Every spring, I tell myself this is going to be the year. The year that I dig up my withered and weed-infested gardens and really get things growing. And every summer, I realize that I have failed even to throw down a scrap of mulch. By July, the weeds are knee-high, the ivy is taking over the yard and my few plants are struggling to survive. Every time I drive by a lawn ablaze with black-eyed susans and heavy with blue hydrangea blossoms, I sigh with envy. My style of gardening involves a lot of guilt, but very little actual labor.
This year, I decided to give myself a break. I decided that I really didn’t like gardening. Hauling heavy bags of mulch, crawling around in the dirt and battling weeds, pests, heat and mosquitoes just isn’t my idea of fun. So I just wasn’t going to worry about gardening this year. I would throw a few plants in the window boxes and call it a day. Take that, gardening.
The next thing I knew, I was composting, fertilizing, yanking weeds and hauling home a trunkful of hostas, impatiens, herbs and veggie plants from the State Farmers Market. I even took the unprecedented step of growing basil and butternut squash plants from seed. From seed! My 4-year-old daughter, Amelia, has spent many a sunny spring afternoon beside me, collecting worms and roly polys, discovering a robin’s nest and watering the flowers.
It turns out that, for me, the key to gardening was freeing myself from guilt. When I wanted perfection, every effort fell short of my expectations. Now, everything I accomplish is a victory, because I expect nothing. It strikes me that most things in life work this way, especially writing. If you expect a masterpiece, you will be too afraid to write a word. So I’m going to try to make this space a bit like my garden. I’m not going to try to dazzle you with my wit and insight. I’m just going to write about what crosses my path—and trust that something will emerge.