A few days ago, I came across a handful of journals from a time I now see as a different life altogether. I let out a gasp when I found these, for I knew exactly what memories they held. These four journals were my companions during one of the heaviest years of my life. They held memories that I haven’t thought of for many, many years.
The gal in this photo is me, circa 2008. This was taken a short year before my mental balance unraveled completely. In this year, I lived in San Francisco, and was ceaselessly looking for something for someone. I was lonely beyond all measure. I knew no form of expression. I was self-destructive and imbibed alcohol and other substances daily. This photo was taken on one of those bender nights.
Why had I fallen into this way? Why was I waking up in the bed of strangers? Why didn’t I remember how many bars I had been to the night before? What was I doing to myself?
I don’t think I can answer any of these questions simply, even today, but I do feel that I am at least beginning to have something of an understanding. You see, I
moved escaped to San Francisco after my plans for the future crumbled completely. It’s a familiar story – you think you have it all figured out, then suddenly the floor is pulled out from beneath you. At 20 years old, I didn’t have the tools I have now. To me, the end of the first relationship where I felt a deep love was just that – the end. A dead end, with nowhere to look, nowhere to go.
All I knew to do was sit there at the wall and cry and beg and plead for it to break down. I didn’t know that I had the power to stand up, do a 180, and walk in another direction.
The reality is, I had a wonderful childhood. I had (and still have) a great network of family and friends to turn to. What I didn’t have, was a real, visual representation of how normal “endings” and “death” really are. I learned these things later – after the first season in my first garden came to a close.
Nostalgia helps us grow, helps us know. It reminds us that there is no life, no death, no start, no stop, just change and continuity, and peace (if we want it).
I look back now to the deep confusion and pain, the begging for freedom from hurt, the fear that I could never love again. I look back and I don’t recognize that girl as myself, but someone who I want to hold, caress, someone that I want to just tell that “everything will be ok, just you wait and see”.
I don’t pretend to be an expert on living, but I do know that most of us are living some version of life that someone else taught us.
What would happen if we tuned into a deeper connection, an ancient wisdom, a deep understanding and knowing and trust in the vast everything? What then?
The life I was living then was a life that only knew of fairy tales endings, life and love eternal, happiness (authentic or otherwise) through it all. The reason I clinged to him so tirelessly was because I was told that true love comes once, and you must never let it go. I cried for many, many nights because I was never given the perspective that death is an awe-full experience that gives way to new life.
So much freedom is born from the end of things.
The garden teaches all of these things to us. In the garden, we see pollinators (lover?) bouncing from one flower (lover?) to the next. They don’t do this carelessly, they do this with purpose. In the garden we see plants flower in the great orgasm of life, and then we see them decline. We see that in their death, they birth seeds for new life. In the garden, we lose crops to frost, pests, gophers, water issues.
In the garden we do everything we can to nurture and coax life from hope and faith and the guess that we are doing something right by working with nature.
So this is how I learned to love the things that have come to pass. I take the pain from those years and I till them into the soil with the compost. I nurture and love the tomato, calendula, and fig, so that I may dutifully delight in their fruits the next season. I mourn the end of their life. I delight when the seasons come round and they’ve come back – a new, yet oh so similar expression of their former self.
I read a quote recently that sums up all that I now know to be true about life:
“there is no beginning, there is no end, there is only change”
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have someone to both thank and apologize to for the greatest lesson of my life.
Oh, and those journals? Honored, valued, then thrown into the fire. I used the ashes to grow some beautiful potatoes, and transmute the pain of that time – deliciously mashed with salt, butter, and garden chives.
Proud daughter of Mexican immigrants, gardener, advocate for la tierra buena, and professional belly laugher, I strive to live my life with purpose and joy. After years of chronic illness and self-destructive habits, my life changed in an instant when a clinician offered me a bottle of herbal extract as medicine in 2009. Since then, I’ve been amazed time and again by the effectiveness and power of nature’s medicine.
Motivated by the ever-quickening loss of our intricate web of life, I am often a passionate (and sometimes frank) voice for local, regenerative herbalism in the name of earth renewal. I strongly believe that a village herbalist belongs in every community and am happy to support this dream’s birth in to reality.