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Friday, March 12, 2010

"Dirt Therapy"

I'm ready to go back outside! The beginning of this week brought Spring into North Georgia with warmer temperatures and clear, blue, sunny skies.

We immediately headed outdoors to begin the annual “Spring clean-up” around our house, raking leaves and generally clearing away the debris and muck left over from a late winter snow.

While my husband started the cutting and treatment of the lawn for it's new Spring growth, I began the arduous task of raking the dead leaves and over-growth from around the walls of the house and from under the trees and bushes surrounding our large and partially-wooded lot. It took us almost all day to complete these projects, but we enjoyed the fresh air and the sun on our skin as we plugged away with a common purpose.

The last few weeks of winter being rather gray and gloomy, it was a particularly beautiful day. The smell of damp and freshly-raked earth brought through open windows on a sunny breeze was intoxicating and tempting. It was evident that many in our community were experiencing the thrill of finally leaving their dark interiors to herald the new season. Amid the birds were the sounds of mowers, tractors, clippers and saws; dogs barking; children calling and laughing. Greetings were shouted across neighboring yards with smiling faces in a spirit of vitality and good-will.

After transporting all the leaves and brush to a clearing prepared for burning - and putting the tractor and tools away – I stood on our back deck to survey our handiwork. Sore, filthy and tired, I still felt energized and happy. Some people may not be able to truly appreciate the joy and satisfaction that comes from working amid dirt and plants, and I understand that it's probably just “not their thing.” I, however, thrive in this environment and always feel better when I've had time to spend digging in the dirt again.

I've discovered over the years that while home-ownership demands a good deal of responsibility, I really don't mind the work required in maintaining the outdoor portion of our home. For no matter where we live – whether it be a ranch consisting of hundreds of acres, a home in the middle of suburbia, or a small brownstone within city limits - the area surrounding and entering our home is an extension of our personality and the life within.

Physical work of any kind permits us an opportunity to clear our minds and bodies of stress and fatigue, the oxygen clearing away the cobwebs in our brain. Though energizing, I always find myself more relaxed and in better spirits when working outside in the yard or flower beds. Yes, it can be a real hassle to try and keep up with weeds, over-grown shrubs and grass. But if we take the time to enjoy the personal solitude incurred while performing these tasks, those moments become a time of reflection, meditation, or prayer … all in the midst of nature.

A well-known chain of landscaping nurseries in the southeast has a slogan that I have loved for years: “Come play in the dirt again!” Like a child, I need not worry about what clothes I'm wearing, whether my hair is messy, or how dirty I get when working outside. Focusing on nothing but the task at hand – whether pulling weeds or the repetition of hoeing or raking – I totally let go of any stress or worries plaguing me at the moment. As my mind becomes clearer I begin to commute with God, the conversation progressing as though He's standing and working right beside me. I almost always find myself singing (in my head, or sometimes out loud!), offering my notes to heaven.

It really is the best of two worlds for I gain valuable prayer, meditation, and alone time while accomplishing an important job. No spa or retreat-center required. (although, occasionally my muscles might be screaming for a massage afterwards!)

I'm looking forward to Spring kicking into high-gear. I can't wait to get back out there and do some more cleaning and planting. Far from finished, we have a small garden to prepare and more to clear away.

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.

~Dorothy Frances Gurney, "Garden Thoughts"

It's not just the work and the end-result I'm looking forward to... it's the therapy!

Pay it forward this Spring – maybe by taking care of the small piece of earth around you - in return, you'll receive so much more than beautiful blooms!

Photos property of Google Images, Washington Post & Stock Photo


  1. Pamela ~ You wrote what lives in my heart. I am ready to get dirty again.

  2. Ah, you said it! When I'm on my knees gardening, I often find myself talking to the Lord. I guess I feel closest to Him when I'm outside enjoying nature.

    I do hope we have more spring. We set a record high today! Ugh! I hate hot weather...


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