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The Reluctant Gardener

My one small flower bed

My garden is my sanctuary. Gardening is my meditation, my Zen, my way of relaxing. Ah, no. That is not me talking. No. Those are the unfathomable claims of any number of crazies I know.

Don’t get me wrong. I love flowers and beautiful gardens. I can just imagine how my yard could be lovingly converted (by someone else) into a wonderland of flowers. I daydream, at times, about gardening projects, bowers of wisteria, pathways winding in and out of lovely flower beds. A cutting garden! A patio with a table for tea and cakes set into the middle of the floral haven.

I have cleared this all out any number of times . . .

But it would never be me who does it. Gardening, for me, is backbreaking, miserable, painful work. Yesterday I finally weeded the bigger part of my very small front bed and managed to get all of the plants I’d bought into the ground. It was the last active thing I did all day long. I hurt too much to go on a walk or a bike ride on the gorgeous day, ached far too badly to paint, or even sit at the computer tending to poems. I was confined to the couch with ice packs, Advil, my Magic Maker and yes, all right, a wee dram o’ whiskey. And I still went to bed hurting.

People say they enjoy pulling weeds. Am I the only person who has crabgrass creeping through the entire yard, culminating in some hellish spot between two large rocks? Am I the only one who wrenches her back trying to wrench the damn things out, cursing wildly as I fling them onto the weed pile? Don’t other people pull muscles while pulling weeds? And what about the wild onions that seem to love my flower bed? A friend remarked that I should let the nutrients in the soil soak into my body. What about the weeds snaking their way into my psyche?

The Queen of Hearts is not amused at the state of things in her garden.

No, gardening is not a respite for me. It is difficult, unpleasant, and painful. And later in the summer, when it’s boiling hot and horribly humid, I can barely be bothered even to water the plants.

Oh, I could be very Zen sitting in a shady nook of my beautiful garden! Not, however, slaving away in it. I suppose what I really want is a dreamy-eyed gardener, someone who would make my yard lush, colorful and verdant. I am not a gardener but I do want a garden. Is there anyone out there who would barter gardening skills (hard labor) for art or greeting cards? Anyone? Anyone at all. My garden could be your sanctuary. Think about it, weirdos. You could let the nutrients in my soil soak into your body. I shall keep the phone lines open.

“Mrs Loudon was even more successful than her husband thanks to a single work, Practical Instructions in Gardening for Ladies, published in 1841, which proved to be magnificently timely. It was the first book of any type ever to encourage women of elevated classes to get their hands dirty and even to take on a faint glow of perspiration. This was novel almost to the point of eroticism. Gardening for Ladies bravely insisted that women could manage gardening independent of male supervision if they simply observed a few sensible precautions – working steadily but not too vigorously, using only light tools, never standing on damp ground because of the unhealthful emanations that would rise up through their skirts.” ― Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life

If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on my website. If you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. And if someone forwarded this one to you, you can sign up here to receive the letters right in your Inbox. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.

Thanks for listening,

P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”

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