Towards the end of March, I finally made the decision to quit the job that was holding me hostage in a small windowless room. To celebrate, Reil and I started working on the back yard. In one weekend day we were able to clear the ivy that had taken over the retaining wall, clean the beds for planting, prune the mandarin orange tree, and take down the ugly wire fencing. We breathed a sigh of relief and began planning what to do with this clean slate.
The following Wednesday I went to the emergency room at Kaiser, where I’d soon find out I had cancer. The planning of the garden was put on hold while we reverted to crisis mode and planned for the removal of my left kidney.
Coming home from the hospital after my surgery, I began to seek refuge in the yard. The beds were almost bare, but the one plant we’d left was heavy with yellow flowers, and small blue forget-me-nots had burst onto the scene in another part of the yard. The pruned orange tree was thanking us for the care we’d given it with a flurry of white buds all over its branches. I’d hobble outside, wearing the luxurious robe my friend Elisabeth had sent me from Italy, and I’d soak up the sun for a few minutes or sit for hours in the shade of our tree.
Because my body couldn’t handle yard work, my daughter’s 4-H gardening group came over and planted herbs, vegetable starts, and flower seeds, giving me small bits of green to enjoy. A month later, the tomato and tomatillo plants are reaching for the sky; one plant even has fruit on it. There is a jalapeno pepper plant near by and cilantro that looks like it might take over the whole bed; my salsa garden. The marigolds and sweet peas are popping up from the ground, and cucumber plants are starting to spread out their vines and leaves. Other plants are having more difficulties – the beans just don’t seem to be able to get a toe hold, the spinach is burnt, and some varieties of greens are completely gone.
I’m experiencing great joy watching the garden grow, weeding the beds, tending to the plants. But I also find considerable comfort just being in my yard. this outdoor “room” has become my favorite of the house. I come here to write each day. It is quiet enough to concentrate even when the kids are home. I meditate here. I practice guided imagery here, enjoying being at peace in my mind, while feeling the light light breeze tickle my face and the warm sun gently bake my body.
We eat most of our meals here between March and November, but today the table is covered with paints and canvasses from our art projects. In the gazebo, the hammock and the swinging chair sway with the wind. The rabbits are in their hutches, but will be let out for a run this afternoon. The cats flank me in the grass, waiting for me to rub their backs and bellies when I finish writing.