Last evening I was sitting in my kitchen shelling peas. Now, that by itself isn’t something strange or earth-shattering. It’s just a chore, a task I had before me. I sank into the hard-backed wooden chair, and Rocky, our orange tabby cat, hopped up onto the kitchen table so he could rest in close petting range. You never know when my hands might need a break from shelling peas, and petting cats is a great alternative (or at least so Rocky says).
This week has been stressful. I finally got a second query letter and package out to an editor for my novel, I Believe You. I completed what felt like tens of thousands of words of blog posts, articles, and marketing copy for clients this week. I haven’t touched the garden since Saturday when I did a tremendous amount of digging, planting and weeding in the vegetable garden.
But today was different. I finally had enough peas harvested to shell them and prepare some for our dinner. I sat at the kitchen table. My hands began the familiar ritual, pads feeling for the seam on the pod, thumb slitting open the pea pods. Peas shot out across the kitchen and pinged off the wall and I laughed. It’s all in a day’s work.
On and on I shelled until the compost bucket overflowed with spent and empty pea pods and Rocky had drifted off to sleep. Pick up a pod, Feel for the seam, Slit the shell, push the peas into the bowl, place the empty pod, start again.
I let myself focus simply on shelling peas. I admired the lush green color, the green scent of spring rising from my hands. I admired the perfection of God’s handiwork; is there anything more beautiful than a pod full of perfectly round peas, all snugly contained inside their shell? And is there anything sweeter than fresh peas popped into your mouth, raw and succulent, juicy like fruits and tasting of early summer nights, fireflies and spring days?
An hour went by, and my stress levels melted. The mindfulness of shelling peas calmed me like nothing else. Gardening is meditation for me. For many years, I was a regular practitioner of yoga. I’d meditate for an hour or so, and the linger relaxation of those peaceful hours would carry into my days. Since returning to my Catholic roots, however, the yogic tradition doesn’t feel right anymore, and my prayers are more traditional. Gardening, however, allows me to carry that yogic sense, that mindfulness training, into a useful task.
The Benedictine motto is “prayer and work” and the Shakers, an American Christian sect, used to say “Hands to work, hearts to God.” There are numerous studies on how gardening is good for the mind and spirit. I have found that the repetitive gardening tasks – husking corn, shelling peas, weeding garden beds – are often the best for meditation and rest. The physical movements require attention but no thought. Within the space between each motion lies rest and reflection, peace and connection.
Today on Wellness Wednesday, I wanted to take a moment not to write about herbs or their uses, or about the many health benefits of gardening, but to remind you that gardening can be a form of prayer. Gardening can be meditation. Gardening can wash away the stress of a busy day in the simple act of co-creating with the earth, with nature, and with the One who created all.
And you get peas. Tasty, wonderful peas.
Happy gardening. Keep GROWING! #WellnessWednesday