What have you done with the garden entrusted to you? –Antonio Machado
I love poetry and teaching stories. I open and close my post this morning with two lines from two of the poems that continue to challenge me and remind me. The great Spanish poet, Machado, reminds me I am both the garden and the gardener – others can help me tend the ‘garden that is Richard’ but I am, ultimately, the gardener-in-charge. Dawna Markova reminds me and challenges me to be not afraid and to live ‘my’ life. Too often when I was young I found myself striving to live the life that others wanted me to live – to trust others more than myself.
In his essay, Uniqueness, Paradox and Choice Greenleaf writes: ‘…there was a long wilderness period in which I sought resources outside myself.’
I have experienced a number of different types of ‘wildernesses’ these past 50+ years. How about you, Gentle Reader, what have been some of the wildernesses that you have found yourself wandering in?
Like Greenleaf, I too, ‘sought resources outside of myself.’ My main resource for years was ‘books.’ Too often I just knew that if I found the right book then I would find the resource that I needed. Many of the books provided me guidance; none of them provided me the resource I was seeking.
In 1971 a mentor, Lowell, entered into my life. For four years he challenged me, he called ‘me’ forth. I slowly began to find inner resources that helped me nurture the garden that is ‘Richard.’ One wilderness that I returned to and wandered in was actually two wildernesses. One was what spiritual guides call the dark night of the soul wilderness and the other was what therapists call the wilderness of depression. The ‘dark night’ contained little pieces of light that sustained me. The wilderness of depression was a ‘wasteland of despair’ that depleted my physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual dimensions.
In 1984 another mentor, Parker, walked with me for four years. He walked with me during a time when I was immersed in a ‘dark night of the soul wilderness’ and a ‘wasteland of despair wilderness.’ Parker knew both well. By walking with me Parker affirmed that I had the inner resources to embrace both, to survive both, and to emerge from both more whole/healed. I also learned that both ‘wildernesses’ would also stand just off of center-stage waiting to be called forth. If – and when – I would give them their cue they would, with great gusto and glee join me.
As guides and mentors, Lowell and Parker affirmed who I was and at the same time challenged me to ‘trust the person, Richard.’ They believed that I had the inner resources necessary to tend my own garden, the garden that is ‘Richard.’ Slowly – over four years and then over another four years – I began to discern and trust my inner resources. I began to become the gardener and I began to tend the garden that is ‘Richard.’ Slowly I became more and more response-able, responsible and accountable as the gardener and I became more caring for the garden that is ‘Richard.’ Oh, I still rely on external resources – no one is truly self-sufficient. I also rely on the gardener, Richard, who is entrusted with the garden, ‘Richard.’
I will not die an unlived life/I will not live in fear. –Dawna Markova