Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dirt Therapy

Most people who know me understand that I'm a gardener. They might suspect I really enjoy gardening, but they probably don't fully understand how addicted I am to playing in the dirt.  There is something intensely therapeutic for me to dig a hole, baby a plant, and watch it flower and fruit.  It kills me to go on vacation during the middle of the summer because I might miss a the bloom on a particular plant, or I fret over whether my tomatoes will die from lack of water in my absence.  

Like many gardeners, I didn't plan to become a crazy plant person.    

While I was deep in the midst of my doctoral research (circa 2003), I came to the conclusion that either I find some form of stress relief or I was going to go stark raving mad. And it looked very likely that I would take people with me to this side of crazy during the process.  Seemingly overnight I decided that gardening would be a good idea.  (Maybe because I couldn't imagine some inoffensive shasta daisies demanding that I reorganize the tables in Chapter 4 of my dissertation again, or the basil asking me for the upteenth time if I had run the analysis on the field data yet.)  Steve, who was my boyfriend at the time, graciously let me plow up a strip of his backyard along the side fence. And he even volunteered to run the ancient workhorse tiller we borrowed from his neighbor to break up all that old sod and hardpacked soil.  By August that year I had enormous Rudbeckia, staggeringly tall lion's ears, and some very tasty tomatoes.  Did playing in the dirt work as stress relief for me? Yes, gardening was an enormously helpful distraction from my PhD.  Does Steve regret giving me free rein in his yard? Years later I have greatly expanded that first little strip of a garden to a large percentage of the backyard, but I have my degree, I have not committed homicide, and Steve and I are happily married.

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