tending the garden

Fall is really here. I put my garden to bed today. Dying weeds were pulled and the mulch was spread. Ending the spring and summer bursts of color and growth of edibles that I work so hard to grow each year. I am not a good gardener. I can’t name most of the things I have planted, I don’t know what grows where and how, I under-water and more creatures enjoy our fruits and vegetables than we do.

Gardening is a distraction from the miserable heat of summer. Gardening is the only exercise I really enjoy. Gardening allows me to escape whatever is cluttering my head as I always get absorbed in the sensual aspects of gardening. The smells of grass and soil, the colors of leaves and blooms, dirt forced under every fingernail and the sound of a shovel breaking through the earth and eventually hitting stone. Chattering insects and animals put me in a trance until my mind is clear.

I think of the women in my family who had all the skills I lack. I did not inherit their green thumbs. I wish for good gardening mojo to transfer from me to the soil I touch, as if a genetic connection would make it that easy. I think of watching grandmothers who could grow anything from nothing and how my mom can identify just about any plant or tree (Latin name first usually accompanied with a brief history of origin). As a girl, when I visited my grandmother, we would go to the store for milk, cereal, bananas, chicken, flour, sugar, spices and a few snacks. Everything else came from her backyard. It impressed me then and now I recall it with awe since I finally understand all the exhausting work.

I tuck the memories away. I look forward to the fall colors and cool weather. I will hope for quiet, soft snows in winter. Next year, while it is still frosty outside, I will watch for signs of spring. Another garden will be planted again, just like it always has been.



Two years ago this month I almost quit my job. I almost walked away from fourteen years of experience and degrees I earned specifically for my field. I almost walked away from a job I dreamed about and prepared for since I was fourteen years old. It was a dark, sad, angry day filled with bitterness and disappointment and something had to change. Yet the day after my almost-quitting-day, I returned.

I continued to turn off the alarm at 5am, made a cup of coffee in the dark morning, slowly woke up by going through the same mundane routine, got into the car and drove to work. I drove myself into the same parking lot instead of taking the exit ramp to the nearest highway and driving as far away as possible. Every single day I nervously wondered, “Will this be better, or worse, than yesterday?”

Two years later, I am in the same profession, at the same location, in the same position and I frequently park in the same parking space. It is a good place to be.

What changed? Not much. The building is the same. The people I work with have the same struggles, successes, happy days and worse days. We have our weaknesses and strengths. We are viewed the same way by the public—some people love us and some people hate us.

I have changed. My mind has changed and my reality is different. Here are the best aspects of my job, things I could no longer see two years ago:

  • I spend my days with excited, energetic people. They are not always excited about my influence in their life but many are. They all are passionate about many things. Sometimes they don’t seem to care about anything, until they do again, and we all regain our purpose. They laugh a lot, I laugh a lot. Sometimes I laugh at them and they frequently laugh at me.
  • I make a positive difference in the lives of people daily.
  • The place I work has facilities that make our lives easier. Most of the world never gets to enjoy our privileges. We have access to the latest technology. Our library is filled with resources. Our cafeteria is always stocked with food. We also have electricity, furniture, working restrooms and running water. Everyone can drink from the water fountain without ever wondering if the water will make them sick.
  • I am constantly learning about myself and others, therefore I am never bored. If I learn one new thing each day it is a very    s l o w   day. I am constantly searching for new ideas, new techniques and new possibilities. I have to be well-versed in a variety of subjects and ready to discuss science, politics, history, problem-solving, literature, technology, geography, psychology, world religions, popular culture, peace-making, cultural traditions and family dynamics.  “My people” teach me at least as much as I teach them. They frequently teach me things I did not want to know and they frequently remind me of things I sometimes forget. They remind me why I stayed for two more years.

We all teach each other patience.