Our routine has been off this week (hence the lack of posts). Here’s the thing: my husband has been working the night shift (not his regular) and though it has some perks (being in his company during the day) it does upset the rhythm of our house. Not horribly — at least not yet (there was an on again/off again stretch in the fall that lasted six or eight weeks, and that was pretty terrible). But for our little family, who holds fast to routine and structure, it is enough to invoke some anxiety and restlessness.
Today, in the in-between time of his sleeping and working, we undertook a family project: the front garden. We’ve lived in this house for five (!) years this summer, and that front bit of garden is always in a state of transition. Sometimes there have been blooming, overflowing annuals; other times a perpetual state of weeds. At one time there was a little evergreen in the corner; that tree is there no longer. The side bed used to be full of pachysandra. We tore it all out because I thought that it was a breeding ground for the mice who were making their way into our house (though this proved not to be the case). We have often had good intentions for this space, but it has not often received the planning and thought that it needed to succeed. This year I wanted it to be different. Today was the day to make it happen.
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried a project like this with the little ones, but it is challenging. I knew to shift my expectations, and I had, but not enough. About fifteen minutes into breaking up the soil, and arranging pots on the ground, I was about to take the children inside and let my husband get the rest done in peace. It was hard chasing the Littlest one, keeping her from hurting herself on the steps or running dangerously close to the road. The Eldest is overeager to dig and plant and help his sister do the same. Then I remembered to breathe. There was a shift. I took my spade, dug into the cool earth, felt the cream of the soil on my skin. As I became immersed in the meditative work of the garden, so the children followed. I had been too busy trying to teach them how to love this work, and I forgot that children know that already. They busied themselves in an open patch of earth, loading up trucks and buckets with dirt, and weeds, and bugs, and anything else they could get their hands on. Occasionally they chanced down to see what their father and I were working on. We sang songs, we had smiles.
I needed that morning in the garden, in the good brown earth. Though cliché, it truly grounded us. For a family who had been spinning, and will be spinning, it was a necessity. Richard Louv, who wrote Last Child in the Woods about what he termed Nature Deficit Disorder, has a new book out called The Nature Principle. I have not read this yet, but one thing he writes is how, when you are outside, in nature, “you’re connecting the dots. And you not only sense the patterns; you also see that you’re a part of them.” This is what happened for me, this morning in our garden. I needed to be part of a pattern, a rhythm, because my particular rhythm was off. And being in the garden, where I connected to the earth, the worms, the bugs, the green, the brown, the roots, the leaves, the wind, the water — I snugged myself into that rhythm. Though I am tucking the little ones into bed myself, and they had to say goodnight to their father on the phone, the moon is still bright in our sky, and the sun will rise in the morning. I’m not sure what kind of beauty our garden will grow into, but I know that it will. I’m thankful that we’re part of God’s big world.