Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Walled Garden

I don't know if I've ever directly mentioned the tree behind our building, but I know that it's appeared peripherally, either in photos or references to leaves and birds and shade. It was about as tall as our three-story building, a sycamore and some sort of beech-birch-aspen-type-thing right next to each other... and, you will notice, is now referred to in the past tense.

A few days ago, someone came and cut it down. I heard the chainsaw and peeked through the blinds just in time to see it fall. I cried. There were homeless, flightless baby robins trying to get into the magnolia trees out front, and when I went to sit in the chair on our balcony, I felt oddly exposed.

I'm still coming to terms with my loss (yes, I'm aware that I'm talking about a tree that didn't belong to me). One thing I realized is that its presence made me feel protected and free at the same time - it was the first indicator of a rising storm, it sheltered that side of the building from sun and rain, and it also made the air seem cleaner and the view seem wilder.

That got me thinking about introversion and extroversion. If an extrovert is a city park (filled with swings and benches and free concerts in the summer), then I am an introverted walled garden. There's still a door, and I still let people in, but there are definitely times when I need to lock myself in and just breathe.

Because metaphors help me process, once I had the visual of a garden, I started to expand on it. I envisioned a high, old, ivy-grown brick wall. Paved paths connecting between tidy raised beds. Something for the birds. A swing or bench - or both. Maybe a pergola or "she shed" with a table for tea and art, alone or with friends. A place filled with growth and life, but also peace and calm.

In the process, I realized two things. The first is that the majority of my anxiety stems from violation of that garden. Perhaps I've been locked out and can't retreat, or the door has been left open and People and Things and Busyness are barging in, uninvited. Maybe the vegetables are dying from lack of water because I haven't had time to tend to them, or the flowers have been overtaken by weeds until the beauty has been choked out and I feel my heart race and my mind atrophy because I've been gone, out running errands that seem so trivial now.

The second thing I realized is that gardens have seasons. In the winter, you mostly stay inside, with a blanket and a book and a cup of tea by the fire. It's a time to rest while you wait for spring. Because in the spring, you have to go out and clean and plow and plant and weed and repair and paint and get everything freshened up and ready to go. In the summer, you maintain - there's a little harvest in terms of berries and blossoms, but it's mostly watering and weeding, and it's a good time for picnics and gatherings with friends. And then in the fall you harvest and store and burn up the cornstalks in a great bonfire and relish all of the cool evenings until they become so frosty that you're driven inside again.

Right now I feel like it's Spring, and it's been Spring for a very long time, and my mind is in dire need of a good, long, Winter's rest. But just acknowledging that helped, somehow. I made two adjustments this morning based on the idea that it's Spring but I wish it was Winter; I recognized that I have a continual supply of small-but-necessary tasks to accomplish so now is not the time for Grand Projects, and I bought a cute planner. I had considered getting a plain one and creating a system of colored pens and Washi tape, but then (following along with my garden metaphor) I thought that there is a time for growing your own flowers and there is a time for buying them from the Farmers Market, and that this is a time for the latter. Either way, I get flowers.

I'll continue to explore this more deeply in the coming weeks - there are a couple of books that I'd like to work through that are very relevant right now - but for now, I've got some watering to do.

Beautiful dwelling is accepting where you are, and moving forward from there (after all, you can't start from where you're not).

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