“If you have a garden and library, that is all you need.” – Cicero
Having somehow found and retained enough material boons in my life–in the form of money from supernatural sources and saving what was earned in the Navy and invested here and there–I used all of what remained to get into a house in Gig Harbor in March of 2017. Having finished the Camino, the outward journey, and decided to start the inward journey, several months before, a house at the time felt right and would provide brief moments of stability long lacking in my life. After having moved in, I immediately felt left with another empty feeling of despair, the gut-wrenching feeling that comes when one feels, immediately after a decision that is regretted. Like buying a used car that immediately turns into a lemon. But what choice, in a house at least, which cannot be so easily rid of like much else in life, but to make lemonade when there are lemons.
In Los Angeles 5 years ago, I had experimented with my first garden by convincing the owner of the house I rented to let me clear out much of the yard space and plant vegetables and fruits in the back, succulents in the front. A landscaping company finished the front by planting everything, me distracted by graduate school at that point. Disagreements over watering due to high costs, as well as my rookie errors, meant the vegetables and fruits grew slowly,, some died, and I eventually moved out over a general frustration at not being able to garden exactly how I wanted. Tom, if you somehow ever happen upon this, I am sorry I didn’t tell you truthfully why I moved out. It was the garden, dude, the garden.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21
Traveling to 2017, I took as an opportunity to complete the task that by comparison in Los Angeles was relatively small compared to now, where the size of the yard and the flora needing removal were many fold more burdensome, but back then I was studying nonprofit management and social work using the GI Bill. Now, I had lots and lots and lots of free time. So I set to work, inspired by my parent’s abilities to garden, in their homesteading-esque vision, and by the helpful physical presence of my mother in brief inspiring patches from the beginning as I dug the first chunks of grass by shovel from the ground, pried out the first laurel hedges, chopped the dying larch in the back. I planted the first fruit tree, a cherry with 5 kinds grafted on, called the Don Haacke tree because I recall him as a cherry lover.
I had a smart phone with my internet business at Embleholics.com, and had taken pictures throughout the whole process. But this past June, I seemed to have lost it during a outing to Seattle that was bad news on more levels than I care to recount. And so I lost all the pictures along with it. It felt meaningful, however, as I felt a gentle weight lifted after that time, and my business work can continue unabated without it with a little extra inconvenience. Even the listing photos, too, are gone, as the house’s previous incarnate pictorial form, which I am selling again right now, has been usurped in the digital churn. So what remains are a few photos from in the middle of the process, along with the current photos of mine and new listing photos, as I seek to move on to next iteration, incarnation.
These following 6 photos are the earliest that remain of my beginning.
The backyard, the photos without the car, had grass and a few dying trees. The front, had grass, and was encased by 30 foot high 6-8 feet thick laurel hedges.
There is value in suffering, and so I opted to use a shovel to dig out all the grass, and shake them out by hand, with my mother when able lending her strength to this monumental cause of mine, God bless her. The massive 40 year or more old laurel hedges around the front were more laborious, requiring me to undermine their stumps far enough to cut with a reciprocating saw and then individually pry out. In the back I re-purposed some deckboards I had to tear up to install an underground electrical conduit in the back, to now become raised beds. With not a great amount of room for maneuvering from front to back with a wheelbarrow, and no room for anything larger like a machine, I carried buckets of dirt delivered to my driveway to the back, as well as bark to cover bare areas. Fruit trees were planted, vegetables and berries in the back, along with ornamental plants, loads of squash spread back and front, and as many sunflowers in the front as could fit. Remember for pictures, driveway equals front, deck or fence equals back.
Here are a few more from the listing:
I don’t like the editing they do in real estate photos, it seems like a lie we pretend isn’t a lie and go along with, but alas ’tis as ’tis.
In this extra blurry photo, I had moved the last of the dirt to the front in a productive July as I did my best to get the house ready for sale, and used a rental truck to dump it elsewhere. This was just a little of the total grass gradually removed by waste container, dump runs via folded down back seats and tarp in my car, or the rental truck.
