Monday, September 24, 2012

Guest Post: Steve

Today I am honoured to bring my husband's thoughts to this online space. Steve, a man of compassion, love and wisdom is generous, easy going and knows how to have fun. I am deeply and personally inspired by all he does, how he does it and the messages he has to share. Enjoy.

Water the Compost

Gday, Steve here. I just wanted to share some musings from the garden and beyond.

This weekend I was digging out my lawn clippings compost bay. Realising the summer lawn season will soon be on us I thought I should have some nice wormy dirt to top up some garden beds, making room for a new season of lawn clippings. But this was not to be. Instead I found only a little bit of wormy dirt and quite a lot of dry grass, musty and discoloured but not decomposed into the lovely rich growing soil I had hoped for. We have had a very dry winter and without the water the compost couldn’t compost.

It reminded me of some great teaching I heard recently on the topic of grief.

A friend of mine, John, was teaching at our annual Men’s Rites of Passage (MROP) retreat on this important topic in men’s work, and he used the metaphor that you need to water the compost to make good soil. Meaning: that it takes tears to transform the experiences of life worth grieving over into rich experiences (soil) that we can grow from.

This weekend my compost bay opened up this truth to me in a very real way.

I discovered what happens if we just have the grief worthy experiences and cover them over with more layers of “life”; we just end up with a whole pile of “musty and discoloured” memories of painful experiences, experiences or wounds that haven’t had the chance to become sacred wounds, they haven’t been transformed into the rich soil for growth that helps us understand more fully who we are, and how we are meant to be in this world. They are just there still, much how they were, just a little more stinky.

I also discovered what happens when the water can get in. In my compost pile this was only a little around the edges, but still I could see how the water provides the catalyst for the transformation process. It allows the decomposers to do their work and break down the basic elements and create a moist rich dark brown soil, full of life; worms, ants, decomposers of all kinds, all through it, making something different out of the waste. This soil looks so different to the lawn clippings it started as. It is teaming with life and life sustaining, rather than a dull and lifeless version of its former self.

This rang so true for me about grief both in my own life, and in the lives of others I have walked with. Grief-worthy experiences just go stagnant and stinky if we bury them under layers of life, without taking the time to cry the tears they are due over them, but conversely, there is opportunity to transform them, process them so that they actually become the experiences that bring growth and sustain life.

We live in a world that doesn’t do grief well. Every life has grief-worthy experiences in it regularly, not just big ones we immediately think of, like a death of a loved one, but all shapes and sizes of grief-worthy experiences: Death of a marriage, loss of a job, loss of a hope or dream, breakdown in family relationships, sickness or accident related health issues, loss of innocence etc. Even positive happy things can bring grief-worthy experiences where a promotion at work means moving neighbourhoods and losing connections with people & places, birth of a first child brings a change in a couple’s life that restricts freedom etc. Grief is a part of everyday life for us all, at least it should be; little losses & sadness's. These experiences and the emotions attached to them need to be processed.

We are so quick to tell ourselves and one another to “Get over it”, that we don’t often give ourselves permission to sit with our pain and let it do its work in us, let it turn to soil in our depths.

By tending our hurts, big & small, and watering them with our tears, we create the rich soil of our souls, from which the life we can only imagine living can spring forth from.

Or I guess we could just build another compost bay every so often to keep our ever growing stockpile of unprocessed grief, from constantly “getting over it” and stuffing some more “life” in on top.

Today I put the sprinkler on my compost bin of last year’s lawn clippings. I can see the change already. Old compost seems to respond well to water.

I guess this shouldn’t be a surprise.