Dirt under my Fingernails

26 Feb

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.

Salpiglossis--my favorite flower.

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.

On Saturday afternoon, I found myself utterly alone (with a family of seven, this rarely happens) and the garden beckoned to me. “PLANT ME, PLANT ME,” it practically screamed.  I dug out my bucket of rusty tools and laid them on the grass. The sun was warm and the soil was dark and rich and I got to work.

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.

Dirt under my fingernails.

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15 Responses to “Dirt under my Fingernails”

  1. meleinsb February 26, 2012 at 9:38 pm #

    I’m glad you made that U-Turn and did something for YOU! I know how much your garden means to you and sounds to me like it was $70 very well spent!

    • Allegro non tanto February 26, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

      I’m glad, too! And I know you are the kind of person to take care of others first, so I’m sure you can relate! Why is it so difficult for us to take care of ourselves?

  2. Deborah Batterman February 27, 2012 at 11:07 am #

    Putting aside how much I admire people who do wonders with their gardens (I have not seemed to acquire that ‘bug’ in any big way), I was really struck by the notion of ‘deserving’ to do something for yourself. Yes, it seems to go hand-in-hand with the mothering gene. But, with spring so clearly in the air, here in the Northeast as well, listening to the birds and reading posts like this really are the perfect reminder of renewal and beauty.

  3. Allegro non tanto February 27, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

    God knows we could all use a little renewal–literally and figuratively!

  4. Becky Green Aaronson February 27, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

    You have done it again, my friend. Wonderful post. I especially love these lines:

    “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.”

    I can’t wait to come see your spectacular garden. So much grows within it!

  5. Allegro non tanto February 27, 2012 at 2:08 pm #

    And you know what? I already feel better (even though my muscles are killing me!) It’s almost as if I have something beautiful to look forward to…Flowers just make it all better for me.

  6. Eleanor Winters February 27, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

    Nice, Sweetheart.

    I, too, get that enchanting feeling of worthiness, oneness and accomplishment merely by deadheading three or four pots of pansies, violas and primroses (all yellow this time). It’s a gardening satori! That and the thought of puppies!

    • Allegro non tanto February 29, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

      Of course you know, Mom, that I inherited my love of gardening from you–so I thank you for this wonderful gift that keeps me happy and sane and hopeful!

  7. happykidshappymom February 29, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    Such a beautiful post. And so timely. I think the hint of spring means many things to many people and you hit on the most important. It’s time to take a chance. Look for the flowers. Dig in the dirt. Trust yourself to let go, for just a minute, and breathe into something you truly enjoy. This line was so powerful, “This was the first time in a long while that I’d felt a flicker of excitement about anything.” I have been there, and it is not a good place. I’m so happy and encouraged to see you take a stand and plant your garden.

    • Allegro non tanto February 29, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

      After everything you’ve been dealing with lately, Melissa, it’s imperative that you find the time to do something for yourself once in a while. If we don’t take care of ourselves, those around us will undoubtedly suffer! Sending prayers and positive vibes your way. Again–loved your post today.

  8. memomuse March 22, 2012 at 10:40 am #

    Dirt under the fingernails is magic, and can heal. Love this post

    • Allegro non tanto March 22, 2012 at 10:59 am #

      You’re right, Megan. It always seems to be the little things that matter most in life, like digging in the soil. In our quest for whatever it is we’re striving for, we forget how to find the magic in the pure and simple.

      • memomuse March 22, 2012 at 11:29 am #

        have you heard of Debra Elramey’s blog, “Pure and Simple”? I think you would enjoy her writing. She is a friend of mine. Here is the link: http://debrasblogpureandsimple.blogspot.com/

      • Allegro non tanto March 22, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

        Yes I know of her blog and just signed up!

      • memomuse March 23, 2012 at 8:01 am #

        She is fabulous and is able to tell a story so succinctly. I am so happy to meet you.

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