Tuesday, October 23, 2018

23. Outdoor Living

One of the lovely by-products of this gardening adventure was spending more time outside—even when I wasn't working, weeding, or watering.

I’d wanted a hammock for a long time, and finally bit the bullet and found one on sale at Target. I assembled it myself (persevering when the written instructions stumped me). I did a lot of reading earlier in the summer before the temperatures soared.

My daughter and I found badminton rackets and birdies on sale at Walgreen’s, so that became a fun pastime too. That child and I can really crack each other up. We laughed really hard as we worked on improving the number of times we can keep the birdie volleying between us. One evening, she kept getting the birdies caught in the tree. We giggled as we threw the rackets in the air hoping to shake the birdies out. Next she hit the birdie and it landed in the gutter on the front of the house. I shook my head at the absurdity of it all and walked to my tool shed where I stored my ladder.

I walked through the gate entrance into the back yard and looked up and ahead. For the first time this summer, I looked at my back yard from a different perspective. I saw the wildness still needing to be tamed and for the first time, I did not see it as ugly or something that needed to be fixed.
What I saw, instead, was a space full of potential. And I saw myself different, too. I knew I had the enthusiasm, curiosity, and patience to transform it.

Monday, October 22, 2018

22. Welcome to the Neighborhood, Ladies

After days of devoted watering and pulling weeds that threatened to choke out the plants that were intended to grow, the day finally arrived. My first zinnia appeared. It didn't take long for other blossoms to follow and I was ecstatic. I visited my garden every morning and evening to take in the beauty and monitored the changes that occur.
I was giddy over this little plot of earth. My enthusiasm made me self-conscious. I behaved as if I was the first human ever to grow something. It felt miraculous and I was thrilled and humbled to have been a part of this creative process.
My garden has cultivated so many things in my life. My writing returned after months of grief and word hibernation. The physicality of pulling weeds and mowing, moving earth and wielding tools made me appreciate what my body can do on and off the yoga mat.
My daughter commented on my “flower babies” and how I love them more than her. An absurd notion, but she read my enthusiasm correctly. I DO love my garden and what it has grown.
These blossoms were the bright spot of a yard that has caused me so much mental anguish over the years. They offered a balm and a promise that future seasons would be brighter than the past. Yet another metaphor for this new life I am living.
I could not be more delighted!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

21. Break it Down

As I faced my newest challenge, yoga teacher training, low-grade panic surged through me when I contemplated how I would memorize all of the material month-after-month. I had epiphany.
On a lunch walk, I realized that I could record myself reading each individual set of poses and then replay them over and over. This is one of the many things that brings me to the sidewalk day after day. The latin phrase, solvitur ambulando, is so right: it IS solved by walking.
Basically, I could break down yet another big, scary goal into smaller, achievable tasks. Hmm, this seems really familiar. When have I done this before?
Writing a page a day that turned into a novel draft seven months later? Yes.
Looking at my backyard and choosing to tackle one small part of the weeding at a time? Yes.
Choosing to plant seeds in one small area? Yes.
My garden was the newest practice ground for how to tackle an overwhelming task. It helped me model for myself the way to approach something that at its worst might paralyze me into non-action and at its best inspire me to surprise myself with what I accomplish.
For nearly 15 years, I was paralyzed by the size of the task, the assumed high costs of rehabilitating the space, and my perceived lack of skills, know-how, and ability to tackle the job.
No more!
What I am learning over and over is the power of breaking down big goals into smaller tasks. Every time I do, my confidence and competence grows, as do the piles of weeds I take to the curb for yard waste pick up.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

20. A New Water Source and a Set of Pliers

I’ve lived in this for fourteen-and-a-half years. Only this summer did I realize there was a water spigot on the back of my house. This was a revelation.

I have happily dragged my hose back and forth between the back and front yards, but it did seem convenient that I could have one hose in the back and one in the front. It would save me a little time and effort.

I separated the two hoses that had been one long hose, and attached the second hose to the spigot in the back yard. And then I went to work on turning it on. I worked and worked and could not budge it. I was annoyed and didn’t have time to mess with it, so I skipped watering that morning and told myself I’d ask my neighbor to check it out in the evening.

I came home from work and wasn’t interested in dealing with this hang up, so I didn’t water again, and skipped asking my neighbor for help. I was motivated to try early in the morning before work because I didn't want another hot day to pass without watering. Sometime between then and the next morning, I remembered that I hadn’t tried pliers. I needed to employ a tool stronger than my hand.

