Do It Yourself

I know what it’s like now to be a day laborer. No, this is not a new job nor some outside-the-home volunteer effort. Rather, I have been slaving over a “do-it-yourself” backyard project. Mind you, this is not the first time I have embarked on this type of endeavor. However, it has been many years since a task of this magnitude occupied my complete attention and made me feel just a wee bit overwhelmed. Let’s just say I underestimated the toil, never mind the heat wave, when I enthusiastically decided, about six weeks ago, to finish a big landscaping project myself.

The vision to forge a dual path, made out of cobblestones, to connect the two previously landscaped areas in my large backyard has haunted me every day for the past several years. The project also included relocating and/or repotting some plants and rocks, filling empty spots with drought-resistant varieties, and laying down some turf to conserve water. Admittedly, I procrastinated, anticipating the amount of work and effort this would take. The decision to finally go forward came after many months of gazing at the space, dreaming, pondering, and planning. Hiring strong folks to actually do the work was seriously considered but the still small voice inside stirred me. I have the time, the work seemed doable, the physical test an enticing challenge. I wanted to see if I still had the mettle, like my two-year-old grandchild, to “do it myself!”

Throughout the weeks of toil, I told myself that the ground preparation, heavy lifting and placing of the cobblestones, moving debris, sweating, and sore muscles were good for me. I do love working outside–although not so much when the temperature reaches an unprecedented 90 degrees in our little beach town where we boast of not needing air-conditioning. Do not fear, I drank gallons of ice water, got up early, and did most of the work in the shade. I looked at it through a spiritual lens: I was forging a path that had never been there before. Obviously, that required effort but it would be worth it in the end.

Fortunately, I never felt overburdened. I listened to audible books, podcasts, and music every step of the way. I prayed my way through large parts of the job listening to Gregorian Chant and my favorite meditation selections. My thought was if I was forging a path, then it would be one built of love as much as blood, sweat, and tears.

The process made me think about the stages of faith, the connection between work and prayer (very monastic), and the closeness to the dirt reminded me of “earthy mysticism,” my favorite brand of contemplation. For many hours, working alone in silence and solitude, so close to terra firma, I could sense the Presence of the Spirit and the communion of saints, a “cloud of witnesses” urging me on. Suddenly it dawned on me that there is really no such thing as DIY with such spiritual companionship surrounding my every move.

I know my family and friends thought I was a little crazy but that was all right. I feel a sense of personal accomplishment when I walk the pathway now and see both beauty and imperfection in the end result. The words of Julian of Norwich float through my consciousness and give me great consolation: “Be a Gardener. Dig a ditch. Toil and sweat. And turn the earth upside down. And seek the deepness. And water plants in time. Continue this labor. And make sweet floods to run, and noble and abundant fruits to spring. Take this food and drink, and carry it to God as your true worship.

One thought on “Do It Yourself”

  1. Donna, this is incredible! I’m behind on reading your blog, but I’m very impressed with your accomplishment. It looks wonderful.


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