I am sitting at my laptop still sticky and sweaty from a day spent outside tidying up the weeds that surround my patio. I'm having a patio party this evening with a small collection of my dearest girlfriends, so the patio weeds finally got some attention in preparation for their arrival.
My fingernails show evidence of the work. The spaces between my fingers where I grasped the more stubborn weeds are tender and on the inside of my thumb is a blister with exposed skin. All of these are signs of a warm, partly cloudy Saturday well spent.
Weeding is a lot like decluttering for me. It creates space for thinking, clearing my mind, and seeing progress at the end of the project. What I thought of the most as I yanked and raked, yanked and raked was my paternal grandmother.
Maxine Elizabeth's natural habitat was in her gardens. I'm certain she was more comfortable around her chrysanthamums and lilies than she was around most people. I consider myself supremely fortunate that I was one of the flowers that blossomed under her skillful attention and gentle care.
She and my grandfather created such natural beauty among their flower gardens that strangers often stopped to have a look.
I remember as I got older trying to ask her questions for future use, but sadly without a yard of my own yet, most of her wisdom blew away with time. Today's weeding session was like time travel. My work took me back to different parts of the yard that seemed vast from my young perspective.
“You really should wear a pair of gloves as you do this work,” I imagined her gentle scolding. And I heard my imaginary reply, “But Grandma, yanking out the weeds feels more satisfying bare handed.” I know she'd smile, roll her eyes and keep working.
I missed the chatter that would bounce leisurely between the two of us and the guaranteed laughter that would spring up like something beautiful in her garden.
I wondered what she'd say about the mess of weeds I have up the hill in the space that was once somewhat landscaped, but now only manufactures weeds by the bushel. What would her advice be about how to tackle that mess?
I thought about safe I always felt in her presence. How like a character from Anne of Green Gables, she indeed was a kindred spirit.
I admired her physical strength and stamina to do the physical work she did well into her 80s as I kept wimping out going inside for a breath of air conditioned air, and then a popsicle, and for an episode of The Office before returning to the patio and finishing the job.
I considered that the worries and qualities that made her difficult to be around might have been eased with her time outdoors. I suspect it was the only therapy she might have considered.
The job is done—for now—and I'm certain she'd be proud of my effort and my desire to “spiff up” my backyard as she would say. I know that she's my muse as I approach my writing every day. I pray she'll be show up in my back yard too.