Happiness is Hard Work and Dirt Under My Fingernails

This weekend was a perfect example of how much I rely on my garden for a sense of well-being. Torrential rain kept me indoors on Saturday. Normally I don’t mind rain, even fairly heavy rain doesn’t deter me from escaping into the garden. Even with cozy rubberized raingear I couldn’t face the deluge. My head hurt, shoulders ached and a deep sense of frustration set in.

The result of pining for my garden was that I felt miserable, grumpy, short-tempered and unable to focus on any indoor tasks. Blissfully unaware, Daniel, my 5 year old son, was focused on building a new Thomas track layout. My husband caught the brunt of my frustration however. I snapped at his every comment and refused to visit with him while he worked on some of his own chores. Normally I like to keep him company – gives us an opportunity to reconnect without the distractions of the tv or computer.

When owly I tend to withdraw into myself. Typically, I immerse myself in a movie or tv series in order to escape my own negative thoughts and frustrations. All day Saturday, between loads of laundry, cleaning toilets and making lunch, I watched several episodes/commentaries/extras from BBC’s Robin Hood series. My immerssion became so intense that when I had to surface to do some menial, but necessary, chore I couldn’t resist trying to manipulate or fantasise about the series. I even tried to manipulate Daryle when he made a comment in passing about wanting to shave his scruffy beard and moustache. “No, I like it. It makes you look rugged, dear.” Meanwhile my inner voice was saying “it’s the only way you remotely resemble Jonas Armstrong in Robin Hood – don’t you dare shave it off. Oh, and you need to wear this woodsy outfit if you want any action tonight.”

Okay, enough of my obsessive compulsive oddities. I did make it through the day without stomping terribly on anyone’s feelings and was thrilled at the lack of torrential rain on Sunday morning.

YES – out I go! Donning my grungy gardening gear and pulling on my cold, damp gardening gloves I felt, here it is, HAPPINESS! A small thrill at thoughts of cutting up some of the brush-pile from the neighbour’s fallen tree, realigning the edge of my flowerbed, manipulating rocks into position, the possibilities for the next few hours were very exciting.

With the Raconteurs’ song Old Enough running through my head, I clipped up a green-waste bin’s worth of the neighbour’s tree. Picture this: slightly deranged woman dancing and humming while clipping cedar branches. Which reminds me – must get an MP3 player – the music in my head wasn’t nearly as good as the real thing.

Next I began repositioning and setting stones to form the redefined edge of my garden. I’m trying to achieve a somewhat natural look to work with the steep slope where the main part of my garden is. The rocks define the outer edges and this spring I’ll sow grass seed to fill in the bare areas of dirt between the sections of flowerbeds. Again the Raconteurs’ music featured on my internal playlist. While shifting some stones that I couldn’t even lift, Steady as She Goes played on, and on and on. I need to learn the lyrics – the drivel I came up with certainly wasn’t likely to be the actual words to the song.

As time flew by I became increasingly dirty. A neighbour came by for a chat, catching me completely off guard. What a sight I must have been: bedragled hair, face red from exertion, dirt-caked shoes and gloves to match. Not to mention the lime green sequined t-shirt peeking out from under a hunter-red fleece topped off with my turquoise all-weather coat. Lovely. Perhaps I’ll consider my wardrobe a little more carefully before heading outside next time.

When I’m outside there’s always a picture of the finished garden in my mind. I see a pleached laurel hedge,a jungle gym for Daniel and of course colour. Loads and loads of colour. Flowers, both annual and perennial with vegetables and herbs nestled amongst them. Groundcovers, climbers, and shrubs combine to add elements of depth and height. Ideas gleaned from magasines, other gardens or even just contemplation of function, shape and colour have begun to weave themselves into my imagined paradise.

Pleaching, in particular, has captured my imagination. As our yard is so steep and rocky I want to do away with having to construct a fence. A fantastic alternative to fencing, pleaching will provide a dense, impenetrable barrier between properties while rendering the changes in grade irrelevant. The roots will even help stabilise the slope. Sweet. I just need to wait a couple of years for the baby laurels to grow to the point where I can graft them together.

I’m also hoping to incorporate Daniel’s jungle gym into the tiered retaining wall with the slide descending to the flat grassy area near the bottom of the garden.

Relaxed now after the hard work and planning; my head no longer hurt, shoulders no longer ached and the sense of frustration – gone. The strength of the sunlight had diminished. The rocks assumed a uniform greyness, a sense of quiet and tranquility told me that the time for repositioning and heavy lifting was over. The time had come to put tools away, take off gloves, scrape soil from shoes and make my way back up to the house.

The rest of the day went well. I spent time with Daryle without barking at him and revelled in playing Monopoly with Daniel.

Today I sit in my office, sunlight streaming through the window. Despressing. I long to be out in the dirt, continuing to build my rock edging, using the sledgehammer to rough up the edges to some concrete foundations, cutting up some more of the brush-pile, digging up another section of drain tile, anything at all as long as it involves being out in my garden. My retreat, sanctuary, escape, where bliss and happiness is possible.

About Christine N

I'm married to Daryle, Mom to two wonderful boys - Daniel and Andy.
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