If the pliers didn’t work, then I’d definitely ask my neighbor for help. A few years ago, my dad restocked my garage with tool basics. I went to the garage to grab a set of pliers. I took them to the spigot and sure enough, it was just what I needed! The water started flowing through the hose, and I got the plants rehydrated. I can’t tell you how satisfying these little moments are for me as a solo homeowner. I texted a friend that I’d figured out my water problem without asking for help. His “nice work” was so nice to read.

I’m really glad that I figured out a way to cut down on the hose hauling. The convenience of two hoses has enhanced the gardening experience. Life really is made up of the little victories. My confidence continues to blossom like my garden.

Friday, October 19, 2018

19. A Moment of Decision

Since I’ve never grown anything from seed before, I was hesitant to do any weeding for a while. I had no idea what zinnia, sunflower, and wildflower sprouts looked like. I kept watering and sending these little sprouts my love and affection.

As the sprouts got taller and stronger, I began noticing something that was growing vigorously was also growing in places where I hadn’t planted seeds. Then one day, I noticed the same plant growing up out of a seam in my driveway. That third location sealed the deal for me. That plant wasn’t supposed to be where it was growing and it needed to go. I didn’t want it to choke out the burgeoning plants that were growing in their neat little rows.

It was a cool moment. I’d given the plants enough time to establish themselves and deduced that this particular plant didn’t belong. I could hear the catchy Sesame Street jingle in my head, “One of these things is not like the others.” And I didn’t consult anyone, either. This was my decision alone, and it proved to be a good one.

The offending weed appears directly behind the zinnia bud in the foreground.

A few days later- the flower is opening more and there's no more weed.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

18. Snake Break

Gardening is teaching me about time management and the power of committing a little time to one task. When I finish it, I reassess my energy and what is next and determine if I'll keep at it or wrap up for the time being. Either decision is the right one, depending on the moment.

I'm also being reminded about the importance of cleaning up after oneself as a metaphor for life. A good amount of my latest sessions in the backyard are cleaning up piles of clipped decorative grasses or other weeds that I pulled last year or the year before.

I spotted my first snake and knew that these piles are invitations to snakes and other unsavory “wild life.” Metaphorically, the piles remind me of the things—emotions, bad feelings, unhelpful habits—that grow bigger when left unattended.

I don't feel bad about it. It's cathartic and the hard work will teach me not to take that approach anymore. Moving forward, I will clean up the yard refuse as I go. The piles are also visual clutter which has a tendency to weigh down my mind and energy. No more piles of yard waste unless it's going into my compost pile.

And as for the snake, I was proud that I didn’t freak out. I simply stopped what I was doing, backed up, and gave him some space to do his thing. I needed to get some water anyway.

I haven’t seen him since, so my theory about clearing away the piles must be spot on.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

17. Something to Talk About

I am one chatty gal. But as I get older, I notice the value of silence as a way of combatting all the physical and digital noise around us. It’s easy to get enveloped in the noise, so I’ve worked on being more intentional about the words I say. I choose more carefully when I speak up and when I use silence to speak for me.

As I contemplated this shift, I began noticing that most people aren’t comfortable with silence and so many fill it with things like talking about the weather. In an effort to move closer to more authentic conversation, I decided to cut out the weather small talk and to see what happened.

My reasoning was that there isn’t a single thing I can do about the weather. I can’t make it stop snowing or make it rain when the ground is dry, so if I’m looking for an easy place to cut out conversational noise, the weather was a good place to start. I also chose to practice this conversational boycott to conserve energy for more meaningful interactions with strangers and acquaintances alike. Standing at the sink in the women’s restroom got a lot quieter when I stopped initiating conversation to fill those awkward few seconds in the presence of someone else. And then…

I started gardening, and I became dependent on the weather to know how to plan my watering schedules. I used to hope for rain, specifically on weekends when I was likely to mow, so that I could put it off for another day. But now that mowing isn’t such a chore, I depend on the rain to nourish my flowers, and to ease my daily watering schedule. I’m constantly looking at the clouds to predict whether or not rain is on its way. I check my phone’s weather app to see what the weekly forecast is. I am cheery and enthusiastic when rain does fall, and lament when the rain doesn’t come as forecasted or stops before it reaches my neighborhood (which has happened repeatedly this summer).

Talking about the weather now has purpose. I feel grateful for the four seasons in which I live and no longer see the weather as a filler topic of conversation. It has always been important, but I was less directly affected by it when I wasn’t gardening.

I relate better to farmers and to their dependence on the weather. I recognize now in a new way how vulnerable they are to wind and excessive rain as well as drought conditions.

This gardening thing broadened my perspective in ways I wasn’t prepared for, and I am grateful. Now, I talk about the weather, and it isn’t idle conversation. It is meaningful and holds significance in my day-to-day life.