The sun is going down as I sit at my desk to write this. I've just come inside from the garden, completing my evening summertime ritual: put the twins to bed at 7:30, and hope they're asleep by 8 so I can get an hour in the garden. Between 8-9 PM is about the only hour of day, aside from the wee hours of the morning, that is bearable to be working outside this time of year. The air is cooling as the sun slowly sinks to the horizon, and there's still enough sunlight to see by.
Tomorrow is the Summer Solstice — June 21st, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. The official beginning of summer, though it has felt like summer for over a month already with 90°-100°+ days happening since early May. Kansas is always pretty unbearably hot and humid in the late spring, summer, and early fall, but climate change is definitely making itself known with the longer periods of high heat and no rain. Although we seem to have gotten to midsummer quite abruptly, I'm a bit relieved that we've reached the summit.
This year's garden isn't what I'd hoped it would be; I don't have the time or energy to dedicate to it like I did before having kids. But my psychiatrist's voice is in my head as I contemplate not going to the garden tonight — no, it doesn't appeal to me quite like it has in years past. I'm not as full of wonder at the transformation of a single seed to a big beautiful sunflower, and I'm not as enthusiastic about pulling endless handfuls of crabgrass and dandelions. But when my mental health suffers and I have to admit that I've not been exercising, spending time doing things I (typically) love, I'm drinking more than I should, and I feel listless and unmotivated — I drag myself out to the garden. And unsurprisingly, I feel a lot better the next day.
"The next day" was today. Last night, after putting the kids down, I wanted to do what's easy — go lay down, read my book, and pass out 15 minutes later. After all, we've been quarantined at home for 5 days now (yes, the whole family has COVID), so I'm tired and lacking energy. But my messy, weedy, stunted garden summoned me, and I'm so grateful for having heeded the call. Numerous times today, I felt a happy, bubbly feeling in my chest. What's that? I thought. Ah, it's the feeling of having done something good for my soul, the feeling of accomplishment, the feeling of pushing past fatigue and lack of motivation and doing something anyway. The garden gave me that, and it got me through today.
So! What's growing in my ugly garden? (I say that with love.)
Glass Gem Corn
Russian Giant Sunflowers & Chocolate Cherry Sunflowers
St. John's Wort
Strawberry Blonde Calendula
Whew! I think that's all. It's quite the list when I lay it out like that. There is also lots of crabgrass, dandelion, ground ivy (ugh! ground ivy!) and clover that insist on hanging out, even as I endlessly pluck and weed whack them back.
This season has shown me that I struggle to accept imperfection. I'm not surprised by this, as my therapist is forever trying to help me understand how to live in 'radical acceptance', which has many definitions, but one that is maybe most familiar to me is: "Radical acceptance is based on the notion that suffering comes not directly from pain, but from one’s attachment to the pain."₁ In other words, we suffer because we refuse to accept things as they are. To relate that back to my garden, I feel disappointment that my garden looks the way it does because I'm still attached to the idea that it should be aesthetically pleasing and weed-free — rather than accepting it as it is. The reality is, my garden is not going to look like a Pinterest garden this year, or maybe ever. But that doesn't mean it has no value. I still get so much out of spending time in the garden.
This year, being in the garden reminds me that I am capable of dedicating my time to something, putting in the work, and being patient as I wait for the reward. This year, the reward of multiple years of work in the garden comes in the form of a thriving St. John's wort bush, which feeds fat bumble bees all day long. Lavender, which I started from seed in 2019, finally blooming radiant purple blooms! Ruby red tomatoes peeking out from under the soil, plucking them out, and eating them for dinner that same evening. Calendula finally sending forth buds which will open soon and reveal their 'strawberry blonde' palette. Though my garden doesn't look the way I'd like it to by this point in the season — no dreamy garden wonderland — it's still doing so much good for me, and the pollinators, and little creatures like the tiny tree frog I found hiding among the *considerably tall* crabgrass.
I think part of my attachment to my garden looking a certain way can relate back to my life. I want my life to appear a certain way to others so that I'll be accepted and liked; I want my garden to look a certain way so my desire to spend time in it is understood and accepted by others. It's a fixation on perception, rather than living moment to moment, unworried and unbothered by what things look like from the outside looking in. It's something I need to continue to work on. And the garden is patiently, so very patiently, teaching me how.