Boundaries are every where. They mark countries, states, trails, roads, walkways, yards. They can mark ownership, spark wars, protect us, and be broken by others and ourselves. I have the boundary of my apartment and within is my dwelling. There’s the boundary of the building it’s within and the small area around that is also our domain of dwelling. Then there’s the boundary of the neighborhood I live in sometimes feeling perfectly contained, the city itself, the mountain ranges on either side, the state, the country, the boundaries and day and night, the boundaries marking each hour, each day, week, month, year. Then there’s all the boundaries below the iceberg. The unspoken or unmapped. The unconscious, or conscious, but not visual boundaries. The boundaries of my mental, emotional, and physical health. These are the boundaries that only I can define, if I choose to.

Swarming through my mind, boundaries are everywhere. Some enforced on me, some historical, some defined by me. But how do define the one’s that are mine for this body. Where are my boundaries? While I’ve never defined them, I know they exist. They appear when I get to a point of saying no more, or when I say yes, or when I decide to stop doing something or begin something new. They appear when I stand up for my values and injustice. This quickly brought me to my garden: real and physical boundaries and decisions. What would that look like if applied to my body giving power to my body? What if I defined my boundaries, instead of at times getting defined for me? Of course, some times situations happen, conflict arises, that helps me find a new boundary I didn’t know about before. I new yes or new no.

In my garden I have predetermined boundaries. There are wide and narrow planks of wood that create a box for my garden. I have two of these in a community garden. One gets more sun than the other. The type of plant and it’s sun needs determine which bed it will be planted. These wooden physical boundaries help to separate another persons plot with my own; helps it from blending in and being overtaken by grass surrounding it (borders only do so much when it comes to grass); it allows me to build up the soil and add nutrients. Then there is the boundary that I apply and create because of my choice. I keep out of my garden weeds and grass and slugs (as much as one can do this). I also choose each year what I’m going to plant, another layer of boundary setting. I decide what I’m going to focus on for the growing year and which plants will take me through the seasons so that there is something growing at all times. I think about the climate that I live in, new plants I’ve never had before, specific things I want to make. I use the boundaries of my garden to experiment, have fun. My garden from time to time has looked very fruitful and beautiful with a walkby and other years has looked almost dismal compared to the other plots in its inability (or mine) to make things grow.

But that’s it, the years the garden doesn’t look as great is because I decided to try something new and different. Each time seeds don’t spark, or they spark but die, or they spark and grow but not fruit (it’s mostly the first one), I learn something more about soil temperatures, my soil health, shade versus sun, thinning. The years the garden looks great and is doing great, I also learn because on those years I also note what I did that may have had the positive impact I was looking for so that the next year I can shift things a little more. I get a little better each year and also hone into what I really want to be growing in the garden space that I have.

This isn’t all too different than how I treat myself year to year. Without boundaries I say too much to the wrong person or take on too much or don’t respect my own body and mind and emotional needs. Boundaries are like mile markers informing me where I have the power for change and where in other instances I may just have to go with the flow. Boundaries are what inform me of what becomes a yes and what becomes a no. Boundaries allow for creative destruction, new beginnings, renewal, and maturity.

Just like the seasons (depending on where you live), but where I am, there are still four seasons. Each dictate what can be grown and what can’t. The external forces I cannot control. So, I plan around them as much as one can and I relinquish my crops to the universe when the climate throws a curve ball. There’s really not a “starting point” since seasons are cyclical so we just have to jump right in like skipping rope. We’ll start with winter. In prepping for winter, I mulch the plants that will not be overwintered into the soil. I may plant some cover crop to add nutrients. I may have collards, carrots, garlic, herbs that I leave to pick at for a few more months or to have at the first sign of warmer weather.

I may only go to the garden a small handful of times in the winter. Most of the work is put in at the beginning and then it rests until April, maybe March. The remaining of winter, I plan for the coming year. I pour through catalogs of seeds and plan out month by month what I will grow. The “what will I grow” is formed by more strategy than it may sound. I think about, and map, what I want to focus on like this past year I decided to focus more on herbs to make my own teas. Winter is the time of creative destruction. It’s a good time to weed out my mind and emotions. I put to bed many of my physical activities and long days filled with to-do’s. I plan for the coming year and what my intentions will be. I look at what I no longer want to be doing. Winter is a good time to practice saying no so when summer and renewals arrive I’ve built my “no” muscle and defined my boundaries.

Spring is exciting. Going in and prepping the garden beds, planting the first seeds, harvesting the winter crops. It’s like someone pressed the reset button on life each April. (except for this current year where my garden has actually floundered amidst the chaos) It’s new beginnings for plants and for humans. For me, this is the time I begin acting on the things I planned over winter. Working on a new book, a set of poems, growing certain skill sets, this is the time where I begin to dig. This tends to be an exciting time. Creativity is high, I’m inspired.

Then we sink into summer where my garden is overflowing with veggies and herbs. I’m making batches of varying pesto’s: erba stella and hazelnut, erba stella and walnut, cilantro and parsley. Salads are an everyday place setting as I try to not let anything go to waste. I’m also soaking in sun rays on my bike, hiking, camping which tends to have a renewal each time. Sitting in a chair feeling the sun warm my skin and flake off the crap from the week or day. Renewal is a time of feeding and keeping myself charged. I have to go to the garden almost every day during this time to care take the garden and make sure it has enough water, make sure the slugs aren’t taking over, make sure I’m harvesting at the right times. There’s a lot of tending during this time. Just like with myself renewal is about tending to my own garden, feeding my body and soul, this time usually means I start taking on too many things. Boundaries become important in this phase. My borage wants to overtake my neighbors’ plot. The blackberries want to take over the garden. My neighbor’s tomatoes stretch over my plot and their cucumbers vine into the pathways. It creeps just like the activities and work in my life begins to creep.

Which takes us into fall and maturity. The garden has succumbed to its fullest state and my projects are post launch and have been getting fed. This is a security phase. A celebration phase of all the hard work and to see where it’s gotten me. The garden doesn’t need as much attention. Plants need some harvesting, but the attention it requires of me dwindles enough that it almost feels like it could function without me. Much like any project in my life at this time: some may not need me as much, others take on pieces that I relinquish. Other projects are matured because of their ingrained routine: like my writing practice or meditation practice. Things that have become patterned and routine are found here in the fall of maturity.

Cycles require boundaries so that we can identify where we are, where we’re not, where we’ve stepped off the path and begun vining somewhere else or where we’ve not provided enough resources or attention for something to thrive. Boundaries help us say no and yes, but for me, mainly no. Boundaries inform me of where I’m outside of them and how I can get back within. This usually requires a cyclical check in with creative destruction. See these can happen in order like our seasons, and then sometimes they can happen out of order. We usually have to step out of order to get something back in order.

What have you said no to?

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