Every winter, certain jet-setter friends of ours enclose a holiday newsletter in their Christmas card. This year’s concluded:
“Although free time is pretty hard to come by since Christine’s promotion, she did take up scuba diving, which she loves, so we’ve made plans to spend the latter half of January exploring the underwater paradise off Aruba, which we’ve heard is totally spectacular!!”
Well. Isn’t that nice.
My plans for this winter also revolve around an interest I pursued during the year. In fact, as a direct result of this year’s gardening activities, I plan to be in my armchair straight through until next spring, heating pad on my left shoulder, ice pack on the instep of my right foot, a pillow scrunched behind the small of my back, and a second one wedged next to my right hip.
So I suppose I should reply to my friends’ holiday newsletter with one of my own. Something like this:
I began this past glorious gardening year in April by using a dull spade to plant an azalea at the edge of a wooded area. Naturally, in the course of digging the planting hole, I ran into a smallish root which had to be cut away. I decided instantly against the bother of getting the loppers because they were ten whole feet away and, after all, I had the spade right in my hand. Besides, everyone knows there’s nothing to whacking through a root with a spade. Regretfully, in this case the impact set my entire body into vibrations while barely damaging the root. So, after a moment or two, I swung the spade down again with the added oomph of my right foot on the back of the blade. The considerable force of this second impact was then absorbed directly by my right hip socket, a part of my body I never gave much thought to before, but which, since April, I dwell on almost constantly.
Sitting with a cushion wedged beside it helps relieve the tenderness.
The unfortunate hip situation did not stop me from attempting to transplant the James Madison lilac in May. James had developed from 4 skinny, prepubescent lad into an enormous, burly adolescent who needed his own space. I had a nice, roomy corner in mind for him next to the deck where he could stretch out without bothering anyone. While digging up his vigorous root system, though, another drastic pain—as if my lower spine was cracking into splinters—brought me to a halt. Perhaps this was related in some way to April’s spade/root misadventure, I don’t know.
It’s improved by placing a little pillow behind it when I sit.
The season turned to summer. My three dear children, out of school for vacation, were arguing the vital point of who rightfully owns hand-me-down sandals—the child they were originally bought for or the one who fits them now—resulting in one child in tears, a second displaying unbelievable pomposity, and the third managing to say just the right thing at the right moment to keep the matter from being resolved. At the time, I was waiting for them to get their shoes on so we could go to the library, thinking that since MY maladies temporarily prevented me from gardening, at least I could read about gardening. Well, briefly, the argument escalated, we were apparently never going to get out the door—and then I blew my stack. Shocking everyone present, including myself, I wound up my sore right leg and kicked a solidly made, pointy-edged wooden toy clear across the floor, taking the impact fully on the instep of my bare right foot.
It benefits from ice.
Summer became fall and I cut down a dead dogwood tree with an old handsaw. It was a Saturday, my husband was home. If I had mentioned I was going to cut down a tree, he would have offered to help, probably with a power saw. Certainly, however, the job didn’t warrant all that fuss. I worked—without incident of any kind—and felled the tree. It wasn’t until the middle of the night that I woke with a troubling ache in my left shoulder.
So that’s why I’m spending the winter with a heating pad, an ice pack, and those two pillows I mentioned earlier. Perhaps at first I was just the tiniest bit envious that our friends will be scuba diving in Aruba (and we won’t), but then they’ll hardly have the same opportunity for self-reflection this winter that I have in my armchair. Away from the distractions of a tropical vacation setting, I can focus my attention on how to improve my life—by sharpening my spade, for instance, asking for help now and then, or behaving with the proper gravitas (at least counting to ten) before expressing my opinion in front of the children. I feel good about this.
Maybe I’m ready to write a different holiday note to the jetsetters. After all, it doesn’t need to be near so long, does it? Let’s see, how about this:
Dear Christine and George,
How sweet about the swimming. As for me, after immersing myself throughout the year in creative landscape techniques and quality time with the children, I’m now taking some time to pursue a path of wellness and meditation.
You know, I like it. It’s true, too, isn’t it? ❖
This article was published originally in 2000, in GreenPrints Issue #44.