The Ides of August

A bit of death is in the air.

August does it to me. Most every year, the month of August brings a sullen, confused time into my life … into my state of mind.

This year, I lasted about a week into August before it really hit me. I am done with summer. Worn out from digging, bending, schlepping, lifting and tending the garden. Even the heat is different.

Yesterday, afternoon, I walked outside to try to get enthusiastic about something. I was hoping to feel the magic of the garden.

I looked around my yard. I walked to the wildflower garden, all spent from heat and exhaustion. Their bright colors had transpired to gray. Their heads, once bonnets of beauty, looked like me when I need to have my hair colored. Their posture was like mine, too. Bent.

The hydrangeas, which had been transplanted this year, and had been warding off the fungus, showed signs of weakness.

After. Few minutes, I walked into the house, noting that their was no air to breathe outside.

The garden had taken a toll on my body. I know, I know, I did it to myself. No one told me to haul bags of pea gravel, lift it and put it around. I didn’t have a gun at my head switch someone saying, dig deep into this clay to land this spires.

No, I was my own garden warden. The vision was strong. The body did most of what was asked. And now, it was revolting, telling me that it was time to rest.

There are times when I dance as fast as I can. I get a project, a vision in my mind and I go for it. I do what it takes for as long as I can.

Even if it involves trips to an orthopedic doctor and MRIs and. Probably, physical therapy.

Last week was also the week before my 6-month mammogram and visit with the surgeon. My first check-up since I was declared cancer free. And I had been cancer-free. Once the surgeon had said those words, after surgery and before radiation, I lived my life free of cancer. I simply went on.

The funny thing about many kinds of cancer is that you feel fine and dandy, even though a group of cells are gathering to form a convention of attackers, often you don’t know it. It is like walking in your yard, as you always do, but this time, you look at the grass and see a copperhead. Yikes. But you get rid of the copperhead and move on, perhaps with a slower speed because you realize that you need to slow down and feel life, or you speed up things because you hear tick-tock, tick-tock.

For me, it wasn’t so much the episode with cancer … it is age. No matter how much I want to believe that age is just a number … for me, it isn’t. It is trying to balance attitude, looks and body. I rarely have them all in sync.

And August is my month when I feel everything shift. It is my of uncertainty, a bit of a foggy head and a sense of loss … ad transition.

I see photos of my grandchildren heading back to school. A couple of days ago, I got a phi tire of my two oldest granddaughters standing by each other. One is a senior and one is a freshman. The senior was going to drive the freshman to high school. I couldn’t help but get misty.

It is so difficult for me to put my arms around the fact that one of my sons will have a daughter in college next year.

I guess that August is a melancholy month for me. The air even shifts. What was simply hot and humid, become stifling. The sounds of outside are different. The nights are loud with a cacophony of insects and their hallelujah chorus. And even now, as I sit on the screens porch, the sounds of insects drone, not allowing silence of any kind.

I tend to craw my way through August, waiting for it to end. If I acknowledge and embrace this weird sense that I feel, I can almost laugh at it. But mostly, I don’t think it is very funny.

The good news is that when September arrives, I have figured out my next chapter. I have let my mind and body regroup. At this moment, I am uncertain about what my next act on life’s stage will be. Will I continue to write and allow people to see some of the workings of my mind and heart, or will I hang that up? What will I do to move my life and thoughts forward? Or do I have to look at life that way?

There is something good that comes out of putting one’s shovel down for a while. Breathing deeply and taking stock. Maybe that is what August is about? Perhaps the discomfort and uncertainty of and uncomfortable feeling of this month is part of the growing process. It is a realization of the seasons. Seasons change. So must I.

But for now, I think I will rest.

Susan

PS. Winston feels this way, too.


Green Is Not My Best Color

It’s not an attractive color for me … green.

Especially, when it is caused by that green dye of a bit of envy.

Yesterday, I didn’t feel all that great. A summer bug, plus, my bones, joints, back, hips and leg, were revolting from what I have made them do this summer. My eyes were blurry, too, and I was out of sorts and just felt puny It was the second day of such nonsense.

