Search
  • Angela O'Brien-Greywitt

Into the Garden I Go to Renew My Soul


I woke up this morning to utter stillness and quiet and then within minutes of waking up, the sky opened up and down came the rain. The constant pounding on the roof was a song I longed to hear...as I said a prayer of thank you, thank you, thank you to Archangel Gaia. We desperately needed this rain. It has been incredibly hot for days without a drop of water in sight. The yards all around us have become brown, scorched, and parched. Nothing waters the plants and the earth quite like Mother Gaia. Each leaf, blade of grass, flower, shrub, creature, and tree is touched by her rain drops of love and their thirst quenched. Are there any tears or emotions you are holding onto that need to be felt, released, and shed like the rain in order to nourish your heart?


It rained for a few hours. I find the rain to be intoxicating. There is something quite magical and refreshing about the rain and how all of my senses are lit up from the sounds, smells, touch, and sight of the rain. I absolutely love it all. I went to the front door opened it up listened and watched the rain pour down. The flowers, trees, grass, hungrily drank it in and were actually smiling!


As the rain began to subside and stop falling, the sun began to emerge and shine through as the clouds slowly dispersed and blue skies reappeared. The beams of light from the sun's rays were shining down ethereally into the garden and filtered by the branches of the trees. Their leaves still hanging heavy and saturated with water. I observed their ability to let the drops to continue to fall gradually all that remained from the morning shower. The drops were met with a rising steam from the warm earth creating a mystical fog in the garden. Everything was glistening and dreamy. The rain was a very welcome gift and I felt the urge to walk barefoot through the grass and out into the garden. I heeded the urge to follow my heart out into the garden.


I am renewed once again by the power of transformation offered freely by nature. I feel so connected as I step out into the wet grass and feel, know, sense, the gratitude for this healing rain. I am inspired to write about it as I feel the peacefulness that always embraces me like a cloak of belonging when I walk out into the garden. I am enveloped by an unseen energy and a mutual love that is so vast and knows no boundaries when I am out amongst the plants and all of the living creatures that dwell in my garden. This mystical power of the garden always draws me in and nourishes my soul. I started to reflect on a choice I made in high school to enroll in a horticulture class and how well it has served me throughout my life.


I sit back in wonder and marvel at the incredible gifts and the unknown directions that this one choice made in my life. It is a grand reminder in allowing and surrendering to the flow of life and trusting the outcome of the choices we make and not having to know where it will lead. A gentle nudge to enjoy the journey through life via a garden path. I am an observer and witness to my life and I continue to watch the unfolding. Nothing is meant to happen overnight. It has taken me years to understand that the paths we travel are never linear. One true and constant path for me and where I have found solace and sanctuary has been meandering down a garden path.


My journey has been abundant and filled with unknown twists and turns along the way. Seeds were planted and dispersed in all directions of my life very much like the unseen powers of the wind carrying seeds of her own. Sometimes I was aware and sometimes not as to what seeds were meant to grow and flourish at the moment and which ones were meant to lie dormant and sprout later in my life. All revealed lessons I needed at the time they were needed. All were divinely timed and just the homework I required. I am a perpetual student and always curious. I am continually learning to embrace life with uncertainty, letting go, surrendering, and trusting all will be well and is as it should be.


I enrolled in a year-long horticulture class in my senior year of high school. What is horticulture you might ask? Simply put, it is the art of gardening, cultivating plants, and learning about gardening management. I was not sure what horticulture was at the time, but I took a leap of faith and was curious enough to give it a try. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. For me, having a yard and garden filled with plants and sharing my knowledge with others has become a huge part of my own personal landscape to cultivate creativity, connection, healing, joy, sharing, and finding myself. It is where I have found a deeper part of me, solace, sanctuary, and connection to all life. My garden path has never led me astray.


I was enticed by the fact that this horticulture class was a class that was off-campus from the high school and it took all afternoon. As a senior, that sounded like a taste of freedom to me during my last year of high school. The teacher, Mr. Gale Grayboe, I soon learned, was an incredibly kind and gentle soul. He was soft spoken and a very knowledgeable teacher.


He explained to us at the beginning of the school year that his wife had been battling breast cancer. He was apologizing to us ahead of time for any loss of patience he may have with us during the school year because of his circumstances at home. He was in pain and was honest about it. I could respect that. I do not ever remember any other teacher sharing a bit of personal story like this with a class I had been in. He shared just enough for us to comprehend. He set the pace for an honest, gentle, and open exchange. We all respected him for it.


