I was the oldest of a large family, and I aspired to be a good girl. Not so much in the sense of morally superior; I wanted to do it right, correctly. Even as a child, I was a perfectionist.
Perfectionists: You know the type
If there is something to be assembled, I am reading the instructions. If we are going somewhere, the map is in my hands, opened, and I know which exit we just passed, and how many more until we arrive. And when it comes to the care and feeding of a middle-aged woman, I have read the manual, and I’ve been trying to follow the directions.
To make sure the exercising got done, I always did it first thing in the morning. But a funny thing happened on the way to better health. My garden got more and more neglected. “No, duh, Kathy,” I hear you saying, “you just didn’t have enough time.” Well, none of us has enough time, do we? But that wasn’t quite it. I was dutifully giving my best time, my most effective hours, to a boring exercise regimen, and when there was time to garden later in the day, it was too hot, or I was too tired, or I was just plain engrossed in something else (usually writing or computer related) and forgot to make time.
No more dreary duty
This summer, I just said no to the good-girl, follow-the-rules exercise routine, and gave my best morning hours to gardening. Each morning I venture forth shortly after my husband leaves for work, and usually keep at it until the heat, humidity, or bugs drive me in, sometime in the late morning. I started out in late May and early June pulling garlic mustard. Then it was on to my own flower beds, bringing the best-kept ones up to snuff and then tackling the more neglected ones.
I can’t tell you how enormously satisfying this has been, but if you’re a gardener, I suspect you know. Weeds don’t just steal nutrients and water from the cultivated plants. They spoil the design, obscuring the carefully (or not so carefully) planned color schemes, the contrasts in texture. It’s like someone colored outside the lines in your coloring book, and by weeding you remove those errants marks.
Reclaiming a neglected daylily bed
I’ve been especially happy working on the Juneberry bed that has discouraged me–no, shamed me for so long. Talk about not doing it right! I never got it finished last year, in part because I was trying to reclaim it the “right” way, working on one section at a time, getting all the weed roots out, replenishing the soil, cutting a new edge, and deadheading. This time around I just tackle whatever bugs me most at the moment, and the goal is not to do it right, but to make it look as good as possible as quickly as possible. How superficial. How inefficient. How self-indulgent! Yes, I’m not following the rules, and gardening is a lot more fun!
The rule-following good girl is just sure something bad will come of all this rule-breaking. The grass roots I didn’t pull out will resprout and make further inroads. There will almost certainly be a muscle spasm before the year is out, as the lack of stretching takes its toll. I’m not losing any more weight, but I haven’t been gaining, either, and I just hope the lack of aerobic exercise doesn’t make me more vulnerable to the medical problems I’m at risk for. Living dangerously, Kathy Purdy style.
That’s my summer in a garden. A little shift in routine, a lot more weeds pulled–even if I didn’t get all the roots. Oh, well, nobody’s perfect.