But, I went to Lowes in the morning and nought big cement stones, came home, lugged them out of the wagon, and placed them where I had raked up pea gravel. I need them to make little spots for my two little chairs I had bought to sit by the garden. Unfortunately, my good buy chairs, had pointy feet,and if you sat in them, you went down through the pea gravel and into the dirt. Way down. Hence, the stones.

It worked. I covered the stones with pea gravel and placed the chairs on them and tested each one. Tick that box.

I bought two bags of black mulch that I wanted to spread around my 4 spires discount bushes that I had planted,but I didn’t have the energy and the sun was beating down and the humidity was oppressive.

Normally, I would push myself. But I couldn’t. I went into the house, took a shower and washed my hair and then did something that I don’t do … put some pajamas on, signed up for the PBS Passport and watched “The Great British Baking Show” for a couple of hours. I had no ppm and not only that, my body hurt.

I laughed when I thought, “Gardening is good for you.”

Uh-huh. Tell that to my back and bod.

In the afternoon, after watching John, a young British law student, win the contest, I went and sat on the screened porch, and looked at magazines.

I used to love magazine, but then my eyes went bad, so I had some years when I didn’t subscribe. I still don’t read that well off of paper, but I love to look at pictures, and will hone in on some articles or recipes.

“Southern Living” is one of my favorite magazines, as is “Southern Lady.”

I picked up the “Southern Living” and perused it. There is something fun about flipping the pages of a lovely magazine. I do anticipate finding something that I enjoy, on the next page.

That is when I came across som lovely pictures of gardens. I looked at the article. It was written by Francis Mayes, the author of “Under The Tuscan Sun.” Nick and I had seen her speak at an North Carolina event January, before last.

At first, I thought the article was about her. But Mayes turned out to be the author. The piece was about her home and the 30 acres she and her husband purchased in North Carolina.

That is when I noticed my skin turning green. It turned a deeper green as I continued to read.

Mayes’ house has beautiful gardens. Many were there when she bought the place. They were well taken care of, mature … just plain beautiful. I read how she had art shows at her place and had a nifty skeletal greenhouse structure where her artist friends hung their work. She mentioned the large number of people who would come and have drinks and look and buy art.

Forest green.

Her house had a wonderful look. It had been there a long, long time and had history, along with numerous outbuildings. One had been converted to a writing place and artist’s studio.

Double forest green.

Her husband gave her a chain saw for their anniversary.

Triple green.

And she had a bunch of workers to come in with big equipment to clean out and area that was towards the river at the back of their property.

I looked up. I tried to move my aching bones. Little twitchy impulses came to my legs, again. I think they are coming from a goofy nerve in my back. When I did get up, my hip caught. I walked like a question mark.

I saw a photo of Mayes, walking on a path by her glorious garden. Shedin’t look like Shrek, as I do. She didn’t have a bead of perspiration, much less. Sweat water-falling down her face.

I bet she didn’t stink … didn’t need a shower … and her body wasn’t revolting.

Gracious, I wasn’t. It would have been better if I hadn’t felt like I’d beaten hit by a rampaging flower cart.

But there I was, feeling puny, soaking in green envy.

Her writing had afforded her with a beautiful garden and a place I would love. By George, even a movie was made from her writing. People went on pilgrimages to Tuscany and women dreamed of a romantic life abroad. I know that when I was in Tuscany, in the town of Cortona, I thought of that book and movie and Mayes as I walked the cobbled streets.

For a moment, I felt a failure-ish feeling. I can do that to myself … especially if I am not feeling well.

The green color washed away as my thoughts changed. I made them change because I knew that kind of thinking was not in my best interest. Human? Yes. But by now, I should know better.

I immediately thought of Nick and my kids and grandkids and what Nick and I have created … given the world … four wonderful humans, who are giving, generous, kind and really do care about others.

They are my garden. They are the fruits of my labor, (literally).

Today, I go to the orthopedic doctor. I am sure he will look at me like I am an idiot as I tell him that I lifetime stones and dig and lift clay and big plants and bend over and weed and then sit slumped in a recliner.

Yep, some of this is self-inflicted.

