As I scribble madly through some two thousand or so words a day, it occurs to me there may be more to life than writing. Spring is happening just outside my window. What better way to reward myself for all this sedentary effort than a little fresh air and exercise afterwards?
Actually I could think of lots of better ways, but most of them cost money. I’m a cheapskate with a lot of seeds, courtesy of several years of dreaming and very little follow through. The nice little flowerbed in my backyard shriveled and died the summer I moved here and has since sprouted more grass than the actual lawn. Ah well, the Spring rains have been softening the soil and I’ve decided to give it another go.
I got out in the yard a few days ago to make a beginning. It was . . . educational.
Lesson number one: Do not wear a red Hawaiian shirt with big bright flowers and a blue floral hat while working outside if you have any bees in your yard. On my first day digging in the yard, a big fuzzy black and yellow bumble bee wouldn’t leave me alone. I couldn’t figure out why it was harassing me until I went inside and happened to see my reflection in a mirror. Changing into gray and brown clothing and swapping out my blue flowered hat for a plain straw one brought the harassment to a stop. Whew!
Lesson Number Two: Red clay is not wonderful garden soil. It’s hard to dig in and inhospitable to anything other than weeds. The pretty flowers that populated the garden when I moved into this house some years ago shriveled and died for a good reason. When I pulled out the dead plants, I learned they hadn’t grown beyond the little blocks of potting soil that had come with them from the store.
Lesson Number Three: A butter knife from the kitchen can succeed where a flat edged shovel will not. Thanks to some time and patience with this digging tool, I now have a nice 6×6 square of excavated ground, free of weeds. Tomorrow I will mix sand and compost into the soil and place a bedding plant there. Just one, because I’m talking about six inches, not six feet. Once that’s done, I’ll move over and dig up another six inch section. That’s probably the only way I’ll be able to make any progress.
Lesson Number Four: Weeds are devilishly persistent.
My garden is framed by brickwork. There are weeds growing up between the bricks. The roots stretch underneath looking for any outlet. In a few instances, I tunneled beneath adjoining pavement, still couldn’t get the roots out and finally snipped them off as far back as I could. It’s all a matter of buying time anyway as they WILL come back. It’s the nature of weeds. I can only hope to weaken and slow them down while I seed the ground with what I want to grow there. Hopefully the new plants will prevail long enough to have a fighting chance by the time the weeds return.
Lesson Number 5: Gardening really is Good Therapy.
My muscles ache from the unaccustomed exertion and there will likely be insect bites and other hazards as the season progresses. I have dirt under my fingernails and no real sense of organization or landscaping. Still, it’s exciting to be out and doing something different.
It’s good for me as well. I’m getting exercise and a little vitamin D from sun exposure, breathing all that oxygen from the plants and possibly picking up friendly bacteria from the soil, those probiotics the health enthusiasts talk about. These are said to be good for depression, digestion, and just about anything else that might ail you. It’s claimed too that merely by sitting there on the ground, I may be receiving a therapeutic effect by the earth’s natural electric field.
To me, though, gardening is about reconnecting with nature and maybe with myself. It’s tedious work, but there are wonders to be found and wind chimes and birdsong to orchestrate the search. There are tiny blooms among the weeds, insect friends to be made, and the miracle of seeds sprouting forth into plants. A garden is filled with simple magic.
I’m enjoying this opportunity to get out in the sun and play in the mud. It makes me feel like a kid again. My mind wanders and invents stories about insects and imaginary little people clearing tiny fields in the wilderness that is my weed infested flowerbed.
Does it help my writing? I sure hope so. There are still three weeks of Camp NaNoWriMo and lots of scribbling yet to be accomplished. If you’re reading this, please wish me well. I need all the luck and inspiration I can get.