Isolation through Labor

Two weeks ago, fourteen days of isolation evoked anxiety, an emotion so powerful I physically felt its strangling fingers around my throat and its clenched fist in my stomach.  And yet, the unequivocal love of a mother stirred loudly.  If I wanted to spend time with my child who has a chemo-induced compromised immune system, I could handle a fortnight of no quick trips to the Market Place for fresh eggs – of no popping into CVS for a Diet Coke – of no social distanced gatherings.  If I wanted to spend time with my child, I could handle the 288 hours of time alone. 

I also knew that to confront my anxiety head on, I would need a plan of action, one intent on the excavation of myself.  The plan not only included reading and writing, but it included hours of manual labor, hours of time with hands in the dirt, hands on a wheelbarrow, hands on a shovel.

Two projects awaited me, the finishing of the dog run installed this spring and the planting of a garden.  Both projects involved working the earth, breaking up clumps of soil, transplanting perennials, and hauling wheelbarrow upon wheelbarrow loads of stone – 114 loads, in fact. 

Working the earth with my hands – dividing overgrown plants – pruning bushes – moving stone – kneeling to plant the vegetables left me happily exhausted, rejuvenated, and accomplished.  The anxiety gripping me on day one quietly retreated, and after the third day, I settled into a rhythm of working during the cooler morning hours outside in the humidity and searing sun before turning my attention to Zoom meetings and academic projects. 

I often lost myself in thought, envisioning what could be instead of ruminating of what wasn’t.  Hours slipped into days, and days slipped quickly into two weeks.  I no longer feared being alone.  I felt connected to the universe as I watched the wriggling worms or tiny toads find solace under untouched leaves or grass as I uncovered their hiding places. I explored parts of my yard neglected for two years, and I emerged more whole.  I am more aware of my strength – physical, mental, and emotional.

And at the end of two weeks, I realized everything is just as it should be.

The beginning stages
The finished project

2 thoughts on “Isolation through Labor

  1. Connecting with nature has such healing qualities. But I love what you learned in the process: I am more aware of my strength – physical, mental, and emotional.” That is empowering. Just wait until you get to enjoy the fruit of all your work!


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