The Garden of Stability

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Callie Sleper
Listening House Staff Member

Amy has been a guest at Listening House for years. When she was living at Dorothy Day, she first stopped by for some coffee. Now, she stays for a lot more.

Amy experiences an ongoing battle with mental health issues, and the friends and opportunities she has at Listening House help her through it.

Amy is a frequent volunteer at the Listening House Garden. The garden has been operational for about five years and is part of Healthy West Seventh Community Garden on 7th and Otto. For Amy, the garden represents far more than the onions, squash, herbs, and other edibles it produces: It gives purpose and joy to her day. From a very young age, she was already helping her mother and grandmother plant.

“Ever since I was two years old,” Amy said, “I was helping grandma plant snapping beans. I got to poke holes in the dirt so she could drop in the seeds.”

When she was older, Amy was part of an intentional community in Indiana that shared a forever-feeding garden. The housemates would eat what they raised, and the compost layered with mulch, dirt, and grass kept the garden abundant. At another point, she was hauling some 40 plant pots around with her in a travel trailer and didn’t let the fact that she didn’t have a home with a yard stop her.

Amy has been helping out at the Listening House garden for about a year and treks down to help there most weeks. Though she is still one of the fresher faces around our garden, she is already proving her talent at being a green-thumbed planter and visionary.

Amy grows whatever is edible—onions, basil, cumin, rosemary, thyme, and cilantro (among others)—and gets seedlings from the Farmer’s Market. She hopes to plant some squash, tomatoes, peppers, chives, and garlic if it indeed ever quits snowing in Minnesota.

When she is in the garden, Amy feels peaceful and very at home. For Amy, rolling up her sleeves in a garden means peace, stability, and investment a clean lifestyle. Settling into familiar territory such as gardening helps with her mental health. It is also an opportunity to develop her own skills.

“Listening House gives me the opportunity to have a hobby and do something I love,” said Amy. “Gardening gives me something to do. It really helps battle PTSD and depression. I’m really excited about [Listening House’s] new place because there will be more things for people to do. Hobbies can mean skills you can take with you into the work force.”

Amy, who has struggled with addiction in the past, is now in new housing and is hoping to start in a jobs training program soon.  The soil of her life too is rich for growth.  Hopefully the work she puts in to both the garden of her life and our community garden will produce a rich harvest.

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