"My life has gone from hellish to crazy."
My heart felt a stab. A seventeen year old should never have to say those words.
During spring break, when his family stayed home, his search for peace took him out to the garden. It had been in his backyard all his life, but in the past few years, it had been left to fill with weeds. He found himself tearing at the roots, breaking up the soil, and the soil came to life.
"I've become a farmer," he even said, and I saw his demeanor change from heavy to light.
"There weren't any seeds in the ground, but I saw life. I hate insects, but it was inspiring to see the life and the movement."
I completely understood. "I'm a gardener too."
"You are?" he questioned.
We both see each other within a very narrow window--in the classroom. Imagining me out in the dirt might have been a little foreign. But I could see him. I saw him come to life. I saw his burdens lift with each shovelful of dirt. I saw him thinking and sorting; in the tearing out, he was building. I saw what he was doing, because I saw myself.
Postscript: one of the therapeutic values of being an English teacher is sometimes I can suggest the perfect book. This day, I thought about " Seedfolks" by Paul Fleishman. Together we searched the school for a copy but no luck. That night I found my own copy and took it to the student. He brought it back during lunch.
"You read the whole thing?" I asked.
"So you liked it?"
"Yes, and I ordered it last night."
A garden. A good book. And the healing combination of the two to soothe a pained soul.