Getting your Hands into the Earth


DIY and how-to

Hands wearing gardening gloves and planting a seedling in soil.

Getting your Hands into the Earth

I have a friend who firmly believes that the best medicine to counter feelings of depression is to make a garden. In her words: “One needs to get one’s hands into the earth. This helps one to forget about worries.”

There is truth in what she believes.

For a start: labouring in the earth protects against an unhealthy preoccupation with ourselves and the many problems that often weigh us down. Getting our hands dirty as part of getting a garden to grow, helps us to relax and to release the tensions that cause anxiety or even panic.

To work in the land can also help us regain and nurture our original bond with the earth – the earth who like a concerned mother, feeds us daily; the earth to whom we shall one day return. In this way the earth and the soil of the earth keep us grateful, modest and real – making us aware of our own mortality.

To make a garden reminds us that our labour does not have to be in vain, that it can bear fruit and help us to provide food and nourishment for ourselves, but also for others. And it reminds us of the joy one can have in seeing how things grow.

There is an old Chinese saying which goes like this: “If you want to be happy for a day, buy a bottle of wine. If you want to be happy for a week, find yourself a wife. If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, start a vegetable garden”.

In this way we discover how important the earth is and also how grace functions. We are also reminded in another way of the Garden of God, as in the poem of Dorothy Gurney:

God’s Garden
The Lord God planted a garden
In the first white days of the world,
And He set there an angel warden
In a garment of light enfurled.
So near to the peace of Heaven,
That the hawk might nest with the wren,
For there in the cool of the even
God walked with the first of men.
And I dream that these garden-closes
With their shade and their sun-flecked sod
And their lilies and bowers of roses,
Were laid by the hand of God.
The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,–
One is nearer God’s heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.
For He broke it for us in a garden
Under the olive-trees
Where the angel of strength was the warden
And the soul of the world found ease.

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