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Finding My Soul in the Garden: Digging for Healing and Health

Gardening has been the bane of my existence. I grew up in a very rural area of Iowa surrounded by acres and acres of corn and soybeans and alfalfa. The seasonal shift from planting to growth to harvest flows through my very veins. It’s the framework from which my inner being was made. My ancestors were farmers as far back as I can find. We plant things, we grow things, we harvest.

My Dives In The Dirt

My first memories are of picking strawberries with my mom in the hot, humid sun watching for hidden snakes. I ate more ruby berries than I saved. Moments of traversing through oak forests hunting for the illusive gooseberry bushes flood my mind even though I’m sure I was too young to help. We’ve had summers of abundant cantaloupes when I never thought I would eat one again…that was a lie. Or the hours of harvesting sweet corn and popcorn to be preserved for the season of scarcity. One summer a group of baby rabbits nested in our carrot patch…we left their silky sweetness be.

This work through my immature eyes was meaningless and small. The world called as a big place full of stores (where you can easily buy this food) and so many others things that a curious farm girl wanted to do. There is a big world and I was stuck in a small corner of it.

The Dirt Calls

Mud and dirt and sweat and tears were not the accessories that called to me. The luxurious food that was put on our table every night spoke of love and dedication and work that cooperated with nature…I did not appreciate it then.

As I grew, married, and moved to Colorado, my core called to put something in the earth to grow. As soon as the spring arrived, I had to dig in the ground. Soil needed to penetrate my fingernails. Earthworms became my partners. The flavor of dirt had to imbue my nostrils. My projected self and my real self did not agree. I didn’t want to be that farm girl back in the day. I had grown beyond that…or so I thought.

Does the very nature of who you are really ever leave? Or change?

Come the spring of 2020. I was “nesting” and bringing comfort to my home and family. You can read about it here. The fallow garden that I had started and killed many times called out to me. “Give me life. Bring me growth.” I wasn’t in a place to deny it anymore.

Welcoming Myself Back To The Garden

I dug and planned and amended my tiny rectangle of earth. In a garden journal, pictures and plot plans were artistically laid out. I researched plants that could grow in shady, clay-filled soil. A watering system lovingly planned by my husband. I honestly don’t think I did this much planning for my first child. Truth became any drop of wisdom from a “garden-y” friend.

Scientifically, gardening or even growing an indoor plant can raise your spirits. In many studies listed in Garden Tech , “dirt” therapy can bring a significant reduction in stress, tension, anxiety. Cortisol (the stress hormone) levels drop significantly with just a minimum amount of time spent within nature.

Time And Love Bloom Results

As the season progressed, my little plot grew. The swiss chard, although gorgeous, overproduced. If a neighbor came outside, I would offer some of my bounty. The zucchinis did not progress as I had wanted and my cucumbers put out a minimum effort. All these results poured over. Less leafy vegetables. More sunny spot needed.

I had become a gardener. Not on the scale that my family is/was/will be, but on my own little scale. In many ways, my call to the dirt healed a lot of my feelings of belonging. I never really felt called to the agricultural lifestyle that my entire family embraced. And leaving the farm behind had brought a truck-load of guilt.

My favorite gardener (yes, I have one), Monty Don, affirmed, “I always see gardening as escape, as peace really. If you are angered or troubled, nothing provides the same solace as nurturing the soil….When you plant something, you invest in a beautiful future amidst a stressful, chaotic, and, at times, downright appalling world.”

Through answering my own heart’s call to the garden, I was able to bring healing and health back to my own memories and feelings of abandoning my past. A clearer vision of myself and a sense of belonging grew out of my meager garden. I am still not a farm girl but I embrace the role of a mountain girl with a gardening heart.

Dawn Miller

Dawn is a small-town farm girl who married her mountain man after college. She's a mom of 4 amazing kids and 3 beautiful fur-babies. Having her degree in psychology and English, she pursued social work after college but soon became a SAHM and homeschool teacher. Now that her kids are all older and in high school or college, she has started over with a career in yoga and Christian meditation through Everyday Dawn Yoga. Beyond her family, she loves coffee, dark chocolate, running trails, Jesus, and laughing hysterically until she pees.

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