Monday, 27 June 2011

Getting what you need

Yesterday started out brooding and overcast. The air was heavy and threatened rain, it was hotter than it seemed, the mosquitoes were cranky. The day earlier I visited one of my favourite haunts and dropped two hundred bucks on shrubs and flowers. It was a lovely luxury drifting among the plants, breathing in the flowery air, gathering bunches of fresh life into my arms and loading them onto an oversized wagon.

I had a vision of myself floating through my garden like a wood sprite, planting plants and scattering gold dust. It would be magical.

But the next morning I woke up bitter and exhausted. I was overtaken with a grim determination to get those plants in the ground now. I remembered two wisteria plants purchased in pervious years, plus a David Austin schoolgirl rose that withered on the vine after days of procrastination on my part. Who does that, croaked the little gremlin voice inside my head (you know, the one who out of the blue asks such questions as: when is it too old to apply to law school?). Who buys expensive plants and forgets to plant them? 

I had an answer that morning: Not me. Not this time.

Perhaps sensing my distress, my family tumbled out the back door to help me. I barked at my husband for digging too deep a hole for the hydrangea. “It’s three times the width, not three times the depth!”

I forced myself to cheerfully respond to my son’s determined efforts to help. “Don’t step on the soil if you can avoid it,” I murmured through clenched teeth. “Plants like it pillowy.” “What?” he said. “Forget it.”

Everyone was getting in my way. I had holes to dig, plants to plant, roots to separate, manure to haul. They were slowing me down. The baby was liable to wake up from morning nap any damn second. I grumpily shoveled composted horse manure into the wheelbarrow. I nose-breathed a trio of lupines into holes 30 centimeters apart.

Man, the lupine is a gorgeous flower. And it grows in ditches! I made some more holes in the ground and accepted a few shovelfuls of manure from my son. When the flax filled out they’d make a gorgeous cloud of powder blue in the centre of the bed.

I sat back on my haunches and wiped some sweat from my forehead. Flax, lupines, cheddar pinks and catmint smiled up at me from the earth. The hydrangea commandeered the shady part of the bed as though she had lived there her entire life. A wigealea stood in graceful repose at the east corner. My husband brought buckets of water from his paddling pool and we gave the plants a drink. I got myself a drink and the water was cool and utterly thirst quenching. My body was limber and I felt – wait for it – happy.

“It looks good mom,” my son said. My husband rested his chin on the shovel handle and smiled at me.

It’s funny how resistant we can be to help. This can be true especially for lone wolf creative types like yours truly. We hold the vision of our creation in our mind’s eye – the superb novel, the airy garden. And because that vision is so singular, and because the nature of creative accomplishment involves periods of what can only be described as “slugging it out”, we can easily forget that creation can be easy.  Other people can help us to realize our creative dreams.

Thinking back on yesterday, a line from The Rolling Stones drifts into my consciousness: You can’t always get what you want. But sometimes you get what you need.

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