Shotweed is an invasive plant in the Pacific Northwest that, if left to flower and seed, forms spiky flowers that literally shoot seeds every which way when they are touched. I had been hoping that the clover that is slowly spreading in the turf grass in the dog run had found its way to the Fire Pit area—but a closer look showed me that it is indeed shotweed. It must be pulled out. It is one of those ‘sit and have patience’ garden chores and I knew that it must be done soon before the flowers bud.
I thought,”maybe in the next few days….”
This morning, I was ready to go into town and have a latte and read a book while I waited for my friend to have her hair cut, and then we would seek out an adventure.
Standing at the kitchen sink, looking out the window at the early morning light, I began to feel the recently all-too -familiar sunken mood and panic attack caused by the knowledge of children in cages and non-violent people being killed by those who rule with violence, of those who live unjustly being put in positions to decide what is justice for others. I felt myself becoming overwhelmed with the feelings of helplessness, the feeling of wanting to escape the trauma reflected in my body—of being trapped inside it.
Shortness of breath quickly became holding of breath. Breathe. Breathe deeply. Slowly. It will pass.
I announced that I was staying home to pull the shotweed. “But it’s a chance to get out and see some different scenery”, she said.
“It’s over-rated,” I said as I left to go change my clothes for the garden.
Outside. Cool to the point of cold, but not uncomfortable. Sun still behind the Cedars, but the brilliance of it gave intensity to the garden’s colors.
Me. First on one knee for a while, and then the other, as I leaned over and dug the baby plants out of the gravel-covered soil around the fire pit. My mind recites its litany of my failures, my losses, my struggles, and my inability to fit in anywhere. On and on it drones. All the while, I am hot and shaking from the tension of it. And barely taking full breaths.
If I focus on music, maybe that will stop the internal noise. My earbuds silence the sounds of Nature around me, but they do not silence my mind. Mozart’s Piano Concerto #23 begins slowly—reaching quietly out to me. Breathe with the slow waves of the cadence. Breathe deeper as the intensity slowly builds. It softens again—taking me back to start again—focus. Breathe.
My hands move smoothly at my task. The right pushes the Hori-hori’s point in at the base of the plants. My left grasps them and gently pulls them free. Shush. Hear the noise for which the tool was named: ho-ree, ho-ree, as it slices through the soil’s top layer and is pulled out again.
Mozart builds to greater intensity. And, my tears—usually so reluctant to come—begin to flow with the sounds of the piano. No…it’s the orchestra in the background that let’s my pent-up emotions release.
On to Mozart’s Quintet for Piano and Winds in E-Flat Major, K452— and the clarinet emboldens my tears, which are then held by the notes of the piano. All together, we take our breath and let the air out. The musicians make beautiful melody while I make moisture that streams down my cheeks and into the Earth. The rumbling noise of despair quiets in my head now; I start to hear only the music and the soft crunching of metal into gravel and soil.
I finish as far as I can reach around me. I softly stroke the newly disrupted earth with my fingers— caressing it, smoothing it out while checking for bits of plant and root. I am reminded of making designs in the wet sand on the beach of Lake Michigan as a child. It brings a softness in the form of a good memory to my heart: the cool water lapping onto shore, the warm sands, the fresh air and the sunshine. I remember what it felt like so long ago… before.
Moving, I face the Incense Cedar and stretch my back, arching it as far as I can as I sit there. Looking up through the dark green branches against the bright blue sky, I invite its fragrance into me through my breath.
I sit on the ground, legs extended in a “v” in front of me. The earth is cool and damp, and I feel as though it is more than the dampness that is seeping up into me. I begin another patch of shotweed just as the opening notes Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Opus 64 – Fantasy lift into my ears and lift my spirit with them. The tears have been wiped dry on my sweatshirt sleeve. I am softened. I am spent. I am relaxed. I am allowing myself to recognize my connection to what is around— and underneath— me.
I say a prayer of thankfulness and blessing to the shotweeds. Had they not appeared for me, I would not have had this bit of time– this bit of healing in my much-wounded self.
By the time YoYo Ma begins to make his cello sing in Gabriel’s Oboe, I am back to my physical self enough to recognize my hunger.
And, as Heifetz begins to play the Scottish Fantasy, Op 46: I. Introduction, I am on my way in to the house for oatmeal.
As Heifetz moves into the faster, richly Scottish music of the II. Allegro, I stop long enough to create a mandala from fallen leaves on the front walk way.
For now, I am alright.