Gardening and Writing

The other day, I spent an hour working in my garden. Pruning, plucking, and even pleading. (Me: “Please don’t eat the plant. It’s not food.” Squirrel: No comment. But it did stop eating and stare at me for a long moment before scampering away.)

While I was marveling at the many plants that are getting closer to blooming, I realized something — gardening and writing have a lot in common.

They both offer the promise of something different — something more, something bigger, something more colorful — than what you started with.

A small green plant with a card sticking out of its moist soil labeling it a kalanchoe. A stack of white printer paper, standing at attention, just waiting for me to type some words on the computer and press print. 

I turn to both of these endeavors with hope and optimism. I water my plants, doing my best to make sure I’m watering a Goldilocks-not-too-much, not-too-little amount. I strive to find just the right spot, with just the right amount of sunlight, for each plant. I trust in the process and hope I’ve done all I can so my kalanchoe will bloom its yellow flowers. Likewise, I open up a new Pages document on my computer and begin. I only have twenty-six letters to work with, but, again, I trust in the process. I’ve done this before. Just get something down — a word, a vague idea, a quote. Something to get me writing, and keep me writing.

And then you see it start to happen. The plant looks a little taller, a bit fuller with more leaves. A tiny bud appears. The screen on the computer is no longer full of ramblings. I’ve found the line that I was writing my way to. The line that leads to a paragraph, which leads to multiple paragraphs and multiple pages.

But it’s not done yet. My kalanchoe does bloom its small, happy yellow flowers. And I continue showing my plants love, in the form of my pruning and plucking. So, too, it is with writing. After I have printed several pages of my personal essay, I know I’m not done. My pages need some love, too. I review, revise, and rewrite.

Of course there are others involved. All the people responsible for getting my plants to the garden store. My husband for being my personal I.T. person. 

But in the end, I did it. 

I pause and savor and appreciate. 

Then I do it all again. 

In Pursuit of ‘Stubborn Gladness’

One view of our back patio garden.

More and more, I find myself in a conscious pursuit of happiness. And calm. And simple moments of joy.

Like most people, I find it too easy to become overwhelmed and frightened by the news.

When I was a teacher, my students had “independent time.” During that time they completed “must do’s,” and when those were done, they could choose something from the “may do” list. 

I know my days should not only be filled with “must do’s” such as homeschooling my sixth grade son, cleaning the house, paying the bills, and cooking the meals. 

I know that it is just as important to incorporate “may do’s” into my day – things that fill me with happiness, things I do for the simple pleasure it brings me.

And I’m lucky. There are plenty of things that bring me joy at home. 

I read. Books and magazines. Non-fiction and fiction. 

I tend to my garden – both the back patio and front porch. I sweep the jacaranda flowers, pull weeds, and water my plants. My son and I go outside every day for a neighborhood walk and sometimes a bike ride.

But, these things that take me outside of the house and bring me joy also bring me additional pain.

Since this pandemic shutdown, my pain has been consistently worse. Sometimes it’s immediate. From the moment I wake up in the morning, often after a fitful night’s sleep, my legs feel heavy. Each step makes me feel like I have invisible weights strapped around my lower legs. Sometimes the pain gradually increases as the day goes on, until one trip back up the stairs leaves my knees creaking loudly and me gripping the banister, taking each step very slowly, very cautiously. Sometimes, I may be reading on my patio, swatting away a fly, and my jeans suddenly feel very tight and restrictive around my left calf. And all I can think of is David Schwimmer’s character, Ross, struggling with his leather pants in a Friends episode. Except when it happened to him, it was funny. When it happens to me, it means it’s time for me to go inside and roll up my pants so my calf doesn’t feel the fabric against it. 

And sometimes, my pain wasn’t too bad until I squatted down to pull weeds or on the way back home after a mile-long walk with my son. 

Yet, I continue doing these things. When so many other simple pleasures have been taken – browsing my local bookstore, enjoying French Crepes at the Farmers Market – I continue to do these things that make me happy in the name of “stubborn gladness.” 

(In case you missed it, click here to read an earlier blog post, “Announcing My Motto For Life” which explains the term “stubborn gladness.”) 

And you, dear readers? How do you find joy and moments of pleasure during these challenging times? Feel free to share in the comments section.