Digging in the Dirt; A Love Note

Confession: there is one thing I acquire a LOT of. I purchase them without guilt, and I can’t ever have enough.


I have supersized yards both front and back. In my wisdom I’ve rejected the idea of simplicity and made landscaping them an endless project that eats up vast chunks of time. “Landscaping” is a generous term for, well, changing stuff around.

But you know what? I LOVE it. I love weeding, I love pruning, I love planting things in all the wrong places and willing them to move.

Are you a gardener? Do you know what you’re doing? I spend hours and hours puttering around in my gigantic gardens but honestly, I feel like a total imposter.

Here’s me at the nursery: That’s pretty! How big does it get? Can it tolerate neglect? Sold! Then I bring these hapless plants home and if I’m really on the ball it only takes me a week to get them into the ground. I basically wander around until I find a naked spot.

Of course, nothing ever grows to the size helpfully printed on the little plastic stick. Mostly they’re all twice as big as I expect, so it’s like some kind of floral mosh pit out there. I know it’s supposed to be simple to move plants around, but mine rarely make it. Death by relocation.

I’ve lived in my current house for 16 years. When I moved in both the front and the back sported gigantic lawns with a strip of painfully pruned shrubbery at one end. They were about as appealing to me as a sandwich made of Wonder Bread and Miracle Whip.

Now the front is all plants and trees – I killed off the last of the grass last year. The back has a fire pit, a chicken coop, and a few flower/vegetable beds.

It’s been a lot. Sometimes I hyperventilate a little at the thought of keeping it all under control - it feels like spinning plates on sticks.

I’ve got tons of fruit, and asparagus and artichokes – I’m really into perennial food plants. I’m absolutely against planting seeds and it annoys me to have put in fresh tomato starts EVERY SINGLE YEAR. In my yard you’d better be tough, or you’ll never make it. I offer very few second chances.

According to Malcolm Gladwell, I should be an expert by now. Has it been 10,000 hours? Probably pretty close. But I'm a happy dabbler. I don't remember plant names or varieties, I have no idea how long anything's been in the ground, I've never tested the pH of the soil. I just  like to zone out and get my hands dirty.

So much of what we do everyday serves some kind of purpose. Exercise for your health. Work to earn money. Meditate to increase your well-being. My garden serves no purpose at all except to please me.

During this Year of Taking Stock I've tried, as much as possible, to do only what I want, when I want. The results speak for themselves - I've been less stressed and happier than ever. I've done a lot of what they call "inner work". Less juice cleanse, more energetic balancing.

You know what I'm going to tell you, right? Here it comes: do less stuff out of obligation and more stuff just for fun. I promise that at least one of the things you're telling yourself you HAVE to do is actually optional. Likely more than one.

Pick the thing you least like doing and see if you can ditch it. Then take up a ridiculous hobby that makes you feel terrific.