My last couple of columns were so depressing. Each time I had to sit down and write for Sluggy, I was in a dark place where it felt appropriate and necessary to pour out the excess of my overwhelming sadness. I felt lost, as if I was wandering with no sense of direction and no understanding of any of the events that had brought me to such a place of sorrow. But given enough time, all things will mend, heal, and grow. As my heart heals, I feel as if I've become lighter. A huge burden seems to be slowly lifting from me and I'm experiencing joy, happiness, and fulfillment again. I've been spending the last month wondering what I wanted to write about and my mind would keep slipping towards thoughts of my garden. That's right, my garden! When I moved into my apartment, the landlord and I made an agreement where I could work on the front yard and subtract the cost of the plants and gardening supplies from my rent. That way, I get to garden and he gets free labor and landscaping. My friend Cate, who used to live in this space before me, had started to do some work already. The section of landscaping that she created was the inspiration behind everything that I've done with this little plot of land. Unfortunately, almost right after moving in, I became really sick. Someday, I want to write about it, but that's going to be another heavy and depressing column. Let's just say that I spent a few months in severe physical pain, semi-addicted to pain killers and so afraid that I may be facing a lifetime disability. Luckily, my body began the slow process of healing, but after months of being unable to work, I was in debt. I didn't have health insurance, so I was in debt to the hospitals and to my credit card and to my family. Once I was physically able to start working again, I had to figure out what I could do that would be interesting, not too physically demanding, and not cost me any money. I barely had enough money to eat, let alone any money to spend frivolously. Then I remembered...the garden! I went outside and actually took a serious look at what I was facing. The section of garden Cate had started had become overgrow with weeds and bits of garbage and dead leaves after months of inevitable neglect during my sickness. So each weekend, I would go out to the front yard and start to slowly clear out the sections that had already been leveled and planted. I had to be careful with my body and move very cautiously so as not to trigger a relapse, but over time I began to see what had been created by Cate and it was beautiful. Once I finished her small section, I began to pull out the knee high weeds and to throw out the garbage that had been polluting the rest of the front yard. Taking broken bricks that had been piled up in and amongst the weeds and garbage, I took my one and only gardening tool and began to dig up the earth, breaking the hard surface and reaching this really lush and rich soil beneath. Creating levels and sections with the bricks and planks of old wood, I worked my way through the chaotic jungle that had taken over the front yard and started to create something beautiful. I would go to local nurseries and ask endless questions about whichever plant caught my eye. Most of the time, if it was a plant that wasn't going to die in a year, then I'd buy it and bring it home and find it a new home in my garden. As my body began to grow stronger and started to truly heal, I was able to take longer walks around the neighborhood with my dog Norton. That's when I started to find various objects to bring back and place into my garden. Just yesterday, I found an old wooden duck on a stick with moveable wings that spin in the wind. It's now proudly displayed next to my sage. Or JoJo, the two foot neon orange tiger that sits amongst my lavender bushes. There's the pink swan soap dish that my neighbors up the streets were throwing away, and the small plastic garden gnome that Adam donated to the garden. Bit my bit, I planted flowering bushes and ground coverage and basically, any plant that seemed interesting. One thing you have to understand is that I know nothing about gardening. I couldn't tell you what kind of soil I have, or which planting zone I'm in, and I've already forgotten half of the names of the plants that are currently growing. I have only one real gardening tool that I've done all of this with, and I'm still not sure when to water or how long to water for. I'm still a bit squeamish when I come across a slug, but I've gotten a bit better with the worms, although the little black spiders still get me every time. One of the best parts of working in my garden is getting a chance to talk with my neighbors. They'll usually wander over and show a lot of support for all the work I've done. I've also had people pull over in cars and tell me that they drive by on their way to work and that they've been watching all the changes and that they love it. Even yesterday, I was on the phone and I looked out the window and there was some National Geographic looking guy taking a whole bunch of photos of my garden. I've also become oddly attached to the plants, worrying over the ones that are having a difficult winter and so excited when I see fresh blooms and leaves growing. There's a cactus that is currently bullying and overwhelming all the other cactus, and another plant that attracts ants and seems unwilling to participate in the garden and just glumly sits, sulking behind a flowering daisy bush. But overall, I find each plant to be an inspiration. I look at all the little bits and pieces of fun objects I've found and I feel as if I've won all the treasures from a city wide scavenger hunt. I can't wait for the springtime because then, I'm going to tackle the back yard and start planting food and herbs!
So! No depressing diatribe of a column about the horrible human condition this time around. Just me and my garden.