Adventures in Process Work: The 'freeing up space ... with Dolly' edition
I've always appreciated symbolism, particularly in nature. When I pay attention to yellowing leaves in Autumn or a bird's nest in Spring, it feels like they have a direct connection to my body and my inner world. Yellowing leaves tell me instinctively it is time to turn inward and reflect; baby Springtime birds make me want to open up my heart and sing ... So when I recently saw my Grevillea tree (if anyone looks at the photo below and can tell me exactly what type of Grevillea it is, please get in touch!) being over-run with Asparagus Fern, it stopped me in my tracks.
It has been a tough year, right? Lately, I've been experiencing moments of intense fatigue and overwhelm -- a sense of being hemmed in ... even feeling a little trapped. As I observed this struggling, neglected tree, I felt a sense of recognition and kinship; as if it was a part of me crying out for attention. "Help, I'm stuck!", it seemed to say. While I had walked past this tree many times in the past few weeks and thought "Poor tree, I really should do something about that", this time I felt a sense of urgency. I couldn't ignore this situation for another minute. While I agree with author Jim Thompson that a weed "...is a plant out of place", I couldn't let this particular weed continue to slowly choke the life out of this native tree. After weeks of avoidance, I was finally ready to face the arduous task ahead of me.
Inappropriately attired and armed only with a pair of scissors from the kitchen, I started hacking away the fern to free up the Grevillea. Immediately, I got the sense that I was uncovering and freeing up something inside me -- doing some long-needed inner work. And as I did so, I learned a few things about healing (and Asparagus Ferns).
Healing can hurt and it can be hard work Asparagus Ferns are thorny. And when you get to the thick, long-established parts, the thorns are huge. I got quite a few scratches as I made my way to the centre of the tree where the fern had sprung from. I realised it was tender, prickly work. It was sweaty, demanding work. It was incredibly rewarding and satisfying work. I hadn't felt such a sense of agency in a long time. I felt energised, ready to take on the world.
Also, there were some parts of the fern that I couldn't get to because the Grevillea was in the way, so I had to chop some of the tree's branches that were inadvertently protecting the invader. What was my 'Asparagus Fern' -- the energy inside of me that was causing me to feel so tired and powerless -- all about, I wondered. And which parts of me (beliefs, habits, thoughts) were making it easy for this energy to take me over, seemingly unchallenged. What inside me needed to be tended to -- even if that tending was painful and meant I had to say goodbye to parts of myself?
It's not always easy to find the root cause
Try as I might, I wasn't able to find the base of the fern. I had to content myself with cutting all the vines I could find so that they were no longer connected to the root system. Despite this sense of incompleteness, I sensed that the tree was breathing more easily. Even its flowers seemed brighter. It was as if it had stretched its branches out to soak up the sunlight and let out a big sigh of contentment and gratitude.
I asked myself: Did I need to know what the root cause was? Maybe, maybe not, was the answer. But what I knew for sure was that I was feeling a whole lot better, and genuinely grateful for the first time in a long time. For the time being, that was enough. I, in all my imperfection and incompleteness, was enough.
As I cleaned up all the cuttings, I recalled the lines of one of my favourite songs, Dolly Parton's Light of a Clear Blue Morning:
It's been a long dark night
And I've been a waitin' for the morning
It's been a long hard fight
But I see a brand new day a dawning
I've been looking for the sunshine You know I ain't seen it in so long But everything's gonna work out just fine And everything's gonna be all right That's been all wrong
'Cause I can see the light of a clear blue morning I can see the light of a brand new day I can see the light of a clear blue morning Oh, and everything's gonna be all right It's gonna be okay
It's been a long long time
Since I've known the taste of freedom
And those clinging vines
That had me bound, well I don't need 'em.......
This Asparagus Fern (and its energy inside me) might come back for another round. If it does, I'll be ready for it. I understand it better now. I know how it works and what it wants to do. It's essential nature is strong, steadfast and clinging. Even though it's still challenging and disturbing to me, I'm even starting to see how that energy (used in a non-parasitic, non-controlling way) might be useful to me.
Everything serves a purpose
As a process worker, I have come to understand that often in these difficult energies we can 'find the gold in the garbage'. This doesn't mean that trauma or adversity should be celebrated or glorified; rather, it is an acknowledgement that the troublesome energies that keep us stuck and trapped can be tamed and transmuted. Our relationship to them can become more flexible as our awareness of them grows and we are not unconsciously controlled or defined by them.
I asked myself: Now that I have faced and tamed this energy, how can I pick it up and use it in my life? Perhaps there are things I should be holding onto more forcefully or 'sticking with' more strongly? I couldn't deny that this 'fern energy' had some serious commitment! That was something I had been lacking recently.
I wasn't able to throw the discarded fern in the bin because it is a noxious weed. However, now that I have rendered it harmless, it serves as a temporary decorative feature. I think it's quite pretty -- festive, even.
Have you been feeling stuck? There are so many ways to free up space in your inner world. My foray into the garden was just one example. For non-gardeners, I recommend a fantastic meditation by Dakota Walker, where she guides you through a process of tending to your sacred soul garden. Enjoy!