How Digging In The Dirt Can Be A Gateway To Your Soul

– Posted in: Garden Musings
Fran Sorin

Fran is the author of the recently published 10th Anniversary Edition of Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, which Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends as "a profound and inspiring book".  

A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology, she is also a gardening and creativity expert, coach, inspirational speaker, and CBS Radio New correspondent.

Click on Fran's website, www.fransorin.com, to sign up to receive a free gift: "The 38 Creative Tips That Are Preventing You From Leading A Richer Life" and to read articles on creativity, well-being, gardening, and spirituality.  

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Fran Sorin
Fran Sorin

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Rick January 16, 2016, 8:06 am

Great article/blog post Fran!

Carolyn Choi January 16, 2016, 9:57 am

I can certainly emphathize with you Fran having left my home and garden of 4 decdes in Chicago and moving back to my native South. It was a long and painful process but now that I am happily settled in a new home and have the task of developing a half acre landscape I think it was worth it. The joy of watching my only grandchild blossom is priceless. I love the long gardening season we have here in North carolina and the opportunity it affords me to discover new plants and gardening techniques

Ed January 16, 2016, 11:03 am

Beautiful, Fran. Thanks for posting it.

Carol breslin January 16, 2016, 1:13 pm

completely agree with your thoughts on gardening….I don’t feel whole if I don’t get out into my garden at least once a day…. however, i was looking forward to being able to garden more in retirement, and now I find my body cannot do many garden tasks!!! boo hoo

michaele anderson January 16, 2016, 2:03 pm

This post really touched my heart. I know I can move on from my house when the time comes but leaving my garden areas will be so difficult. They are me.

Delbert young January 17, 2016, 6:51 am

After an ice storm, I could feel the pain in all the tree with broken limb. For the next few days, I went along the streets with my handsaw and loppers removing damaged limbs. I could feel the trees thanking me.

Fran Sorin January 18, 2016, 8:27 am

Michaele- am so glad that this post resonated with you. And your phrase in referring to you garden areas, “They are me”, touched me deeply! Do you know, even today, when I meditate and think about the connection I have to my old garden in Bryn Mawr, Pa., tear come to my eyes. My love for my garden is no less profound than what I might feel for a close friend, family member, or dog (as hokey as they may sound). Thanks for your comment. Warmly, Fran

Fran Sorin January 18, 2016, 8:29 am

Oh Delbert, What a lovely description. I have never heard these words used in describing your scenario. ‘I could feel the trees thanking me’ is making me tingle. Thank you, thank you. warmly, Fran

Fran Sorin January 18, 2016, 8:31 am

Carol, Am glad you enjoyed the article. Yep, it does get a bit more difficult on the back as we get older. But all you have to do is to find some young neighbors to help you out. What a wonderful way to create community. Warmly, Fran

Fran Sorin January 18, 2016, 8:32 am

Dear Ed, Thanks for letting me know that you appreciated the article. It means a great deal to me. Warmly, Fran

Fran Sorin January 18, 2016, 8:36 am

Carolyn,
I think it’s wonderful that you moved from Chicago to North Carolina in order to be close with your grandchild. That is exactly what I did and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But how lucky for you, also, that you landed in a great climate for gardening AND that you have 1/2 acres to play with, create, learn…and so much more. Bravo to you for moving forward with your life. Warmly, Fran

Fran Sorin January 18, 2016, 8:36 am

Rick,
Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. Am glad you enjoyed it. Warmly, Fran

Lana @ The Joy Blog January 18, 2016, 3:48 pm

Lady, you are speaking from my heart. I recently discovered gardening for myself. I had grown up with a farmer dad, a gardening mom, but paid little attention to it, and rarely helped (as teens are wont to do). I had a couple houseplants in college and in some of my apartments. A year ago, I began gardening for real. I turned my scorching hot cement patio into a little urban oasis, and it healed me from a grief blackness that I couldn’t seem to shake any other way. Every morning, I would wake up and run to the patio to check on my babies (the plants). I would care for them, and nurture them, and cheer when they grew bigger than expected (example: a potted tomato growing 8 feet tall).
Last night I was actually telling my husband how surprised I was at the power of gardening. I had no idea it would heal my broken heart the way it did, I just thought it would get me exercise, and keep me occupied. I explained to him that I could feel the soul of my plants, or aura or whatever it was, they would share their energy with me, and I would heal little by little every day. By the time winter came a couple months ago, I felt almost whole. I had been grieving for 3 years while my mom battled cancer and then after she died. The magic of the plants was beyond my expectations, and I am counting down the days to planting season again! This was a beautiful post, thank you for sharing it!

