All natures, all forms, all creatures exist in and with one another,
and they will be resolved again into their own roots.
-The Gospel of Mary
I often wonder where the inflection point is between excitement and overwhelm when I’m venturing into a brave new beginning. For today, the pull of what’s beyond my sight and grasp leaves me feeling like I’m climbing up a hill in a mud slick.
With each step I take, doubt washes over me with:
“You have no idea what you are doing!”
I slide down the hill into shut-down mode, where I do nothing instead of something, and I ruminate on the paradox of choice that haunts me.
Tomatoes, five ways—water-bearing and not— I read these packages, and each little seed comes with its own set of instructions.
There are more types of seeds for planting than there are ways to transport a baby. From slings to strollers of all shapes, sizes, and propensities for breaking down, I feel like a new mom trying to make decisions for the registry.
I remember a veteran mom at my baby shower poking fun at the double-sized can of diaper rash paste I’d registered for—how she nearly bought it for me as a joke but went for something practical instead.
Five kids later, I now realize how little we truly need to support those first few months of life, despite what all the advertising insists. I also realize that, with time, I’ll figure it out. And there are more rich and complex manuals for planting than parenting.
Besides, I’m not completely new. This is my second season of throwing it all out there and seeing what works. So often I want to buy another book or call for help, but if there is one thing I’ve learned through raising children, it’s that I just need to learn as I go. Experience in the doing.
But for weeks, I dragged my feet on seed buying. I didn’t use the waning winter months for preparation, as my planting books suggested. Instead, I’m frozen, contemplating the perfect first step as I immerse myself in the planning of the kids’ summer routines and how to get them the right balance of sunshine and structure without losing myself in the mom shuttle.
I’m stagnant in worry, yet I remember that taking one simple step forward can shift everything. Sometimes I just need to take a deep breath and remember that it always works out when I stop worrying about the how.
The kids make it where they need to go, and I don’t go completely insane getting them where they need to be.
And slowly, ever so slowly, I accomplish another little thing outside of them, but within their rhythms and routines of nurture.
Which is how, right in the middle of their chaos, the brilliant idea for the makeshift greenhouse space I need to kick off my second official planting season materialized.
As I’m picking up the trail of toys strewn about the house and see my dog, who is more like a cat, sun bathing on the carpet in the middle of the source of the mess, I realize that the sunniest place for growing is the kids’ playroom, where a sea of Legos, trucks, games, disheveled Barbies, and Power Ranger swords are scattered on the floor.
I can see how I can gather and pass on all the baby toys, because foam blocks, rattles, and other sensory objects have long lost my littlest one’s interest. And that the living room has just enough space to park the roller coasters that are ridden to the kitchen and back…the Lego castle can live on in the other room.
I cleared it all out. It’s the first and only thing I did before settling back into a frozen state of wondering what’s next when I realized the metal racks that were in the attic of an old house we let go of and had long moved from would be perfect shelving for the seedling trays.
I went to the cottage, which sits down the hill from the house, to find them. At one point, it was a state-of-the-art barn for the prized stallions that were kept on the property. Then it was converted into a three-car garage and caretaker’s space. Now, it’s filled with remnants of the multiple moves of lives past and the worn-out buckets, frayed lead ropes, and weathered bridles that were passed on when I took in the rescue horses that now roam in our paddocks.
As my 12-year-old came along to help me carry up the shelves that were part rusted and missing the plastic supports on the legs, but enough to get me started, he asked, “Mom, do you know what you are doing?”
“Not really, but I’ll figure it out” I replied. “It’s still technically winter. I have more time for the answers to come.”
I remind myself that the horses are an example of “not knowing.” Although I’m a novice, and the experts of the horse world all insisted in one way or another that I was crazy, it is all working out—at least every day I keep them alive.
But in that case, there was one woman who believed I could make it with the horses by figuring it all by jumping in. Sometimes it takes just one “positive” voice holding a space of possibility, and that’s what I clung to as I navigated the chaos of our growth into our role as caretakers of 1,000-pound animals. Those horses were once destined for slaughter, until they stepped off a trailer from the rescue onto my land in the Fall of 2021. But that is the seed for another story.
In the case of the farm and my vision of planting, I felt the calling to “just try” as the spring equinox rose. How quickly I shifted from tenuous confidence into panic mode, ordering seeds without a plan. But then she texts—the lifeline of an established farmer—and says, “I have some old containers that aren’t needed anymore.” “Do you need any supplies?”
She knows I can find or buy them. I know I still have some containers left from last year with saved seeds in the potting shed. I can easily double-click and two-day ship, but I put our meeting time in my calendar and breathe a sigh of relief.
The morning I drive over to her farm, it's raining and she only has a minute to spare, but she takes me to a pile of supplies she no longer needs. As we’re walking to my trunk with soggy planting trays, I’m thinking about all the baby items I once received when my journey as a mom was as new as my journey today as a farmer.
I continue to find homes for the cast-offs that I know will clothe the child of another, and I feel that love returning to me in trays gathered from a woman so fully immersed in the rhythm and flow of the land, the seasons, and the seedlings that sprout from the darkness—she is a curator of the mystery of life.
Her cast-offs are my treasure of possibility, and I drive off to plant my seed of intention in this spring of 2023.
With planting, like parenting, there seems to be a million ways to proceed, but no right way.
The words of guidance we long for can only be heard by listening to the voice that whispers from deep within our hearts. Quiet words that emerge from our daily doings may be gathered into the sacred script of our unique sovereign way. Like the instructions imbedded in the core of the seed—to blossom into the vegetable or flower that it is meant to be.
