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  • Writer's pictureSheila Novak

It is in sinking that we grow

Reflections on darkness, growth and the body in the garden

by Liz Brindley of Prints and Plants

Tending the land is a bridge between my body and the natural world. When I slow down enough to observe the act, it becomes a reminder that I am not, was never, separate from nature.

When I plant, I begin to recall something so intrinsic and beyond my time that I hear a quiet, familiar whisper telling me who I am. Telling me who we are.

“I am nature.” - Jackson Pollock when asked if he worked from nature in his paintings.

This reminder feels a bit like a call to surrender into the unknowns of nature’s fickle cycles, those cycles that send us into the depths and pull us back up, again with hope for a better future.

These days, that cycle feels like sinking fast into a free-fall of darkness. But the earth, the soil, also knows darkness. The soil knows that its darkness, combined with the power of light, is what breathes new life into a seed.

When I press seeds into the soil, I am reminded that this sinking asks me to release control and fall into faith. When I press seeds into the soil, I am reminded that:

To sink is to discover.
To sink is to let go.
To sink is to allow.
To sink is to receive.
To sink is to trust.

To sink is to give myself over to something bigger than my individual mindset and tap into the collective consciousness that runs through the veins of our living, breathing bodies, and the veins of the living, breathing plants that we tend.

As I push seeds into soil, I’m reminded that the soft earth is here to catch us, to cradle us, to smooth out the fearful human tendency to be rigid with our unknowings. The soil scoops us back up when we fall, asking only in return that we keep tending to her with brighter awareness and compassion.

The act of slowing down in a garden to truly observe the plants, to bless a seed with intention, or to pause at a meal before eating a plate of food fresh from a farm, allows space for reverence of the rhythms intrinsic to our being that have been buried. These rhythms are waiting to be recalled, awoken, and revived.

So, when I harvest a carrot from the farm and chop it up for dinner, I observe each cross-section and am reminded of my own eye, seeing the world more clearly. I separate cabbage and am reminded of my brain, developing creative solutions for the future. I split a pomegranate and am reminded of fertility and life, experiencing each moment with a full heart.

I find comfort when I see these patterns of my body mirrored back to me by the foods grown in partnership with the land. I find comfort when I see the rhythms of humanity mirrored back to me by the rhythms of nature. I’m reminded of what it means to be human, to feel grounded, to know interconnection.

As you plant and tend to your CoVictory garden, take time to experience the process with full awareness, an open heart, and wide-eyed wonder. Sink in, knowing that it is in the sinking that you grow.

Activity for your CoVictory Garden: Blind Contour Drawing

  1. Grab a blank sheet of paper, a hard surface like a book or clipboard, and a pen.

  2. Go outside to observe part of your garden whether it is a seed, a sprout, or a full plant.

  3. Set a timer for 5 minutes and draw only what you observe before you. Don’t look at your paper at all for the full 5 minutes! Only look at your subject.

  4. Pretend like there is a string between your hand and your eye. As your eye traces the outline and details of your subject, your hand copies exactly what you see on your paper.

  5. Move very slowly, like a snail. Don’t try to “finish” your drawing in the time allotted. In fact, try to go so slowly that you do not complete a drawing of the whole subject.

  6. Repeat this process for an increment of 10 minutes.

  7. Repeat this process for an increment of 15 minutes.

  8. For a visual explanation of this exercise, visit this blog post by Liz.

Liz Brindley is a Food Illustrator in Northern New Mexico. She runs her illustration business, Prints & Plants, with the mission to use art as a tool for people to experience a renewed sense of reverence and connection with their food. Liz is the recipient of a Scholastic National Gold Key Award, and her artwork has been exhibited in galleries across the United States. You can learn more at and on Instagram @prints_and_plants.

Illustrations by Liz Brindley.

Farm Photography by Story Portrait Media for ©Squash Blossom Local Food Inc.

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