A Day At The Park

I’m not sure when I finally accepted that he wasn’t coming back.  He’d been different lately. Distracted, moody, distant.  We’d always had a great relationship, or so I thought at the time, and despite the big difference in our ages, we were still brothers, and he always sort of looked out for me.  Mom was so depressed she barely left her bedroom for longer than it took to microwave up a cup of tea, spread some garlic and butter on a piece of overtoasted bread, then tuck another dog-eared romance novel under her arm and disappear from our lives again with the quiet click of the door pulled shut behind her.

David was my anchor.  He was the one I looked up to, the one I let myself believe in, mostly because he was the only one who stuck around most of the time.  Dad was a traveling salesman, a “regional rep” for some company selling medical supply equipment or something like that.  His trips started taking longer, and longer, sometimes a week or even two.  He said competition was up, so he had to start traveling farther to find new clients.  We never seemed to have a lot of money, so I guess we had to believe him.  Maybe needed to believe him. 

Looking back, I guess maybe we should have seen it coming, but when you’re eleven years old, you don’t really expect it.  I think Dave knew, suspected at least.  He and Dad seemed to get into more and more fights, mostly about how we needed him there, how it wasn’t Dave’s job to run the family, it was HIS.  I don’t know if the fights helped or hurt. All I do I know is that one day, Dad packed three suitcases into the back of his beat-up old Subaru, told Dave to take care of things while he was gone, then looked at me with a strange expression, ran his fingers through my hair,  and with a kind of sad little smile said, “Try not to forget what I look like.” I thought he was kidding around.

That was a year and a half ago. Continue reading

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Never trust a wise man who doesn’t have a garden.

I’m not sure what it is about puttering around in the garden that is such a release for me.   With so many demands on my time, so many people wanting a piece of what little bit of me there is to go around, I guess it’s nice to have some time where I can just shut out the noise and chaos and just be alone for a while.

No electronics, no flashing web pages and dinging phones and emails. No mouse clicks. No streaming video. No traffic with idiots texting their way down the road or infomercials blaring on the radio in between the Lada Gaga and Pitbull songs.

Quiet.  Sun warming you as you dig and plant and trim, shape and mold and create.  So much of what we have to do every day involves people taking from us.  I need that report!  Did you send me that email?  Can you pick up the kids?  Where’s my shirt?  Is the laundry done?

The garden is just for me.  Somehow, it recharges me.  Even though it’s often hard work, it’s fulfilling, satisfying.  It’s quantifiable.  I can see results, I get to directly experience the benefits, the “fruit of my labors”  in a way that a well-crafted email or powerpoint presentation just can’t match.

Gardening teaches me patience.  I know that the seeds I plant today won’t sprout or bloom for weeks, or even months.  But they’ll need care, nonetheless.  It teaches me gentleness.  So much of our day-to-day life is a low-grade battle, often filled with stress and tension, anger, resentment or open hostility.  Subtly repressed violence as we override our adrenaline-laced impulse to choke the living hell out of the boss, the co-worker, the driver who just cut us off.  I feel all that melt away as I work to gently, carefully pull the gladiolus starts from their little plastic containers, gently soak the root-bound mass loose, taking great care as I set in down in its new little burrow, working the potting soil around it and tamping it down just so.  I can’t rush.  I can’t hurry. Gardening forces me to slow down, to think externally, to remember the value of life and how easily it can be damaged by a careless action.

Gardening even helps me remember to thank God, to acknowledge Him in the amazing, detailed wonder of His creation. To look at the awesome complexity of the flowers, the myriad colors, the inextricable connections between plants and animals and insects, to view with laughable incomprehnsion the idea that it all happened by accident.

It’s sometimes too easy to convince myself that I’m “too busy” to spend some time out in the garden.  But the reality of it is, I’m too busy NOT to!   It’s a sanity break that helps me keep the edges from fraying too badly in a world which often seems bound and determined to strip me of what few tattered bits of humanity I still have left.