Letting Mother Nature Share My Load through Transition
By Kristin K. Collier
Thirteen years ago, the sun marched upward into the August sky as I leaned to pluck bright green leaves of basil, a baby balanced on one hip. My four-year old’s plump fingers wrapped around the garden shears as he proudly snipped the tender plants and dropped them into our harvest basket. Throughout the afternoon, we washed, dried, and ground fresh basil into pesto with garlic from our garden, then gifted or stored the tiny jars of it for winter.
With so much uncertainty in our lives, this fulfilling task offered us the same hope and comfort it once gave the women of Genoa, where pesto was invented, as they sent their husbands seaward with the preserved greens of their homes and gardens.
Why We Needed the Help of Mother Nature
My family needed support in all ways then, though I was not ready to ask it of my friends and family. My husband had apologetically told me that he could no longer live his life as a man and would seek therapy for gender dysphoria, a condition where one doesn’t identify with their gender assigned at birth. This news might have signaled the end of our cozy family, but I didn’t want to let go until I was certain.
Living with uncertainty is hard, and feeling utterly alone with this difficult truth, I turned to nature for support. Looking back, I realize I could not have weathered that period and kept my heart open without the embrace of the forests and gardens around me. Leaning into the abundance of Mother Nature, I was able to provide experiences that nourished my family’s senses and hearts while attuning us to natural rhythms. I also found there the spaciousness and rest I desperately needed to explore the new territory our family found itself in.
When I was sad, frustrated, and confused with our situation, I went to the garden and dug. I grounded myself in real earth, and my children usually came with me. While I uprooted invasive weeds, my boys marveled at their roots, metaphorically reminding me that we come from something greater than just family, and that something will always be there for us.
My children laid on their bellies in the grass to observe snails feasting on lush leaves of Romaine lettuce and the skyward-reaching sprouts of Calendula that they had seeded the week before from sticky hands. They thrilled to discover dragonflies and garter snakes. Their excitement filled me with joy, and my focus on scarcity melted away. We returned from the garden nourished and ready to face the challenges of the day.
The Value of Natural Rhythms
It would have been easy to slip into depression back then. If I’d stayed just a few minutes longer in bed, felt a little more sorry for myself, I could have easily become overwhelmed and dysfunctional. There were moments I felt the darkness staring me down. But my children had been introduced to the magic of the outdoors, and they wanted to return to it every morning at sunrise.
Often begrudgingly, I pulled on sweater, jeans, and boots and took my sorrows out to the sidewalk where I was tugged by a finger around the neighborhood. There, under an infinite expanse of sky, my worries fell away, and the bravery of flowers and fruits emerging inspired me.
Mother Nature seduces the young so that they pull their parents and grandparents outside to where the healing happens. Our children take us out at dawn to hear the birds sing; they want to see the sun go down. The more time our family spent outdoors, the better we all slept and ate, particularly when harvesting year-round from our garden.
Nature Can Give You a Break
Not only did Mother Nature provide us with healthier sleep cycles, connecting us to our deep, circadian rhythms; she also offered me some quiet space to rest and collect my thoughts while the children pursued projects of their own in her care. Here was my moment to sit in the hammock and nurse the baby in peace. Here was some time to slowly collect a bouquet, observing the intricate beauty of each blossom, and then to bring that exquisite abundance indoors.
My eldest son needed attention constantly, and the only downtime I managed to achieve was on Mother Nature’s watch. I found that if I intended such a break and took note when it was received, I felt more supported, nourished and capable. I tried to use that break time to shift into conscious living rather than ticking along out of the mechanics of habit. I dearly valued every such moment of grace.
Double the Value
Mother Nature supported my transformation and the transformation of our family as my husband transitioned male to female. I have no doubt that the emphasis we placed on getting outdoors set the tone for abundance, harmony, and love that sustained us as we navigated the unknown. Getting our kids outside meant that we parents had to go, too. Double the value, though it was a gift I was often reluctant to receive!
After Winter Comes Spring….
A solution emerged organically to our gender conundrum and has yielded a happy family indeed. While I grieved mightily to lose my husband, I gained a best friend and parenting partner who is whole-heartedly engaged in rearing our children with me under one roof. Her name is Seda, and she has her own wing while my new romantic partner and I live in the other half of our house with the boys who are now teenagers.
We still follow the rhythms of nature daily. My sweetheart, Richard, is a chef, and we sit down as a family of five (or six with Richard’s son) to discover what magic he has added to our vegetables from the garden each night. We all play football and games together, and on family movie night, we fill the couch. Our family hikes, bikes, and gardens year-round, and the more is the merrier.
Nature reminds us that we can expect the unexpected, but it abhors a vacuum, and love there is aplenty.
Kristin K. Collier is an educator and writer from Eugene, OR. Her words have appeared in The Sun magazine, and her poetry is a frontispiece for Michael and Kathleen O’Neal Gear’s People of the Sea. She has been teaching Compassionate Communication since 2004. Collier and her spouse were featured in NPR’s program, Snap Judgment, in their Valentine’s 2012 edition (http://snapjudgment.org/borrowed-dresses). As well, Collier has been urban farming since 2005 and was a keynote speaker for the Eugene Permaculture Gathering in 2007.
Housewife: Home-remaking in a Transgender Marriage is available on Amazon and at all major bookstores.
For more information, please visit www.kristinkcollier.com and connect on Facebook, Twitter