I am sunburned, scratched, scabby and inordinately sore. Like, when-I-sit-down-I-may-never-get-up-again sore. And I couldn’t be happier about it.
See, I spent about eight hours outside this past Saturday, and it was not to watch the Thunder Over Louisville air show at the waterfront, although I’m sure that was fun for people who like that sort of thing.
No, I was doing my first major yard work blitz of the season. I was so excited about firing up my mower and dusting off my pruning implements that I had trouble falling asleep the night before.
(I probably wouldn’t be in quite so much pain if I hadn’t let my personal trainer beat the shit out of me on both Friday AND Sunday, but I digress.)
I mowed, edged, pulled weeds, cleaned up leaves and other rotting vegetation, took out the remains of dead tree all by myself, and trimmed ornamental grass and ground cover along my front sidewalk. My teenage son came out front at one point and, upon seeing me knee deep in a pile of monkey grass wielding garden shears, said dispassionately, “That looks like a really big job.”
Gee thanks, kid.
I wrote last week about childhood memories of my parents’ urban garden, and how I continue that tradition on a much smaller scale. But it’s not just about planting tomatoes and herbs. I simply love working in my yard. Always have, ever since I first became a homeowner in 2004.
Flirting with flora and digging in the dirt suits me. When you think about it, it’s a very predictable hobby for this ol’ gal. Here’s why.
It gets me out in the sunshine. I have written many times about my affection for summer and warm weather. While I never turn down an opportunity to lay poolside or on a white sandy beach, I like to be active in the great outdoors on occasion as well. I also don’t mind a good, cleansing sweat.
It allows me to purge. Cleaning up last year’s dead leaves and other plant waste is just another way for me to get rid of the old and make room for the new. That's a general principle by which I choose to live my life these days.
It’s a great stress reliever. A friend in 12-step recovery once recommended to me that, whenever I get particularly pissed off at someone, I should go pull weeds and pretend they are that person’s hair. Lemme tell you what, that shit works. To this day, I use weed pulling (and sometimes hacking away with a garden hoe) as a way to alleviate stress and anxiety. It’s a hell of a lot healthier than choices I made in the past.
It feeds my OCD. Manicured grass, edged sidewalks, pruned bushes and neatly weeded flowerbeds put the world in order. A wave of calm washes over me every time I look out my window and see the rigid lines and angles of a neatly trimmed yard.
It’s a workout. Yard work is an extreme physical activity, even at its most basic. During the past two years, I have gotten in such a habit of exercising that I feel a void when I don’t do it for a few days. Working out makes me feel strong and powerful, and I love it. I would argue that chopping dead tree branches and pulling up a root ball is on par with hundreds of deadlifts, biceps curls and squats. At least, that’s what my muscles are screaming at me today.
It cultivates new growth. Every year, not only do I clear out the remains of last year’s foliage, I always plant a few new bushes, annuals and perennials. So quite literally, I am planting new “seeds.” Watching them flourish and bloom all summer is immensely satisfying.
It produces tangible results. Much of the improvement I have made to myself and my outlook on life are internal. Some of the results are apparent, but many are not. It’s so fulfilling to witness a physical representation of my own personal beautification project in the form of a lovely yard. Plus, the dirt under my nails and the bloody scrapes on my hands are proof of how hard I worked.
War wounds nonwithstanding, I am thrilled to say that today, my world is gorgeous, both inside and out. It will always need new plantings and ongoing maintenance, but that’s what keeps me interested. After all, nothing thrives without effort, right?
Anyhoo, I can’t wait for Round 2 next weekend, when I bust out the wheelbarrow and 20 bags of mulch. I'm just hoping that five days will be enough time for me to pull myself up out of this chair. Oof.
About Amy Higgs
A former newspaper columnist, Amy takes her random, slice-of-life stories to the web. After nine years, she's still just saying.