14. The Garden

I become her again. The child. Pure spirited. Unrestricted by 33 years of bullshit.

It’s my 33rd birthday, and I’m flying to Ireland on a one-way ticket for a three-month stay at Burtown House and Gardens.

I found the gardens through Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) making it possible for me to stay at no cost, so long as I tend to the vegetable garden.

A vegetable garden, I knew, would please the little girl that told me to go to Ireland in the first place. 

close up image of vegetables growing with the sun shining through

It is my very first day in the garden.

I’ve fallen back into the rhythm of my youth in the garden with Pop-Pop.

I feel the cadence as I sow the seeds.

My hands are alive in the ground.

The smell of the damp, morning soil awakens a part of me I’d forgotten before it hits me: 

The little girl in the Winnie the Pooh dress—she's me.

But it’s not the same me that I’ve been acting out my whole life until now - that was an imposter made from the perceptions of those I gave too much credit to. 

Diamonds fill the garden around me.

For the first time, they linger the whole day, keeping me in bliss.

gold glitter

I become her again. The child. Pure spirited. Unrestricted by 33 years of bullshit.

For the first time in my life, I understand that my worth is within, no one creates it for me, and no one can take it from me.

This is what else I learn in my time in Ireland: The Irish are mostly tall brunettes, not short redheads; they love to sing and will do so anytime of the day, any day of the week so long as there’s beer and stomping; and they understand and embrace joy and sadness as essential parts of a full life.

I learn that I want to be like them, I want to love like them, and I want to feel like I feel here, in harmony with the world around me, every minute of every day.

Every night before bed I pray for a harmony that will stay with me when I leave here, and for someone to share it with.

Before long, it’s time to go home.

close up of tomato growing in the sun

Back in the states, I work to keep her, my wise, confident, child within, at the forefront of my mind.

She guides me to apply for a fellowship with The Mission Continues, an organization that awards grants to Post-911 veterans who want to continue serving in their communities after military service.

Twelve hundred military veterans are vying for seventy fellowships, and I am selected.

So is the man who will change my life.