Blooming Where I’m Planted

On my commute home, singing duets with Sara Bareilles’ live album at the Hollywood Bowl helped transition from a day at my desk into the unscheduled hours after work. After all these solo years, I can still find myself restless and a little bit panicky: How will I fill the next few hours? It’s a luxury—this extra time—most single moms do not have. I feel a responsibility to spend them well.

Tomorrow is pay day. I have a surplus at the end of the month (this never ceases to feel like a miracle!) so I drove through Panera for dinner. Afterwards, I pulled into the garage, opened the mail, and changed into garden clothes. I had no definitive plan for how I’d spend the time outdoors. I simply knew that some garden play time would help settle the restlessness.

Two-and-a-half hours passed. I was lost in thought and still singing with Sara B. so I barely registered the subtle shifts of daylight. I cut down more grasses, weeded the raised bed, and broke up the soil with the sharp edge of a hoe. When I stood up from that exertion, I saw how the sky had put on its pajamas with streaks of light pink and the faintest hint of orange. The universe really knows how to show off.

I’m an overthinker by nature, but in the garden, it feels like I’m cultivating my thoughts, giving them space to expand. I breathe easier and hot topics cool down. I pull weeds and pray. I often think new thoughts and hear essays sprout while I play in the dirt.

Tonight’s thought had to do with how gardening feels like a form of visual art. With no goal or sense of how long I’d choose to work, I watched the raised bed transform into a blank canvas. The cut grasses, last year’s layer of mulch, and the cardboard mulch I added a month ago became my paints. The hoe and rake, my brushes. I grabbed armfuls of the cut grasses and moved them to another part of the garden, which opened space in the raised bed. Sometimes the weeding feels daunting, but not tonight. Removing the weeds was another decision I made on my canvas. I spread out a tarp to discourage new weeds to take root and thought a few extra bags of soil and compost would be a good addition before I sow seeds in the next few weeks. I’ll make a trip to the nursery soon.

This idea of gardening as form of art is a gift. For years, I tore out magazine pages of gardening ideas, tips, and tricks with little consideration for someday trying my hand at it. I had convinced myself that I didn’t have what my paternal grandparents had to make their acre property a beautiful floral oasis amid a small prairie town.  That was small, rigid thinking without any evidence. I wasn’t bad at gardening, I simply had no experience.

I approached gardening in response to another wave of grief and sadness after my divorce. Rather than letting the wave drown me, I let it guide me into a new pursuit, which opened another facet of my personality and set of competencies. I could weep with the beauty and full circle nature of it all. My Grandma Steele would be so delighted by what I have achieved.

Gardening loosens the rigidity that has so often ruled the ways I’ve seen myself or insisted I do things. I am better for this slackening and so is my art in all its forms. Gardening nourishes my writing and creative expression. I think in new ways that have nothing to do with soil, sun, and plants and everything to do with life, love, purpose, and contentment. And this is just the beginning of a new season. There is so much color and texture to explore in the dirt and on the page. I can’t wait to see what blossoms. Regardless of what takes root, I know it will be time well spent.


  1. ‘If you have a garden and a
    library you have everything you need’ Cicero
    Glad you are enjoying your garden, in common with me and Glo!

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