My Family Intervention

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For many people, the Memorial Day weekend meant BBQ’s, weddings, shopping and travel.  Mine was a family intervention.

“My name is Debbie, and I am a recovering plantaholic.”

It started out innocently enough.  We’d bought a new house and I just wanted to “plant a few flowers out front”.  I’ve talked to many other plant-addicts, and this is how it usually starts.  The yard starts to look pretty, adds to the neighborhood property values, and all that physical activity is helping you look pretty good too.

Happy.  Family and friends are supportive.  When it turns from hobby to obsession, you don’t even realize the transition.

I started adding more and more garden beds, digging myself deeper and deeper into denial.  I spent thousands of dollars on “new introductions” and the latest shade of pinks.  My beds overflowed with drooping rose colored bells, majestic purple spikes and fluffy white flower heads sparkling in the light.

The addiction took more and more of my time, until it dictated my schedule.  At my most rampant phase I had 16 beds, ranging in size from tabletop to swimming pool.  Every year, my tasks grew almost as fast as the weeds.

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I’ve clipped and I’ve yanked.  Pruned and pulled.  Dug and filled.  Split and transplanted.  If my wheel barrel left those little white dashes they use to mark travel trails on a map, my entire yard would be white.

Gardening has many benefits.  But like all behaviors taken to extremes, the costs have been many:  pulled muscles, injury, wear and tear.

I’ve dragged plastic tarps laden with 20 years worth of autumn leaves, to spread over beloved plants, tucking them in for the winter.  In spring, I’ve refreshed them with sweet-smelling compost, while I smelled of manure and analgesic rubs.

My joy in their shiny green splendor has filled megabytes of photos, bookcases filled with garden tips, a shed full of dirt encrusted tools and boxes overflowing with plant tags.  If there’s a kitchen utensil missing from our house, you’ll probably find it in the garden supplies.

It was too much to maintain.  My loss of control was becoming self-evident.

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I tried to self-regulate.  I started downsizing tasks, taking shortcuts here and there.  Over the course of a few years I even grassed in that pool sized bed.  Still, more has suffered than just my bruised and battered body.  My remaining beds have suffered too, resulting in ever greater tasks.

A few weeks ago, when I hurt my knee, I bemoaned the situation to my sisters.  How it hurts me to see weeds left unpulled while I stand there supported on my crutches!  Despite my sorry state, I still yearned to add to my collection of 43 hosta varieties.  I’m already dreaming of planting more tulips this October.

It was time for a family intervention.  My sisters flew into action.

They brought their husbands and descended upon my gardens like archangels – slewing the destructive forces that wrought my sorry state.  Since this past winter was so harsh, we all lost many more plants than normal, so it was an ideal time to downsize the gardens even more.

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They extracted dead bushes, transplanted bluebells, divided the daylilies, and moved the sedum to another bed.  It took the strength of all four of them to extract a large clump of ornamental grass, it’s roots clinging to the ground like concrete – but my family emerged victorious.

Once the ground was cleared, one brother-in-law used his cultivator to grind the dirt into a smooth powder, perfect for reseeding, while my other brother-in-law did odd fix-it jobs around my house and put together my garden bench.

They were tired and dirty.  Red-faced from working all day in a full sun area.  They went through 36 bottles of water and filled 11 bags with yard waste.  The material they added to my compost pile measured 6 feet tall.

I shuffled back and forth on my crutches, feeling guilty and being able to offer little more than encouragement and water.  I fed them breakfast – lunch – dinner.

I paid them in popsicles.

When they were done, they had removed my most challenging garden bed and turned it into a beautiful little alcove, surrounded by a bluebell path, rose bushes, daylilies and clematis vines.

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What can you say to people that care for you so much?  I promised to help them with their gardens this fall, when my knee is healed,  but it hardly seems enough.

God has indeed richly blessed me, with such wonderful family.

Yesterday, Hubby reseeded my newly recovered ground with grass seed.  Heavenly, blessed grass – which only needs a simple cut once a week – instead of hours every day fighting back encroaching growth!  In my mind’s eye I can already see what it will all look like when the grass grows in and the flowers bloom.

