As I push open the back door and step into the warm sun, I am catapulted into a need to garden. On this late April morning, after a day of cold rain, all things seem possible. I decide to spend part of the day visiting one of the big box stores in hope of finding a few inspiring plants and potting soil. My mind feels directed to keeping it simple, cautious not to surpass my energy stores.
As in the past, a familiar behavior emerges. In spite of my idealized intention--a day of easy, breezy gardening--the day ended with no new plants or soil. Instead, I found other projects on which to place my attention. For instance, I found myself moving a 100-lb. wooden beam across the yard by flipping it end over end to avoid dragging it and ripping up all the grass in its path. My intention was to use it as a new garden border. How did that project get added to the to do list?
I digress. You see, given a clean slate, a pristine and orderly backyard scene, staying on course would have been simple. However, as I retrieved the stored pots intended for my pretty new plants, I stood amidst rubble from toppled bricks stored in a back corner of our small lot. Over the bricks were leaves that fanned out, up and over the adjacent wood pile. The wall of neatly stacked wood appeared shackled, covered in English Ivy. Clark Kent had nothing on me as I, without a phone booth nearby, launched into action, morphing into a weekend super hero sent to banish the tangles of neglect.
Flash forward: I have now scaled over the wood pile and I am squeezed between it and my neighbor's garage. Bent over, my face inches from the ground and pruning snips in hand, I am really in it! I yank at the ivy to get at it's base, clearing the soggy, dense leaves out of the way. Snip, snip, snip. Yank, yank. Wood topples, bricks wobble. I grunt and pant as I wipe dirt from my eyes.
Suddenly I flash back to a scene and I am next to my Dad on a warm sunny day back at Tanglewood. Dad is teaching me the fine art of managing a yard. We are in the thick of tangled vines, leaves and fallen limbs in an area of our yard called "the woods.” I am looking at my Dad as he speaks to me, sweat forming in the crease between his eyebrows, rolls down and stops at the tip of his nose, dangling there. He would call this "a lather".
Looking into my eyes he says, "Now you see, you want to expose the vine down to its root, its origin, so it doesn't grow back. See here?" He brushes away the debris and grabs the vine in a strangle hold. "Clear around it and snip. Got it? Now you try." He hands me the snips.
I remember fumbling, nervous about disappointing. My hands not quite large enough, like his, to manage the tool he passed to me. I suppose I did okay. I passed. We would work for hours like that. His energy was endless. And he was so strong.
Snapping out of the vivid recollection, I wrestle to get a handle on my earthly opponent, I feel Dad next to me. He would approve of my sweat, the dirt that covered my shoes, my clothes, my face, and the gardening gloves I wore right through each finger tip from my effort. I learned this from him.
I wonder if he also knew the process of maintaining his thoughts in the same way he labored over his patch of the American dream. Left unattended, or living in a state of mindlessness, our thoughts can overrun us. They disguise what lies beneath, our original, joyful thoughts of well-being. A corner of the yard maintained and pleasing to the eye is a sanctuary. So is our mind. When we are mindful, observing our thoughts and noticing what thoughts require cutting back or removal is key to our well-being. When we clear the overgrowth of thoughts that no longer serve us, we allow space for new and beautiful thoughts to emerge and thrive. Spring is a time of renewal and a perfect season to make space for that which allows us to flourish.