PROCESS. It’s enough to wear you right out.
All these things you want to HAVE and to BE, like gardens, and children, and happiness…and they all just stretch themselves out haphazardly through years and conversations and unfoldings, never really giving you a clear static PRESENT. They’re always emerging and never really realized. It’s exhausting.
Can you tell I’ve been hard at the early spring phases of gardening? With my four-year-old? After, oh, four years of basic garden neglect? My soil is compacted and clayish; my nutrient levels deficient; the late spring has left two beds soggier than they should be. My strawberries are enough to make me weep, and not in a good way: some fool (ahem) planted a sweet little feverfew in there early last year, and whadya know! It self-sows! Rabidly! And then the little seedlings root deeply enough that pulling them out leaves the strawberries upside-down, root tendrils waving in desperation.
In short, it’s hard to know where to start.
But start we did, a few days ago, and did a little more today. Wood ash and peat moss and compost and worm castings and chopped leaves and some elbow grease and the occasional back spasm…and today, thanks to my four-year-old’s intervention, some actual planting. He has declared one of our six veggie beds “his” for the season, though he is graciously allowing me to plant some brassicas there because of my (winningly brilliant) explanation about crop rotation. He began with radishes (four kinds spread across one short row) and moved on to carrots (only two, so far, of the rainbow of colors we intend to plant). He was patient with my need to rescue strawberry plants rather than sow more carrots, which surprised me. But whenever he’s outdoors with purpose and freedom, he tends to be surprisingly mature and cheerful. Note to self, right?
So the list of what else to do stretches long, and longer since I bought a few plants at the Fedco Tree Sale last weekend. (I was only going to pick up the potatoes I had order, and because it’s a spiritual pilgrimage for me. I was NOT going to buy trees or shrubs.) So now I have to open up new ground for the new raspberries; transplant an old seeded grape for a new seedless one; make space for a beautiful Arctic Blue willow and an Ellen’s Blue Buddleia; and I think there’s something else in there I’ve forgotten. Plus, I need to move the roses that are in too much shade come late summer (and where to? roses near the swing set just spells trouble, no?); rake and weed the asparagus bed; transplant things from the “nursery bed” (see my earlier post on THAT sore topic here).
But isn’t this just how it is? I mean, there are gardeners I know who stay on top of it, whose soil is rich and beautiful, whose daily chores consist of the necessary work that arises in that moment. They don’t seem chronically behind (and yes, they are retired, these legends), but nor do they look at their gardens through the lenses of deficiency. They are asset-oriented. This is what I strive to be, in gardening as in life.
Years ago, in a bout of depression, I used a really irritating and fabulously effective exercise to drag myself back to healthy living: you sit with a pen and paper and write down, every day, ten things that are positive. No sweat, right? I remember the first time I tried it. I was staring out at the edge of the yard, where a seasonal stream separated our property from our neighbors’. Tiger lilies were starting to sprout there, tender green shoots pushing skyward. And yet what I saw was a reminder that the $&%*^# deer were just waiting to eat every beautiful thing around. I was mad that I wasn’t transplanting some lilies into the fenced garden where they would be safe; I was angry that there was no way to protect them where they were in that peaceful natural setting. It took me the longest time to circle back on myself and arrive at this: there are beautiful naturalized lilies volunteering in my yard. I live near that. I live in beauty.
I’m working on holding this commitment to seeing the positive, to honoring the unfolding. It’s not that we didn’t get far enough in today’s work; it’s that we chose to rest and play rather than push on. (And when great clouds passed with quick but soaking rains, we hid under the deck together — and what fun it was to watch the silver sheets and hear their susurrations over our heads!) It’s not that the radishes and carrots will be uneven and disordered; it’s that my four-year-old chose to be out there with me, participating as fully as he knows how. The work will never be DONE — at least not my work, not by me. That’s not how I roll. But I can make progress and I can choose when to stop. And most importantly, I can keep working at seeing what’s beautiful and whole, even if it’s riddled with imperfections and its beauty is fleeting and its wholeness always still unfolding.