I think this is the start of a new blog category! The more I toil in my yard, the more I learn about Spirit. This is my most recent lesson.
I had a lot of loss this fall—personally, physically, emotionally.
I don’t feel it’s necessary to detail it all again. If you’re curious, feel free to browse older posts (this one, that one, and this one, too). Back when I was dating, if I got my ego hurt or my heart bruised or broken, I was would dive back into the romance pool, slapping a new profile on a dating site or buying a new outfit and flirt shamelessly as though to take revenge on all men because one had hurt or disappointed me. Those rebound experiences never worked. I usually ended up hurting others or re-injuring myself.
I did the same after my losses last year. I dug deeper into life as though it hadn’t hurt me. I didn’t take time off work, preferring to stay busy so I wouldn’t think about the pain. I finished a book, I started a podcast, I began another book.
But one day last week, I struggled to get out of bed.
My tears were too heavy to lift my head from the pillow. If it weren’t for our puppy, and the fact that my mom was coming over, I would have stayed there all day.
Mom bought hydrangea shrubs for the front of our house. I love flowers and I’ve found I love gardening. But because I know almost nothing about growing anything, my yard work has almost solely involved chopping at giant weeds: blackberry brambles bigger than my couch and ragweed stalks taller than I am. It’s my favorite housework. I love dirt under my fingernails so much that I unconsciously remove my gardening gloves and just get in there.
As we were placing the plants, my mom pointed out an old stump at the edge of the flower bed, suggesting I get it removed before the new hydrangeas grew into it as it would prevent their growth in the long run. I took note and began to work after she left, pulling out crabgrass, ferns, and baby blackberry shoots so I could plant the new flowers. The stump seemed small and innocuous enough that I wouldn’t need to mess with it that day. I could always ask my husband to do it later because I’m kind of a bad feminist, like Roxanne Gay. I believe in equal pay, but I also believe there are “man jobs,” out there, such as removing old stumps from the front yard. But my husband was studying for an exam and I didn’t want to disturb him. I started working and set thoughts of the stump aside.
I soon realized my plan wouldn’t work.
When I churned up the soil, I realized the roots of the old stump were much more expansive than I would have guessed, crisscrossing the area I needed for my new flowers. I broke some of the roots with my hands and clipped others away with shears, but they still took the space I needed. My new plants would soon need the old stump’s space.
It wasn’t what I wanted to do with my afternoon. I wanted to plant flowers, not deal with old stumps. But I knew, before I could have the beautiful things I wanted, I needed to remove the painful things that stood in their way.
I set aside my trowel and picked up a hatchet and a shovel and got to work.
At first, I resented the stump. It was in the way of me doing the things I wanted to do. It was taking valuable time away from my morning, making it impossible for me to do the sixty other things on my to-do list. But as I chopped away, I realized the stump wasn’t as deeply planted in the ground as I had thought. When I’d chipped enough away of the roots that the stump started to wriggle, I dug under it with a shovel. After a few pushes, the stump came out.
I was shocked.
Beneath the stump was some kind of insect nest—carpenter bee or termite, I thought. When he saw it, my husband thought they might have been wasps. Its occupants had long gone, but I don’t know much about those kinds of pests. Do they leave their eggs in them until summer? Would they return and eat up our house? Someone will probably correct me on this, but in the moment I didn’t know.
The stump taught me a lesson.
By ignoring the problem of the stump, thinking that it wasn’t important enough to address, or convincing myself that I didn’t have time because I wanted to focus on other things, I could have set up a much bigger problem for me and my husband—one that extended beyond a cramped hydrangea bush.
Sometimes, we have to stop and deal with the ugly stump that’s in our way.
It was a message for me, probably not just me. Maybe the hurt or other injury happened years ago and we think we’re past it, only to dream of it at night and wonder why we wake up shaking. Sometimes, we can’t move forward as much as moving forward seems attractive. We have to stop and consciously heal from what has happened to us.
It’s better for our Magick, our relationships, our work.
More than that, it’s better for our souls.