Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Garden Therapy

There's something about getting your hands dirty--not a little smudged, but serious caked-on layers of mud and soil--that is incredibly calming. When I garden, I like to do it without gloves on so that I can feel the warmth of the soil and really grab hold of the root ends of pesky weeds. I like my hands to come in contact with the earth.

The sunny side garden now.
I have always been interested in gardening, but I was always a dabbler. Until about 4 or so years ago, when it became an obsession and I developed and designed my own beds. I researched plants, pored over catalogs, made plans and started a gardening binder. My first project was a side garden at Bryce's house, which when I was dating him was just a fence with a burning bush and a ton of pachysandra. I HATE pachysandra. I offered to pull it all up and plant a perennial bed in the shady spot, even though I didn't live there yet. (My thought was, if it works out as I suspected it would, then I would enjoy the fruits of my labors daily. If it didn't work out, then Bryce would have a daily reminder of the horrible mistake he'd made in letting me go. Nice thoughts, hmmm?) I got the garden started and it enjoyed a year of first-year-sparse-perennial status. I tried to be patient, since it typically takes three years for a perennial bed to fill in and bush out. But then the neighbor cut down her big tree and my full shade garden became a full sun garden. The fun really began! I transplanted truly shady plants and went a little nuts buying full-sun plants, which are slightly more fun than shade varieties. The transplants started another bed in the backyard. And then we decided to get married in the backyard, and so sodded where our greyhound had destroyed the lawn. Which meant to "save money" I planned three more beds around the border of our woodland property so that we could sod less. It was tremendous fun.

What does this have to do with infertility? Quite a bit, actually.

4  tomato types, 5 pepper varieties, herbs, salad, cucumbers

Our fertility journey began the month before our wedding. My gardens went from being a pretty addition to our home to being therapeutic time in nature. I have continued to expand the beds, transplanting and replacing and filling in with annuals. I have delved into vegetable gardening this year--Bryce built me raised beds for my birthday and I received gifts of gardening supplies, seeds, and plants to start off my Farmer Jess project. It's going pretty well--my tomatoes are taller than Bryce (quite a feat since he's 6'3"), I have a zillion cucumbers maturing on the vines, and my peppers are off to a great start. Unfortunately my bell peppers are being shaded by the gargantuan tomatoes, so I'm not sure how they will turn out, but you live and you learn. I'll switch them next year.

Gardening is terrific therapy for infertility for a multitude of reasons:
A new, fun rudbeckia.
  • Being out in nature tending to plants and coaxing life out of green things is a fairly fertile thing to do. I like to think that surrounding myself with fertility will help bestow me with some.
  • Weeding, transplanting, pruning, trimming, edging--all these things are a way of attempting to control nature. It gives me a sense of being able to tame natural chaos, even when I can't seem to make heads or tails of my own biology. 
  • Nature always returns to that chaotic state--there is always weeding to do. Weeding is actually the most relaxing thing to me about gardening. You go out and your garden is a mess, filled with unwelcome weedies that want to squelch your beautiful specimens. A few hours later of methodical, repetitive pulling and you have a clean slate once again--visible evidence of your hard work. I go into a trancelike state when weeding and have no time for thoughts of any kind. It's lovely. 
  • Gardening gives you something else to focus on besides your follicles, or your estrogen counts, or how many cycles you have left should this one fail. You can focus on the deadheading, or what to put in the holes that always appear in the garden (squirrels move stuff, plants run their course and die or reseed themselves in alternate locations). 
  • Gardens are flexible and somewhat unpredictable--you can move stuff around, and thanks to the wildlife stuff can get moved around for you. You can leave spaces to fill in with interesting annuals and change things up year to year. You can try to structure the garden, but I prefer to follow the cottage garden look--go with nature. It can be freeing to see where a garden will go and work with the chaos of nature. It can inspire you to attempt to apply that same philosophy to your cycle--let go and stop trying to control/predict things with such a tight fist. Treat your reproductive system like a cottage garden.
  • Gardening is a creative outlet and a relatively low-risk way to try new things. I am trying to be more flexible in my gardens. I used to ban all red and yellow from my color schemes. I haven't embraced red, but I am inviting yellow daylilies and butterfly daisies into my front bed. I have orange echinacea that may be my favorite now. I am not a fan of cleome (spider flower), but bought an annual version that is more compactly flowered and purple. I am stepping outside my comfort zone. I even have actual impatiens, not just New Guinea ones (the only ones I like) in a hanging basket in a dark corner of the backyard. I hate impatiens. But they sure are pretty in that corner. Gardening helps me to be less rigid. Which helps me be less stressed in cycles where going with the flow and trying unknown things could be just the ticket to my success. I can warm up to  overcoming fear of the unknown by embracing pink impatiens and yellow flowers in my previously purple-blue-pink-and-white-only beds. Baby steps, little green baby steps.
  • Gardening is tending to life. I thought it was really ironic that for my 35th birthday what I wanted most was the means to propagate fruits and vegetables (basically plant ovaries) and more flowers. My beds are an impressive array of functioning sex organs. We may not be able to get our gonads to function properly, but man, are my chorophylly progeny successful. It's an irony that didn't escape me, but I like the fact that when I'm out there, I'm getting things to grow and develop and cooperate.  Maybe our reproductive systems will follow suit.
  • From a strictly practical standpoint, I will be my own farm stand later this season. I will have fresh, uber-local, organically-grown produce at my disposal. I have will have tomatoes until the apocalypse, apparently. I've already eaten some of my mesclun mix and it was yummy. I can't wait to taste all my hard work and know exactly where that healthful nutrition came from.
Those are just some of many reasons why gardening is good therapy for my infertile self. I love working in my garden. I love planning for my garden. I love sitting back and enjoying my garden. I love the sense of calm and accomplishment it gives me in a time that is fraught with tension and frustration. Gardening helps me to find my inner peace and a small, consistent patch of beauty in these difficult times.
A daylily from my backyard.

No comments:

Post a Comment