Needing Space from my Place

Reader Contribution by Staff

My tiny attempts at gardening have all but disappeared. Apart from my foray into yard-sharing with two friends, here’s what I’ve done in my first summer of gardening: I cleared away brush, pulled some weeds, planted herbs, and then gave up. The pull of the indoors is too strong: flooding in the basement, closet organization in a state of limbo, and a kitchen in mid-renovation limbo for weeks.

I wanted to be perfect for you. The superwoman who caulked, insulated, painted, renovated, composted, and landscaped. But I’m not. I’m the person who works hard to pay someone far savvier than I to do this stuff.

This relationship with my house keeps ebbing and flowing. It is taking a lot longer to negotiate than I anticipated and, at this moment, I long for my old apartment. Today I indiscriminately pulled at vines, trying to clear a path. No mindfulness, just a sense of relief that the task was close to being completed. I flipped through the latest issue of Organic Gardening at the dentist’s office, reading on how to cut back peonies, dry peppers, and promote soil health (“how to meet your soil’s nutritional needs so it meets yours”) while thinking, I can’t really tell what’s a weed and what’s not.

My lofty goal of building rain barrels out of old casks from our local winery is still a thought, and the temptation to purchase them is strong. (If/ when I do, it will likely be the kind of barrel pictured at left, from Van Go Mobile Arts, a non-profit that uses art as way to empower and support at-risk youth.) This is fairly high on my “to do” list because it makes so much sense; seventy percent of household water is used on lawns. However, I have yet to do it, like so many other projects.

Am I a fraud? I hope not. As fall approaches, my new goal is to make my inner nest as beautiful, functional, and comfortable as I can. This comfort is tenuous: I’m usually disheartened by a state of incompletion but, quite frankly, I need my life back. This house has taken over like the vines wrapping around my front porch, slowly breaking up my foundation.

I have said time and again that environmental engagement is about building a relationship with our natural world–and that the relationships we work on the most, the ones that are most challenging, are also the most rewarding. A house is not an investment one should enter into lightly– because of obvious financial reasons, and also the intangible psychic investment. I think about this place all the time. I worried about her every time I traveled this summer. Did she flood, did she overheat, did someone break in to her? I love my house–but I need to ease up on our relationship for a bit. So I leave you with this wisdom from Low Maintenance Landscape, a local landscaper that I called for help before deciding to focus on my home’s interior. The following questions (excerpted from their Landscape Design Questionnaire) can help you assess your yard needs:

1) What will be the primary uses of your new landscape? Entertainment? Active recreation? Curb appeal? Increase resale value? Romantic places?

2) What kind of atmosphere would you like to create in the landscape? Cool? Quiet? Inviting?

3) What characteristics would you use to describe your dream garden? Lush? Colorful? Self-sustaining?

4) What are some functions/ needs of your landscape? Shading the house? Privacy? Erosion control?

5) How much time do you presently spend in your garden relaxing and working? How much time would you like to spend outdoors in a landscape that fits your needs?

May your home be everything you need it to be,


Photo by Alice Lieberman