Reflections on darkness, growth and the body in the garden. A piece by Liz for CoVictory Gardens.
Tending the land is a bridge between my body and the natural world. When I slow down enough to observe the act, it becomes a reminder that I am not, was never, separate from nature.
When I plant, I begin to recall something so intrinsic and beyond my time that I hear a quiet, familiar whisper telling me who I am. Telling me who we are.
“I am nature.” - Jackson Pollock when asked if he worked from nature in his paintings.
This reminder feels a bit like a call to surrender into the unknowns of nature’s fickle cycles, those cycles that send us into the depths and pull us back up, again with hope for a better future.
These days, that cycle feels like sinking fast into a free-fall of darkness. But the earth, the soil, also knows darkness. The soil knows that its darkness, combined with the power of light, is what breathes new life into a seed.
When I press seeds into the soil, I am reminded that this sinking asks me to release control and fall into faith. When I press seeds into the soil, I am reminded that:
To sink is to discover.
To sink is to let go.
To sink is to allow.
To sink is to receive.
To sink is to trust.
To sink is to give myself over to something bigger than my individual mindset and tap into the collective consciousness that runs through the veins of our living, breathing bodies, and the veins of the living, breathing plants that we tend.
As I push seeds into soil, I’m reminded that the soft earth is here to catch us, to cradle us, to smooth out the fearful human tendency to be rigid with our unknowings. The soil scoops us back up when we fall, asking only in return that we keep tending to her with brighter awareness and compassion.
The act of slowing down in a garden to truly observe the plants, to bless a seed with intention, or to pause at a meal before eating a plate of food fresh from a farm, allows space for reverence of the rhythms intrinsic to our being that have been buried. These rhythms are waiting to be recalled, awoken, and revived.
So, when I harvest a carrot from the farm and chop it up for dinner, I observe each cross-section and am reminded of my own eye, seeing the world more clearly. I separate cabbage and am reminded of my brain, developing creative solutions for the future. I split a pomegranate and am reminded of fertility and life, experiencing each moment with a full heart.
Artwork by Liz Brindley
I find comfort when I see these patterns of my body mirrored back to me by the foods grown in partnership with the land, as well as the rhythms of humanity mirrored back to me by the rhythms of nature. I’m reminded of what it means to be human, to feel grounded, to know interconnection.
As you plant and tend to your CoVictory garden, take time to experience the process with full awareness, an open heart, and wide-eyed wonder. Sink in, knowing that it is in the sinking that you grow.
Activity for your CoVictory Garden: Blind Contour Drawing
Grab a blank sheet of paper, a hard surface like a book or clipboard, and a pen.
Go outside to observe part of your garden whether it is a seed, a sprout, or a full plant.
Set a timer for 5 minutes and draw only what you observe before you. Don’t look at your paper at all for the full 5 minutes! Only look at your subject.
Pretend like there is a string between your hand and your eye. As your eye traces the outline and details of your subject, your hand copies exactly what you see on your paper.
Move very slowly, like a snail. Don’t try to “finish” your drawing in the time allotted. In fact, try to go so slowly that you do not complete a drawing of the whole subject.
Repeat this process for an increment of 10 minutes.
Repeat this process for an increment of 15 minutes.
For a visual explanation of this exercise, visit this blog post by Liz.
About CoVictory Gardens
CoVictory Gardens is a socially engaged art project seeking to cultivate connection and illustrate social solidarity amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The project is durational, like the pandemic, acknowledging that gardening can provide seasonal and durational engagement and healing over the course of the year. CoVictory Gardens explores how our individual actions can allow us to feel more connected to each other and to the place we live, and celebrates how engaging with the earth through gardening can nurture our spirits, bodies, neighborhood and community. Sheila Novak started CoVictory Gardens in 2020.
Sheila Novak is an interdisciplinary artist, whose parallel practices in sculpture, mixed media drawing, and social practice explore the interwoven experiences of internal and external landscapes to ameliorate the widening gulf between our bodies, the earth and each other. Her artistic practice is centered on personal and collective narratives of vulnerability, focalizing the natural world as an extension of the body and as a locus for healing.
Novak’s work is rooted in the belief that personal stories and actions have profound implications on larger societal levels. Her work explores deeply vulnerable stories, which most recently have been informed by the internal landscapes of grief resulting from the loss of her mother to cancer. Her social practice work is informed by this process, creating spaces of connected healing and public grief by blurring the boundaries between public and private life.
Currently, Sheila serves as the Public Art Project Manager for the Greenway Conservancy. Novak has eight years of experience in the nonprofit arts sector intersecting creative practice with public art, creative placemaking and arts equity. Novak is committed to producing and creating art in social and public spaces.
Illustrations in blog post by Liz Brindley.