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Can something ugly and scarred be turned into something beautiful and inviting? Let me share with you a true story about a real gravel pit.
A gravel pit is a piece of land where bulldozers and huge earth-scooping machinery have removed the soil to extract gravel and other ingredients needed to build roads, make cement, gather building rocks, etc.
What remains, after all the extractions, is a huge scarred and pitted hole in the ground with unstable and crumbling sides, water seepage from underground springs, stagnant pools of rainwater, huge, discarded pieces of rock and other un-usable mounds of earth. Debris is scattered everywhere, discarded by individuals who consider this a worthless piece of land; a place to throw away their pop cans, beer bottles or candy wrappers.
What do you do with old gravel pits that have outlived their use?
One lady who had the skeleton remains of a large gravel pit in her backyard decided she would find a way to turn it into something beautiful.
In the late 1800s, Robert Butchart began excavating limestone from a quarry behind the home where he and his wife, Jennie, lived. He used it to manufacture Portland cement in a factory he built at Todd Inlet on Vancouver Island. When all the limestone was extracted, all that remained was this huge, ugly, and expansive hole in the ground.
But Jennie was not willing to let it lay there discarded, ugly and debased. With the help of architects and landscapers, topsoil from neighboring farmland was brought in and a beautiful design created.
Paths were designed, ponds dug, trees and shrubs and hundreds of blooming plants planted. Leftover rocks were strategically placed in new locations, enhancing the gardens. And so began the stunning reversal of desecrated land that today is known for its spectacular beauty.
What was once an ugly and desolate pit in the ground is now a beautiful sunken garden whose paths wind around serene ponds of water where ducks and swans float between lily pads and tree branches gently caress the water’s edge.
Flowers, shrubs, and trees artfully placed draw you into a world of beauty and panoply of color. At night, thousands of strategically placed lights turn it into a fairyland.
And so was born the world-famous Butchart Gardens, visited by thousands of tourists from around the world every year. What was once an uninviting and inhospitable place has been turned into a showcase. In fact, it is so spectacular, that people come to see the exquisite beauty and splendor throughout the year and in every season.
While this is a nice success story, how does it relate to you and me? We can use that same analogy of a gravel pit to our lives: losses that have left huge holes, unstable lifestyles, wrong choices, underground seepage of bitterness and resentment along with huge boulders of doubt and shame and anger.
Everyone has a gravel pit in their life’s story – huge, ugly holes created by death or divorce, acts of violence, tragic and lonely childhoods, or careless living.
Within our gravel pits we find ungrieved old losses, toxic messages that continue to erode self-esteem and worth. And we are left with scared landscapes of sorrow, isolation, rejection, and depression. Our days are filled with memories of what could have been.
In our attempts to reconstruct the pieces of our lives, we get overwhelmed, give up or accept that life will forever be an ugly gravel pit. We build sturdy walls or fences around it so nobody can see our feelings of shame. We don’t talk about it because we don’t want people to see our unpleasant side or be rejected. We run away from or deny our past because it makes us feel ugly and flawed.
Every aspect of our lives is affected by our gravel pits. But we can take our lives full of pain and broken dreams and turn them into places of beauty and contentment, comfort and inviting.
We can turn un-attractive and hopeless situations into satisfying, productive and pleasing futures.
We don’t scrap it – we use it. It becomes the backbone for our beautiful garden – positive gardens of hope, light, joy, energy, and strength.
Where do you begin such a daunting project?
The same place as the Butcharts did. They didn’t cover up the hole but used it as a springboard. If they had just filled the hole with dirt, it would not be the beautiful place it is today.
It takes a vision and a desire to examine our pits and remove rubble and toxic waste. It takes insight to see that what once was an obstacle can now be viewed as a piece of art.
With a readiness to count the cost of time, money, and energy a plan of action can continue the motivation. All of us can turn our gravel pits into beautiful gardens.
We need validation for the turmoil of thoughts and emotions we experience. But we also need the tools necessary to create a new beginning that is both satisfying and meaningful. My new book, Learning to Live Again in a New World, offers those tools to help work through the problems you might be facing.