Memorial Day: Sifting Shadow, Remembering Joy
As my neighbors readied themselves for a barbecue and woefully, all night long Country Western karaoke, I busied myself in the area of land between the sidewalk and curb known to many as the ‘hell strip’…which in my case is appropriate. The previous owners, rather than take the time to pull up the tap root field grasses that were tangling devilishly below, layered small rock then four inches of mulch on top and washed their hands of this recurring nightmare.
A rock sieve is a beautiful thing and eventually I had de-grassed and sifted through one-third while I hummed tunes more commonly known to inmates punished with physical labor.
Here is my program: First, scrape the mulch and rock combo to the side, dig two to three feet down to pull the webbing of tendril-like grass roots out, lay the sieve and shovel the dirt onto it, sort by hand the larger stones from the mulch, and refill the hole with the freshly sorted soil. Finally place the mulch back on top and put out a sign that reads, “Free Rock.” I was so grateful not to own a corner house with their wrap-around strips of hell!
It occurred to me while the rock doves cooed and the finches sang their little tiny hearts out with the most delightful melody, that this sifting was really important. Perhaps the previous owners, in covering over the space, neglected the opportunity to delve into, yes, the grassy, rocky mess and yes, the shadow of the psyche.
What is this shadow work? Simplified, it is the pain/fear we bury when there is not appropriate time/desire to bring it to the surface where we can know it and release it. It is varying degrees of trauma, self and other inflicted, which we would prefer to mulch over because it neither feels or looks pretty when we dig in and finally deal. It is a rocky, grassy tangle woven through thick clay with no room to move or breathe, and eventually it consumes us and causes all sorts of unhappy imbalance. And it did occur to me once I realized it was Memorial Day Weekend, that war causes massive trauma and one way I could ‘remember' our Veterans was to address my inner war of shadow and light.
Ready to root out your shadow?
What you need to sort your hell strip:
A Vision or Imagined Sensation of Freedom
Physical Outlet (Some way to keep the energy moving which is why landscape work is good)
Supportive Community (nice but not necessary)
A Metaphoric Rock Sieve (I think of this as the practices I have developed to sift the fertile soil from the clay so I may continue to plant beautiful, life-affirming awareness which continues to flower into expanded joy and freedom.)
Finally, check out this amazing work by Richard Rudd on the shadow, in his book and contemplative practice outlined in Gene Keys, Unlocking the Higher Purpose Hidden In Your DNA.