A heartfelt share about soulful gardening from my dear friend Eva Elijas is one of two final texts in the reclaiming well-being series of mental health talks.
My own efforts in that area are humble, yet full of lessons, and I owe that experience to her, as it were her reflections that inspired me to plant my seeds. Eva @fleurrustique is a passionate photographer and content creator living in rural Estonia with her partner, where they grow a fertile garden, and a related business. We met online some time ago, and have bonded over our shared human experience since, spending much time discussing garden-related stuff. Her descriptions of time spent among her fruits and vegetables tend to get me misty with splendour and delight and this one was no exception. I invite you to take a pause and read her story. She might very well inspire you to consider gardening as your mental health allay, as she has done in my case. And I am as grateful to her for doing so as I am for sharing her experience here.
Digging deeper to face fears
˝Gardening is my therapy. Garden is my destination for solace when the going gets rough and tough when the disagreeable knots of emotions become too much to untangle when my short temper gets the better of me when grief weighs heavy on my soul. Pulling at weeds I organise my thoughts. Digging through the layers of soil I get to the root of things. Not just plant things, but head things and heart things, too. I dig deeper still to see what else is there to uncover. A mouse trail or two, a fossil from the times long gone, earthworms and ants, centipedes and spiders. Anxiety sinks in — I am scared of spiders. I ought to face this fear, stare it in the eye, ask for it to release me from its sticky net. But I don’t. I keep on digging in blissful ignorance and leave this humongous task for another day, for a future me.
As I begin to prepare the bed for my seeds I heal the earth. I nourish it with compost, manure and rotten leaves. (Not all good things look pretty.) And in doing so I begin to heal myself. In the garden nature is nurture. Raking the bed with care I allow the soil to breathe. And so I too take a deep breath with my whole being, inhaling the familiar scent of the dirt and sinking my feet firmly into the earth. As I exhale a calmness takes the place of overwhelm and I feel lighter, if only for a moment. Taking notice of the present I put the seeds in the ground one by one. I scatter soil over them and pat down gently. Huddled in the comfortable nest of the earth the seeds now yearn for life-giving things — water, warmth and sunlight. As do I. One bed down, many more to go.
I never cease to marvel at the resilience of plants, their persistence, their grit, their eternal will to grow, their ability to take root in the most unlikely, seemingly inhabitable, places. Yet, to thrive they need to be cared for, just like humans. A plant is as strong as its caregiver. The principal lesson the garden has taught me is that first and foremost I need to take care of myself so that I could care for others. Gardening helps me do just that.˝
Eva Elijas is a passionate photographer living in rural Estonia with her partner, where they grow a fertile garden, and a business that evolved around it.