Only Because

“I’ve got nothing to lose and only myself to please,” she said, as if it were fact.

We stood in midday heat, puzzling out changes to make in her garden. She, a widow with grown children and young grandchildren; a snowbird wintering elsewhere, summering here; a small woman with copper and gold highlights in her hair. These are the facts. Yet, which paragraph is more evocative?

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Man has once again nominated gardenhood for a blog award. It’s a fact. Yet what does it reveal? Think about that for a couple of seconds, while I thank Kevin profusely for the nomination, his kind support of my writing, and the many ways his own writing cheers and teaches me.

liebster-blog-award

Now for a disclaimer, an aside, a disruption in the flow of the narrative, which breaks a cardinal rule of good writing (except when Shakespeare did it). I decided to accept the award only because it came from Kevin. Near as I can tell, these awards (and there are quite a few), are designed to up a blog’s visibility and readership. There’s no competition, no voting, no academy of blogospheric accomplishments. There are only rules to follow, and then you claim the award. The rules involve thanking the nominator and providing a link to their site, revealing information about yourself, and nominating and linking to other sites. It’s actually a lot of work. Well, it is for me. So, I decided to bend the rules, only because thinking about how to follow them, I turned them into writing exercises, a way to kick out the winter holiday induced block in my writing life.

Which seemed like more fun and more fair to you.

So, on with it.

The first exercise: What can you tell about a person with eleven unembellished facts? It probably depends on the person (in this case yours truly) and the facts. What’s your guess?

The Facts

  • 1) In the John F. Kennedy high school class of 1971 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 2) my name appears in alphabetical order right after Jim’s, 3) and he reads gardenhood.
  • 4) I went to northern Minnesota and acquired an accent.
  • 5) I still have it, sort of.
  • 6) My brand new Hausschuhe are felted Haflinberger clogs.
  • 7) On the same day I bought them I also bought chains for my hiking shoes.
  • 8) I start each day by saying out loud, “Yes, thank You!”
  • 9) The vision for the flat corner lot is under reconstruction.
  • 10) My hair is its own color.
  • 11) I complete my 60th solar return on February 3 at 1:41 Mountain time.

Exercise two: Kevin asked me 11 questions. I’ll provide the answers. It’s like writing only one side of a dialog. Can you discern the questions in the answers?

Mid morning. Because it still feels like anything can happen and I usually have even more energy than when I awoke.

I was in first grade, and I stayed in from recess because I was having so much fun writing a story. That summer I planted carrots in the sandbox, my first garden.

When Breakfast Club came out in 1985, I lived 80 miles and an international border from the nearest movie theatre. So, I have no idea in which high school group I best fit. I’m not sure I would know now, even if I had a movie to guide me.

I write at the solid oak desk I inherited from my father in a room I call the studio. I always feel like I’m steeping when I’m here.

I laugh in pure joy whenever I hear the choral movement of Beethoven’s 9th symphony.

On a television talent show, my talent would be making a graceful exit.

The dandelion. Tough, resilient, bright, entirely useful, prolific.

The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. Because it engages all my senses, including my sense of wonder and magic.

Eggplant.

I live where rain is an event, and rarely falls a whole day. I rejoice whenever it happens.

Carl Sagan. Then what happens?

Exercise three: If you wanted to get a group of people with diverse backgrounds interested in a complete stranger, what questions would you ask the stranger? What questions would you like someone to ask of you? Next are a few of mine.

What are your growing edges, in gardening or in life?

Describe the place on earth where you are most at home.

What do you listen for in the voices of others?

What have you always wanted to tell your mother and never dared?

How do you deal with imperfection?

What is your definition of beauty?

How have your perspectives changed in the last decade?

What is your best memory from middle school?

What does the smell of roses evoke for you?

How do you relax?

What are people most likely to say about you?

One more confession: I’m exhausted by research. I have the sort of personality that wants to jump headlong into synthesis with only a handful of information. I constantly rewrite sentences to fill in the blanks I jump over, eager to get to the next idea. When it comes to finding blogs to read or recommend, I prefer to let others do the vetting for me. Over the last two years, that strategy hasn’t netted me a very long list. In the interest of meeting my final requirement — that of nominating 11 blogs and putting their writers through this gauntlet — I trudged out into the blogosphere digging for some new ones. My criteria surfaced as I searched. I looked for whimsy, beauty, smiles, a sense of connection, and writing that pulled the mud-heavy boots from my heart. After far too many hours, and feeling like I’d just read 15 seed catalogs cover to cover, I pooped out. At nine.

I know most of you stop by to read gardenhood and aren’t looking for other reads. Maybe, like me, you feel as though you’re spending way too much time staring at blue-lighted screens and not enough time looking at soft white paper, kind faces, beautiful landscapes, and living earth. Nonetheless, if you’d like to visit a few other sites, here you go.

Griffins and Gingersnaps

Jordan Ketttley

Naure’s Place

Gypsy Sunshine

Enjoy Succulents

A 3 Acre Farm (Kevin already nominated this blog for the award, but I wanted to recommend it to you).

Lelo in Nopo

Danger Garden

Richard Huston Art

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Commitment

Sometimes the gardener is herself the garden.

I’m two-thirds of the way through year 59, and I’ve been decisively editing my attitudes.

Here and there were habitual thoughts that had grown so thick and spread so wide, they were choking out other thoughts, more useful ones, happier ones, even prettier ones.

I’ve tried tackling these habits in the traditional way, by getting to the root of them. I mean, don’t we think that if we get to the bottom of some issue, understand how it became an issue in the first place, we can correct it?

