My photo

I'm most recently a writer.  In the six plus decades of my life, I've been a wife, mother, grandmother, Jill of all trades though mistress of but a few, and most of the time pretty content with my lot.  As a much younger person, I believed I was called to write, but life and living distracted me for most of those decades.  An unwilling transplant from the South,  twenty years ago I unintentionally landed in the geographical center of the US.  Writing came about in part due to the unwillingness, I expect.  When caring for family, gardening, and renovating a century-old house failed to provide sufficient creative outlets, I turned to the one thing I always intended to do.  Eight titles later, I'm grateful I found myself while Lost in the Plains!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Garden Therapy

I remember my grandmother digging in her garden, turning red in the face and sweating profusely. I couldn't see where all that work changed things very much. The bulbs--iris and daffodils mainly--were beautiful but only bloomed for a short time. The forsythia barely lasted a week or two. The big flowering scrubs, whose names I'm ashamed to say I can't remember, bloomed profusely at various times during the summer. I do remember the fig bush and the succulent sweetness of the fruit eaten straight from the branches. But all that work for what--a few bursts of color each year? And yet it was obvious Nana loved her garden and the work. She said she needed to dig in the dirt now and then, that it helped "keep things in perspective." I guess I understood on some level that in her life, one of hard labor with little financial reward, one where the dinner table was laid with chipped china and homegrown fare, and excitement was rarely a good thing, digging in the dirt might actually provide some kind of comfort.

I was only in my twenties when I came to the realization that in my life, different from hers as it might be, digging in the dirt would be a necessity also. Wherever I've lived, in balcony apartments, homes with lawns large and small, no matter what the climate, I've made sure there was dirt for me to dig in. If not an actual garden, at least some potted plants, a little row of annuals by the door, even a window box. Dirt, best handled with bare hands so it works into the skin and under the fingernails, is my therapy. The results of my labor, green and flowering plants which become my children as I watch them grow through a season or more, reassure me that in a world of constant and often confusing change, some things remain constant. Soil, water, sunshine and seed combine to provide a solace unlike any other.

When we moved to this old house almost fifteen years ago, there was nothing but grass. Not a single sprig that could  be described as landscaping. I started small, claiming ground at one corner of the house where once a wraparound porch had stood. The soil was thick, black and sticky--the material sod houses were built of when this part of the country was settled. As I dug--increasing the size little by little each year--I fought crabgrass and good old-fashioned weeds of every obnoxious variety, working in peat moss and manure until eventually the soil stopped resisting and began to cooperate. Together, that plot of virgin soil and I brought forth an abundance of  color and scent, a place where hummingbirds visited in the spring and the Monarch butterflies tanked up for their flight south late each summer.

I was overly ambitious. Today the garden is almost too much for me to handle alone. I've moved away from annuals to perennials and bulbs, which require far less digging and will in time fill the space with colors and textures without so much help from me. And I've taken on a helper. It turns out my granddaughter likes digging too. It's quite possible that just as I did, she understands on some level that this communion with the soil is more than just dirty, sweaty work, and that the rewards are infinitely more than just a few bright blooms. If I could pass anything along to her, there's nothing I know of that will bring her more pleasure or provide her with a better way to "keep things in perspective."


  1. This was a beautiful post to read and well worth the time! Thank you for sharing your memories with us! I love gardening, but rarely seem to find the time to keep a garden "semi-weedfree". This motivates me to want to head out there! Feel free to drop by my blog at - http://www.prairiegalcookin.blogspot.com

    1. Thanks, Ashleigh! While weed-free might be nice, I'm willing to cut myself some slack and just enjoy whatever I can accomplish by puttering a little every day. Leaving something for tomorrow is a great motivator! Enjoy your garden and I'm heading over to check out your blog now!