When I’m working in Santa Fe, I have the pleasure of staying with my friend, Ana. She has a lovely, quiet home surrounded by piñon-juniper forest. She is an old soul, a dear friend, and a sister of my choosing.  Ana is the kind of person you would want as a mom. She’s smart, funny, creative, confident, and solidly gorgeous.

On one of my recent visits, we caught up about what’s been going on and how we were coping.

After eight weeks of “stay-at-home” in effect to avoid the spread of COVID-19, Ana and I both could feel the collective tension getting to us.

We knew we were fortunate in that we were healthy and supported. However, the stress of the pandemic was becoming overwhelming. Long lines at the grocery store, not getting to hug friends when we see them, and not recognizing friends because we were masked up…  it’s been a bit much.

Frankly, it’s been traumatic. We talked about the strategies we’ve been using to stay as sane as we could. We admitted we had a lot of tools in our spiritual and emotional toolboxes. As the conversation was winding down, we both let out a big sigh.

We looked into one another’s eyes and she said to me, “We are going to get through this together. We’re in it together. Let’s embrace THAT.”

Yes. We are in this together. The coronavirus pandemic has shown us very clearly that we are all connected. 

Humans need community to thrive. Sure, we can survive in isolation, but, the “Shelter-in-Place” parameters have given us all a lot of time for contemplation. It seems to me we’re all thinking more about what is really important. We’re contemplating what we hope to see on the other side of this.

Ana and I talked about how to weather this storm going forward. Ana is a natural community organizer.  I am a natural grower. Over the course of a week of visioning and planning, we decided to create a center for community around her home on the southwest side of town. We would build a garden providing some food security and an opportunity for people to connect. We would start creating gatherings that felt safe and supportive. We would begin to grow connections again.

The first thing I needed to do, of course, was develop a plan for food production. It’s the first thing I do wherever I live, even if it’s only intermittently. Ana’s place already housed a fenced-in vegetable garden, the irrigation was serviceable, and she’s been composting for the year and a half she’s lived on the property. We figured we should be able to feed ourselves pretty well!

We decided where the peas, beets, and rainbow chard could go on the edges of the rectangle-shaped space. The onions were already poking up from their beds. There was a compost pile right in the middle of the garden, so we dug up some of the rich black stuff at the bottom and spread it around the bed to give them a good boost.

We looked at the center of the garden, where a circle of compost looked right back at us. What would we do with the rest of that rich soil? We sat in meditation for a while and I asked to be connected to the deva of the property. What would complete that garden, honor the past, and look to the future.

The answer to our community healing garden space came quickly. Three Sisters. 

Corn, beans, and squash. We looked at the space: pinto beans were starting to sprout from the leftovers that had been tossed in a week ago. Corn and squash were the logical compliments!

For those not familiar with the concept, corn, beans, and squash grow together so well because the beans, fixing nitrogen into the soil, feed the nitrogen-hungry corn, and the squash shades the soil to regulate the moisture, and uses the remaining richness in the soil to produce really yummy squash!

Although the three sisters circle is a Native American method of farming, there are indicators everywhere that three is a solid foundation for decision-making.

Three is a magic number in literature: The Three Bears, The Three Little Pigs, and you get three tries to guess Rumpelstiltskin’s name. You get the idea.

In permaculture there are always three reasons for every action. For instance, we try to use the water three times before it goes back to source. Trapping a gopher instead of killing it is more humane, less polluting, and there’s a protein source at the end of it.

A triangle is a very stable structure. Think of the pyramids, able to weather thousands of years of storms.

To grow a healing community garden, you need good soil, a good foundation, and a balanced structure.

Ana and I are growing a garden of connection, cooperation, and community. There are extra rooms in the house, so we made a prayer that the house be used in its highest and best form, inviting the right people to come contribute to the vision.

We can’t control the past or change what has happened as a result of COVID-19, but, we can certainly plant precious seeds for the future.

In my experience, all of the creations and unique situations we find ourselves in are the result of the cultivation of the gardens of our lives. 

Although our past actions have affected our present moment, we can move through each one of those new moments knowing that if we meet it with love and courage, then the world around us will begin to reflect back to us even more love and courage. Of course, the opposite is also true, so, when we meet a moment with fear, hate, or anger, we will cultivate more moments of fear and anger.

It’s counterproductive, really.

What kind of garden are you cultivating as we attempt to emerge from this pandemic? What will you create in the garden of your life?

Choose wisely. Find your trusted buddies and let’s start creating something really fulfilling! We can acknowledge our limitations, mix it up with the richness of possibility and kindness, and grow wonderful things together. I can’t wait to watch us blossom in this new garden. When it comes to my garden with Ana, we’re excited to see who will be the third sister to emerge into our creation!

I have truly enjoyed getting feedback from you! Please, feel free to share your own garden or pandemic resilience story here if you would like to contribute to the positive feedback loop!