Last night was such a beautiful May evening. After allowing way too much stress into my system during the day – my throat was closed, my belly tight – I intuited that the best remedy was to be out in the air and the light, digging in the soil. I have three little garden beds, one of which is already sprouting arugula, spinach and lettuce. But the other two are woefully overgrown. Each needs to be shoveled and handweeded, mixed with compost, weeded a bit more, and hoed — at least by my amateur way of doing things. (Please tell me if there’s an easier way!) It takes about two hours per bed and is, at its best, highly meditative.
I’d been working for about 45 minutes when I had to go inside for a moment. Finding C. on the computer I told him how nice it would be to have him outside, how good it would feel. He’s been low-energy lately and I thought this would help — my rendition of carrying him to a Swiss mountainside retreat to breathe in the pure air. He complied. As he surveyed our brambly, wooly yard, he looked none too happy about it. And when he finally set upon a tiered garden area that is overgrown now but will Cambodia-like by August, he mumbled and cursed and frowned.
Suddenly, my own plot that I was working looked different. It was clumpy, full of rocks and tough parts that didn’t want to soften under my tools. It was the same patch that had failed to produce resplendent tomatoes the summer before and had brought a cucumber blight the year before that. It was a disappointment. And I, as its main caretaker, was clearly lacking in skill and tender green acumen. What an hour before had looked hopeful, now appeared hopeless.
“What’s the choice, though?” I thought. “To ignore it and let it go to weed?” The rest of the yard may inevitably, as it does each year, turn wild, but if I can go out and pluck a cherry tomato, a piece of basil, a few beans from these beds, that will give me pleasure. That will give me a sense of the life’s cycle. And it will remind me that everything begins again, even the weeds, even the inevitable withering of the vines next September, and the snow covering that may arrive in December.
It’s so easy to be overwhelmed. The dust under the sofa. The laundry that never ends. The kids who just keep going and going. It can be really hard to breathe some days, to feel that I am ok here on my little piece of earth. So as the day turned to dusk, I got down on my knees and pulled at the long threads of creeping charlie, putting them in my weed bucket. I broke the earth in my hands and then stood back up to push my spade down deep into the blackness.