How Does Your Garden Grow?

Adversity, a nine letter word for shit.  Shit happens, it hits the fan.  There are little shits and big shits.  We can give a shit or not give a shit.  There’s bullshit, holy shit, shitty shit, eat shit, and full of shit.  So when my friend Cara Wilson-Granat told me she was writing a book titled It Takes A Lot Of Shit To Make A Garden Grow, I thought she was shitting me.  She then said that the subtitle was going to be “Shoveling Your Way Out of Manuretia To A Sweeter Smelling (And Living) Life,” and the book was to be about transforming life’s crap into fertile wisdom.  During that discussion, I volunteered a personal experience that I had many years ago.  Without hesitation, she asked if I’d write it up so that she could include it in her forthcoming book.  Today that book is a reality.  It has the same title except the “i” in Shit is represented with an asterisk (*).  It Takes A Lot Of Sh*t To Make A Garden Grow is currently available through her website:

Paperback $14.95

Cara’s done a beautiful job with her book.  Because crap and crisis are a part of being human, this book has something to say to anyone who’s interested in turning troubles into triumphs.  Whether we are in the midst of it (sh*t) or have loving concern for somebody who’s knee deep in a stinking heap of life’s “manuretia,” this book offers friendly advice and fifteen personal essays from individuals who have turned adversity into advantage.  When we say “misery loves company,” this is the kind of company that can help.  The book focuses more on the gardens grown than the “manuretia” it took to get there.  It’s not a 911 call,  it’s a 411.  Cara suggest facing troubles head on, “What if, you could take the challenge you’re dealing with right now and look at it as a kind of compost to help you re-landscape and ultimately grow a brand new perspective?”

I found the book to be uplifting.  It acknowledges a wide range of challenges from the loss of a child to the big gulp we experience when we look in a mirror at our aging selves and see the reflection of a person we don’t recognize.  There are inspirational stories dealing with health crises, financial nightmares, lost weight, and lost love to name a few.

My contribution to It Takes A Lot Of Sh*t To Make A Garden Grow is titled On And On, where I recount a transformative experience I had while at a spiritual retreat center back in the 1980′s.  This is what I wrote:

It was the mid 1980’s and I was in my mid 20’s.  New Age was still new, and I was spending a late fall weekend at a spiritual retreat center nestled in the coastal mountain range east of Mendocino, CA.  Broken hearted yet again, I was looking for some unknown something to soothe my pain – words of wisdom, direction, higher consciousness…possibly a new boyfriend who possessed a little more sweet and less cheat.  

In other areas of my life, I was a success.  I had a thriving hairdressing clientele, I was putting myself through college, I had a nice apartment, drove a nice car, had money in the bank, and plenty of good friends.  But when it came to love, I was a loser.  Regardless of how hard I tried to be sexy, smart, funny, mysterious, tough, hard-to-get, or easy-to-get, the results kept turning out the same; he’d run off with somebody else, and I’d wonder what I’d done wrong, or what I should’ve done differently.  My feelings of abandonment were pervasive and acute.

Now I can’t exactly remember what the retreat seminar was about, and I’m not trying to mock, but I think it had to do with “astral projections,” i.e. channeling energy from outer space.  I remember it involved some “laying on of hand,” and that was when I became a little uncomfortable and excused myself from the afternoon session.

While the group was doing its thing, I went for a long walk into Hendy Woods State Park.  The day was overcast, every plant dripped with foggy dew, and my path was spongy and fragrant from millennia of accumulated forest mulch.  In a melancholy mood, I moved slowly and meditatively, listening to the lively orchestra of breezes and birds in the trees, small streams trickling over stones, squirrels and chipmunks scurrying about in what appeared to be more play than hunt. 

At one point, I came upon an enormous fallen redwood.  The giant had been down for many years judging by its crumbling, pulpy decay.  Along its massive trunk ferns had taken root, so had grasses and moss that produce easily missed, teensy white flowers.  Baby timber offshoots were eagerly reaching for the sky.  Clusters of plump, yellow-orange mushrooms found footing where the composting tree was most wet.  I was certain that under the remaining bark must have lived teams of mites, grubs, spiders, and ants.  There before me lay a most noble exchange of life, and in that moment my mind opened up as if it were a bloom in a desert rain. 

It dawned on me how polarized my thinking had always been; there was good or bad, right or wrong, yes or no, love or hate, life or death.  On another day, I possibly wouldn’t have even noticed the prone conifer, or if I did, I might have thought, “That tree is dead, how sad.”  But on the afternoon of my somber, late fall walk, when my heart ached desperately for true connection, I suddenly saw life differently.  Instead of sorrow and loss, I saw a magnificent display of continuous life, forward movement, on and on.  Nothing had been abandoned; it had only been changed, transformed.  What I had to do was stop abandoning myself.  I had to stop trying to be something I wasn’t.  Nothing in nature was pretending, and I could follow its lead. 

When I returned to the retreat center I felt restored.  I had been given wisdom, direction and higher consciousness, it just didn’t come the way I expected.  My all sweet, no cheat arrived many years later; he’s my husband. 


Cara lives in Southern California, but there’s a good chance she will come to the Bay Area during her book tour.  When she’s here, we have talked about linking up as a team to talk about overcoming adversity.  I’ll be sure to post date and location information when it’s available.  Until then, let me know if you’d like to receive a personal invitation so as not to miss the gathering.

There’s just one more thing I have to share.  While forming my ideas about today’s blog, I looked on the internet for “shit” related topics.  One site was a kids say the darnedest things site.  The quote was from a little girl after she had farted.  She said, “I just burped out of my butt.”  LOL

With that, have a great week, and I’ll post again next Friday.

Last evening I took a hike on the Sonoma Overlook Trail. This cell phone picture shows the fog coming in from Petaluma to the west.

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