My social calendar is blank, although we have found some low-risk ways of occasionally being with one or two other people. The surest way that I have found to be with people at a distance is to work in my front flower garden. A good number of people walk in our neighborhood and most people say hi and the people we know best stop to chat – but they don’t get too close because they really don’t want to work with me. Even when I tell them there are enough weeds for everyone.
My garden seems really happy right now, probably because I have showered it with attention this year. Because of stay-at-home and social distancing I can’t be somewhere else or can’t have friends over for cards or dinner. As with every spring, the first order of business in my garden was going after the weeds, thinking it would also count as exercise because I can’t go to the gym. As I weeded I remembered that some daylilies needed dividing because they haven’t bloomed much in the past couple of years. Then I realized that the veronica should be moved because the dwarf lilac is starting to encroach on it. And the 12-year-old gold falsecypress was getting too big for the garden even though I did some major pruning in the past two years. Jim took that out along with the flowering almond that no longer had many redeeming qualities, and two ground cover evergreens that were looking their age. That last sentence fragment doesn’t sound very gracious – given that I am also looking my age. Out back by the poppies, Jim took out a beautiful “Limelight” hydrangea that I planted in the wrong place but too long ago to make it possible to transplant it – at least without a backhoe. This year we are really enjoying the poppies and new bird bath that aren’t hidden by the hydrangea.
These are the physical things we have been doing in the garden, along with planting some new perennials. Twelve years ago I started with a blank slate, planting some evergreens and small flowering shrubs to give some structure (the ones we are now removing). Then I started filling in with some perennials from the house we left and from several trips to the garden center. My goal was to get some things growing and fill in the distance between with mulch. It was a long, slow process and I don’t do well with waiting a year or five to see results.
But my garden did grow and mature. It survived a few years without much care as I struggled to get control of fibromyalgia that overtook my life. Jim kept the weeds under control, mostly, and one year for Mother’s Day my daughter and three granddaughters came to weed because neither Jim nor I had enough energy to tend to it. In the last few years I have been fighting some very invasive weeds, mostly doing garden crisis control, although I visited some garden centers and would pick up a plant or two of interest to put someplace that was a little bare. Ya, I liked the buying more than the planting and tending.
This year has been different. I actually have enjoyed the process of gardening as much as the excitement of waiting to see how it will look. I bought and planted several new perennials where I think they will accent existing plants. I am contemplating how to best fill in the spots where shrubs were removed and how new planting will improve the overall structure. The fun part is that I feel my 12-year-old garden moving into a new phase in its lifecycle and maybe this change is reflecting a new change in me. Maybe.
I have been quilting and gardening in an attempt to exert some control, to make things work, to create beauty in a world that feels dangerous and on the edge of being out of control. I have been getting pleasure from fixing the plantings in my garden and putting small pieces of fabric together so they make something better than each individual plant/fabric piece, so they work together better.
What I really want is to have an impact on our social problems. What I really want is to be able to control the spread of misinformation, of lies, of wrong-headed beliefs. I want to control what other people are doing (or not doing) that is increasing the deadly spread of the virus that our national leader is denying. I want to get inside the brains of racists and white supremacists and wipe out all the garbage they have in there – and re-order the firing of neurons so they don’t create and spew out hate and injustice.
And on my darkest days I stoop to thinking of really evil things to do to people who refuse to listen and learn from science, who won’t read widely and critically so they can make informed decisions instead of acting on blind instinct. I want bad things to happen to people who put their self-interests ahead of the common good of society. Dear God, am I asking too much of humanity?
This week I am in a dark mood; I feel depressed and have to force myself to do things that normally give me pleasure. It has taken me so long to finish this post that the poppies are in their last day of blooming. Last week I felt that life was about as wonderful as it could get. My world (my bubble inside an insane world) was full of beauty and kindness and graciousness. I have been experiencing these mood swings for some time now and suspect there is a correlation with the amount of political news I listen to or what crisis is being reported. Given that I feel a responsibility to knowing what is happening in the US and around the world, this will be the price I have to pay.
But I have been feeling a difference in how I garden and quilt and maybe even how I respond to the news I listen to and the people I interact with. I am observing a slight shift in how I do my work of living in an imperfect world. In my garden I am feeling more tolerant of the time it takes for plants to mature and taking more interest in creating happy combinations of flowers and foliage. My flowers may be allowed to grow as their DNA instructs them to grow without having to bend to my rules and control (no worry about my giving up complete control, though).
Maybe I’m giving up my wrong-headed belief that I have a responsibility to make the world right. Maybe I’ll try doing what I can to improve our society, but when I can’t do anything I will focus on making beauty in my little corner of the world.