Containing Land & Spirit

Retaining WallPhew! Emily and I have just completed a major landscaping project, building a retaining wall along the south and east sides of our property, putting in two rain gardens, leveling the soil where our old garage stood, and planting grass seed. After an entire year of chaos, the garden finally feels settled. The work that remains (stone paths, trellises, more planting) is ornamental.

When I look at all this change through practical lenses, most of it seems unnecessary. Our yard was fine beforehand. Sure, the grass sloped a bit toward the south and there were awkward mounds of soil surrounding the location of our old garage, but otherwise our property was snug and lovely. Seen with an eye toward resources, though, we had serious problems. Rainwater that fell on our property streamed down into our neighbor’s basement. Or it poured off our roof into the alley, where it joined other runoff from our pesticide-using neighbors and flowed directly into Lake Hiawatha (now so polluted the beach has been closed), into Minnehaha Creek and down the Mississippi, where it contributed to the environmental disaster of the Gulf of Mexico. Erosion where we plant our vegetables sent our excellent black dirt down the hill. The slope on the south side made planting difficult so we had some wasted, weedy space. Our single-bin compost system languished.

All our work has been about containing and supporting this bit of urban land’s gifts. Now we hold onto our rich soil and use our rainwater. Now we have a three-bin compost system so our leaves and clippings and food scraps will feed the garden, and therefore us. Now we’re using sunlight to the best advantage for our fruit trees and vegetables. And early next year, after the trellises go up, we’ll have the privacy we need to sit, contemplate, and be nourished by this little corner of earth.

The change is subtle but significant. How can we contain rather than squander the gifts we’re showered with? How can we nurture our gifts so they thrive? My garden teaches me that holding back can support abundance, and that gathering in can support generosity. These days I’m making similar emotional changes, setting boundaries around the practices that bring me the most nourishment and letting go of what gets in the way. On the surface the shifts might seem minor. Underneath they really matter. I’m learning to contain my energy and interests and talents, to focus and feed them for the sake of setting my roots deep—and then flourishing.      –Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew


Once again I’m happy to offer the ebook edition of Hannah, Delivered for $0.99 for a limited time. Enjoy! Here are the direct links:

Barnes & Noble

And here’s what’s coming on my calendar:

October 31, 9-12 a.m.:  Revision Revolution workshop, The Loft Literary Center.

November 20, December 18, 1:30-3:30 p.m.:  Writing the Sacred Journey:  The Art & Practice of Spiritual Memoir drop in classes, Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality.

June 26-29, 2016:  The Inner Life of Stories:  Writing as Deep Listening retreat at The Christine Center.

September 12-16, 2016:  Alone Together writing retreat at the Madeline Island School of the Arts.

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