“This Year I’m Cutting Back”

Many of you know how much vegetable gardening means to me. How much I’ve loved every stage: from seed starting, to transplanting, to setting out, to mulching, watering, harvesting, putting by, cooking, eating, sharing. Heck, even weeding is okay by me. And oh how I love to be in the garden. I could putter endlessly. And I do. I like to express my  gratitude to the plants and even talk to the critters. The garden is my self-made habitat, and the perfect one for me. Whether my soul is soaring or aching or somewhere in between, the garden is exactly what I need.

garden bench

And yet, every year I say, “this year I will cut back.” Gardening the way I do is a tremendous amount of work, some light, much of it heavy and difficult; and with every passing year I feel a little more unequal to it. As you can imagine, it’s also a huge time commitment, one that lasts from seed starting in late February through harvesting in late September and clean-up in early October. Hence, most of my travel (which is another tip top priority) and all of my extended travel must happen between October and early February. These months aren’t optimal weather-wise, especially for someone who prefers road trips to flying. But I’ve made it work.

parsley

Despite my annual pronouncements, however, I never do cut back. Well once, in 2015. In February of that year my husband suffered a terrible stroke. I could easily have lost him. It was February 20th, as a matter of fact, a day that usually heralds my seed starting in earnest. And I can still see the seeds, and seed starting mix and trays lined up on the counter. And then the phone rang. It was a harrowing weekend, followed by a month in a stroke rehabilitation unit (together), followed by many more months of intense rehab and myriad adjustments at home. Gardening as I have always known it wasn’t even close to happening that year. And as it turned out, that wasn’t a bad thing.

The year got worse. On Sunday night July 12th, 2015, an 8-mile wide by 3-mile deep superstorm (with winds in excess of 110 mph) roared across our lake. When it was over, the gardens I would have planted (as well as the yard, the driveway, the house, the garage) were covered, and I mean covered, with 80-year-old cedars, 150-year-old white pines, and ancient oaks 36” or more in circumference.

storm

I learned many, many things in 2015, about how everything can change in an instant and that people who love each other can make it through the worst shit life can throw them. I learned about resilience, buoyancy, what true strength is, how utterly precious is good health, and how to better honor the time you do have by being more present in it.

And this year, 2018, I really am going to cut back in the garden–not out of tragedy this time, but because I want to. And not even these darling artichoke seedlings will persuade me otherwise.

IMG_2941

I want more time for writing this year. I want to read more and hit the road from time to time in good weather. But it’s also that my heart just doesn’t seem to be where it usually is this time of year. The long extended winter and the seriously delayed garden year has been tough on the seedlings under lights downstairs and on me too. Most of my plants are failing to thrive for one reason or another. Maybe we’ve all missed some window; maybe the wind’s been let out of all our sails. But gosh, those artichoke seedlings are troopers, aren’t they? Wish me luck.

2 responses to ““This Year I’m Cutting Back”

  1. Deborah, I am so happy you wrote this. The history of 2015 is such a necessary reflection for all of us in our little swath of the storm. But because you are such a part of the growing of all things beautiful and edible and because you appreciate the details of life’s happenings this becomes even more important. The horror of Billy’s stroke and all that he has endured and you right by his side, makes it an even bigger storm than most people had. But the fact that you didn’t plant a garden that year because it would’ve been wrecked anyway is amazing. I love how you take an honest look at everything and that you know who you are, what you appreciate, what makes you so happy you could burst, and what are the limits to what is capable for you is something we all should do. I am glad for every decision you are making because the more you do what fits you best the more we benefit from your sharing with us. Keep planting, what you can. Keep traveling as much as you can. Keep writing all that comes through you. And I will water your plants. XOXO

  2. Oh, dear Joey. Your words are so important–the way you always celebrate and encourage, always lifting people’s best selves up for them to see. Always wanting people to shine and to thrive. What a treasure you are. And an inspiration. A gardener yourself…of happiness. Thank you so much.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s