Sunday, January 13, 2013

Dirt Therapy—Getting Grounded After Loss

Filling the God Hole—with Dirt

New life: purple salvia, yellow Tecoma, and Pandora vines

God holes—those empty places in our heart, our spirit, any hole in our lives that yearns for spiritual connection, for wholeness—are something we Americans, with our consumption-focused society, attempt to fill by shopping. A hole in my spirit opened yesterday at 3:30 a.m., when Rollin Raimer Smith, my former husband’s father and the grandfather to three of my children, died. Their dad and I have been apart for ten years, but I remain close to his family, so I, too, grieve Rollin’s passing, which has rent a hole in my life and the lives of many whom I love.
Putting aside my daily tasks, I decided to spend the day with two of my children who live close by. I felt an urgency to get out of the house, to put aside my to-do-list, so I asked my daughter to join me in a search for some things I hoped to get at area thrift shops—to go shopping, of all things. My son, who as a general rule does not like such excursions, joined us because he didn’t want to be alone with his thoughts.
Our shopping was far from enthusiastic. I could not find the curtain rod, shelves, or “new” wallet I needed, so we headed home empty-handed, with the exception of a colorful tin rooster for which I’d searched for almost two years. I was happy to find it after such an extended time, but even that feeling was subdued.
Once home, they settled in to watch a movie. I felt at odds, my energy level low, grief still pulling at the back of my psyche.
We had failed to fill the God hole. We had neither diminished the loss nor soothed the empty feelings we had. We failed to assuage our keen sense of lack—lack of a life we cherished. That hole could not, and will not, be filled, and I knew it before we even journeyed out. We all knew it; we had simply distracted ourselves. Back home, that much was clear, but it was easier to carry that loss with a simple Saturday afternoon movie and the slight sound of black beans simmering on the stove, their scent filling the air with garlic and cumin goodness.
While those beans bubbled toward dinner, wilting Pandora vine pieces beckoned to me from the patio. My daughter’s neighbor was gracious to grant my request for those few snips earlier in the day. My search of garden centers for a Pandora like theirs had been fruitless so I was grateful for the chance to start one of my own. Previous failures after procrastinating on rooting cuttings nudged me toward getting them in some dirt to give them a better chance at living.

Life and science, forever entwined

I’m no scientist. Gardening for me is pure pleasure, but even I know that biology and botany are involved, so I admit to gardening’s inherent science. I also admit that I feel like quite the scientist whenever I get out my bottle of rooting powder. The powder has growth stimulators and hormones that mimic a plant’s own rooting efforts. After giving the Pandora (and two others I decided to root—yellow Tecoma and deep purple salvia) stems clean cuts and removing extraneous leaves, I dunked the stems in the powder. Next, I placed them into moist dirt, where I hope they will form roots and grow.
Three pots are now filled with cuttings that will be plants in a month or so if the process works. I will be attentive, keep the soil moist, and remove wilting leaves so the new plants can thrive.
The planting process ended just as I heard the stove timer ping. The yellow rice to accompany the black beans was finished cooking. I still had to fry plantains and corn tortillas to a crisp golden brown before serving dinner, so I bid my plants goodnight and went inside. I felt enriched by green plant matter, fresh air, the last rays of the day's sun, black earth, and water. As I scrubbed the dirt off my hands at the kitchen sink, I knew that part of me wasisstill grieving, but I also knew that the God hole was not quite as deep. The part that holds the memories of Rollin will always have a bit of an open edge, but I had begun filling some of those other empty places by putting plants in holes in the dirt, by nurturing new life while at the same time mourning one that has passed.

No comments:

Post a Comment