Monday, July 6, 2009

Garden Therapy

Over the past three days I worked my garden. And my garden worked me. I used to use my I-pod to garden. Listening to episodes of “This American Life” the time would fly. Still when I go to certain areas of the garden I am transformed to a certain episode: the detailed map of sound of one man’s neighborhood is above the left most upper stone in the rockery wall; a Latino girl’s commitment to making it out of the ghetto is embedded into the ground under my lowest lilac tree.

But now I garden to episodes of my own life. As I chase the roots of the decorative grass I tried to eliminate last month, I find myself chasing the roots of other things I planted in my life and now want out. I kick myself over not speaking up to the landscaper when I had doubts about his suggested plantings as I’m kicking myself about not being honest with myself about bringing things into my life that I now wish hadn’t taken root. I know I’ll be pulling those Lilyturf shoots out forever. But as long as I keep at it I can keep on top of it.

A lot of my thoughts about gardening and life deal with the roots. Strong roots: good and bad. Roots of bad things that creep over from my neighbor’s unkempt yard. Roots of things like the Lilyturf that I intentionally planted and now can’t get rid of. Roots of the morning-glory that poke up and strangle my good plants until I pull them off. The good roots of the Cotoneaster that are spreading over the banks of my sloped yard, becoming thicker and thicker so that the weeds are having less opportunity to poke through. The roots (and wings) my parents gave me that are strong enough to fill in where bad plants used to have root. For these I am so grateful.

I think about perseverance as I dig up and move plants around until I am satisfied with where they are planted…for now. I move them from places where they are being shadowed and blocked out by heartier neighboring plants, to places with better exposure and room to grow. I think about my own uprooting and relocation until I found a place to survive and then thrive.

I think about needed skills of discernment when I assess whether something new that has sprouted is the reseeding of something I want to encourage, like the foxglove and poppies, or from those nasty popweeds (as I call them) that shoot out baby seeds as I go to pull the mother plant from its point of intrusion. Like bad thoughts that won’t die, that spring up in the midst of my well cared for garden, I can’t help but get frustrated. But still I persevere.

I wonder at how beautiful some of those weeds are. That if they weren't so strong and overtaking that they actually might be attractive and easily justified to let have their way. How do we know things are weeds and not flowers? How easy it would be to justify a yard full of morning glory and buttercups. But how much peace and satisfaction I'd miss if that was the route I chose.

I think about the investment I made to rip out the old slope of ferns and dangerously slippery old railroad tie steps, to replant and reshape the whole area into something beautiful and usable. Soon the line between my garden and my life seem undistinguishable.

I’ve thought more than a few times that I wish I were gardening side by side with my therapist as it seems so much easier to see what I’m doing with my life by what I’m trying to do with my garden. To appreciate the beauty that’s taken root in the overall landscape, even as I work away at those stubborn roots of the bad plants that keep showing up. The ones that she hears most about and keeps helping me to get my hand around to pull out.

Yesterday Karla, my sweet next door neighbor, was out cleaning her screens. She stopped me as I trudged up from below with another load of weeds to empty. She thanked me for providing her and her husband with such a beautiful yard to look at. In the same breath she told me how handsome and polite my son is growing up to be. My heart burst sending good seeds into the cracks. Those bad weeds, cowering in the bucket I held in my arms, were defeated. I was so not.

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