Last Friday, I was in my usual rush. Being in hurry mode is nothing out of the ordinary for a busy mom like me. I always seem to be urgently driving from one errand to another in my mad dash to accomplish as many tasks as I can in the morning hours before picking my daughter, Isa up from school and teaching piano lessons in the afternoon.
It was yet another perfectly sunny day in the coastal California paradise that I call home—where the climate offers the perfect temperature; where the perfectly blooming sage-covered mountains meet the perfectly bluish-green water of the Pacific; where I live in a perfect little home that has a perfectly huge mortgage and is no longer worth what we owe on it and we are so perfectly under water that I can barely breathe sometimes.
As I drove down the road, I passed by La Sumida Nursery, by far my favorite place in the entire world (if you don’t count the bakery or the library or the pizzeria) and my tummy began to quiver like there were little butterflies in there trying to break through the lining of my stomach. This was the first time in a long while that I’d felt a flicker of excitement about anything. I thought, “This weekend would be the perfect time to plant my spring garden—I should stop in there and buy some flowers…”
If you don’t already know this about me, I love to garden. Planting bulbs and spring flowers is the closest I can get to heaven down here on earth, other than eating anything that contains chocolate. For me, there’s something almost spiritual about digging my fingers into the soil and planting a mass of flowers that forever keep their promises of bursting into cheerful bloom within a few weeks. My flowers have never disappointed me.
Shoulda, coulda, woulda. I kept driving. I was already late for my next appointment and I needed to stop at the grocery store to pick up something to make for dinner. In this lousy economy, I certainly didn’t have the time or the money to spend on frivolous things such as two or three flats of bedding plants. And who was I to think that I deserved to do something thoughtful for Jessica? My responsibility in life is to take care of other people—not myself!
But after a long winter of sadness and loss, my emotional equilibrium has not been up to snuff. I’m experienced enough to know that life does not always come up roses, but I was becoming impatient waiting for things to get better. I was tired of being sad and worried and frustrated and I needed to find a way to heal my heavy heart. Perhaps a little gardening was just the thing to get me back into the flowering land of optimism.
Before I knew what hit me, a force beyond my control began to pull at my arms, and the steering wheel cranked to the left and I made a screeching illegal u-turn into the parking lot of the nursery. I would just stay a minute to take a peek and see what they had to offer.
As I walked into the patio area where the six packs of flowers were kept, I noticed how sparse the pickings were. There were fewer than half of the usual tables of bedding plants. My heart sank—such crushing disappointment! I shouldn’t have been surprised—after all, it’s only mid-February—how could I expect that the usual smorgasbord of varieties would be available? I shouldn’t have stopped. Maybe this whole idea had been a mistake.
Yet as I headed toward the back of the patio, I realized that there really was plenty to choose from, I just had to spend a little more time looking. Within five minutes I had filled up three flats with larkspur, delphinium, hollyhocks, dianthus, and lucky for me, tucked away in the corner they even had my favorite—salpiglossis (velvet flower)—of which I promptly cleaned them out!Another five minutes later I was back on the road and the only collateral damage was the $70 charge on the one credit card I haven’t completely maxed out.
For three hours, I used muscle groups I’d forgotten I had (I know this because right now said muscles are shrieking in pain) planting and digging and deeply breathing in the fresh air of early spring.
When I was done, I surveyed my work. It didn’t look like much—at least not yet—but I knew the potential was there, and I was willing to wait and watch it reveal itself. With a little tending and attention, my garden will once again blossom into a mass of fragrant color.
Patience, Jessica. The wait will be worth it.
And really, all it took was a little dirt under my fingernails.