the process of healing


My grandmother has always been a gardener. Very rarely do I see her without dirt under her fingernails and hair sticking damply to her forehead and neck. It’s how she waits out her bad days. Her yards are a riotous mix of colors and growth and distinct lack of manicure. She taught my mother to garden the same way. She told me once that my grandfather always hated disorganized gardens.

My most significant memories take place in a garden. It’s how the women in my family communicate. There’s something magical about speaking sorrow into existence while trying to coax a sprout to take root.

I learn the story of how my grandmother met my grandfather while planting daisies along the edges of her backyard with dirt staining both my arms. She tells me she believes she failed as a mother by giving her husband power as I push apple seeds into the ground.

I pull up strangling weeds and listen to my mother detail how free she felt when she married my father, twenty years old and desperate to escape. She digs out the rose bushes her father planted and asks me to chop them up, tears drawing paths through the dirt on her face when she tells me about the gun she once had to point at his chest.

I’ve always associated a garden with an abundance of healing magic. It’s where my family goes to spill our scars and history and watch something good take root. It’s where we go if we want to walk away lighter. A place I can’t quite look at without feeling an ache in the hollow of my chest. 

When I discovered The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows by John Koenig, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. For those of you who don’t know what those are, it’s a collection of made-up words that John Koenig created to try and give a name to emotions we don’t quite know how to put into words. I love this concept. Because who amongst us hasn’t had a feeling we couldn’t quite verbalize?

These Sorrows helped me put weight behind some of the fluttering chaos that churns in my throat after gardening with my mother, with my grandmother. They allowed me a reprieve, knowing that there were others in the world having the same difficulty of putting their hurt and healing into real words.

Healing is a process. And while I fully believe in the magic of my mother’s garden, of my grandmother’s, I haven’t been able to get myself to plant my own sorrows in the dirt and watch them bloom into something new.

Instead, I used the Sorrows as a foundation to write my experiences. Below are a few short musings about how personal energy and a garden’s magic can grow something from grief.


n. proud of a scar, an autograph to you by a world grateful for your willingness to play with her

reach / through the heavy / darkness to golden
light / & raw nectar / whisper into urns of dull /
memory & stroke / each leaf under pale / summer
moonlight / dip your toes / in warm mud / & share
secrets / with the breeze snaking / through your trees
& newly / planted daisies / when your petal-veined /
hands are stained / with dirt and ash / bury each bulb
& water / every seed / then eat / your labor / whole            


n. a melancholic trance in which you become completely absorbed in vivid sensory details

sing & smile                             & sing & smile
at straightening stalks                         at browning trees
cycling back to green                          with watery winter sunlight

waxing & waning                                   leaving dying branches
scraping the dirt                                   (scraping you bloody)
sing & they will bloom                                          sour fruit

plant their broken bits     & keep your bruised hands
steady                      when your noose loosens
sing until each bit takes root & flowers

rigor samsa

n. a kind of psychological exoskeleton that protects you from pain but always ends up cracking

bury daffodil bulbs in the gardens and watch
them come up asphodel by the dozens

slice your palm and squeeze dripping ichor
into the dirt to feed the rooted sprouts

scrape and dig at your skin until your eyes fill
& let them spill over to collect for later use

open your mouth and let marigolds fall out
tended and grown from your salted earth

spread your arms and raise pale lily fields
whose every bloom is soaked in your blood

What encourages your healing, Kittens? Comment below! or tweet us @pvssymagic.


Isabella is a writer with a focus on the culture/superstition of a Mexican household and how that relates to sexuality, gender dynamics, and grief/trauma. 

Raised in Southern California by Mexican parents and grandparents, the magic and eccentricities of her culture were a part of her everyday life. With food and family being such an important part of her life, she found herself gravitating toward kitchen witch practices. 

You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @izellerbach or her website