Cathy January 18, 2016, 8:07 pm

I’m guilty of referring to gardening as a “hobby” and a “pastime” mostly because I never really found a better word to describe what gardening has really meant to me. Part hobby, part chore, part therapy, part spiritual experience…. It represents many different things.
I talk to my plants. I play music for them. I praised their beauty and apologized when I knew I had been neglectful. I spoke to the fairies I was certain lived in the garden. I even left them bits of bling and chocolate. (How crazy is that?)

Even now, on my patio, I speak to our window boxes and container gardens. A few times neighbors have seen and heard me… I know because they looked at me funny at the time and now they give me wide berth. Clearly they don’t know what they’re missing!

Fran Sorin January 19, 2016, 4:13 am

Dear Cathy,
Of course you do all of those things. I would expect nothing less. I must say that I never tried speaking to fairies although I understand why you have. But do explain leaving bits of chocolate. I’ve never heard of a gardener doing that but if you’ve done it, there has to be a good reason why. Fondly, Fran

Fran Sorin January 19, 2016, 4:17 am

Lana- Am so glad that the article resonated with you. And thank you for sharing your story about the healing power of gardening. It touched me deeply. Yep, my gardens have seem through my most joyful times…and also through times of deep sorrow. A garden can become one of your best friends when you connect with it in a profound way. My condolences to you on the loss of your mother. I know how difficult it is to go through that process. Warmly, Fran

Benjamin Vogt January 19, 2016, 11:32 am

How about I share this from my article along the same vein? “Nature is not a garden, but it’s too easy to see nature as something imperfect. When we can take a step back and see a fallen tree as beautiful and purposeful or appreciate an assassin bug enjoying its moth dinner, we can see that the world doesn’t seem to need us in it, and we can start to become a more humble and rewarding part of it. A garden can teach us how to interact with life and guide us into deeper self-discovery if we design with purpose, then let that design evolve with the species that come to call it home.” http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/57501816/list/the-surprising-ingredients-every-good-garden-should-have

Cathy January 20, 2016, 3:13 am

Fran,

Even though I am a scientist by training, just as I believe that each of us humans has a spirit, I believe that fairies are the manifestations of the spirits of the natural world. I probably have half a dozen books about fairies and their effect on our world as well as innumerable articles from a variety of sources. I wish I could share some of the quotes that have molded my beliefs… all of my books are still in storage as we complete what has become a very challenging cross-country move. We shall have to revisit this discussion when our things are finally delivered and unpacked.
Some of the things that I have learned in my research about fairies are that fairies love all flowers, even weeds, and many sources relate that fairies love bling – little sparkly things, little bits of chocolate, shiny pieces of glass. Wherever I have gardened has always felt otherworldly to me, a mystical place, a haven. Out of deference to the fairies that I believe share that special place, I always apologize to the fairies before I do any serious weeding or pruning in the garden so that they know that what I am doing, I am doing to help the roses or the zinnias or the lavender to bloom better.
Fairy activity is protective of the garden, and so doing things to please the fairies would seem to be a good thing. Thus, I leave them little bits of things I have learned that they like… a tiny rhinestone, some bits of aluminum foil rolled into tiny balls, a little sprinkle of glitter, a faux pearl or diamond form a craft project, and yes, a few scrapings of chocolate. I had a fairy fountain that was broken. The fairy was leaning over her cupped hands and the water would come up through her hands and trickle through her fingers as if she was blowing on it. I loved that figurine so much I kept it in the garden and I would put my fairy offerings in her hands.
DO I believe that I have experienced fairies? Yes. Do I think the fairies have helped to make my garden a more beautiful place? Yes.

