Stabbing at the hardpan soil like the madwoman I surely am, tears stream down my cheeks as I endure another episode of “what-am-I-doing-with-my-life” anxiety. I hunker down to avoid the worried looks on the masked faces of my dog-walking neighbors. Our front yard is California-sized, meaning every part of it is just a few feet from the street. But we’re only a couple of hours before the first big storm of the year, and I’m determined to get a dozen new native plants in the ground before the much-anticipated deluge.

Imagine the delight of my new leafy friends! Like someone delivering you from your cramped studio apartment into a three-bedroom ranch…stocked with food and wine, er, water. Their leafy happiness is what keeps me going. That and . . . this exuberant excavating makes mush of my emotional misery. It’s like a sweaty, strong masseuse karate chopping my aching back: effing painful but therapeutic. Except that the sweat is all mine.

Interesting how some parts of the yard are so easily turned over, like scooping marshmallow fluff, and some are as compacted as concrete. This particular hole is a backbreaker. I’m giving it all I’ve got when it occurs to me that there might be a pipe or tree root causing the obstruction. I drop the shovel and feel around with my fingers until I discover the cause: a rock. Hoover dam. Prying around it, I manage to dislodge the aggravation. I yank it out and prepare to heave it when something catches my eye.

I give it a closer look, and I begin to cry all over again. This particular “aggravation” is a smooth stone the size of a plump baked potato—one that is unmistakably heart shaped. “How interesting,” you might think, or “what a coincidence!”

But you would not be me, the woman who wrote a book called Love Earth Now, pulling a stone the shape of a heart from Earth herself. Prostrate and weeping now, nosy neighbors forgotten, I feel certain that my worries have been heard and dismissed. That Earth is reassuring me that the small things I do with great love, they do matter. Relief floods over me, as anxiety heads for the door, muttering, “check, please.”

That’s what I got out of this, anyway. But then I once had a full-blown guilt-relieving conversation with a deceased pigeon. I take my comfort where I find it.

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  © Cheryl Leutjen