Not satisfied with feeling overwhelmed with spring cleaning, spring wardrobe changeover, spring home repairs and spring holiday plans, I thought it might be clever to go outside last week, pick up a trowel and increase my anxiety in the spring garden.
Beginning the process means a shift in priorities and a horrifying realization of everything that has to be done….right now. It’s easy to get weighed down quickly – it certainly happened to me around 6:00 last night.
Perhaps this year however, we can avoid exhausting ourselves before we’ve even begun. Put your mental list-building aside for a moment and remember why we are about to sacrifice ourselves upon the altar of the garden.
Why are you gardening?
If you’re trying to keep up with the Joneses, I can’t help you. The season ahead promises to be a supremely unhappy one for you and for those with whom you live. If you are gardening because your mother did and you should too, well…ditto I’m afraid.
If however, you are startled by the silly joy you feel in seeing the bleeding heart return after a long winter, or you went into the feed store to buy dog food and came out with a flat of foxgloves – completely forgetting the feed in your excitement at finding four-inch pots for $3.99 (guilty) – then you are gardening for the pure love of it.
Like parenting, marriage, a rewarding career or any other thing worth doing that we love, gardening takes a great deal of work; but as Robert Frost once said (and I am ever-fond of quoting), our vocation should be our avocation. That is, our work should be our joy.
Overwhelmed by the garden? Stop and rewind.
With that in mind, I have been thinking this morning about something my daughter does when she is feeling overwhelmed by a mathematical word problem. “Stop and rewind.” she proclaims, with closed eyes and a deep breath. Soon, she has sorted the extraneous words from the important, drawn a diagram of what is needed and come out smiling and successful.
What is important in our gardening scenario is the joy of working the earth, first and foremost. Then we must prioritize the jobs that are time sensitive and have the courage to let go of the ‘extraneous’ – the projects that will bog us down when we are feeling besieged.
‘Round here that means pulling chickweed and bittercress out of the cultivated beds before they go to seed, transplanting a Green Giant arborvitae before it takes over the front porch, planting a couple of replacement Sky Pencil hollies, transplanting tomatoes and peppers to my community garden plots and keeping my ever-more-massive pot ghetto watered.
Everything else gets mowed.
I have projects that, should I dwell upon the thought of them for too long in the late morning, my blood would thin and my eyes would dim. To do so is foolish. You and I can only do so much in the garden and it has to be enough – otherwise there’s no point in doing it.
It seems inconceivable that one can lose one’s joy during the lusty, lovely month of May, but many a man and woman have – pinned between a to-do list and a spring which gathers momentum with every passing day.
So when you’ve finished with the priority jobs, think carefully before you spring into another one right away. It might be just fine. Your energy might be high and your motivation higher. But then, it might just be better to sit back on your heels for a while and drink in the spring.