Cathy

Fran Sorin January 20, 2016, 3:20 am

Cathy,
You just gave me a mind-boggling short version lesson on fairies. Truly, I never thought of them that way. I find what you’re saying exciting and would like to learn more about them without turning it into a full time project. Any particular book, readings, etc…you would suggest? I literally felt my skin tingling as I read your response. I’m sorry to hear that your move has been so challenging. You have been an extremely good sport about it all. Sending you blessings and a big hug..xo-Fran

Fran Sorin January 20, 2016, 3:23 am

Benjamin- Love what you wrote here and the article itself. Plus you are a gifted wordsmith. Thanks for adding the link to your article. I highly recommend that folks take the time to read it. Fran

Cathy January 20, 2016, 6:22 am

Fran,

Thanks for your kind words about what we now refer to as TMFH… The Move From He–.

I know it sounds incongruous if not downright crazy coming from a seriously religious Jewish woman, scientist and generally pragmatic person, but my introduction to the faerie world was with a set of Doreen Virtue’s faery oracle cards and a book about them that were given to me by a close friend when I was going through the first of my two most recent five-year chemo protocols. I was really quite ill at the time and she would come and help me out into the garden in my wheel chair and she would sit with me and read with me and just spend time with me in that beautiful place.

Although I find her a bit commercial, I do like Doreen Virtue’s faerie books and I have used the faerie cards to meditate. I feel that they have helped to open some spiritual doors for me and helped me establish a connection with the faerie beings in our garden.

Once I was back on my feet so to speak, I went to an independent book store and sat on the floor in the New Age section and paged through many books on fairy (or faerie) mysticism and bought quite a few others.

“Connecting with Nature’s Angels: The World of Faeries, Elementals & Nature Spirits” by Blake Cahoon is another book that I have but I really need to actually see my books and handle them (and read my little notes that I write in them LOL) to tell you better which are my favorites.

What I have found over the years (and this is probably an unfair generalization) is that people who write about mystical topics such as faeries start out giving truly helpful information that resonates with me but then as they become well known, they become very “commercial”. That makes me uncomfortable for some reason and I find that I want to distance myself from their commercial ventures, even though I may have found some of their original teachings truly, truly compelling. It’s sometimes hard for me to reconcile my feelings about the author/practitioner and their work. Does that make any sense?

Cathy

Fran Sorin January 20, 2016, 9:38 pm

Cathy- Thanks for this information. It absolutely makes sense about your reference to well known authors/practitioners becoming commercial once they gain some popularity. I love your description of your friend reading to you in your garden and you sitting on the floor in the New Age section of a book store, browsing through books, and learning about faerie mysticism. xo

Cathy January 21, 2016, 12:32 am

Fran,

I have to have plants around me, both indoors and out. I can’t really articulate what it means to me not to have them in my space. My husband is the same way. There is no question in my mind that the time I spent in the garden while I was undergoing the long term high dose chemo protocols was healing.

I may have related this to you before and if so, I apologize for repeating myself. We moved from Massachusetts to California’s Napa Valley just before the major earthquake in 2014. The quake destroyed our home in Napa and when my husband finally found another place for us to live, we literally had to start all over again with a couple of suitcases of clothing and not much more. So here we were, without even a bed to sleep on (we were sleeping on a mattress on the floor, awaiting furniture to be delivered), eating at a borrowed fold up card table with a handful of mismatched plates, a tea kettle, and lamp that had also been loaned to us, mugs, a single bowl, and my lap top.

A more practical person might have bought a frying pan, some flatware, a measuring cup, some real chairs and a table. Not us. The first thing we did after my suitcases were dumped on the floor of the second bedroom was to head over to Mid City Nursery where we purchased pots, soil, 4 roses, a lemon tree, an earth box and a half dozen herbs, some succulents, a fountain, a stone bench, and all of the makings for a small fairy garden. We also got some garden furniture — two chairs and a table on clearance — so we could sit out on our patio and read or have breakfast. We built a beautiful container garden on our patio before we even had a real bed.