So, around 1:30, I will wear anything but green, and go and complain to someone who is paid to listen and help me put things back into whack.

And then, when I get home, I will begin to write a book called, “Under The Compost Pile.”

It should be a best seller.

Susan

My lemon seed has sprouted!   My African violets are lovely and I am going to try to sprout an avocado seed and plant more lemon seeds.

The Story Of Our Garden

Nick was way ahead of me. He was born a gardener, or at least began gardening at an early age. He helped his grandmother, a tough German woman who grew flowers at the home Nick and his two older brothers, mother, and grandmother lived in. Nick’s father died when he was five.

Garden, gardening, Parkinson’s, birds, joy, inspiration, trials, God, love, passion, humility

His real gardening began at Benjamin Granklin Elementary, in Cleveland. Each child, from kindergarten, on, had a little plot of ground to plant things in. The younger kids had smaller plots and only grew a few things, but as the children moved along in grades, they received larger plots. During the summer, the kids would walk to the school garden and tend their plants. 

From the time we were married and had our first house, Nick gardened. At our first house, he converted a goldfish pond to a garden. We had small children, so we filled in the little pond. We have a photo that I have given to our son, that shows him, about age three, pulling a wagon with vegetables in it. 

The garden expanded with our next house, and at our third house, the hose we lived in for thirty years, prior to moving here, Nick had a huge garden filled with vegetables, flowers and rows of sunflowers. People walking in the park behind out house would stop and look at it. 

I grew roses in the big garden, until they became too much of a pain, and then I made my own cottage garden on the side of the house. Nick helped me a lot. 

My dad gardens a bit. A swimming pool toook up most of the yard, so his gardenin space was limited. He grew zucchini, which I thought was disgusting. I hadn’t tried it, but the name was weird. I love it, now.  He grew lovely roses and would pick bouquets and deliver them to shut-ins from his church.

When my dad was old and in a wheelchair, I would bring him to our house, wheelhim eo the back, and hand him the hose. He loved watering the garden. Once day, he told my that my roses were more beautiful than his. 

When we moved from Ohio, gardening was in our past. Nick had filled in his big garden with grass. Parkinson’s had taken away his stamina and some of his strength. I didn’t think I would garden because you sweat and I don’t like snakes. 

Perhaps the twentieth wonder of the world is that I began gardening, in earnest. As Nick’s strength and stamina continued to lesson his ability to do such work, I chose to try to create a bit of a refuge in our own yard, as home became the place Nick was most comfortable. 

This is called a Trial and Error garden. South Carolina isn’t Ohio. Both have clay. Down here it is red. Hard. Great if you want to make red clay pots. 

When we moved to this house, which has a agreenspace behind it, that isn’t maintained by the HOA, Nick thought wildflowers would look nice back there. 

And that is how this all started. 

From wildflowers, grew my vision of a wildflower, perennial, shru, and gras garden. 

Inside our fence, I decided to switch to mostly perennials. 

What a job, but what a joy. 

I have had to study a lot, go to YouTube, read, and ask questions. I am learning that like people, plants die, sometimes before there time. It is nature.

This is my creative project. It is my art, my writing, my job. 

Nick helps when he can. He planted a few perennials, waters,and hauls pee gravel and this week, he spread some. That is hard for him, but good. I love seeing him in the garden or talking ‘garden talk’ with him. 

This is going to be a work-in-progress. It probably will never be totally done. There will be plant births, deaths, birthdays, graduations and some that are put into time-out.

Nature will win. I watch weather radar like a begonia. I water in spite of the cost. And we feed the birds and watch butterflies and dragonflies and squirrels and little green lizards, enjoy the bounty.

I work slowly. I sweat. I get weary bones. But each morning when I get up, thegarden calls me. It sings a song of grace and glory. I gives me more than I can give it. When I look closely at the blooms, the intracies of their design, everyything in the world goes away. All I see is God. Hope. Joy. 

I wish I would have gotten into gardening earlier. But that wsn’t the design of my life. Maybe it has come to me, now, when there are times that I feel life waning. Tick Tock. 

Now, I have to go haul more pea gravel.

Susan