Lessons from the Garden

Jun 5 / Hannah Souter
In December, in the midst of Oregon’s constant downpours and spontaneous snowstorms, I would have told you that I was NOT going to garden this year. It’s just a rental, I thought. It’s too much work. Why bother?

But of course, the first sunny week we had this spring, I found myself pulling a few weeds and pruning back bushes. I’ll at least clear away some of this dead stuff, so it doesn’t look like crap around here. One thing led to another, and now my yard is weeded (reasonably), barked, and wildflower seeds are in the ground, anticipating new life.

I feel such frustration around this cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Why bother when I know that come autumn, everything that brought me joy the previous few months will die, falling into the ground to provide compost (and more work!) for next season’s growth? Why care when everything I care for cannot—will not—endure?

I can’t live without the beauty, but I ache for the impermanence of it all.

I don’t have a solution for this except to learn how to hold that it’s true. To let these rhythms make room in my heart and my body for the tensions. For gratitude. For faith. For paradox.

A friend of mine talks about having a mental two-car garage; two things can be true at the same time. Few things help me stretch into this idea more than poetry. So one February day, I turned on my voice recording app and began to process my heart into words with rhythm and rhyme. It doesn’t make the ache of it all untrue, but it grows my capacity to hold it, participate in it, and make my life in it anyway.

May these words help you say yes to the beauty, yes to the impermanence, and yes to the courage it takes to hold both those things as true today.

Winter’s Garden

Let me trust you for beauty
as I clear away winter’s death
and make room for new life.

Is it morbid
I already grieve
that it will not last?
How do I love
when I know
everything precious to me
will be lost?

How do I settle in
to the glory of this day
to drink it deeply
like a hummingbird
who has found a bowl of sweet water
to let it bring life to me
when I know it will all
one day
go away.

The tides give
and take
and I resist this cycle of pain.
What else can we do?
But learn to bless
and learn to be blessed through
all that is
all that’s lost
all that is
all that’s lost.

And to believe
that around it all
or above it all
or below it all
or within it all
is an enduring Presence
an enduring Source
a beating Heart
to give us courage
in daily doses
to say yes
it is worthy.

I will plant a garden.

I will grieve as the leaves fall
and the ground freezes.

And Yes
I will awake to the blooms of June
and let my heart sing
once again.

Join Hannah in her upcoming workshop, Your Body is Beloved, on Saturday, August 26. In this hour-long workshop, we will begin to explore the stories we have about our bodies with curiosity and kindness. There will be reflection, discussion, and an embodied contemplative practice. If you have a fraught relationship with your body—or no relationship at all—this workshop may be a helpful first step.

Hannah Souter

Hannah Souter is the Assistant Director for the Institute for Pastoral & Congregational Thriving at Portland Seminary, where she also earned a Masters in Ministry Leadership. Hannah served as a pastor in SE Portland and now works at Leadership Center—helping leaders grow in personal and organizational wellness. Hannah is a born and raised Portlander. She and her dog, Teva, like to play outside and have dinner parties with friends.