Published in the six Nashoba Publishing papers on Friday, 5 October 2001 (except for some editing on this version).
A reader, Ruth, wrote to me at the paper. She said "I'm going to keep trying to garden, but my eighty-two-year-old body is not convinced I should do it for much longer."
Ruth, Ive a confession to make: my fifty-six-year-old body is having trouble doing it. Recently mysterious muscle spasms and arthritis-like pain and stiffness have largely disabled me. I havent said anything about it here, because Id rather write about the plants and the beauty I love. But you made me reconsider.
Probably you, like I, have been looking for everything that might make the work easier: low things to sit on, long-handled tools, or raised beds so I wont need to bend over; work-saving techniques like permanent mulch; easy-to-grow plants. These tactics help a lot.
I also need to learn better discipline. All too often I go out to do "just a little" gardening and then, lulled by how much better I feel outdoors, I get rebellious and let myself do just a little more.... Finally last week I managed to do half an hours weeding without making myself worse by paying meticulous attention to each muscle I was using, each stress put on me by the movements I made. Still, when the weeds are lush and I cant weed them, and the garden troopers arent available, I have reached the point where I too consider what I'm going to do.
A new friend gave me a thought. When I gave her a tour of the garden and apologized for its condition, she said she enjoyed it as it is: "It's like a wild garden." I looked again at the virus-stricken brown iris leaves I'd like to have trimmed back to the green and the tall silver stems of ripening seedpods of Rose Campion, with no flowers left on them that I'd like to have pulled up because therell be plenty more from the seeds they've already dropped and the similarly straggly, thin flower stems of the pale-yellow Scabiosa, thats still flowering strong, but the blooms don't show off well there. Can I look at this bed as I would at a field of wild plants, appreciate the rhythms of their shapes and their muted, end-of-season colors... without the blinkers of my habitual ideas about what I'm willing to see as beauty?
© Copyright 2001 Catherine Holmes Clark