getting dirty

I have really been wanting to get down and dirty lately.

(Get your mind out of the gutter. I don’t mean that way. At least not with you.)

Every day since my big gardening weekend three weeks ago, I have looked at my backyard with a wistful eye. But even though my enemy, WebMD, recommends gardening as a gentle, stress-free activity a concussed person can undertake, I’m not thinking it would be wise at this time. After all, the authors of that suggestion have not seen my backyard.

I need to pull ivy. I need to dig through the hard red clay that passes for top soil in this region to make holes large enough to plant shrubs. I need to mulch. Did I mention I need to pull ivy? Oh, and I have to contend with my other enemy, poison ivy, which has such power over me as to render me unable to recognize it in the wild, even though I rationally know what it looks like.

But when tasks like warming up a bowl of soup, driving to work, and reading the newspaper still leave me exhausted and lightheaded (by the way, a CT scan today revealed my head is normal) it’s hard to imagine I will beat the incoming heat and humidity to get done the gardening I want to do before summer’s end.

Which makes me sad. And makes me even more determined to get my hands in the dirt. You think I’m a girly girl and I am. But I also like to sweat and work hard and get my boots muddy.

Alas, for now the only mud in my life coats my brain.


on growing things

People, I planted stuff.

And five hours later, everything looks happy still. If plants can look perky, then yes indeed, that is the word I’d use to describe them. What started as a Weekend Warriors project in April has morphed into a new obsession.

I can’t and won’t let the hard work of my devoted friends be for naught.

I had not done much in the yard since my home improvement day except water. And trust me, that endeavor represented a huge outdoor commitment on my part.

Then Lola had to be put down, kids were crying, and I was my own little emotional mess when it hit me.

“Mom, can we go to the pool!” Jack asked on our tear-filled Friday afternoon.

“No,” I replied more curtly than I meant to. “I need some time alone.”

And I went outside.

I started pulling ivy. And weeds. And more ivy, maybe some of it of the poisonous variety. (I know what it’s supposed to look like but part of the evil plant’s power over me renders me unable to identify it when I’m actually among it.) It felt good to just mindlessly pull trails of ivy out of the ground. I suddenly knew what I wanted to do over the weekend.

Saturday turned out to be more of a prep day as between an extra long little league game and visits with friends who wanted to drink to Lola’s long life, I ended up not being able to spend as much time in the yard as I’d planned.

(By the way, when my time comes, I hope you all toast me as robustly as you toasted my cat.)

Sunday I woke up with the birds. Grabbed the book on my nightstand before remembering I had work to do and an entire day to do it. I started with the front yard. I pulled hostas that needed dividing. I reorganized some plants that weren’t getting the sun they needed. And I ended up planting this new flower bed. A Fothergilla anchors the bed, an Abelia taking up the rear, with transplanted hostas lining the brick border that was already in the dirt, just covered by years of neglect.

(Oh, and I pulled out all the ivy and pokeberry weeds that had been the tenants of this space until today.)

I performed lots of other gardenly tasks but this bed was my coup d’état, and five hours later, my back was achy but my heart was filled with pride at how I suddenly converted my black thumb into one of green. It felt good to bring life to my yard after a few days of thinking only of death.

And so here I sit with a crisp Rosé while the kids read (what else?) and I’m planning the next project.

All bets will be off when temperatures hit three digits but for now, I’m enjoying my newfound hobby.


the outcome

They came. They saw. They conquered. My horrible overgrown yard, that is. Yesterday was my turn for 2013 and for more than the prescribed amount of time, my friends tangled with what can best be described as the evil thorny cousin of tumbleweed. They also pulled ivy. They cut down trees. They planted. Kara and Don bequeathed me a gazillion plants from their Cheverly house yard, not to mention the patio furniture and chimera that they no longer need now that they are urbanites living in Baltimore.

And the result? I have a yard. I have a place to sit and enjoy my quiet slice of peace outside the chaos of the city. I am already thinking of other things I want to plant, and I want to throw dinner parties out here before it gets too hot and buggy to enjoy.

Once again I find myself overcome with emotion over the dedication that a group of friends can display over projects that get shoved to the bottom of our own to do lists at home. I’m especially touched that my friend Rob, who said he couldn’t stay long because he had some deadlines he was stressed about, decided to stay well into the evening because he was “having fun.” And that’s the thing. It’s fun to help. It’s much more fun to be at another family’s Warriors day than it is to run your own. Because there is nothing like transforming a room, a yard, or whatever the object of change is and seeing the look on the face of the owner of said space at the end.

But with that said, in spite of the sore muscles, sunburn, and piles of debris in my front yard that need to be hauled away, this was the best Warriors ever. And I cannot thank my friends enough.