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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Give me a load of rocks to carry.

Today I embarked on a project that one offspring called crazy. I have been waging war on my dogs lately and I am having to change my tactics.

Over the past couple of months, since the warmer weather has been upon us, I have had lots of time to devote to gardening. In the past I have been a reluctant gardener at best, fitting the chore into a busy schedule of raising kids and running a household. I always felt it was something I had to get out of the way every year and consequently my gardens, if you could call them that, suffered from extreme neglect after the first flurry of springtime cleanup activity. Rushing is the word that always comes to mind when I think of my past gardening attempts. And impatience.

This year, though, life has slowed down to nearly a crawl. Rather than having too much to fill my day, I now have to pace myself so I don't run out of things to do. I am a born worker; I like to do hard physical work and lots of it so after that first frenzied haphazard cleanup this year, I realized I didn't need to rush. I may never need to rush again in this job of caregiving. The challenge is to fight my natural predilection to work fast and efficiently and instead, learn how to slow down and smell the roses, as they say. I discovered I could take my time and think about my garden, plan things for once, think long term. We have recently had a new front porch and ramp installed which took over the preexisting front gardens, leaving behind something of a wasteland. Feeling under-confident, I pondered consulting a professional gardener but financial restraints put a quick end to that idea. I had to do it myself.

I started by digging small front gardens along the new ramp. Easy enough. Throw in some nice shade plants, step back and watch them grow. Wrong. What I didn't count on was my dogs' inability to change an old habit of stomping through what used to be patchy lawn and was now garden. No amount of yelling and hurling of projectiles would deter them. My tender plants could not thrive and that entire bed was looking simply pathetic. Now, in the past I wouldn't have cared a whit but having so little to fill my long days of caregiving, which mostly consist of watching over a sleeping husband, I was painfully aware of the mess my dogs were making. Then it occurred to me that if plants won't grow then perhaps rocks would! I'd import rocks and try to build a rock garden.

Our yard was littered with some small rocks which I did plant in my garden along with a nice big pinkish one but I needed more. From where can one poach rocks? Suddenly rocks were all I looked for, spotting nice ones along the highway during our rare outings but discounting them because retrieving them would imperil my life. Finally I found some good specimens on my morning walks with the dogs. But how to get them home? I don't have the luxury of taking a second walk without the dogs since consistent substitute caregiving has been a rarity of late, often allowing me only enough time for one quick walk a day, if that . And what about physically removing the rocks? Getting a wheelbarrow past the gate that protects our paths would be impossible. I'd just have to carry them out myself somehow with the dogs in tow.

This morning I set out with my empty backpack squarely on my back. I picked out my rocks on the way into the forest, about a kilometre in I'd say, planning to pick them up on my way out. No point shouldering the load any longer than I needed to and, besides, I might find better candidates along the way. But I didn't, so on the return journey, I loaded my pack with two fine rocks. Really, one was heavy enough but knowing I might not get another walk for a few days with the rather patchy caregiving, and impatient to get on with my rock planting, I decided I could probably manage to carry both. Well the load was very heavy. On returning home, out of curiosity, I weighed my treasures - twenty kilos. You can imagine that I did not dawdle on that homeward journey. The dogs got rushed home and even bending down to hook them back onto their leashes when we left the trail was a challenge. But we made it and I dumped my rocks near their new home as soon as we returned.

Then I experienced a most amazing thing. As soon as that load was off my back I felt the most wonderful lightness of being. It felt like I might take flight and drift heavenward and that feeling stayed with me for some time. It got me thinking about carrying the other kinds of loads we all have to bear. It now seems logical to me that the heavier one's load in this life, the faster and more joyous that homeward journey when we all finally reach it, like being tethered to the ground by a big elastic and finally being let go. It's simple physics: To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction (and I believe that physical laws are equally applicable to things metaphysical, though I doubt that this analogy will bear close scientific scrutiny). I felt comforted for the rest of the day and those rocks will be my daily reminder that shouldering those heavy burdens ultimately leads to wondrous release. We should be welcoming them, not avoiding them. It brought to mind words I have been trying to live by lately but it took this concrete experience to make me feel and not just think the words : "Unless one accepts dire vicissitudes, not with dull resignation, but with radiant acquiescence , one cannot attain...freedom." 'Abdu'l-Baha