Some would say our priorities were absolutely in the right place. Others would have simply shaken their heads, rolled their eyes, muttered things like “tree hugger” and “straaaange” under their breath, and moved off in the opposite direction.

The reality is that it took one day to create a beautiful space that got us through some very difficult months. We are under a significant water restriction here so we collect water during our showers and from cooking, washing vegetables, and rinsing dishes to water our little garden.

Shannon jones January 21, 2016, 6:46 pm

I really enjoyed your post! When we bought our first home, there was bare dirt, dead grass, and a couple of dying podocarpus. I planted a cottage garden, including 85 rose bushes (including many english roses). We added raised beds and planted vegetables with apple trees espalliered along the garden wall. Trees, flowers, shrubs, fountains… A garden paradise. I’d never gardened before and made a lot of mistakes, but the garden was very forgiving and offered such satisfaction!

Fran Sorin January 27, 2016, 3:39 am

Shannon- How true! Recently, I worked with some college kids in creating a community garden and they all voiced what satisfaction it gave them…plus being a stress buster. Am glad you enjoyed the post.Fran

CID YOUNG January 27, 2016, 4:09 pm

I ALWAYS KEEP IN MIND THIS QUOTE FROM THE hERB qUARTERLY:

“WHEN THE WORLD WERIES AND CEASES TO SATISFY, THERE’S ALWAYS THE GARDEN”

AND
WHEN TENDING MY GARDEN, AS I WATER OR PRUNE THE PLANTS… I NEVER FAIL TO THINK OF THE PERSON WHO GAVE ME THAT PLANT, OR HOW I ACQUIRED IT. AFTERALL, GARDENERS LOVE TO EXCHANGE PLANTS.

Fran Sorin February 3, 2016, 1:55 am

Cid- Thanks so much for sharing that beautiful quote from The Herb Quarterly. It’s a keeper! Fran

James Golden February 8, 2016, 9:47 am

I’M DISTURBED WHEN PEOPLE REFER TO MY GARDEN AS A HOBBY. IT’S SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT. MY EXPERIENCE IS DIFFERENT FROM THE ONE YOU DESCRIBE, YET SIMILAR TOO. I RESPOND MORE TO THE GARDEN-AS-A-WHOLE, ALMOST AS A LIVING ORGANISM, A SORT OF MYSTICAL CONNECTION. (I DON’T KNOW WHY I CAN’T CAPITALIZE LETTERS IN THIS COMMENT, BUT I CAN’T.)

dirk April 28, 2016, 7:58 pm

There isn’t much that makes me tear up but reading this did: i am being faced with having to sell my house soon and it is the garden that makes we want to stay in spite of everything else. if i could have just one more season here I tell myself …

Fran Sorin April 29, 2016, 4:14 am

Dirk-
How well I know that feeling! I just dismantled my rooftop gardens because I needed to move. I have been unable to write about it because it is still too ‘raw’. The way I deal with this longing and sadness is by focusing on the beauty around me and dreaming about my next garden or garden project that I’ll be designing. My thoughts are with you. Am glad that my article hit a chord with you. Fran

Matt April 29, 2016, 2:38 pm

Cool post! For some of us, digging really is the best way – sometimes its better to get down in the dirt than to have your head up in the clouds 😉

Steve Jones April 29, 2016, 4:15 pm

Hi, digging in my garden has literally changed my life, I have gone from depression to well being all thanks to my plants. I absolutely get what you said about the relationship between you and your plants and how you can be yourself with your plants.

Fran Sorin May 2, 2016, 6:41 am

Steve- Am so glad that you found plants and gardening. People who aren’t involved in gardening or connected with nature scoff at the idea that gardening can actually ‘save lives’. Hope you have a wonderful spring. Fran

Fran Sorin May 2, 2016, 6:43 am

Matt- Am glad you enjoyed. Yep, digging in the dirt is thrilling! Fran

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