I’ve always wanted to write one of those “5 things I learnt from scratching my butt in private”-type articles. Mind you I think I wrote one blog called five things to be grateful for, but that wasn’t entirely to format so it doesn’t count. Of course I hate those articles with a special passion, because of the number mainly. Like “7 things highly effective people” or “12 Keys to success” etc. My biggest gripe is this, why 7? Or 12? Or 5? And does that mean there are ONLY 7 habits or keys or principles? And that just opens the door to other questions in my crazy brain, like who are these people? And do I actually consider them to be successful… What measure did we use to decide whether they are successful? What is your definition of success to begin with? And then I do what everyone else in cattle-class does, I read it. Obsessively. And make every word I read law.
Now my big hoo-ha about that, might have almost made me break format, but it’s okay because it’s my blog. I can do what I want.
Just before Easter, which was going to be DESTINATION: HOLIDAY, and I literally mean 18:00 on the evening before Good Friday, I learnt that my holiday is kind of cancelled. Not only will I be working I will be working on two extra episodes. Which is awesome, because I realised two days before production break that I will be skipping a week’s pay. This way I don’t skip and I get a bit extra. So I am very blessed and very happy – and that’s what Easter is kind of about, if you get down to it. Long story short – I clearly have no clue what that expression means – I spent the weekend gardening and spring cleaning! And joyfully spending time with my pups and resting and watching DVD’s… but mostly, gardening. Next to writing, my true-true love. (And also next to my pets.)
Seven things I learnt from gardening
(SEVEN because it’s my lucky number… so you can read in peace and not wonder. In case you are OCD – like someone we both know. And There are more than seven, this seven is just at the top of my head.)
1. There is a season for everything
My grandmother left a mark in her Bible by the passage on there being a time and season for everything. (There is a song by the Byrds about it too). In the time before her passing, I’m sure one gets a sense of when your time is almost up, it must’ve rang true to her. I get that sense, time and again when I garden. And with every realisation it sticks a little better. A little deeper. And I get it a bit more… “it” being, it’s going to be okay.
When my mind or life or my heart is a muddle, you can always see it in “my world”. My house, my garden, my skin… Early in November, or late November… I can’t quite put my finger on the time, my garden was just starting to look lovely. My grass was like a thick green carpet. My plants burst their seams … it was lush and full of promise. And then in the blink of an eye the lawn was a swamp, the dahlia’s had white mould… that which wasn’t drowned was scorched. I was so distraught I ended up spending little time in the garden because I just didn’t even want to look at it. If you look at my life, you will see a reflection of this… less metaphor and more real, but there it is: Life.
But thank goodness, there is a season for everything: A time for decay, a time to grow, a time to bloom, a time to lie dormant under the soil… and wait for the perfect time.
2. Seasons aren’t always what you expect them to be
Traditionally people jump into the garden in Spring and that is considered a season of growth – after all, Summer-in-full-flower is evidence of that, right? Right. Winter is when things, die down… hibernate and all other sleepy things. Indeed it is, and it isn’t. If you want a garden in Spring, you better get cracking in Winter – or before. Planting that Spring feast for the eye can be quite a bit of labour in Winter. My favourite description of Winter is that of a time when seeds lay in the belly of the earth… In my mind’s eye I see the snow-covered earth and the ground almost frozen with tiny seeds inside waiting… waiting… waiting… In actual fact the waiting is a very laborious task. Nothing sleepy about it. Summer too, conjures an image of fun-in-the-sun and growth and abundance. The expectation is there that things will grow and bear fruit. But Summer can be a scorcher – where things burn to death. When the sun dries up all signs of life… it is exactly what you’d expect, but not what you expected at all.
But what I learnt in the garden, is that never think that because Summer squeezed the life out of you, Winter will be the same. The “squeeze the life out of you”-phase may just have been a prep-period for great growth that will come in Winter. It may not be what you expected, but still it’s as it should be.
This year I planted a flowering fruit tree that flowers in WINTER!! I am looking forward to it.
PS. I specifically capitalized the seasons, hoping to start a trend. I feel it’s unfair that they may only be capitalized when personified.
3. If the grass won’t grow plant flowers instead
Okay, I will broach the subject that has been referred to “The topic that should not be spoken of” all Summer. The grass. Here’s what happened – my theory of course – to my once-lush grass: Well first, we got more rain than expected… and then a happy swarm of butterflies laid their eggs there. And so… swamp! There were days when you actually sinked into the mud-grass. I say mud-grass, because it was mud with grass. Now it’s only mud. It was painful. But Can-do girl that I am… I tried to save it. I dug holes for aeration, I added lawn-things that everyone and his uncle prescribed… and four months later, still swamp! A couple of weeks ago I looked at the devastation that was my garden and thought… You know what, I’m tired of all the squares anyway. I feel like ore circles. And where’s the colour I once had? (Short of the blue and magenta walls) Where’s the magic? Where’s the whimsy? So, I hopped to it and created a new lay-out. And as for the swampland, clearly it WANTS to be swampland. Now I’m planting a pond with some plants that like the boggy conditions… and a path to go around it.