In my horticulture class we had a large greenhouse that was connected to our classroom. It was equipped with huge potting benches, copious amounts of rich soil we learned to mix ourselves. There were stacks of orange clay pots at our disposable. We just had to dig in and begin to learn how to play and work in the dirt. I dug in the dirt with a childlike wonder.


Every afternoon we started class in the greenhouse in the most magnificent way. It was at a nice, casual, unhurried, pace with our hands in the dirt. I found a real sense of peace in the greenhouse. We would plant seeds or plant cuttings from a variety of plants that were available to us. We could move freely around the greenhouse and chat with the teacher and the other students. This class was like no other class I had ever had and it was quite magical and beautiful way to learn, to grow, and to just be.


We would tend our growing plants by learning how to mix certain soils for all of the varieties of plants we were growing. We were taught how and when was the best way to water our plants properly. We learned how to nourish them. We learned how to remove the deadhead or spent flowers. We learned how to prune trees and plants to encourage new growth. We learned how to propagate plants.


We went on walks through neighborhoods close to the campus and learned how to identify the genus and species of every tree and shrub in sight by their bark, whether or not they were deciduous or coniferous plants, and by the shape and colors of their leaves. We were required to memorize them all. We learned how to read plant tags that come with every plant you purchase. It tells you how much sun/shade exposure is optimal for plant to grow. It tells you if the soil should be moist or dry. The plant tags tell you how large the plants will grow. We had to learn the difference between annuals, biannual, and perennial plants. We became proficient in drawing up blueprints to landscape yards. The list of things I learned in this class is endless.


We planted poinsettias that were ready for Christmas time in magnificent colors of pink, white and red. We learned how to till gardens and how to plant vegetable and flower gardens. My parent's garden had never been so abundant or tended to with such love. I planted broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, beans, and radishes. It was a magnificent harvest that year and we feasted on it all. It is an incredible feeling to plant, tend, and eat what you have grown in the garden.


Mr. Graboe came over to my planting table one day while I was tending to my growing garden. He told me that my mother was one of his wife's nurses while she was in the hospital. His wife was very ill. He was thanking me and telling me about how my mother was so kind and truly was an angel. He wanted to share with me the incredible care my mother showed his beloved wife and how grateful he was. She was a port in his private storm.


I can still see him casually leaning against the opposite planting table from mine. I could feel the weight of his wife's prognosis and the heartache that he carried. He teared up, removed his eye glasses, and gently wiped his eyes with a pure white handkerchief he had pulled from his dark, brown, corduroy pant's pocket. There was no shame in shedding a few tears in front of me. I listened and shared with him that I understood.


I had more knowledge about breast cancer than I cared to know or probably had ever shared with anyone. But it helped me to share a bit of my story and to connect with my trusted teacher. I hope I was able to offer him a small bit of comfort and understanding. I was my mother's daughter after all.


My mother was a kind and compassionate person and it showed in the care she took of her patients and their families. She had her own intimate knowledge and battle with breast cancer. She was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer when I was in 9th grade; just 3 years prior to her caring for my teacher's wife. She survived and that offered a certain kind of hope, faith, and strength to all of us and to others who knew her. I know that my mother was able to show a tenderness and a deeper understanding in what his wife was going through because of her own experience. Everything we experience in life has a tendency to shape us. My mother was the tiniest, but strongest person I have ever known in my life. Her faith carried her through her life and all of the challenges she faced.


I told him that my mother's breast cancer definitely changed my life. I remember being in a typing class in 9th grade and having to take a timed typing test at the exact time she was having her radical mastectomy. My hands were shaking and my heart was racing. I can't imagine I did well on that test. There are many moments in my life that have been etched into my memories. This was one of those times.


I was grateful at the time, that children were not allowed to visit patients in the hospital rooms if they were under the age of 16. I was only 15. I am extremely sensitive and I was afraid to visit my mother. I could also feel everyone in my family's fears, too. I remember getting picked up from school that day and was brought to the hospital. I had to use the rest room down the hall from the main lobby where my siblings and father were anxiously waiting for mom to come out of recovery.


