Monday, April 11, 2011


Gardens truly heal. The spiritual meditate in them, the elderly walk through them, the young play in them. And I'm recovering through the art of a creative makeover of some land that really needs it.

My little house came with a big back yard that lacked character. Although it includes a few large trees, their placement is somewhat random and there was no landscaping or hedges anywhere else. The ground was covered, in its entirety, by tan colored wood chips, which masked the content of the "soil" underneath. In fact, hidden beneath the wood chips was a landfill of sorts--a daily archaeological adventure of 20th century treasures that I encounter as I dig. And by "treasures", I mean crap like beer bottle caps (lots of them), plastic bags, pieces of childrens' toys, and a variety of useless, random trinkets like bottles of cheap drug-store perfume.

I've gotten rid of the wood chips, laid down a path of winding flagstone, and planted flowers and small trees along the fence. Next I'll be covering the ground with the darkest mulch available and planting a vegetable garden from seeds.

I've discovered, at 29, fully immersed in Lyme disease yuckiness, that this is my nirvana. While I've always been keenly aware that my being is filled with a drive to nurture, mostly through animal rescue, I never knew I had the urge to nurture land until now. Sure, I've spent many a night bottle-feeding orphaned kittens, babysitting toddlers, or running to be by the side of a heart-broken friend, but I've never had the opportunity to nurture land. Perhaps, because, I've never owned any land myself.

This is my land. And with the summer just a whisper and a breeze away, I plan to spend a lot of my time outside at my wrought-iron metal table overlooking the lush foliage that surrounds me. I'm working hard every day to get it ready in time.

I guess I'm not surprised that I've evolved into a green-thumbed visionary. In fact, it's in my blood. My mother's father worked for the Dept. of Fish and Game in Missouri the mid-20th century. His knowledge of plant life and fish had no limits. (He's the one who took me and my siblings camping in the late '80s to a Lyme-ridden area from where my sister and I emerged covered in attached ticks. I have my own theory that Lyme took his brain--he died after suffering from terrible dementia for years.)

His daughters include my mother and my aunt. While mother didn't inherit the green thumb gene, her sister did. My aunt's favorite past time is cultivating her garden.

On the other side of my family are the Arabs, and they were farmers. My dad definitely inherited his ancestors' green thumbs. Solely thanks to my dad, I grew up on a piece of property that included a fig tree, a pear tree, an apple tree, a blackberry bush, a persimmon tree, tomato vines, okra, and herbs like mint, thyme, rosemary, basil and many others.

And I never appreciated any of it. I even looked at the fruit funny, like, as if I would eat that. It didn't come from a safe place, like a grocery store!

But here I am, evolved and fully obsessed with my garden. It's a place of beauty, serenity, dreams and potential. It's a space that my three cats, my babies, can run around, roll in the dirt, chase bugs and bask in the sunshine. It's a place I get my minimal-needed exercise through digging, pulling weeds, lifting bags of soil, and watering plants--even on my sick days. Its joy and beauty is all-encompassing.

I shouldn't actually be surprised that this is how I choose to spend my time recovering from Lyme, or how I choose to spend what money I have (unlike other 29-year-old women, I'd rather spend my moola on plants than shoes or purses!) Because, now I realize I always wanted to live on a farm. Granted, I was more drawn to concept of farm animals than the vegetables, but I still found myself saying multiple times as a child: "I wish I grew up on a farm."

Growing up, my suburban neighborhood was all big houses and small yards. We had fleeting moments that felt farm-worthy, like when we brought home baby ducks that spent the summer swimming (and shitting) in our swimming pool. Or when I would watch through the windows as raccoon mamas or possums sniffed out our trash, their babies not far behind. Or because of the feral cats that bred in our yard because we left out cat food, giving me the opportunity to raise their kittens. Or, of course, the fruits and veggies my dad planted.

So I liked to imagine that I was growing up on a farm. And I was highly jealous of those who did. That's why I embraced my trips to Missouri to visit one set of grandparents, and our trips to Syria to visit the other set. Both destinations were far more rural than where we lived, and thus highly more desirable.

Thanks to the opportunity chronic Lyme has offered me to spend approximately two hours a day working on my yard (which is the maximum I can do before I crash), by the end of this project I will have the following growing in my back yard: six rose bushes, three bougainvellas, several palm trees, a dozen cactuses, more than a dozen cyclamen flowers, a couple ferns, two types of lilies, several tulips, sunflowers, delphiniums, 
bluebonnets, a camellia bush, a potato bush, a bird of paradise plant, catnip, bunny tails, blue stem grass, baby tears, kale, squash, chard, tomatoes, strawberries, spinach, avocados, oranges, mint and several more unidentifiable plants that came with the yard--including a tree that produces nuts (perhaps walnuts?).

I think I've gone overboard. At least, so far, no ticks!

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