What works with dandelions or rampant campanula doesn’t always work with the psyche.

So, with some forthright guidance from my long-time nutrition counselor, Marsha, I changed tactics. I’ve done two things: Deeply accepted the state of my mental weed patches, and loved myself anyway. I stopped denying that I was terrified about my future and gave thanks for my present. I said out loud that I was tired of being fat and gave thanks for my strength and flexibility.

Next thing I knew, I was getting an inkling of what might bring me joy. I accepted being anxious about not knowing how to get from here to there, and let myself imagine all the joy anyway.

One morning, I looked in the mirror and saw a dear and remarkable friend. I said to her, “I weigh 147 pounds.” And we giggled at each other. I actually weighed considerably more than that, even though I’d reached my “summer low”. It was the same summer low I’d reached over the last several years, the low that let’s me zip the skinny jeans, and still the low I was never able to crack.

It felt so good to say I weigh 147, that I kept right on saying it. I’d say it as I got in the car, and my posture changed. I’d say it walking down the street, and my step lightened. I’d say it standing in front of my open closet and choose different clothes.

A few weeks ago, I stepped on the scale. It must have been wrong. I stepped off and stepped on again. Four times. It read 5 pounds below the summer low. A week later, 7 pounds below. The skinny jeans not only zip, the muffin top is gone.

Today, I took all my winter and early spring jeans, capris, and skirts to Goodwill.

As to the joyful future I’ve let myself imagine: To be continued…

Acceptance

To be in the process or act of accepting is a widely varied thing. It can mean gladly or formally receiving something or someone. Acceptance might demonstrate an embracing of what is. It can also signify being resigned and enduring patiently. Gardening teaches me about every aspect of acceptance.

Resigning myself and enduring stem from the limits, catastrophies, and disappointments every gardener experiences.

Climate, soil, changing seasons, budget, and energy all establish limits for me. Customarily, I try to ignore, push, or overcome any limit I bump into. After awhile (sometimes hours, sometimes years), there are just some limits I have to accept. Time is one of them. I can’t seem to spend all the time I want to tending the garden or the Gardenhood. There are, after all, only twenty-four hours in a day, and I have to attempt to sleep for more of them than I care to. Then, of course, there is all that time spent on necessary and pleasurable self-care: cooking, eating, bathing, reading, and making real human contact. Oh, yeah, and the other necessaries: laundry, house cleaning, paying bills, and that little thing called work. I can make the most of each hour, but I simply can’t make more hours. I grudgingly accept that.

Hail leveling a garden surely qualifies as a castrophe. Earwigs destroying the zinnias is a great disappointment. But what can you do? If you’re going to garden, you have to feel the losses and carry on.

Carrying on has the potential of alchemy. The dross of drudgery is transformed by an unexpected beauty. You drag yourself out to water or weed before the heat sprawls into the day, and you discover that the lemon-maroon lilies, yellow species hollyhocks, blue butterfly delphinium, purple verbena bonariensis, pink Meideland roses, and scarlet bee balm, are exactly the hues of dawn, hope, and welcoming you wanted in the garden. Even if you don’t know how to photograph it, your peripheral vision puts it all together, and you delight in it all the same.

A neighbor walks by and tells you how beautiful the garden is, and you happily receive the compliment.

A month ago, when the kind, generous, amazingly creative, and energetic Kevin — author of the versatile, very inspiring, lovely, sunny, and spirited, Nitty Gritty Dirt Man — nominated Gardenhood for the One Lovely Blog Award, I had another occasion to learn about acceptance.

To formally accept his nomination, I had to thank Kevin — which I did immediately and somewhat breathlessly. I also had to provide a link to his site from my own, which had already been done in Gardenhood’s blogroll.

Next I had to find 10 blogs to nominate for the same award, notify them, and post links to their blogs. I’ll do that before I close.

Finally, the stipulations of my acceptance include posting 7 random facts about myself. I’ll see what I can do.

In order to know if accepting the nomination was right for me, I had to understand what the award really means. There are quite a few of these awards. Plain and simply, they are utilized to increase bloggers’ awareness of each other and boost readership. That being said, I so admire Kevin and so adore the blogs I’m nominating, that I decided to accept the rules and  the award.

So here are the blogs I’d like to nominate. (You can read this as: These are blogs I really enjoy and am glad to recommend). Please give them a look-see. Then, while you’re at it, have a look at any of the blogs listed in the blogroll.

Hmm. Now for those 7 random facts:

  1. I was born at 2:51 PM.
  2. Dwight D. Eisenhower was President.
  3. I’ve lived in 6 states or provinces within 3 countries.
  4. I lost a toenail diving from a boulder into a swimming hole. The water was so cold, I didn’t notice the loss until I got out.
  5. The third time I read Anna Karenina, I was twenty years old and on a concert tour in still-communist Romania.
  6. My first book, Into the Fullness of Being, was published by my dear, dear friend, Robb Heckel. Of the 200 copies, all but a few found their way to people’s book shelves (even some people I’d never met).
  7. When I was a Freshman at Macalester College, I smoked a pipe — tobacco, of course.

Once, again, thank you, Kevin. It’s been both an honor and an adventure.

Post Script: While dragging the hose through a long Saturday morning, my thoughts rooted in the notion of acceptance, a song slowly unpacked itself from memory. “Come gather round people, wherever you roam, and admit that the waters around you have grown. Accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone. If your time to you is worth savin…” I include it here (especially for you, Jim, who way back in May, requested more music).