Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Value of Spent Foliage

Every once in a while after work, I like to go outside and walk in my yard.  I envision this yard with its randomly planted flowers and shrubs as an oasis, just waiting to be landscaped and tended.  Smooth, curvy lines of lush grass brushing up against neatly mulched beds, prolific gardens with sweet, delicious vegetables and fruits, and water features, statues and benches just waiting for wildlife to loft upon the stout postures of the hardscapes is what I see.

In reality, the yard is a mishmash of collected flowers and shrubs spaced far apart but in the basic design of my mind's eye of what I dream for this backyard.  The plants all have stories and history, which make me love them.  And there are other plants that are deposited here by the birds and squirrels and washed down from the top of the hill that volunteer to grow here without my hand involved in their rooting and these surprise tenants delight me and make me feel good that they picked my yard to make a home.

I have not had the time, the money or the physical strength to do much to this backyard in the last few years except barely maintain it.  Three years ago I had a wicked case of plantar fasciitis that wouldn't quit and walking on the uneven yard just made the pain unbearable.  Then, I broke my ankle.  Crutches don't work very well outside, so another year passed by without giving the yard any attention.  This past summer, I had a torn meniscus and could barely bend my knees.  I had the surgery and finally, I feel like I am able to start doing some yard work.  Knock on wood that nothing more pulls the rug out from beneath me; literally and figuratively.

So as I was walking around tonight after work, looking at the possibilities, I was noticing that many of my plants had started to sprout amid the brush of last years dead foliage.  Thin, light green leaves fingering through heaps of brown, strappy, brittle stems and leaves that took in their last ray of sunlight the day before the first frost.  This sloppy, bent over or stiff foliage continues to protect the vibrant growth of the roots and buds underground over the winter until it split open the soil to begin growing again this spring. I just need to get a rake or a cultivator and clear it all out in order to let it grow as strongly as it can.  It is in these moments of realizing that life goes on and that we are not in charge of some of the most miraculous things that happen every day gives me hope that things will get better.

Maybe there is value to the sadness that I've had in the last year.  The depression, the feelings of immobility and loss, frustration, emotional detritis, the weight of life (and death) that has settled onto my shoulders, perhaps, has protected me and the fresh growth under the surface of my psyche that just wasn't ready to emerge yet.  Maybe all I need to do is to rake off the underbrush and clear away the dead and no longer useful thoughts to get to the new growth.  Maybe there was healing that needed to be done before I could shed these thoughts of hopelessness. Maybe the healing had to happen under a protective cloak of cynicism, distrust and disenfranchisment so as not to damage the new growth while it is too tender and underdeveloped.     I'm not sure how that works because it seems that the feelings of hopelessness is counterintuitive to the healing process, but I've managed to fight through a lot of this.  

I've done some very personal writing of my feelings in a notebook on a pretty regular basis.  I've made contacts with people who are writing about some of the same things that I struggle with and that has given me a feeling of perspective and of community.  I've talked to loved ones and my therapist about my loss of interest in anything and desire to hide from life and I've muscled through some pretty tough days and nights.  And throughout all of this, I've always held on to the belief that there is something just beyond my reach that will change all of this.  I'm just not close to it yet.

So, as I look out over the yard, I think I'll begin to clear out the pine straw and dead leaves.  I used to lover gardening and, although the idea of raking doesn't sound like fun, maybe I'll find something valuable under the surface.  Wish me luck.

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely love this image - I've noticed the fresh green pushing through tangled old roots before, but have never drawn the analogy to our own spirits and psyches. Beautiful. xox