When I look back, it's hard to believe that I have been a therapist for over half of my life. It makes sense, though, that my life's calling would end up being a mender of souls. As a young child, I was often found on a porch swing, visiting with my lonely, widowed neighbors. Or, giving neglected dogs a more loving home under my bedroom window with hand fed scraps and scratched ears in the middle of the night. And, in those heartbreaking moments one never forgets, carrying injured pets hit by cars back to their families, often running home in tears when the sound of a gunshot echoed behind me because there was no other option to end the suffering.
As an adult, I have tried to help mend the broken hearts of parents whose children have died. I have tried to comfort the fears of those little ones who were scared on their first night in foster care. I have offered comfort and hope to those who had once made decisions that didn't turn out as they had planned. In many ways, each of us are soul menders and the majority of our healing efforts take place outside of a therapist's office.
Sometimes it is done while sitting on a grandma's lap, or over a cup of coffee with a friend, or simply sitting quietly next to your daddy at your favorite fishing hole. At some point in all of our lives, life presents difficulties that, for at least a while, don't seem like they will ever get better. Having a soul mender in our lives can be one of the most important ingredients in the recipe for personal healing. Although I have had great soul menders to help me through some of life's hurdles, one of the most precious healers has been my garden.
I do a lot of soul mending when I am alone, digging in the dirt. With each crumbling clod, many of the tensions of life have passed through my fingers and back into the soil. The home that my parents built when they adopted me was once pasture land that had decades of good ole livestock gold dumped over it. Even though I could have taken that dark top soil for granted, I knew that eventually, if I didn't give back what I had taken, my garden would weaken and my flowers, fruit trees, and vegetables would not be as plentiful and productive as possible.
So, for the last 25 years, I have nurtured my soil like a hurting friend, spending time with it, paying attention to what it needed, and trying to give it the ingredients to develop back into its fullest potential. The fall gathered leaves placed in bags around my chicken coop in winter which serve as a wind break are faithfully opened each spring, becoming the main ingredient of my compost pile. Summer companions of grass clippings, kitchen scraps and waste from my chicken coop are added weekly and with my loyal pitchfork, we toss that pile like a garden salad, adding a sprinkle of water as needed. To the stranger's eye, the pile looks just like a bunch of decaying garbage. However, for me, when that pile becomes filled with comforting heat, ashy steam and bugs munching away in the cooler layers, I know that the life within this gardener's gold will soon be mending the soil, and soul, of my garden.
Years of composting have topped my gardens, or filled an old recycled fish pond and feed bags soon to become home to carrots, Swiss chard, potatoes and green beans. And in the fall, when I take the last of the compost to fill my cold frames for a late planting of spinach, I know that again in the spring, out will peek small leaves of a new generation of salad to feed me and my daughter in the months ahead. By mending the soul of my garden, as well as the soul of those around me, life kindly reciprocates by healing and nurturing me, as well.
I would venture a guess that most of you reading this are not only soil menders, but soul menders. By sharing wisdom, from both successes and failures from our simple, country life adventure, we offer others a glimpse of a lifestyle that can offer healing, growth, and hope. Although a gardener would be remiss to not reflect back on errors from past seasons, the emphasis of our efforts is always on the future. So here's to another season of sharing ideas, sharing our bounty, sharing seeds, and sharing encouragement to others. Let us never fail to appreciate the beautiful gift that our gardens, and our friends, have also given to us.
You can find more from The Healing Homesteader on her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/thehealinghomesteader/
All photos property of Lori DeYoung