Monday, April 21, 2014

Spring Clean Up

I'm a gardener.

Every year, the promise of spring gets me through the winter.  There are some awfully long snowy days up here in the Great White North... which is probably why we are called that.  But, every year spring arrives, the snow first melts to reveal snirt (piles of snow+dirt) and then just dirt, which is then washed and blown away by spring rain and wind.  Little green things start poking up through the ground and if I haven't already, I start thinking of planting vegetables and what flowers I would like to try this year.

This year has been different.

The winter of 2013/2014 has been plagued by more-serious-than-normal weather.  Floods in the summer gave way to ice before Christmas, more ice after Christmas and snowstorm after snowstorm after snowstorm.  Some people were without power for the entire holiday season, during which we had ridiculously hostile low temperatures with face-ripping wind chills.  In a literal sense, it has been a hard winter.  In a figurative sense there has been higher than number heart attacks, falls and mental health issues, in no small part due to the weather and it's implications. This year the snow melted to snicks (piles of dirty snow filled with sticks) and then dissipated to twigs and dirt, the remnants of which are still being discovered and cleaned up city wide. 

I have not been immune either.

As I stated earlier in my What's Up? post, this winter has been hard on me too.  I've had to re-evaluate everything I do, from how I brush my teeth to how I get ready for work to how I go to bed to how I organize myself and the family.  I've had to actively change my thinking, which is a story for another day, but understand that it has been no picnic.  Those few that are closest to me can testify to that.

That is a story for another day, as frankly it is still going on.  As a mental health professional, it is my responsibility to end stigma.  As a blogger I've been nothing but honest... but I'm not ready to tell that story fully yet.  I will, and in my own way:  loudly, proudly and without a twinge of regret.  Again, that time is not today.

Instead, I'll talk about gardening...

Today the temperature went up to over 20 degrees Celsius, which in Canadiana means SHORTS!  Although I did not feel like doing anything other than crawling back into bed, I made myself go out to the front yard and start cleaning up the garden.  Its not a grand thing, but a friend and I designed it at work one night and Sean and I then built it two summers ago.  The gardens themselves were covered in dried leaves and maple keys that had blown up the street and been trapped, along with occasional bits of paper and garbage.  The lawn was covered in assorted twigs and branches and pine cones that had not been picked up yet.  Stones that had lined the side of the driveway had been heaved up by countless shovels onto the lawn and the gardens and the remnants of last falls foliage--that in my illness I had not gotten to--either lay flattened on the soil, or dryly poking up at odd angles.  It was a mess.  And so was I, with my hair coiled up in a greasy bun on the top of my head.  Wisps were sticking out at random and I managed to nail the more annoying ones down with barrettes.  Finish the look with my ugly-ass gardening shoes, standard black T-shirt and capris and shades and you'll understand what shambled outside.  I had no desire to start this project.  I had no desire to do anything.  I got the paper yard bags out of the back of the truck, put on the bright blue gardening gloves that were on the shelf in the garage (after first shaking them for spiders), put my headphones in and started on the leaves and trash that was under the porch.

The porch cleanup yielded an orange matchbox car, and cleaning up around Dog (our one gargoyle) helped me find all the painted pots that Quinn and I did a couple of years ago.  We lost one, but I set the rest carefully up on the steps.  As I started work on the garden proper, I was not sure what I was going to find.  With all the salt and sand and de-icer that ended up on the lawn and garden, I was not convinced I would find anything alive other than the occasional maple sprout under the debris.  As I cleaned and aerated and smoothed the soil, I started to find shoots here and there.  This will be a trillium in a few weeks.  This one here will be a hosta. This stick has shoots on it and will be a tree peony;  maybe this year it will even bloom.  These are some of the giant day-lilies that surround Pazuzu (our other gargoyle).  Yes, there was more things that I did not find than I did;  it's possible that they have not started yet or the winter claimed them.  The jury is still out on the burning bush I planted last year.  But, the lavender is starting to green up and even the dead leaves offered heady fragrance as I cleaned out every last bit of detritus.

As I broke off last years lily stalks and yanked clumps of rouge grass out of the gravel path, the fresh air and sunshine worked it's usual magic.  Even the marble shards cutting into my knees hurt less as the breeze ruffled loose tendrils of hair and some of my favourite songs filled my ears.  It was my hands in the earth however, that renewed a sense of connection.  I pulled my gloves off and smoothed the soil by hand around some hosta shoots.  It felt good to be alive and to be connected to the earth, a feeling that has eluded me for so many months.

I continued my work with a half smile on my face, picking stones out of the soil, putting dead leaves and twigs in my bag and was about to pick up another rock when I stopped to look at it.
[Image description:  heat shaped stone half buried in soil, with maple sprout above.]
Sometimes Nature smiles back.

I guess I told you that to tell you this:  it has been a long, difficult journey to get to this point.  I have not been up to my usual levels of presence and advocacy as I have been advocating for another cause:


But, much like the sprouts I uncovered today, there is hope.  There is promise, even if some days I have to work hard and dig for it.  Some days come easy, and some leave me battered, exhausted, covered in bruises, sweat and dirt.

It is hard work.  Hard.

When this is all over, I hope to end it the same way I ended my time outdoors:  with a cold Coke, in my Muskoka chair on the porch, the sounds of my kids playing filtering through the open window.  Until then, each task is undertaken individually.  Each day comes in it's own time.  Growth happens where it can, and sometimes I can clear the way for it to happen.  Sometimes it comes all on it's own and yields unexpected surprises.

It's time to clean up after this long winter.  I think today was a pretty good start.

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