In totality it took about a year, and month long hyper-productivity bursts were interspersed with those of depression and thoughts of the deepest alone, not as victim, but as purposeful search in my personal quest to understand who I am to my earliest and deepest core. To search for the inner Self, I learned, requires spending silence with the monstrous alone. The inner journey of being I wrote of after the Camino. Those periods of alone in my house were marked by mostly staring outside, thinking I should get out and do work, meet people, but immobilized by some force. Rather than distract all of that alone time away in computer games as I have usually done, I sat with it for much of the time. That force which seemed to debilitate, from the outset of moving in, revealed itself to be a spirit residing in the home and thereby within me as a haunting presence. Perhaps the tree growing roots deep under the house, or something else dwelling, haunting, teaching, from some time before or my time. When I moved in, the brief interactions with Russian owners previous, and occultic symbols the woman presumably left behind, struck as strange. A friend’s dream of a spirit holding me in its clutches, working its machinations, driving to brink of insanity as I screamed of getting a ticket–presumably to use to go away with–affirmed this suspicion. A more recent friend within the last couple weeks has also relayed an odd series of events, wherein she saw a row of men inside the house some years back, sitting up with straight backs to a wall on a bench in the living room, staring transfixed straight ahead towards the hearth. A few others who have visited in my time here seem to have felt a lingering presence, too, prompting a sage smudge ceremony by a spiritually attuned woman who helped stage the home for showing, Kris.
Those on the street, walking by, never saying hello to me, me never to them as I obsessed in my garden work, saw the transformation in a way I never could. From my view, on the inside, the progress and beauty being created was impossible to see, just as the changes in ourselves, of transcending and becoming good, or descending further into hate, are also not visible from within our ego of circling thoughts. Only at the garden’s completion, when I also decided the time was right to work on selling the house, did the transformation of my yard have its full effect on me. I reread a favorite book of mine around this time, The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho, and realized that, in my small universe, I had achieved the alchemist’s transmutation, the exercising and outpouring of pure creativity, passion, and love, into a pursuit, through the soul to transform lead into gold. From the outside, my house was certainly lead, which I paid dearly for. Because I do not care for interiors, the inside still is lead. But the outside, I turned into gold, and I did it with relative ease. To the extent there is no more room to grow, this is also a metaphorical Garden of Eden, which symbolically is the same as the alchemical gold transmutation. I have a gift, if that can be said without a tone of arrogance. Soon after this completion, with the house up for sale and me trying to deal with the ongoing anxieties concomitant with that kind of event, the keys of how to use this gift, started being revealed. The question of what to do next, always lingering as the light at the end of the tunnel draws nearer.
Being at a crossroads in life is like magic. Through the entirety of building my garden and to the present. My greatest desire, repeatedly throughout the last two years, has been to return to the last experience I knew myself in, where I felt myself. The Camino was dangerous in that way, as people who walk it that listen for the Way start to Flow, and Flow is the most addictive sensation we have. The misery of the house drew my mind to continual escape, desiring a return to walking as soon as possible, even after the house would sell. Throughout the time the briefest of alternatives would flicker as a dream to start an organic farm and working to heal others. In a year and a half spent primarily alone, plying the depths to retrieve the soul, the fiber of my being centered around two remaining possible paths to take in life, two identities. I had been circling around these two ideas for some time now, with a dream starting in 2013 to start a healing farm for veterans or other victims of trauma and having gone to graduate school for that explicit purpose. I’d worked on organic farms in 2016 for several months, and loved it but still struggled to fit into the creations of others. The second identity came out as I’d traveled four times, in 2010, 2012, 2015, and 2016, each time narrowing in on a mode of traveling, reaching closer and closer to the center of that identity with the Camino walk. In selling my house, when it eventually would sell, the options seemed, and seem, as destiny, just twofold.
An offer was on the table, someone would buy the house, and I took a few days and decided to jump at the chance to dream up another walk, even buying a ticket after the purported closing date. The deal fell through, however, and it was a clear sign from God, regardless of the money spent, that the time was not right for another walk. In terms of the dream my friend had, in which I was hysterically yelling about a ticket as a spirit sought to manipulate me, I now continue to battle within towards absorb shadowing aspects.
And so, I still bide my time, ready to leap at the next adventure when the Call appears, working to fulfill the other half of Cicero’s maxim through diligent formation of my spiritual knowledge.