I've done a lot of digging out at our cottage. The biggest hole we ever dug was eight years ago when we buried Sophie. Sophie was the first dog I ever had as an adult; a dog that was truly mine. She loved being at the cottage and when she passed we brought her out here one last time to bury her. I had read on the internet that the hole should be at least four feet deep to discourage wildlife from digging up the grave, no small feat.
We arrived late one afternoon and proceeded to dig. And dig. And dig. It was hard going. The soil out here on the Canadian shield is a relative gumbo of thick and sticky clay. If the clay wasn't enough to contend with, there is a massive network of roots stopping our shovels every now and again. Often the proper tool isn't a shovel, but an axe. Sophie's hole was indeed four feet deep, for the last while I stood inside it and tossed chunks of soil out. We buried her facing west, looking out over the lake at the sunset.
Two years ago I dug another large hole; this one to house the Sam Floyd memorial garden. Sam was an old friend and lover of mine who decided one night that her pain was too much to bare. A decision that still tears at the hearts of those who knew and loved her. She had a brilliant sense of humour and an infectious laugh. But her smile hid a darkness none of us suspected and just one day after Robin Williams, she ended her life.
I had recently been gifted a large quantity of lilies and decided to plant them to honour her memory. I staked out an area off to the side of the yard, right along the bush line. First I had to dig up the top layer of thick grass before I could excavate a long trench. Then I had to fill the hole with rich top soil before transplanting the lilies. It was a hot day and it felt good to toil and sweat. Hard labour always helps me work out negative energy. When I was finished it didn't look like much, but I had faith it would flower beautifully the following year.
This weekend I expanded Sam's garden. I'm beginning the process of moving perennials from my home in the city to the cottage, since that is where I prefer to spend my time. Eventually we plan to move there permanently, when the hubs partially retires. Once again I began the arduous process of cultivating clay. I had barely begun when I had to stop and get the axe. As I hacked away at the roots, it occurred to me how similar my journey of self awareness and education is to gardening. It is very hard work and often something that you have to do, even when you'd rather not. More importantly, sometimes you have to sever some roots so that new growth can occur. It became a meditation for me - the digging, the chopping, the heavy lifting and then the careful placement of tender plants. When I laid my shovel (and my axe) to rest and took a step back, I was impressed by it's ugliness. But just like my life, I have faith it will be beautiful.