I started gardening the other day, I wanted to prepare a modest patch of ground to grow vegetables in. I had made half-hearted attempts before, never really getting stuck in, but this was to be my year. I was so excited, I did some research, decided what I wanted to grow, chatted to some friends who too were growing for the first time and we decided together that this was mightily the way to go!
I was told the best time to prepare the soil was in December, or even earlier before the ground froze. We didn’t have a cold winter this year, but November, December and January all came and went and still I hadn’t begun. Circumstances had meant that we had not spent those months in our home, we were away, spending the last precious time with a loved one at the end of his life.
February passed, and then finally March arrived. The air was warmer, the days longer and the hint that winter was almost gone was in the air. I arrived back to my home and the next day the sun was shining. I went out to my garden, with my shovel and fork, and marked out the area where I would grow. My job today was to dig up the area and remove as many stones as I could – you see this is really stony land and I would ultimately be using raised beds, the only way to grow in this terrain. However, the roots of some of my crops would grow deeper than the depth of my bed so it was in my interest to have the land as well tilled and cleared as I could.
As each dig of the shovel hit stone I began to realise the enormity of the job at hand. In my first square foot of digging I pull out a rock that was almost 2 feet in diameter and that I had to wedge out with my with body weight.
I know this is a massive task, I know it will take me a long time to complete my modest garden plot. I know there are times that I will want to give up, and that all my efforts might be futile as it will take me so long I might miss the window for this crop, or that. I know there are times I will ache from the work, and that in all probability I won’t remove all the stones. There are far more stones in mass than there is dense, nourished clay.
I also know that even though my little patch will be relatively clear, should I wish to expand, to grow further, there will also be more rock removal, more hard physical work to be done first.
Life is exactly like working this little patch of earth. It is a beautiful level playing field, ripe for bearing all the riches of the world. But before we can reap the rewards of our life, we have to unearth all the things that stop us from growing. These obstacles are not easy to remove and they require work, patience, kindness, diligence and love of what we are doing, in order to keep it up. Along the journey we will sometimes be faced with rocks bigger than we think we can handle, but with dedication and tenaciousness we can always find a way. We might put it off for a long time, some people might put it off until right into the summer of their lives. Sometimes we will want to give up and sometimes we will hurt. At times it will seem that it is easier to NOT grow, that the path of least resistance might be the one to stay on. But yet there we are, day after day, trying our best. We might not do this perfectly, and indeed we might miss opportunities along the way. But our rewards will be special to us, because it is we who have done all the work to reap them. Better still we can share them with others and we all get to feel the benefits together.
And yet, the deeper we go, the more rocks we encounter, the more tired we feel and the more bottomless the job becomes.
When we want to do more, branch out and grow ourselves even more, we will find we have to start all over – that there is an endless and unbounded minefield of obstacles to overcome because we are human, and just as the land has rocks, and all the land for as far as the eye can see has just the same rocks underneath, we all too carry the weight and burden that it is to be human. To feel. To love. To lose. To desire. To abandon. To loath. To hate. To envy. To hurt. But the difference is that some of us can recognise this, and we can pick up our shovel and our fork and we can go and do something about it, one little rock at a time. For somewhere along the way our efforts will allow a little space for life to grow, and where there is light, love and life will always grow.