Digging dirt and finding joy

Wild field pansy (Viola bicolor)

I sat sprawled on the ground, dirt smudging my jeans and packed into the spaces under every one of my fingernails. My back ached even as the sun warmed it, and I laughed out loud. Mr. EndlessSeeker looked at me from across the yard and asked what was so funny. “Nothing,” I replied, “I’m just feeling very happy right now!”

We had spent the last six or so hours working around our yard and garden – transplanting plants we’d nurtured in our greenhouse all winter, re-installing the soaker hoses, adding organic soil amendments and compost to some of the new garden beds, potting up vegetables, planting seeds, checking the native perennials for new growth, and admiring the bursting buds of the buckeyes, spicebush, roses, redbuds, ornamental cherry and pear trees, and chokeberries. At that moment sitting on the ground and connected to the earth, my utter, unrestrained joy came bubbling up in a big belly laugh.

The yard and garden work is always welcome because the reward is so sweet. There is magic and healing in connecting with the earth by nurturing plants and inviting birds and butterflies and bugs of all kinds into our lives. After we spent all last summer and fall creating pollinator gardens and other habitat features for our local native wildlife, it is pure joy to see the plants beginning to wake up from their long winter’s sleep. I read a saying about perennial gardening recently: the first year they sleep, the second year they creep, the third year they leap. Last year so many of our plants appeared to just sit there doing nothing, though I know they were (hopefully) establishing roots. This year I can already see that they are creeping along, growing new shoots and spreading rhizomes. I’m eager to see how much bigger they grow this summer and can’t wait to see how much more they bloom in the coming years.

The bee balm (Monarda sp.) is coming back strong

In addition to working in the gardens on this day, I spent time roaming the homestead looking for all the native plants that are popping up this spring. Since this is our first spring here, I am delighting in discovering patches of grasses, violets, ferns, mosses, goldenrod, and other wildflowers starting to sprout. A few critters have surprised and delighted us, too, including many of these brilliant red velvet mites:

Giant velvet mite (Dinothrombium sp.)

These mites look a bit frightening because they so resemble ticks, but I’ve come to enjoy seeing them, and in fact, looking specifically for them. They are predacious as adults and insect parasites as young. The adults hunt along rocks and on surfaces like our bench by the creek searching for ants and termites to eat. After first seeing one and having my buddy Clyde the entomologist identify it for me, I began to look for them whenever I was down in our woods. I have seen one every day for the past week or so. That red color is hard to miss, even though they are very small.

Walking up one of our paths, I saw something move in the leaf litter. Upon further inspection I found these two black ants hauling a grub somewhere.

These two ants were carrying a big grub

Paying attention, being mindful and in the moment, and taking time to observe all that is happening in our own backyards is rewarding and awe-inspiring. I’m grateful every day to have such a place to wander and wonder and keep me grounded. A place to call home and to nurture other living beings along with me.

Mr. EndlessSeeker has started proclaiming these days as “Enjoyment Days” – days in which we seek (or choose) joy in whatever we do, in the choices we make, and the company we keep. I like it. My spontaneous laughter while sitting on the ground after spending all day out in the gardens is all the evidence I need to declare that this, indeed, was an Enjoyment Day, dirt and all.

What makes your days enjoyable? What made you laugh out loud recently?

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