I love the wild. I grew up in Montana with an odd mix of rugged Montana survivalism and tame religious behavioralism. I was nurtured in the wildness of all things Earth. I was tamed in the constructs of all things of religious patriarchy.
Since the quarantine started, I have been relishing the time, beginning my first major writing project: mapping my innate wildness through the archetypal journey of having, losing, and recovering my wildish soul expressions in the world. I am enveloped in observations of all things wildish and tame these days. It is a fascinating time to be doing so.
Born and raised in small town Montana gave me a love for endless acres of golden wheat fields, miles and miles of sage brush and uncultured badlands. My favorite place I’ve lived in California was small town Three Rivers in the foothills of Sequoia National Park. We lived on top of a steep hill overlooking the town with an acre of native grasses, Valley Oaks, poison oak and rattlesnakes off our front porch. Moving back into the city was a bit rough on this nature loving human.
Consequently, a well kept yard is not only not a priority to me, but the wildness of my unkept yard helps me feel closer in spirit to Three Rivers and the badlands of Montana. I actually take a deep breath of familiar when I pull in my driveway.
Now, I realize that I am not in the wild and not everyone grew up appreciating tall, yellow grasses and tangly weeds. I am also well aware that there are ways to live more peacefully (and less) in a community by following (or not following) societal norms and expectations. My conservative religious upbringing trained me well. I was a very diligent and outstanding rule follower for many years with awards and accolades to prove it. That was in my predominantly tame decades.
More recently, it is not a hidden fact that I thrive testing boundaries of tamed spaces to explore the wilder places. I am continually moving in and out of tame and wildish thought and behavior as it works within my world as a mother, therapist, friend, and writer. Some of you know me to be more tame. Others of you know my wildish sides. May it be known, I am very much both. I’m learning to live this balance in greater alignment with my bodymindspirit and purpose on the planet. It is a fantastic journey!
How does this relate to my yard?
Well tonight, I write this with a grieving farewell to my wildish yard as I enjoy the beauty of the tall, yellowing grasses and weeds reminding me of Montana. Rare, wispy pink clouds in a pale blue sky hang peacefully over the humming birds passionate jostling about position at the feeder. I have decided to concede to the now spoken societal pressure of keeping a well kept yard in town.
And here is why. It’s a good story. Keep reading. 🙂
A couple weeks ago, I began thinking about the societal pressure of a well kept neighborhood yard as the height of my grass almost reached my knee. Though my wild grass brings me much joy, I imagined that it bothers many. I had pushed the boundaries long enough and it was time to conform to relieve any possible tension my weeds were creating in the hearts of my neighbors. I asked the house directly across from me if I could use their lawn mower. “Anytime,” they laughed with a bit of gentle joking, yet no hint of frustration toward me.
Fast forward a week and a half. I still had not felt the compulsion to do the deed. Unloading a million bags of groceries, an unfriendly looking elderly lady (and I love elderly people, I promise), walking her three little dogs was heading down the sidewalk in my direction.
When she was in front of my house, I said a warm, “Hello,” and turned to head in my house with the bags of groceries I was holding.
“Excuse me. Can you get your land lord to take care of this yard?”
“Oh, I can tell that this bothers you, I’m sorry. It’s my responsibility, not the land lords.”
“Well it does bother me. Do something about it.”
“I’m sorry that my yard is creating tension. I’m sorry this is bothering you.” I said with a firm kindness in my tone.
“It’s ugly. And you’re weeds are blowing seeds down my whole street.”
“Again, I’m hearing your frustration. I’m a single mom with four kids and my lawn mower is broken. I apologize that I haven’t made this a priority in a way that feels right to you.”
“It’s a fire hazard and . . . “
And that’s where I turned around to take myself and my groceries into the house.
There are several things about this experience that I am thankful for.
- I have grown along with my wild grasses. My people pleasing, tame self would have caved and crumpled at this frustrated old woman’s feet, groveling for her forgiveness for not doing what she thought I should do to make her world happier. In this experience, I honored her frustration. I even gave her space to express it. Yet I was able to express my apology and my side of the story (though unacknowledged) with peaceful and embodied conversation in the presence of her agitation. This is massive growth for me. One of my biggest fears throughout my life was feeling people’s anger directed at me for something I did wrong and caving to whatever expectation or action was necessary to create “peace.”
- My guilt laden self of the past would have stewed over this for the next several days, punishing myself in little ways for not meeting the standard and thus angering this elderly woman. This time, I acknowledged that I probably could have followed through with borrowing the neighbors lawnmower the day I asked rather than putting it off. And miraculously, I let it go! No perseverating. I’m celebrating this growth point.
- I allowed myself to feel my shadowy emotions of resistance to demands rise without trying to overlay it with nice girl or good girl self talk. I had two days of allowing myself to consider never cutting my weeds just to show her I wasn’t going to be bullied by her agitated demand. In the past, I would have tried everything in my mental power to overrule those normal human emotions rather than feel into them, breathe through them and move on.
- I kept myself open to the question my therapist frequently asks me, “Who do you want to be? No matter who is behaving in triggering ways toward you, who do you want to be? Be who you want to be, not what they are expecting you to be or what the situation is emotionally triggering you to react with.” Who do I want to be? Who do I want to be? Who do I want to be? Maybe I want to be a little bitchy right now and refuse to cut my grass. Or maybe I don’t.
And the lesson lands.
Two days later, I asked my sons to clean their disgusting bathroom. It was slimy and smelly and almost made me want to gag walking in there. They know it’s their responsibility to clean it. They know that anyone who is in the living room will generally go to their bathroom when they need the facilities. They. don’t. care.
But it had gone too long and now I was needing it to be clean for my sanity. Their disregard of community norms of cleanliness within our home was now creating great amounts of agitation in my heart.
“I need this bathroom clean by 9 in the morning or you will both be paying me $10 each to do it for you.”
“WHAT? That’s manipulation. You can’t do that.”
“I can and I will. So feel free to hire me to do it or take 10 minutes to do it yourself.”
My oldest son is the most like me in personality. “You can’t make me do it. And you can’t make me pay. I don’t even care if it’s dirty, so why do you?”
Screeching halt in my mind: I was transported out of the bathroom conversation and into the lawn care conversation. Oh shit.
“I care about this bathroom because we are a community and as a community we are trying to work together to honor each other to help maintain as much harmony and peace as possible.”
End of conversation. I went to my room, fell on my bed and knew who I wanted to be in my community. Yes, I still love my reminder of the badlands and native grasses of Three Rivers when I drive into my driveway and sit in my back yard. But I value peace in our community more than my wispy remembrances of locations not present to me and stubborn, combative, “Let’s just see how long it takes me to get this yard cleaned up,” attitude.
The bathroom was cleaned by 9 am the next morning by two disgruntled teenage boys. And a dear friend of mine happened to make a delivery to my home this morning and kindly said, “Would you want to trade a massage for some yard work?”
“YES YES YES!!”
So the little old lady doesn’t know I’m planning to clean my yard. She has no idea the journey I’ve taken through wild and tame lands these five days since she scolded me. I hope she’ll be happy and breathe a little easier when my yard isn’t blowing its weedy seeds in her direction through our windless neighborhood. 😉
I wish you all meaningful adventure as you lean into the balance of living your own wildish soul even if your nature loving soul is stuck in the city.