Monday, July 1, 2013

Clearing a space for myself

I spent all of last summer nursing a broken leg and damaged ankle, and my garden went untended. I did no weeding, no mulching, no cutting back of overeager perennials or overhanging tree branches.

This year, for reasons including sketchy weather and a dance recital, I didn't start gardening until about ten days ago. That's when I finally took a good look at the state of things.

Everything was overgrown. Perennials wrestled one another for territory and threatened to swallow the lawn furniture. Weeds looked especially proud of themselves for having taken over the entire strip behind the garage--a challenge I'm ignoring for now. The stepping-stone paths I had carefully created were invisible under on-rushing greenery. And the giant horse chestnut tree (which may instead be a buckeye but experts can't agree), which is too large for a small urban lot in the first place, formed a low-hanging canopy all the way around the back yard. It gave me a choking sense of claustrophobia.

Last weekend I spent three days cutting back, clearing weeds, spreading the eight bags of mulch still in the garage from two years ago. On Sunday I got out a ladder and spend several hours cutting overhead branches. In the post I wrote that evening, I mentioned that thanks to dancing I had a lot more stamina, a statement I based on the fact that I had perhaps never spent so many hours working in the yard.

Monday morning I couldn't move. My neck and shoulders were so stiff and sore, and so resistant to the usual pain meds, that I began to wonder whether I had some kind of dread disease.

Then I remembered that I have fibromyalgia, a chronic condition that can kick in when I eat too much sugar or become too sedentary or, ironically, overexert. It's a tricky balance, staying active but not too active. Fibro kicked in last summer after I sat around favoring the broken leg, for example. But this flareup was stronger. My upper body felt as though it had seized up, and it stayed that way for much of the week. My sleep was disrupted, which only makes things worse. Eventually gentle exercise and massages from Peter helped enough for the meds to do their job.

So now I'm back in the garden, being a bit more cautious and aware. I always enjoy the work of gardening, but I have to remember to stop periodically and look around, admiring the progress I've made while allowing my body to regroup. It feels good to know that I'm in charge of this space again. There is room for me and mine to walk the paths, sit on the benches, smell the roses.

The last peonies greet the first purple coneflower.
Yesterday I took a few photos to share. A cleared and mulched pathway, a few planters now populated with petunias and calibrachoa, and a cleared and mulched seating area where last week we sat outdoors with guests. Small victories, but satisfying.

Life is good.


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