I came around the corner near the elevators and practically ran into my mother being transferred. An orderly was wheeling my mother on a surgical gurney from the recovery room to the elevators to deliver her to her room upstairs in the hospital. I was not mentally prepared to see her at all. She didn't look like my mother. She looked tiny, frail, extremely pale, and not like herself. I had never seen my mother sick before. I was terrified and had to stifle the volcano of tears and fears that were rising up within me and threatening eruption. Of course it would have been a welcomed release for my tiny, inexperienced,15 year old heart to be able to let it out. But I just stood there, frozen into a place of muted stillness and shock.


Before her surgery, my mom had explained to us in medical terms, that her doctor had found a lump in her breast and lumps in her armpit. She told us that the cancer had metastasized and was in several of her lymph nodes. She was having a radical mastectomy. She would also have to do weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatments after she healed from the surgery. Her treatments were going to be at the world renowned, Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.


This is how I learned to hone my newly acquired driving skills. I was armed with my driving learner's permit and my driving skills on the highway were put to the test. I would drive her to the Mayo Clinic for her treatments. It was an hour's drive there and an hour home. I would also learn how to navigate the underground subway system of hallways that connect stores, pharmacies, restaurants, hotels, parking garages, anything and everything in downtown Rochester to the Mayo Clinic.


Experiences and challenges I have had in my life have certainly assisted me in connecting deeply with people from any walk of life, at any age, from a myriad of circumstances. I have always been extremely responsible and reliable. I was born an old soul. My life changed in 9th grade and I had to grow up even faster. The medical terminology for breast cancer treatments and awareness, the driving mom to and from her treatments and learning the lay of the Mayo land, all helped me at some point in my life offer help to others.


I have known many women with breast cancer and other friends and family members who had cancer treatments. I walked with them part of the way on their journey and shared with them anything I could have that would have been of benefit to them. I have been a resource to many people over the years who have needed to visit the Mayo Clinic. Everything in life is a lesson and can show us the way to live from a deeper place of understanding and connection. When we share our emotions and our stories, healing has a chance to happen. You realize you are not alone in this life and others who have walked a similar path can offer their support, love, and guidance to you or you can offer those gifts to others.


Unbeknownst to Mr. Graboe, he changed my life that year. I will always be grateful to him for the seeds that were planted within me. He taught me about life through the power of kindness, gentleness, and the plant kingdom. There is room in life to feel all of your feelings. It's ok to feel kindness, pain, joy, truth, and share your experiences to help others along the way. When and if opportunities are presented to you to lift up another human being, I encourage you to do so. We are here to learn lessons in life and to embrace our humanity by sharing the gifts we are born with.


I was introduced to the incredible world of plants in high school and my love for them and their power to heal in my life has grown exponentially. Insights and knowledge I gleaned from Mr. Graboe and his gentle nature and his horticulture class were just the beginning. As I write and share this story, I am reminded of how our lives intersected at a time that was needed for both of us to heal, grow, reach out and trust in another.


Cancer and the people in my life that it has touched has been too many to count. It is a tender story that has been woven into the fabric of my life and taught me a great deal. Cancer is a horrible gift and one that no one wants to receive, but it has been a gift nonetheless. A gift that has reminded me over and over again on how to live, love, share, forgive, and connect to others with an open heart. You do not have to get cancer in order to live from an open heart.


Because we each shared a bit of our personal lives we were both irrevocably changed by our meeting that year in my horticulture class and our experiences with people we loved who had cancer. I didn't know at the time how these two things would come in and out of my world and shape my life. The world of cancer and the world of plants. I always turn to the natural world and walk down the garden path to find healing. I have always searched for things that brought peace, love, beauty, understanding, and truth. Looking in at the unknown depth of the wonders of all living things that surround me and the well of wisdom that lies within me is rich and vast.


Gardening has been a peaceful path for me in how to find answers to my many questions on how to navigate life's ups and downs. I learned to roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty! Truth be told, my feet get dirty too. My insatiable appetite for being in the dirt has wreaked havoc on any and all manicures and pedicures. I can honestly say, the dirt always wins out over the nails.


I enter the garden and within minutes I am transformed and brought back to my peaceful center. Rosie accompanies me and joyfully runs, smells, chases, or lays down in the grass and enjoys the sun. We are both quite content in the garden. We lose all track of time and often times emerge hours later. Refreshed, renewed, reborn.



19 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All