Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Hit the dirt

            I prefer a barefoot life.  As a child, running around without shoes was one of my favorite pastimes.   There's even video of me playing in the backyard with our new puppy on an unusually warm Christmas day.  Cinder frolics around the trees and slumbering garden beds while I happily skip behind him, barefoot and laughing.  In fact, during the twenty-two years I've tended the gardens that surround my own home, it's only been in the past five that I consistently wear shoes (albeit flip-flops) when weeding, watering and pruning. 
            While in the last few months of teaching first grade, one of my curious students asked, "Miss Ingersoll, what are you going to do now?"
            I smiled, "Anything that doesn't require me to wear shoes."
            True to my word, I've created a life in which I'm gloriously barefoot nearly all of the time.  Teaching yoga and writing both require me to be grounded, and for that, I'd prefer no barriers between the earth and my feet.

            In the spring, I'm gloriously busy working in other people's gardens as well.  This past weekend, I spread nearly forty bags of mulch and spruced up a couple of clients' flower beds.  The labor was incredibly demanding, but as I kept going, my body found its rhythm and I was able to not only complete the work, but come home and wash the car, do several loads of laundry and take care of some seedlings of my own.
            Indelibly, touching the earth is my favorite elixir of life.  My hands love to sift through soil, pulling weeds and planting seeds.   Gardening is like painting, with the soil as the stabilizing canvas.  It gives support and nourishment, not only to the flowers, herbs and vegetables, but also to the inner work that I always seem to experience in the spring.  I'm like a bear in the winter, hibernating, percolating and finally awakening as the sun rises higher each day and my creative juices start flowing.
            This time of year usually finds me knee deep in writing a new manuscript.  Last year, I was working on a novel.  This year, a memoir.  It's a sluggish process for me to get started on any book.  Like a steam engine leaving the station, I'm slow going for a few months, and then, unexpectedly, my pace quickens, I hit my stride and by the time my birthday rolls around in September, a stack of paper several inches high sits on my desk, ready for an initial edit. 

            In the aftermath of the car accident I wrote about in the blog, "Humble me," I needed some alternative therapy to treat the mild PTSD I'd been experiencing while driving.  Fortunately I was able to book appointments with my friend, Diane, who is an exceptional acupuncturist and MD.  Among other modalities, she practices five element acupuncture and was stymied about which one was my dominant.
            "It's either fire or wood," she said.  "Time will tell."
            Wood dominant people are often buoyed by springtime.  We are able to bend and be flexible, work around obstacles in order to continue growing and are tenacious in our quest for rebirth.  Perhaps that is why I find myself stewing all winter, longing to find the motivation to write; and then when warmer weather arrives, I'm like a sprout that pops its head above the soil and reaches for the light.  Then, my fire dominance, which is influenced in the summertime, expands the wood and gives it purpose.  I continue seeking warmth, harmony, blooming energy and completion.
            Writing is a solitary act; it requires me to shut out the world and enter into a space of reflection where I can allow words to flow through me.   One week ago, I was sitting here editing the first chapter of my memoir when an intuition seeped through the story, "You need to write another blog."  I didn't question it, I simply went online and created Open Road.  Inevitably, the past week has been filled with a rush of inspiration. Notepads are scattered all over the house in case I get an idea for a blog, a line for the manuscript, a word or phrase I'd like to explore.  My desk is an organized mess of ideas and I'm in heaven.  I imagine this must be how a chef feels when they open their cupboards or refrigerator and find them stocked to the gills with fresh ingredients.
            I'm really cooking now.
           And yet, everything requires balance.   I usually begin my day out in the garden watering the beds and checking on the new arrivals that were planted over the weekend.  Then I can come inside, put my bare feet on the floor and write for a few hours.  Phone calls to my friends usually follow as I reach out to connect with others.  Yoga classes fill up my afternoons and evenings and I often spend time with my little friend, Harshil, and his family.  I truly live a well-grounded and fruitful life.

            At the end of yoga classes, I often remind my students that the practice of relaxation has a cumulative effect.  Every time we allow our bodies to consciously let go, they magically recall every other experience of peace, meditation and connection with our true selves.  I have a similar experience when my hands touch the earth.  Forty-six years of playing in the dirt expand each moment and allow me to look more deeply at the beauty I am co-creating.
            The other day I was carefully planting Morning Glory seeds in a cottage garden when I had a spontaneous, visceral memory of being on the farm at Esalen, my bare hands gently planting fennel seedlings while the salty sea air brushed my skin.  On that day, it was unusually warm in Big Sur, so I took off my shoes and let my toes sink into the earth more deeply.  By the time the crew and I were finished, the silty soil covered me from head to toe and I was exhausted, yet blissfully calm.  
             Ken, my dear friend and co-worker, had only recently uncovered a huge rock that lay buried in the heart of the farm.  Like me, he was delirious to spend time in the dirt to discover a wonder hidden deep beneath its surface.   He called the rock his "Big Happy" and I understand exactly what he meant.  It's such a natural, yet vital part of life.  To touch the earth.  To become grounded.  To find joy in walking barefoot through a garden.
              To find, deep within myself, that which makes me truly happy.


With Ken on the farm at Esalen
Ken discovering his "Big Happy"