Monday, April 27, 2009

I garden, therefor I am

I believe that everyone should have a True Activity. Something that not only gets our attention, but holds it. An activity that we spend many gleeful hours planning, and doing. When we complete a project we not only look back and admire our handiwork, but look for ways to improve upon it. And the task of undertaking the improvements thrills us as much as the dreaming up stage.

I don’t believe that this activity can be found by us, but rather, the activity FINDS US. Our True Activity seeks us out and allows us to stumble upon it. We think “I would like to knit,” but when we are Hobby Lobby picking up the yarn and needles we are drawn to the rug hook kits. Or the cake decorating supplies. Or the beading aisles. Or the scrap booking papers. Or we might not even make it to Hobby Lobby as we see a motorcycle shop and turn in. Or a pool hall. Or a Tai Chi class.

When we talk about our True Activity we get as goo goo eyed as we were with our first loves. The people in our lives don’t always understand the appeal. Just like our first loves. It’s too late for us though. We’ve been bitten and won’t be the same ever again.

For me, this activity is gardening. It might not be your True Activity. It’s not for everyone. Not for people who like to stay clean. Not for people who don’t like to see their work die off every fall. Not for people who think that having one more living object to care for will push them over the edge. But for me, Gardening found me as I became a mom and the parallel skills sets complimented and each other. Digging in the dirt makes me a better mom.

Where I grew up my parents had a garden. They grew veggies for us to eat. The garden work was just another chore. There was little appeal in zucchini, rhubarb and tomatoes. Just a way to earn my allowence.

My grandfather was an amazing gardener. He had a small plot, that backed up to a highway. He had fruit trees, a grape arbor and the most amazing yard of zoysia grass. Deep green and springy I did gymnastics on it. I ate his peaches; nibbled his grapes. I have very fond memories of him with his big straw hat, mesh slip on shoes and worn t-shirt uniform. I did as little to help him garden back then as I could get away with. If time travel were possible zapping back to his backyard Eden would be first on my destination list.

After my 1-2 punch of kids we lived in a small duplex with an amazing neighbor named Jan. She was our landlord as well as a hair stylist/jewelry rep/ vitamin selling/dried flower arranging dreamer and implementer. She had the heart of an entrepreneur and the confident aggressiveness to try every opportunity that came across her path. In addition to her extensive home based business menu, she had a passion for gardening.

Jan dragged me out of my living room, taught me the use of a garden claw. She showed me how to start a flower bed with a layer of wet newspaper. She showed me the beauty of clusters of plants and that redecorating the garden is all part of the process. I learned about the thrill of a rock hunt and how to lay out my haul to become edging.

I learned there is no better exercise for me than the yoga-like moves of clearing a bed. Henbit Warrior and Downward Facing Weeder are still strengthening my core. Mulch and rock hauling developing my back and arms. Shovel wielding giving my legs a workout.

Most importantly , Jan taught me to try. That if I found a plant that appealed to me to try everything to make it thrive. To understand the rules of the plant ( sun, water and spacing) but that sometimes with the proper care a plant can thrive in areas where it shouldn’t according to the rules. Basic care doesn’t change, a tropical plant is not going to survive a KC winter outside. But dig that plant up, keep it in the basement or garage and replant it in the spring and it will bloom happily for years. Follow the rules, but bend them to make the life thrive.

She also taught me to see beyond what is in front of me to see what could be. To see the possibilities. Where non -gardeners might see a pile of rock and weeds I see a future bed of blue star creeper and moss rose with a river of thyme. A special garden for my mother-in-law to look at out her back window. When her dog steps on it it won’t be crushed, and when he rolls in it he will smell wonderful.

Kinda like being a mom, huh? All kids require similar basic care-- love, food, clothing, medical attention-- but each one requires us to know how they will best thrive. It’s our jobs to learn what best motivates them. What best steers them to succeed. Where they will bloom the best and how to get them there. Same skill set as gardening but much more bountiful harvest.

My name is Susan and my True Activity is gardening.


  1. Now that I look very closely I can totally see that's a before picture. How silly of me. :)

  2. I'm semi-jealous. I kind of like gardening (flowers, not veggies), but am so at a loss with what to do, but it seems like I learn more every year. I have my one bed full of spring blooming stuff, then a few early summer things come up, then it's pathetic after that. You should come over and help me!

  3. I'm still working on the whole summer flower bed.. this year I put in more phlox and zinnias to try and get later season color.Mine is pretty lame in August although i do have some roses that come up here and there. That's all I know so far!


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