Things I Have Learned in the Garden
01 Tuesday Nov 2011
Focusing on the Real Work.
I have a friend who has a headless statue of St. Francis in her garden.
He was eerily creepy to me when I occasionally fed her cats and watered the untamed herb containers on her deck.
He stared at me without eyes, beckoning to be understood or fixed somehow.
But she had no qualms about having a headless statue in her garden and gave no thought to the whereabouts of his missing head.
When I ran my garden center I had to constantly think. I had to analyze, count flats of pansies and know when the trucks were coming in.
I was the missing head of St. Francis counseled by my thoughts at all times.
What I wanted most at that time in my life, was not necessarily to reconnect with my heart, but to be okay with my dismemberment; to be okay with everything, my choices, my current place in life, with the way things were going, with the craziness and the business of my day.
When that chapter in my life closed I made the choice to work from home, which proved to be one of my most challenging lessons.
It was bigger than leaving my safe office job in 2005, bigger than setting up shop at my garden center, bigger than leaving my garden center behind.
The decision was easy, but doing it proved to be most challenging and unsettling.
There were days when I felt, once again, permanently decapitated and it is no wonder so many people give up and wander back to the walls of a safe job. It is no wonder the protestors at Occupy Wall Street demand jobs and better security. It is scary on the outside.
Working from home requires you to…
Start from scratch
To start from inspiration
To start from the fire in your belly
And it requires you to fail at least once a day
Some days it requires you to leave your head at the gate and feel your way with the nimble, but uncertain fingers of passion.
Some days your heart wanders lost in isolation and lack of feedback. We want to instinctively fix all of these things; I wanted desperately to fix them all.
Wendy Johnson talks about her headless Buddha in her book, Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate: At Work in the Wild and Cultivated World. How he sat zazen in her glass greenhouse. How the many Zen students tried and failed to re-attach his head.
She goes on to say, “It’s hard to offer incense day after day to a headless Buddha. It’s unsettling. But no re-capitation sticks, and the green Buddha is always headless again before very long. He stays put, his calm head resting in his lap, and tirelessly demonstrates the classic Zen admonition to ‘think non-thinking.’ Open your mind so wide it includes your thoughts…”
The lessons I think I have learned from working at home; I really learned them from life, in the garden, from having my hands in the dirt of my real work. But when I started out I had no idea what the real work was and I had no idea what questions to ask.
I mistakenly thought everything had to be fixed or figured out.
My real work is this -
As a writer I live, I notice and I share. My product (my writing) is a result of my life and of noticing.
If I don’t live, if I don’t notice; there is no product to share.
The real work for me is finding joy in everyday things, even if at first they are unsettling.
I offer them incense and open my mind so wide it includes my own thoughts. It allows me to feel whole again, to feel connected, clear and like a participant in my day.
This question might be unsettling and it might require you to leave your head at the gate for a while, but I ask you this,
‘What is your real work?’
For me, it is clearly finding joy in my everyday.
That is it. There is no re-capitation. This is all I ever have to do.
Simple? No way. It is the hardest choice I could have ever made.
Please join the conversation here or leave me a comment below. I would love to know what your real work is.
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