My garden bench, sitting serenely in front of the pink and white roses; light purple clematis blooms and the bright, cream colored daylilies to the side.  A gorgeous swatch of bright green grass in front of the bench and my little deer lawn ornament.

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It will be glorious.

I’ve decided to turn it into something more low-key.  Something that doesn’t require weeding or pruning.  A wind chime garden!  I can hang them from shepherds hooks throughout the area.

Won’t that be grand?  Can’t you just hear them now?  Once I looked into it I found that wind chimes come in an amazing variety of beautiful designs.

I can’t wait!  I’ve already bought six.

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Dandelions: You Call It Weed, I Call It Reincarnation

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I’ve always told Hubby and some of my friends that if reincarnation exists, I hope I come back as a dandelion.  I come by this type of thinking naturally, as I can remember a relative saying he wanted to come back as “Groshans dog”.  (The implication was my dad’s dog had a better life than most people.  It was true.)

People I’ve told this to usually chuckle and nod, and keep their thoughts to themselves (“she’s ’round the bend again!”), but Hubby thinks it’s a pretty cool idea.

Dandelion, as it turns out, is his favorite flower.

Yeah, we all know what Hubby is like, I’ve written about him before.  (see The Light Of My Life.)  I suppose, in the “strange” department, I’m the perfect match for him.  But seriously, don’t we all have our quirks?  I’m just admitting to mine.

I honestly don’t know how I feel about reincarnation.  Part of me is disturbed by the idea of having to come back again and again until I get it right, since I can’t see myself ever getting it right!

Another part of me thinks the whole karma of having another chance is a nice thought, and can really take a load of pressure off you if you’re a control freak who is always trying to live up to your own expectations.

Some people would think that, because I say I’m a Christian, then I have no business even discussing the idea of reincarnation.  Well, I realize the whole point of Christianity is that Christ covers those sins so you don’t need to come back.  I have no argument there, but for this post I’m entertaining the idea of reincarnation anyway.

I guess you’d have to say my faith fits me, not any set of denominational standards or religious rules.  I’m happy with it this way.  We all do the best we can with how we interpret what we experience.

And then there’s the way I observe the natural world around me.  I know that everything in the garden gets recycled.  If nature recycles (and certainly we are part of nature), then why wouldn’t we?  Someone is going to point out here that reincarnation refers to soul recycling, not our bodies, which do get recycled.  But remember, I’m the person that believes plants have souls (see Ode To My Crocus).

It’s not just dead plants and clippings that recycle, most of the things we think are rot proof, really aren’t.  Ever read that book The World Without Us by Alan Weisman?

So how can anyone say for sure that reincarnation does or does not belong in a person’s belief system, when life from death is all around us?  No one has answers to these things, and as I said, I don’t even know if I believe in reincarnation.

(As an aside, if you’re a big fantasy or mythology fan, check out Pen In Her Hand for information on Life After Life and the Once Upon A Time challenge.)

But back to the dandelion thing….

My reason for being a dandelion is not because Hubby loves them, since I didn’t even know dandelion was his favorite flower until he pointed it out to me this Spring.  Rather, the reason I think of “dandelion” comes from a purely logical standpoint.  Logical to me, anyway.

I wouldn’t want to be just any dandelion.  I’d want to be one of those dandelions in the parks, or hell strips by the side of the road.

Think about it.

The city isn’t going to bother spraying for weeds there.  That’s wasted money, (Chicago Tribune – Park District dandelion policy). So you wouldn’t get “offed” by a systemic vegetation killer.  And because dandelions spread like – well, weeds – you’d have lots of dandelions around you.  Sort of like being with all your friends and relatives.

During your short life span you’d have the sun on your backs and the wind in your hair (er… leaves).  Not to mention you and your friends would look downright gorgeous creating that beautiful swath of bright yellow.  Imagine the cheery image you give the drivers as they pass!

The worst that would happen to you is you’d get your head cut off every so often when the city sent out the lawn crew.  Is that so bad, as long as you can still live and grow?

Then, you’re off to your next reincarnation, having enjoyed a basically carefree “breather”, before you come back as a person again, with all their struggles and insecurities.

What do you think?  By the way, anyone who’s brave enough to add comments to this off-beat, silly post, I salute you.