself that I am part of this cycle. It will not stop at decay. There is always goodness available because renewal is hardwired into the earth and thus, into me.