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  • Iklim Goksel

Digging Deep into the Earth



Beluga Point, Alaska

I kneel down on the ground. I am on my knees with excruciating pain but I don’t waste my time thinking about it. Yeah, the hurt is definitely there. I could really use some knee pads or a simple pillow. I could just grab a pillow from the living room couch. My couch is blue and I have many pillows on it. They showcase the colors I like. My favorite ones are branded with hues of red. They have been there for quite some time and have been very accepting of me and of my guests over the years. I mean, they literally opened up to all of those who squashed them with their backs, hugged them while sleeping, or simply used them for head and neck support. They are kind and work hard. I should probably let them be. But, what about my nagging knees? “Ah, just continue to dig”, I tell myself. There is no need to participate in the drama. In fact, why even pause and stop the pain? Ditch the pillow! Forget it! Just dig.


My nails are filled with dirt. I don’t recognize my hands anymore. Maybe I should have worn gardening gloves. Probably not. Why create barriers against what feels so comforting? I want to touch anything that feels good and makes me want to scream, “This is it! This is what I want!” And, this is one of those moments when I get to scream really loud and perhaps louder: “I love!”


I am planting a rose bush. The buds will soon open. I need to dig this hole. Today! Now! I dig and dig. The soil feels cooler as I go deeper into the earth. Earthworms and grub worms scorn me for disrupting them. But that does not stop me. I am determined to go as deep as I can. I gently pick each worm with the tips of my fingers. I relocate them to a safe spot. I have nothing against them. It is the depths of the earth I am after. Have you ever looked closely down at the earth? I don’t mean the hollow darkness that goes deeper and deeper. I mean, dig all you want. The scenery is pretty much the same. But what if there were something worth to look at and feel, reserved only for those who were willing to open up their minds and hearts? That is what I am after.


I am alone with my rose bush. I am holding it close to me. Its heavy but I will hold on to it as much as I can. It is like one of those countless times when I screamed, “I love”. And, I am now holding on to the rose bush because I can and I want to. When I was a little girl, a boy ten years my senior taught me how to ride a bicycle in our neighborhood. That was the only real and meaningful interaction I had with him. Years later, when I became a college student, I accidentally met him at a wedding party. He remembered me but not the day he taught me how to ride a bicycle. I was heartbroken but still full of joy inside. I did not mean all that much to him but he meant the world to me. And, that was all I needed. I will always hold on to him like I am holding on to my rose bush.


I am back on my knees. The hole in the ground is big enough for my rose bush. It will grow tall and wide here. And, that’s exactly what I want. I set it in the ground and slowly start backfilling. There is blood on my hands and arms but the dirt quickly covers the bleeding. This is what happens if you are not careful with the thorns. Wasps are slowly building a nest in the gutter. They could not care any less about me or my rose bush. However, there will be others. I am reminded of how John Laroche, the American horticulturist in the movie adaptation of the book The Orchid Thief, passionately talks about bees and how they pollinate orchids. He says, “by simply doing what they are designed to do something large and magnificent happens. In this sense they show us how to live. How the only barometer you have is your heart. How when you spot your flower, you can’t let anything get in your way.”


Healing is an everyday work-in-progress. My life’s journey took its toll on me. I have seen the darkest side and the brightest side. Nothing is what it seems. Nothing. Sometimes the eyes speak but you have got to have eyes of your own to see what is in the eyes of the other. Not everyone is qualified enough to do that. It takes courage and kindness. Some days I am in deep dark blue waters beyond anyone’s imagination. I laugh it off. Other days, I fly high above the clouds. Nevertheless, I laugh it off as well. I always laugh it off. That’s what I do. That’s what I am good at.


My lawn is not green and manicured; it is a meadow. Earthworms and grub worms crawl underneath it. Moles chew on them. When it rains, birds probe them with their horny jaws. Every now and then, my blood fertilizes the soil. And, I plant lots of rose bushes. As screenwriter Charlie Kaufman says “you are what you love, not what loves you. That’s what I decided a long time ago”. I dig deep into the earth every chance I get. I am curious about what is beyond the deep hollow darkness. There is always something to see if you know how to look. And, my healing starts with each gaze as I look deeper into the hollow darkness because that is where my rose bushes will survive and thrive. And, I don’t let anything get in my way.


* This essay originally appeared in Radiating Hope; Cancer Unplugged, a collection of essays on hope and love published by Hybrid Global Publishing in 2018.



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