Spring is here. I am happy and proud about my tiny garden, I think for the first time ever, even though my profession and passion in life pre-kids was gardening. (Before I launch into my ramblings, if you are a beginner family-home gardener, HERE are some resources for you!)
Like every aspect of this mothering gig, gardening is so much harder with children around, and infinitely more meaningful. Before kids, I found little reward in gardening just for myself. I gardened in schools for the young people there. But at home, I was tired, overwhelmed by the needs of those other gardens (and young people), and I didn’t feel like it.
When my daughter was born, the postpartum energy slump lasted two years plus. I could barely keep my head above water doing the basics! No gardening. No dancing. Really no creative work beyond the simplest baby care.
There it is — simplicity. The energy finally came back, and with it the clearest message to keep it simple. To start small.
Back to Spring. It’s so clear to me now that the seasons dominate my mood. Just three weeks ago I was sick, it was damp and dark, still winter (Mediterranean winter, no snow of course!). I felt like a failure: short-tempered with my also sick and whiny kids, barely keeping the household afloat, no fun on the horizon, no projects, no excitement. Just treading water, and barely.
But Spring showed up! She really did. She’s got my back. (Photo of root babies who appeared in our spring baskets) The sunlight inched and inched across my yard, pushing back the shadow and drying up the mildew. My garlic patch, planted in the more-energtic fall, is glowing in the sun, a new radiant shade of green. When I planted that it was a landmark, felt so good to bend my back in the sweaty work of digging the soil, rusty muscle-memory after so long.
It was absolutely a victory for simplicity and starting small. As I blinked in the sunlight after exiting that first-baby shadow, also as I lay in bed a few weeks ago, creative projects seemed out of the question. So impossible. Overwhelming! Where would I even start? I couldn’t do it.
Oh, my inspiring friends, some of the people I admire most in the world, with their hands in the soil, these women have the touch. Tía Irene in Nuevo Mexico, Noli on her Vineyard island. They were reigning over their kingdoms of veg while I stared at a stained, paved, rat-trampled patio. Sigh. I could never measure up.
But, blinking in the sun as I was, I saw my daughter munch on a “pea pod” chícharo mumbling, “Five little peas in a pea pod pressed, one grew, two grew and so did all the rest . . .” I could plant snap peas in that musty pot crumbling in the corner of the yard. I hauled it out and we did. They grew and they grew, as promised. We munched, we danced! Not so bad. Also we liked Chícharito so it was a win-win.
Then last summer, we made a worm bin. That was our one big project. Then we filled up an old wine barrel with herbs and I started to cook with them. Whoa, we were gardening! The kids got it, they were feeling it. They showed me it was for real, even if just in a couple of funky pots. They didn’t care! They dug holes in the ground and filled them up with water. Squelched in the mud. Drove toy trucks through it. Great! No need for perfect beauty or paradise when you have water and earth. And sun. Also, I could feel the touch of Erin’s and Noli’s gardens right here, reaching out with a loving arm around me, to include my raggedy patch in the sacred span of their rows.
This year, I am on it, and it feels so good. I marked “Garden Planning” on the calendar right around Candelaria (St. Brigid’s Day) and I did it. My goals again were simple: a few herbs, peas, beans and potatoes. Full stop. And we are totally doing it.
Then, I decided I needed straw to make potato towers, a potential road block. But hubby saved the day. He, whose biggest challenge in moving in with me was making peace with potential crumbs I might leave on the couch, he drove to the OTHER part of San Jose, not the techie part, to a feed store from the era of the orchards. He loaded up a straw bale in our spotless car, in spite of the shopkeeper’s warning of the mess it would be. He brought it home and didn’t even flinch when the kids promptly rolled around in it. There is straw everywhere. Also squeals of joy.
So things are looking up for me. Spring truly brings this energy of blossoming, buds swelling, sap rising, as they say in the northeast. Renewal, growth, crecimiento, floreciendo. Time for making busy buzzing plans. Having FUN again. Gardening and samba. How I’ve missed you! Feels so good to embrace you again.
And, right on cue, my daughter needs me. Sigh. She was in the doldrums, too, back in the sickie days, but it doesn’t seem to have stayed behind in the shadow of winter. She is having a tough time. Maybe it’s a big growth spurt just in time for her fifth birthday. She is moody and cries easily. Once upset, she can maintain a steady moan for hours it seems. The cheerful mood comes back, even to the point of mania sometimes. But so many things trip her up lately, big and small. Small things bring on the moaning and fussing. Big things . . . being in groups of other children can overwhelm her. It was just about a year ago when I first realized that was real for her, the overstimulation from peers. But since the fall it’s been all growth and opening up. Now it’s hard for me to recognize the small baby girl inside the big girl body.
But she is still small. I have to remember that she needs me. It’s so easy to feel my anger rise, reaction, frustration, to her constant complaints. So difficult to ride it out, breathe through it and let it pass, almost like a labor surge, keep ahead of it. If the Spring is giving me strength and energy, I’ll need it to keep calm when my girl needs me.
I can’t believe it, it just started raining! Big fresh drops on the roof. (We are in a big-time drought and Spring means the hope of rain is slipping away again.) Let it rain, please! One more cleansing limpieza so we can move forward, hopeful, and strong. Come on Sister Spring! Don’t stop now!