Summer School: Lesson Five

Sometimes you need a reminder of where you were to show how far you’ve come. I was cleaning out old photos on my drive recently, and got all the way back to two summers ago. This was our garden two years ago:

Here’s how it looked this morning:

When we first started this project, John was heading into his second birthday, and I was still (!!) fumbling through postpartum depression. I wasn’t doing too much more than sitting around feeling exhausted, raw and empty, which is SUPER HELPFUL when eighteen million priorities are competing for 8.5 seconds of daily energy. But summer was coming, this fixer-upper still needed fixing, and I always wanted a kitchen garden.

So I decided to show up.

Just starting seemed impossible. We moved 150 square feet of slate, only to find out that it was laid in (rotting) concrete, not in sand like I had thought, because apparently rotting concrete looks a lot like sand. Then we had to pull up a swath of pachysandra, which all the gardening blogs will tell you is JUST LIKE rolling up a carpet. Especially if that carpet weighs about 250 pounds and is anchored into the floor by a network of thick, branchy roots.

As we were questioning our decisions doing the hard work of getting started, the first round of meds was turning out to be not so great, so OF COURSE I met these relatively minor obstacles with GRACE AND APLOMB:


A few weeks later, on Mother’s Day, our first set of raised beds arrived, because The Sainted Matthew is a creative problem-solver, and has yet to meet a problem that can’t somehow be solved with an Amazon shipment.

So I got back to work.
Most times I had no idea what I was doing.

But I kept at it anyway: building a framework for healthy growth, working through ever-present, deep-rooted weeds, sometimes letting things develop a little until I figured out the best course of action. Once in a while, I had to admit that there were a few problems I couldn’t fix myself, and needed to call in some muscle. Mostly it was bursts of hard work, followed by periods of routine maintenance and waiting for things to happen.

Also medication helped.
Wait. What are we talking about?

Anyway. I made some missteps along the way, like the box of wildflowers that turned out to be a bunch of late bloomers. Yeah, yeah, I know: there’s a metaphor in here somewhere. But I also made a few super-genius moves, like mixing veggies and herbs to maximize pollination. And painting all the exterior doors that lovely blue. And staying on meds.

And maybe all the watching and waiting worked out, because look at what happened just overnight:

I know. It wasn’t overnight. It took a lot of work. But still. FLOWERS.

It’s a process. You build. You screw things up. You spend SO MUCH TIME just doing the work and waiting. And you learn a lot along the way. Especially that “perfect” is a sham, whether you’re growing tomatoes or working through your issues. “Really good” is enough.

There are still occasional bad days. Something chewed down both boxes of string beans a few weeks ago (our neighborhood groundhog had adorable, ravenous babies). The other night I couldn’t sleep (five million real or imagined problems, including the fact that ALL THREE of my own adorable, grown babies will be gone for most of the summer). But they’re just that: occasional. A little weed requiring a gentle tug. After two straight years of tinkering, the garden is bursting to life with food and flowers, and for the first time in 45 years, I might actually be in control of my brain.

It’s all still out there – the ravenous baby groundhogs, the depression – but it’s manageable.

Good enough.

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