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Gardens Heal Wounds That Scar The Soul – OpEd


Below my house is a small pond where I used to put goldfish for my kids to appreciate. I limped towards it yesterday, the pond still there, less the small colorful fishes. The pond reflected the day of mist in gray tones. Much like my mood.

When the sky is blue, the pond is blue, the sky staring back at it. Patterns like icewebs spread across the surface as a water strider hurries, . So much so like most of us when we take on the moods of others. All around I’m surrounded by African tulips, soap nut trees, coffee, petroleum trees, all draped with three kinds of passion fruits racing at every inch of branch they could hang on. A few yards away, lemon, wild strawberries, guavas , coffee berries carpet ther ground.., branches bending with heavy laden fruits–all left untouched. It is rare that anyone except I, comes here.

The pine forest a hundred yards away is touched by the actions of the sky and wind. At night and all though the day, changes take place. Sometimes the sky glitters with wings – sometimes it is softened by the falling pine needles. Man’s soul has a light like that of a lantern that is untroubled in the turmoil of wind and storm.

It is here where I seek shelter when my spirit is broken.

This January, cold nights and dawn have been creeping. The most recent full moon lit the land like a night sky — so bright the whole land silhouette was visible. The spiders chose to stay to the shadows and even the owls seldom call when it is so light. My ancient Igorot headhunting ancestors used the moon to show how everything is in a circle or round. The shape of our eyes are curved toward round, the world is round and so the moons and stars and many other things. But the best is the circle which is infinity — life everlasting, no beginning and no end.

From my orchard many trails lead to different places–to the pine forest, the highway, a chasm and to neighbors’ homes. Where one follows, it may never be the right trail. Often, my feet wander far for answers to the same questions my grandfathers asked, chanted about and prayed over in the quiet of their own thoughts. What is this life problem that plagues me now? Why am I my worst enemy that tries to rule my thinking and actions?

Here, under the canopy and shadows of my trees I realize so many people are worthy of my thoughts and much-needed prayers. That my personal problems and ills are miniscule; that what I have lost, the pain I feel are far from the sufferings of others; that I do not deserve the tears that never come to fall. My personal space was invaded and I am made to think I caused the rift that followed. This is an illusion that is not worthy of the price I try to pay. There are things that happen that cannot be explained as there are things that never happen yet not wanting of any explanation.

I know my pain is a burden. But I also know I can lessen the pain and prevent further pain by not getting to the point of believing the whole world is sour because I don’t understand it. If so, I have a lot of self-searching to do. Maybe I helped it to lose its sweetness. Maybe I am the bad apple that soured the whole lot.

But my plants are healers and they help me to make amends. First to myself. That I be self-forgiving and move on. Because if I can’t, then I need to get out of the way and let time and nature take its course.

Life is too beautiful to go on being a bitter pill that insists that I swallow it. An adage goes that “the man who has so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own dispositions, will waste his life in fruitless efforts, and multiply the grief which he proposes to remove.”

I need to unburden myself by forgetting my problem by doing something that will put a smile on someone else’s face.

I feel one way to solve the problem of my pained feelings is to inquire if the situation is important to the whole of my existence. There are not many things in my life that I can truthfully say mean everything to me. The small things are important and very dear, but the really significant things I count on one hand – life, my love ones, my good desires, my faith, and my country.

I guess one of the most magnified situations in this day is taking life too seriously which I do. In the stress of too much mental and emotional confusion, I seem unable to laugh off some. Especially so if it involves the people dear to me. I let emotions rule myself into making the problem the source of great anxiety, depression and dramatically lay hold of it until it chokes me.

I look at the anthuriums growing wild with ferns, Margarets blooming bright yellow under the rising sun, the pink roses starting to unfurl and the glistening moss covering the pond’s stone rim from which a lizard peered, I know there is still a bright day ahead. If not tomorrow, then the other morrows.

I follow an ant column seeking out food from a niche in the ground ignoring a centipede unsavory and too ill-smelling for breakfast and like them I am hopeful there is something promising at the next bend.

And even as the pain is there, it becomes a bit bearable knowing the worthwhile side of life is too important to let myself become involved with something that mean little to me now.  The garden tells me that.

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Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan

Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan wrote for the British Panos News and Features and GEMINI News Service, the Brunei Times, and US Environment News Service. In the Philippines, he wrote for DEPTHNews of the Press Foundation of Asia, Today, the Philippine Post, and Vera Files. A practicing environmentalist, he holds postgraduate degrees in environment resource management and development studies as a European Union (EU) Fellow at University College, Dublin, Ireland. He is currently a Fellow of Echoing Green Foundation of New York City. He now writes for Business Mirror and Eurasia Review.

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