Monday, August 8, 2011

The Garden: A Form of Autobiography

If gardening truly is a form of autobiography, then I would have to say that my gardening this year could serve as a metaphor for my life for the past month or so.  Mostly, I have felt that I have been living in a hit or miss style when it comes to gardening, blogging, house keeping, and journaling.  Perhaps, I have an excuse for this style of living.  Perhaps, I do not.

It has been a hectic past four weeks.  Family has been visiting.  I have many trips up and down I25 from Pueblo to Colorado Springs to visit my son while he was staying at his mother-in-law's house, or to keep doctors' appointments.  I have also made my share of trips up and down I25 between Pueblo and Erie, Colorado to babysit grandchildren and help out my daughter Amy in other ways.  And, I've even made a trip up North to work on a professional project with which I have been involved over the summer.

I have struggled with anxiety, stress, pain, and grief throughout the summer.  I am finally feeling better.  I am learning to deal with my stress better, and my pain in my upper and lower pain has finally improved.  I'm no longer quite as surprised by the waves of grief that continue to wash over me.  I am learning to expect this as I move forward in the healing process.

Most mornings begin with me reading the newspaper, drinking my coffee, eating my breakfast, and chatting with my man while we sit on our back deck.  I'm grateful for such an unhurried, peaceful way to start the day.  I love the comfort the beauty of my flowers give me.

Today, I did get out of my hit or miss mode and got the roses deadheaded.  I also gave the lavender a hair cut since I had neglected to harvest the blooms when they were in their prime.  I am hoping for a second blooming.

I keep my old Olympus C740 in the shed to use to record work done on the yard and garden.  I also take photos to remind me how a certain bed was planted the year before, or to remind me of lessons I need to learn as I plant in coming years.

Yes, gardening is a form of autobiography.

Autobiographical Lessons from This Year's Garden

  • Spacing and planning ahead

I love my zinnia bed in the front yard,
I failed to space my planting appropriately.
I have that problem in life.
I had five kids in ten years.
This is another illustration of my spacing problem.
My kids, and my zinnias, are a beautiful sight to behold,
maybe a wild, blooming bunch of them all together is not a problem after all.

  • Think before you commit to something that might be a hard thing to remove in your life.
I once loved the look of Russian sage that grew in hedges I saw as I drove through town.
I planted three for four of them to use as a hedge in my front yard.
My neighbor put week killer on all but one of them,

Later, I dealt with the reality of that big, land grabbing, spreading plant that I added to my landscape.
I no longer loved it.
It took two years of applications of weed killer,
an ax,
a shovel,
and a strong man
to get rid of the roots that this plant put down.
Finally, it is gone.
It no longer sends out new plants.
I research things a bit more now before I let them become rooted in my life.

Digging out Russian sage
Using an ax to get the job done

  • Gardening and grief
As in gardening, we must make choices in how we respond to grief.
Grief adds many textures, colors, and dimensions to our lives that were not there before.

We have a choice on how we respond to grief.

In the early days of the grief experience, we sometimes think our lives will  never bloom again.

During a time of mourning and grief, everyone turns to something.
Making choices that mask our pain is done because we believe this will make our pain go away.
In reality, such choices can delay our healing.

H. Norman Wright said that after the loss of a loved one
it takes at least eighteen months 
to experience longer stretches of time with less pain.

By trusting God's healing grace,
I find I am moving forward 
in life
in healing.

Grief changes everyone.
Grief is hard work.
Doing the hard work of grief brings the lessons that only grief can teach us.

When we invite grief to changes us,
it deepens us.

It grows our souls.

We find peace.

* Many of the lessons on grief quoted in this post were taken from Susan Duke's book, Grieving Forward, Embracing Life Beyond Grief.

** All of the flower photos were taken today in my garden.
  • The pink rose bud:  Queen Elizabeth
  • The white rose:  Pope John Paul II
  • The red rose: I did not record the name for this rose.  I named it Julie many years ago.  
  • The pink/yellow rose:  The Peace Rose


Deb Shucka said...

This post brought tears to my eyes, Sally. Both your beautiful pictures and your profound words went deep into my heart. I'm glad to hear you're beginning to feel better.

Linda Myers said...

You're still learning and growing. Attagirl!

Olga said...

This was absolutely beautiful in all respects.

Isabelle said...

I've just read back to where you write about your daughter's death. I am so sorry.

Lynilu said...

I like your autobiography and all it stands for. :)

Jeanie said...

Very wise and very beaufifully said and illustrated, Sally.
I have a very nice planted yard, but I am responsible for very little of it....I wonder what kind of autobiography that is :)

Linda said...

Your pictures are beautiful so you must not be too much of a hit or miss gardener. I can not begin to imagine the grief you're experiencing. Every parent's worst nightmare.

Janna Qualman said...

It's all very gorgeous. I have no green thumb, and so I'm envious. You've done great work! And that you've added beautiful words is wonderful.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Gardening is also THERAPY. When I get 'blue' over anything, I can get outside and work in the yard and it will always make me feel better. AND--when the roses (or other flowers) bloom, that makes it even better. All of our work does pay off....

Hang in there, Sally. You will continue to find things that you are passionate about --to bring you joy... Keep searching..

