The Soulful Circle of Paradox

The Soulful Circle of Paradox

March 3rd, 2012 (5 Comments)

It’s that stretching season again – early spring – those days when we strain our heads into the future, reaching away from the dark roots of winter that attempt to freeze us in place. This is often the season for false starts, wishful prayers and jack-rabbit leaps of faith. One 55 degree day last week, in my imagination that spring had arrived (a month earlier than advised),  I planted peas and spinach outside. It’s a long shot because  to be more realistic, these can be some of the most bone-chilling days of the year, when wind driven icy-cold rain chills the marrow of  hope, when patience is tested, when human need for action cripples the tender sprouting of true soul growth that always takes place in its time.

This past week I have sat in mud-encrusted trenches planting asparagus, rhubarb and strawberries and also struggled with the complexity of paradox: aware of a dear friend in ICU, of underemployed loved ones who plod forward faithfully in the wasteland of economic gloom, of the death of a colleague and daily watching our aging dog Zeti, loll in the sunshine – she now chronically limps and has precipitously gone deaf.

Delighting in outdoor work with a healthy body and mind, I am stirred with all of this as I haul huge stones around the land; walking inside shoes that get heavier with each muddy step forward. I see the first rock iris and the first bold crocus press their colorful faces out of the damp earth, and I feel the tug of death and the foreboding shadows of the unknown. It is no wonder that we as gardeners relish the indoor seed flats that are beginning to sprout with the promise of lush summer bounty!  There is a certain assurance that all will be well in the world when the plant stand springs fluorescent lights again.


I believe that my work in the world is to keep on planting: like a farmer, whether it is sowing words, or seeds, or simple actions; each breath becomes a prayer holding the promise that life will return across the planet and to next door. This week I have been delighted when dead mentors arise and inspire me with hope, lives that still bring inspiration across the span of time.  Like M.C Richards and her book ‘Centering’ written in 1962, which found its way into my hands and heart. It is packed with new/old treasure I am exploring.


Examine the picture of these shriveled, white asparagus roots – looking like spooky dead spiders perched on top of almost a foot of last year’s composted dinner peelings and garden detritus. Behold – magnificent symbols of resurrection!

Plantings of now, built on the past with promising shoots for tomorrow and a bountiful harvest for at least the next ten years. This is soulful gardening that exudes deep joy in the moment!

And today when I read of tornado devastation in Kentucky and all week hold the plight of the suffering in Syria, I cannot shut my eyes and ears to the cries of pain.  I continue to plant hopeful seeds into the ground at Stonehaven, into my novel writing, and into people’s messy lives.  Practically speaking, how do you continue to act with the hopeful energy of spring while holding winter’s sorrow? I’d love to hear from you here.  Please respond to this blog in any way – it’s all about enjoying the harvest of hard work performed within the deep and soulful circle of paradox.

5 Responses

  1. bernie baugerger says:

    It is having the garden that invites me to stay in my house after losing my husband of 42 years to ALS. The first year I cried tears into the soil as I planted but this year I am getting ready and full of delight at what is again possible. Love your photos.

    • ckortsch says:

      Thanks for responding Bernie. Your lines remind me of the psalm -”those who sow in tears will reap in songs of joy.”
      May this new season of life’s garden surprise you with joy …

  2. Jon-Marc says:

    It’s like M.C. Richards says, “The creative spirit creates with whatever materials are present. With food, with children, with building blocks, with speech, with thoughts, with pigment, with an umbrella, or a wineglass, or a torch.”
    In the desolate space given by winter, even the simple act of being present is a creative endeavor. Growth somehow springs from the absence of light–if we can hold still long enough and trust the season to pass.
    Richards goes on, “We are not craftsmen only during studio hours. Any more than a man is wise only in his library. Or devout in church. The material is not the sign of the creative feeling for life: of the warmth and sympathy and reverence which foster being; techniques are not the sign; “art” is not the sign. The sign is the light that dwells within the act, whatever its nature or its medium.”

    • ckortsch says:

      Awesome quotes Jon-Marc – the same ones you mention stopped me and made me read them over again … underlined now in my book!

    • Thank you for this introduction to M.C. Richards, Jon-Marc. ‘The light that dwells within the act’creating with ‘whatever materials are present’. Wonderful!

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