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  • Katie Kemp

Garden Folding

Updated: Dec 31, 2020

A few weeks ago before the autumn fall of snow, I folded in my garden. I didn't know how to do it at first, I hadn’t learned about a garden’s end. The planting of seeds feels common- an analogy overdone. I’m familiar with the middle stage as well- tend, water, grow, prune.


But I’ve learned little about the end. I had many questions; do I pull the plants, uprooting what was once a place of blooming, or let it wilt and freeze? Naturally, I called my mom, the master gardener, and listened to her wisdom. She explained how certain plants needed to be pulled and removed and how some stay and are tilled back into the soil.


As I began this work I felt a wave of grief enter my chest, rising to my throat. I didn’t want to say goodbye. How this garden had held so many thoughts over the summer, it was a place of solace, my secret place of exhaling amidst the chaos of life. The mindlessness of pruning, watering, rearranging, weeding, and harvesting gave me space to get lost in my thoughts and prayers, always a return to myself and my God. How well I had loved this tiny plot of earth.


Then, as I tilled it all back into the soil, the prayer that welled up in me resounded, What in me also needs to be let go of and folded back into the earth? Like a flood, I thought about everything I loved, everything that would be hard to let go of. My parents, my husband, my kids, my friends. These were not mine to own, but gifts in my life. Gratitude swelled in me and right next to it stood grief. Yes, I reassured myself, love is to be held with open hands, enjoyed well in the present moments offered as pure grace, and then released in surrender. Then I realized something was sticking in my grasp.

My friends. With a dear friend’s recent departure, this one was staring at me in the face. There was such an abundant season with her and a group of women that had cultivated deep nourishment to me and now I was to let it go. Hands-on my shovel, digging up my Brussel sprouts, I allowed the Spirit of God to uproot what needed to be within me.

This soul work of garden folding and surrender can be so very painful. I’ve grasped and held tight to plenty of things and it’s made the process all the more painful. But this felt like an opportunity to open to a bigger narrative and trust. As I leaned into the Spirit’s whispers, allowing the inside of me to be bare and seen before an ever-moving God, I wondered about this notion of loving with open hands. I want to know how to let go, even when I don’t want to say goodbye, I prayed. This was the start of a process that lingered for days and weeks, constantly the scene of my garden replaying in my mind.

How beautiful it is that the very things we uproot and let go of will become the foundation of a new season’s plotting? It gives me a certain giddy caught right up under my ribs when I think about what’s to come. All of that wonder sits inside me as I welcome the next season of winter’s stillness.