Love your header---and your other roses/flowers.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

It seems that you are doing the hard work very well, and that you are moving forward - slowly, painfully, but with certainty. And your flowers are gorgeous. They are a testament to the work you have put into them. I wish you all the best.

Dee Ready said...

Sally, comparing your life and grief to the garden and tending it brings out so clearly to me, a fellow gardener, the stages of your grief. The following words, which accompanied the picture of the coleus, touched me deeply: "Grief adds many textures, colors, and dimensions to our lives that were not there before." I admire your way of finding good in the midst of grief. I hold you in Light.

DJan said...

Very beautifully told, Sally. I applaud your journey forward, and the autobiographical garden is very moving. Not to mention the flowers! Thank you for this deep sharing from your heart.

Arkansas Patti said...

This is a beautiful post with so much meaning. It is good to see that your life gardening is also blooming.
Think we all have some Russian Sage in our lives. Up rooting is probably the best way to get rid of it, then planting something soothing in its place.

Mare said...

You continue to inspire me with your thoughts and honesty about life. I have to catch up on my cyber friends' news as I have not been computer oriented lately. Yours is generally one of the first I read because it always speaks to me in some way. God bless you and your family.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

This is a beautiful post, Sally, full of grief and growing, sadness, strength and hope. Your garden is, indeed, a part of your life and reflects so much of the beauty and the lessons of your life. I'm so glad you're continuing to heal and that you know and accept that it's a long process. During a particularly grief-filled period of my life many years ago, I castigated myself for not "getting over it" as quickly as I thought I should. Now I know that grief is a long process and that losses, as you said, color and deepen and change our lives forever.

becca said...

what a powerful and beautiful post. your garden is truly an amazing wonder and i am glad it has helped you through your difficult time. happy to hear things are slowly getting better and in the words of Dory from Finding Nemo "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming"

LC said...

Moving words and images, revealing beauty that co-exists with hard truths. The garden as autobiography- thank you for sharing these insights.

Sandi said...

Beautiful, words and photos. I was especially moved by the thoughts/comments on growing through grief.
It is a continual process, I have found that time heals the gaping wounds, but the pain can recur when least expected. From one who has also lost a child, my heart aches for you.

troutbirder said...

Wonderful post. Thank you. It's been twelve years for us. My wife does community service helping others. I focus on bringing smiles to those that need it and staying close to nature. :)

Mage said...

Thank you for your very apt comment on my post yesterday. Yes, it truly was a nightmare to clean up after her death. Truckloads of "stuff" to various charities, and most things to the eldest son. My husband wanted only a little. We had only days to clean up after her as she was living at her job of apartment manager. We barely got it all done in the time they gave us.

Your mom. Tell her agaiin that you worry and have her post on facebook or let her neighbor know if she is altering her usual schedule. :)

Love the garden entry. :)

Jeanie said...

OH, Sally, this is pure and simply one of the loveliest posts I've ever read, one I must share with a friend who is grieving, one I must remember for when I grieve again.

I love the garden analogy -- it is just perfect.

It's good to check in with you again. I may not comment on every post -- lots of catching up to do -- but I will read them all!

Maggie May said...

I think you are doing extremely well.
A very moving post and an inspiration for others.
We are all on the learning curve.
I'm sure your gardening and writing and your faith will pull you through to a more manageable form of grief and that somehow you will use it to help others in a similar position.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

LittleSilkDress said...

Such a wonderful analogy. Your post had me in tears today.

KleinsteMotte said...

The beauty in all that you see and touch is allowing you to feel connected and heal. Sharing that experience helps us care more. Thank you.

#1Nana said...

You are so wise. Sharing your journey has enlightened us all.

Kay said...

This is such an awesome post, Sally. It really shows how like your roses, you're turning your face to the sun now. You're also helping others to learn how to cope with life's tragedies.

You're now making me wonder about my aunt, my mother's sister. She's the one we often travel with. Her daughter, Charlotte died suddenly about 4 years ago. My aunt expresses her feelings every so often, but she hides so much. I'm thinking I should really try talking to her to give her an ear. I think she doesn't want to burden us with her pain.

By the way, my son just sent me an email that he's on his way to Pueblo and perhaps Silver Springs. If you see a tan, scruffy fellow with a pretty girl and black dog getting ready to climb a mountain, it's them.

Barb said...

Sally - What a beautiful post - both the writing and the photography. I think you're progressing along grief's path, Sally, and sending your lovely blooms out to others. Your Sage is my Bee Balm. I cannot get rid of it, and it's underground roots spread everywhere. I like a messy garden but am not partial to the bushy Balm taking over! I think you're in Breck now - have fun! We're heading to Denver after my haircut.

Joanne said...

Beautiful post and gorgeous pictures. Its hard to let that wave of grief wash over you isn't it? I think back to when my Dad passed away and I would do anything to avoid that pain....I would stay up as late as I could just so I would be so tired that nothing not even grief could keep me awake. I would plan all sorts of outings and projects so that I did not have time to feel. all I did was delay it. It would always catch up with me. You are so wise to listen to your heart and let that wave of sorrow wash over and run its course. I believe with all my heart that God is with you every step of the way. He is clearing that path and helping you to take those steps forward.
Blessings, Joanne

Janett Brown said...

Nietzsche said a gard and a library and you will be the happiest human being in the world. ;)