If you keep working against it, it will frustrate and infuriate you… accept the things you can’t change, plant flowers instead.
4. 9 out of 10 times spiders are just gross
I am a bit (read BIT or A LOT or HUGE) of an arachnophobe. I hate them. It’s not right to have that many legs and eyes… Spiders give me the heebie-jeebies but on top of that, they instil a fear that makes me cold. It makes logic elude me. I can’t even vomit because my soul leaves my body and there’s no one to operate the machine.
But the thing is, the healthier your garden, the more all God’s creatures will be living there (I’m no fan of other creepy-crawlies either, by the way) and this includes spiders. As fate would have it, I think people who study arachnids can come to MY garden and study the five zillion species creeping and crawling around to scare the bejeezus out of me at intervals… Even as I write this my mouth goes dry, so you know.
But here’s what I’ve learnt from gardening, 9 out of 10 times spiders are just gross. *shudder* There is nothing to be afraid of. *shudder* And the logic part of my brain knows this. *shudder cubed* Life will give you your share of “spiders” – most of mine have names – but most often they are just gross. They do the big “Ooh I have eight legs”-thing… but they won’t hurt you. They do the whole “Oooooooh I have venom”-thing… but in all likeliness they won’t come close enough. They can do even do the “Ooooooooh I can kill you with one bite”-thing, but then you could just step on them with your garden boot. Problem solved… more like eliminated to be accurate. Most spiders are just gross, and that 1 out of 10… will give you a cool story at the next bar.
5. Working in the rain won’t kill you
I really do like metaphors. As I write this I get all warm and fuzzy just thinking about them. Last week amid hectic deadlines etc. I attempted to… started to… yeah, that will do. I started to dig a hole for a small kiddy splashpool for my darling godchild. Then it started raining. It was the only day I had a helper, so I decided to push through. What a muddy mess. It was unpleasant. To top off the experience, the gardener and myself did not see eye to eye and suffice to say I was kind enough to let him leave early. But I am a Virgo, which is my euphemism for I am OCD, so I couldn’t just leave it. There in the pouring rain I dug, I scraped, I pulled, I tried to not destroy more than I create… It was unpleasant. But the rain also washes mud and unpleasant away. I stood in the rain for a while just allowing it to beat down on my skin. I have a friend with MS, she has no feeling on the skin of one of her arms – so I stood there dripping wet, feeling grateful that I do. And then I just stood there.
Number 5 could actually be “… in the rain won’t kill you”. Fill in verb of choice. Storms pass. Rain too will pass. But before it does, take time to feel it on your skin.
Of course then the famous Joburg lightning started dancing in the skies above and I thought it best to get my butt inside.
6. You can’t have too many flowers
In your garden, you can’t have too many flowers. In your life, you can’t have too much joy. You can’t have too much colour. You can’t have too many breath-taking smells. You can’t have too many laughs at the cat chasing the lavender or at the dogs chasing the puppy or at the puppy chasing the cat… You can’t. Too much of a good thing really is spectacular. You’ll have a really hard time convincing me otherwise.
7. You have to get your hands dirty and be gentle – at the same time.
Gentle folk – and I’m not being derogatory – work well with gardens. Just like anything else in this world flowers and plants like you to be gentle on their journey to abundance. You can’t step on them, you can’t pull and tug and jerk and shove and back-hand them. I know it sounds obvious, but it’s not obvious to everyone. At the same time, while being gentle… you can’t be “gentle” – now I’m not being derogatory either I’m talking about wussies. You have to get your hands in the soil, you may even have to take your awesome pink garden gloves off sometimes and get soil under your nails. It has to be done.
In my heart-world that is because sometimes to get the bulbs, seedlings and tiny plants their best shot, you have to put some lovin’ in there. In the real world it’s just… because it has to be done. It’s the only way. No short cuts. No cheats. But like what lies under the skin of the metaphor, it’s also the most rewarding way.
There needs to be balance though… you can’t just get in there and “sort that shit” – now read it again with a drill sergeant voice: “SORT THAT SHIT!”. You can’t play good cop, bad cop in the garden. Or in life. Whenever weeding etc. needs doing, my cousin always says, “just give me a garden fork I’ll sort this whole thing out before you know it!” Of course I reel and protest and object and and and… AND get back to gently and slowly and with great care picking at weeds careful not to upset anything in the beds. They like it like that. Things grow better when you are gentle. People grow or develop better when you are gentle. Maybe I am inclined to be gentle, because I was always pushed, shoved and jerked through life – famously dragged by the arm… Just because you are in get-your-hands-dirty-mode doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be gentle anymore. You have to be both. At the same time.
And now that I am at the end of number 7 I can think of more… You really do learn a lot about life while gardening.