If only I had this wisdom in the days when I was feeling the overwhelm of motherhood pressing hard against my back, nudging me forward into the unknown further and faster than I felt ready for.
If only I had the awareness, like seeds, of the cycles of life and held the messiness of a beautiful expansion as an organic and valued part of the process.
If only I had recognized the fear for what it was.
If only I had chosen, in more moments, to reside in love and to have sown all the seeds of early motherhood out of trust and love.
I’ve read that the soil in which we plant is the most important part. And while the seed of life was once planted in my womb, I am now planted here on this earth, in a world of storms and chaos.
“You feel too much, Alicia.”
“Don’t be so sensitive!”
“Just chill out.”
I tried with all my might to avoid this sensitivity. To be what the world expected of me—to live up to the expectation of a dry-eyed, stoic, and resilient goddess-like woman of grace. If only. If only I were different in a lot of different ways.
But then I look at all the different seeds, from flowers to veggies. In one genre, there are countless kinds, and maybe, just maybe, there is room for me.
Maybe my sensitivity is my unique sovereign way—like the cocoa cosmos that I like to call my “Magdalenes,” that can only be what they are; they cannot be morning glories or daisies—each flower is different, but with its own grace and beauty.
I’ve long felt aligned with my bare feet on the earth and my hands in the dirt, yet for too many years, living this close to nature felt like a dreamy ideal of what my life could be, one day, if only all the things that stood in the way of that existence weren’t a reality.
But here I am, living out the experience I once hoped for. I wake with gratitude, and I weep at both the sorrow and joy of life. I’ll never be able to contain all the feelings in my heart, and resilience is something that comes in varying amounts.
Grace is what I feel when I’m closest to home—not just tending the things in my physical space, but closest to the center of my core.
I realize now that, like seeds, we have all we ever need, and all we ever need is found in every present moment.
That love we need to make big, bold changes, to forge new beginnings, and to live our best life is always within reach—it is within us; it is who we are. Like the seed, which grows and changes into flower or a tomato, it is all there in our core—everything we need is there inside us.
It is only that we reach for what we crave or look in the wrong direction for what we need.
We see the horizon—the finished project—much like I behold another woman’s bustling farm with perfectly carved-out rows, a system, and support.
I remember what it felt like to hold my daughter for the first time and how I was awed by her omniscient eyes and mystified by her strength as she lifted her head to observe the world around her just hours after she was born.
Here I am, like a new mom again. With all those feelings of overwhelm and confusion. There is a cacophony of voices and information that tell me “bio,” “hydro,” and what not. I can get lost in that, like I once got lost in strollers. Until I realized the only stroller I ever needed was the Bob jogging stroller for her fresh air and my freedom.
Now, all I need to support my growth and expansion are the metal shelves that once lined the attic of a home I let go of—and so these shelves will hold the various levels of seedlings in my makeshift greenhouse.
I notice that, though we are settled, the things we bought at different points in our lives for one reason or another serve different purposes at different times and in different ways.
There is the old, rusted pub bench that I just took out of my daughter’s room in the basement.
I recently converted that room, which had been used for storage and tools, so she could have space to make her music. For her 14th birthday, I painted a piano with pink chalk paint.
The bench came out to make space and was put in my makeshift greenhouse, and now it’s the bench upon which I type—the words flowing while I put the seeds into the soil.
It’s messy. Seed starter. I dump it into the trays with the holes before I remember I should make it damp first.
The water doesn’t absorb without proper mixing, so I dump it out and make a mess. I track dirt through all the rooms to the kitchen for water. There is no water on this side of the house or anywhere near the room, so I make trips in an old Le Creuset bowl that holds my potatoes.
Everything needs a different depth and sprouting time. But it’s mind-numbing to comprehend it all, so I moisten the soil and try.
Morning glory with its vibrant purples and blues, because my aunt said, “Just soak ‘em and plant ‘em.” This sage advice came on the summer solstice, when I was recovering from a transcontinental move and desperate to transcend the chaos and make our new house a home. I put them into pots on the patio and garnered so much hope from that first sprout of my own intention. They went to seed in the Fall, and I gathered them.
They were the only seeds the squirrels didn’t eat over the winter, though I saved all the tomatoes, the sunflowers, the zinnias, and the cosmos, carefully selecting the cocoa variant that bloomed as my “Magdalenes” through both summer and fall, though everything else wilted around at various times.
I notice my husband likes to pass by me in my “messes,” observing my progress as he moves through his own transition and asking, “What’s going on with the planting project?”
It’s the sort of thing he’s asked me at various stages when he knows I’m slightly overwhelmed and trying to make something new work. There were times this was a trigger, but many seasons of marriage have shown me the nuances of his intentions, and I know this is his way of letting me know he’s around, watching, and quietly rooting for me.
“I’m going to wave my magic wand and become a farmer,” I poke back, and then shift us into our familiar banter with, “If you figured out how to run a tractor, then anything is possible.”
It’s been a blend of grit and humor that’s carried us from the day we exchanged vows at a boutique hotel in Tuscany, “La Suvera,” to our present moment, where we are creating our life at La Suvera Farm.
Five flowers anchor the name of our fledgling farm on the sign at the street and remind me of all that once felt impossible but all that came to be—five thriving kids and a life worth living.
From the logo to the name, it’s all what we’ve lived and experienced, all I gathered within our stories, along with the courage I need to step into the unknown.
I could get stuck in worry, yet I remember that taking one simple step forward with love can shift everything. Sometimes I just need to take a deep breath and remember how it always works out when I stop worrying about the how.
The flower knows how, so I say to the seeds, “Grow.”