Gardening as Therapy (or, You can take a lot of anger out on the dirt)

I am way behind on blogging. I have loads of gardening stuff from a very busy season. There was the time Amy and I went to dump a load of brush at the Greencycle and had to fend off some admirers, several of whom were missing teeth. And there's lots to relate from the Spotts crew's trip to the Chicago Botanic Garden (which rocked) and the seminar with garden designer John Carloftiss (which also rocked, and whose pithy one-liners are now permanently a part of my repertoire). But today seems a good day to talk about how wonderful gardening is for clearing out the mind and sorting out the emotions.

It's been a rough couple of weeks. They say the stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, although you can pinwheel through them freeform. They forgot to add nausea. The BF and I parted ways two weeks ago, and I didn't see it coming. I spent the first 36 hours crying and vomiting, followed by about 36 hours of rage. Rage coincided with my first day back with the Spotts crew. Terry and Amy were super supportive, although Terry would not allow me near any sharp tools. I assured him I wasn't mad at all men, just one pigheaded one in particular. He said he knew, and I still wasn't going near the edged tools.
Instead, I spent most of that ten-hour day with a backpack blower, blasting the crap out of leaves. A backpack blower looks a lot like the packs the Ghostbusters wore (Amy and I call ours Ray and Egon), except it emits a forceful stream of air instead of a–well, whatever those accelerator packs were supposed to emit. They are not aerodynamic, and frankly, I find them uncomfortable after a few hours; but there is something wonderfully satisfying about shooting all those leaves. We blow them into low piles and then run over them with a lawn mower. Dried leaves are mostly air, anyway. No point in bagging them when you can chop them into little tiny pieces and let them fertilize the lawn or act as mulch. 
Chopping things into little tiny pieces was also very satisfying.
I spent a goodly portion of that day stewing and fuming while corralling leaves. I ran conversations in my head, I examined how I felt, I stormed around and put the airstream on "high" to nail those defenseless leaves. And by the end of the day, I had calmed considerably. I wouldn't say I had arrived at "acceptance," by any means, but I had moved past anger into sadness and maybe a bit of resignation.
Maybe any sort of exercise would have worked. I know a few people who run or go to the gym to deal with emotions. But for me, it's always about the gardening. If this were planting season, I would have stabbed at the dirt with a shovel. In the summer, I would have taken great pleasure in yanking weeds. And as my anger gentled, I could weed or plant with a more meditative fame of mind. Even turning the compost pile can be great for putting things into perspective. 
Winter has arrived; snow is covering my garden. Now's the time to look inward, to withdraw from the world and cuddle up in front of a fire with books and garden catalogs. But these contemplative activities are not as soothing to my soul as putting my hands in the dirt. Still, I know that winter's rest is a necessary part of the garden's life.
And this time of grieving is a necessary part of mine. So I'll let myself be sad. I'll remember a handsome man with wonderful hands who built me a potting bench and gave me a copy of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, even though he hates musicals. A stubborn man who made me laugh and whose protective streak both baffled me and made me feel safe. I'll remember the time I spent with him, and the way he made me feel beautiful and strong. 
And after grieving, I'll emerge from my own personal winter more vibrant. And start preparing for spring. 

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